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Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok unveils new cabinet3 min read

The announcement had been delayed for days as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok mulled over proposed nominees

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Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok unveils new cabinet

Sudan’s new Prime Minister Thursday unveiled the first cabinet since veteran leader Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow, a major step in the country’s hard-won transition to civilian rule after decades of authoritarianism.

The announcement had been delayed for days as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok mulled over the nominees proposed by the movement that led the months-long protests against Bashir and also the generals who ousted him.

The 18-member cabinet includes four women, including the country’s first-ever female foreign affairs minister, Asma Mohamed Abdalla, Hamdok told a news conference.

“Today, we begin a new era,” Hamdok said.

“The top priority of the transition government is to end the war and build sustainable peace.”

Hamdok named Ibrahim Ahmed El-Badawi as minister of finance and economic planning, army Lieutenant General Jamal Omar as defence minister and police Lieutenant General El-Trafi Idris Dafallah as minister of interior.

“Now, we have a great chance to achieve peace as we have a suitable environment for that,” Hamdok said.

It was a worsening economic crisis that triggered the fall of Bashir, who was later arrested and is on trial on charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. 

The protests that eventually brought him down were ignited late last year by his government’s decision to triple the price of bread.

The demonstrations swiftly mushroomed into a nationwide protest movement against his three-decade rule, finally leading to his ouster in April.

But the generals who ousted him resisted a swift handover of power to civilians.

In response, protesters kept up the pressure against them, leading to a power-sharing deal signed last month between the Forces of Freedom and Change protest movement and the generals.

According to doctors linked to the FFC, more than 250 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December, including at least 127 in early June during a brutal crackdown on a weeks-long protest sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.

Gender balance –

Prime minister of Sudan Abdalla Hamdok makes the announcement of the Transitional Government during a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan on September 05, 2019. Mahmoud Hjaj / Anadolu Agency

The new cabinet is expected to steer the daily affairs of the country during a transition period of 39 months.

On Tuesday, Hamdok, who built a career in continental and international organisations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, said the delay in forming the cabinet was due to the “gender balance” he had been trying to achieve.

He said he also wanted to ensure that the cabinet represented all the regions of the country.

Last month, Sudan swore in a “sovereign council”, a joint civilian-military ruling body that aims to oversee the transition.

The council is the result of the power-sharing deal between the protesters and generals who seized power after the army ousted Bashir.

The deal stipulates a legislative body should be formed within 90 days of its signing. 

The legislature should include no more than 300 members, with 201 seats allotted to the FFC.

Hamdok, who was nominated by the protest movement, had previously said he would choose technocrats based on their “competence” to lead Sudan through formidable challenges that also include ending internal conflicts.

Hamdok’s cabinet will also be expected to fight corruption and dismantle the long-entrenched Islamist deep state created under Bashir.

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Triggered by MP’s disgrace, Tunisia’s #MeToo breaks taboos

Tunisian politician allegedly masturbating outside a high school has sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

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Viral images of a Tunisian lawmaker allegedly masturbating outside a high school have sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

Read Also: Newly sworn-in Tunisia President vows to reunite the country

Discussion of sexual harassment had previously been limited to a few edgy TV shows, but now thousands of women in the North African nation are sharing their experiences from lecherous remarks to paedophilia.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a student who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.

The newly elected lawmaker denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition, even threatening his accuser when pursued by prosecutors.

#EnaZeda — Tunisian Arabic for #MeToo, was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

It has given some in Tunisia the confidence to confront their harassers face-to-face.

“Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react,” wrote one internet user Lina Kaboudi.

But “unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard.

“I stopped, and I held him to account”.

Breaking taboos 

Tunisia is considered a pioneer on women’s rights in the Arab world and was the first predominantly Muslim country to abolish polygamy in 1956.

But the taboo on confronting sexual misconduct remains strong, especially within the family.

It is rare for victims to pursue formal complaints, despite sexual harassment in public places being punishable by law with a one-year prison term and a fine of 3,000 dinar (around 1,000 euros) since July 2017.

To catalogue the avalanche of testimony, Tunisian activists have set up private Facebook groups including one simply named #EnaZeda, which has more than 20,000 members.

Poignant accounts, some anonymous, are shared daily in the group — ranging from rape and incest to inappropriate behaviour by teachers or celebrities and molestation on public transport.

Activists say they have been surprised by the volume and variety of the stories, and NGO Aswat Nissa (Voice of Women) says it has collected more than 70,000 testimonies.

“At first, we created a group to defend the young girl who filmed the lawmaker, because she had suffered a lot of criticism and pressure,” said Myriam Bouattour, who heads Aswat Nissa.

“Then women, and sometimes men too, shared their stories, so now we are trying to organise workshops with psychologists.”

Bouattour said she has received messages from parents who have “broken the family taboo by talking about sexual harassment with their children, after reading testimonies about paedophilia”.

‘Didn’t lift a finger’ 

Traditional attitudes and apathy among some in power mean the nascent #EnaZeda initiative faces an uphill battle.

Kaboudi — the woman who called out street harassment — laments the passivity of the police, who “were a few feet away” and did not “lift a little finger” to help her when she was harassed.

She also despairs of witnesses who similarly “did nothing”.

In an attempt to break the silence, in October the Centre for Research, Study, Documentation and Information on Women (Credif) launched an awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transport.

Dubbed “the harasser #MaYerkebch (does not ride) with us”, the initiative includes an app that uses a chatbot to speak to a harasser on behalf of a victim or witness and remind them of the law.

Najla Allani, director of Credit, emp the app states out loud the type of sexual misdemeanour and location, in a voice that speaks firmly in local dialect to “intimidate and scare the harasser”.

“People dare not speak (themselves) out of fear, but with this voice app, they will be better able to react”, Allani said.

An evaluation of the experimental initiative later this month will decide if it continues, so long as “the financial means allow it”, she added.

It remains to be seen how big a contribution #EnaZeda will make to Tunisia’s battle against sexual harassment, but one thing is sure — the shroud of silence is no longer so suffocating.

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North Africa Politics

Moroccan court extends jail time of dissident journalist, Taoufik Bouachrine

Taoufik Bouachrine was originally thrown behind bars for 12 years in November 2018, but this was lengthened to 15 years on Friday

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Moroccan court extends jail time of dissident journalist, Taoufik Bouachrine
Taoufik Bouachrine, (L) director of the Moroccan Akhbar Al Youm newspaper and caricaturist Khalid Gueddar arrive at the court in Casablanca on October 23, 2009, on charges of lacking respect for a member of the royal family. AFP PHOTO/Abdelhak Senna (Photo by ABDELHAK SENNA / AFP)

A Moroccan court has increased the jail sentence of a dissident newspaper publisher on charges of rape and other offences that he denies and says are politically motivated.

Taoufik Bouachrine was originally thrown behind bars for 12 years in November 2018, but this was lengthened to 15 years on Friday following an appeal by the public prosecutor.

The journalist had been found guilty of human trafficking, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape.

Bouachrine, whose daily newspaper, Akhbar Al-Yaum has a history of run-ins with the authorities, has maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

The charges against him were based on complaints, testimonies and about 50 videos seized from his office, purporting to show him in a variety of sexual acts.

His defence team said the videos were doctored and in any case showed “consensual relations”.

Earlier this year, rights group Amnesty International called for the publisher’s release, saying his imprisonment was a “matter of freedom of expression”.

A United Nations Human Rights Council working group also reported this year that Bouachrine was the victim of “arbitrary detention” and “judicial harassment”.

The panel cited a lack of evidence and alleged witness intimidation — accusations denied by Moroccan authorities.

Bouachrine has been critical of public figures including billionaire agriculture minister Aziz Akhannouch and the kingdom’s ally, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Rape trials are rare in Morocco, where victims fear social repercussions in a society that remains largely conservative.

During the course of the trial, four women cited by the prosecution as victims denied involvement.

One was sentenced to six months in prison for accusing the police of falsifying her statement, while others refused to appear in court.

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Newly sworn-in Tunisia President vows to reunite the country

Tunisia’s new President Kais Saied vowed to defend women’s rights, reunite the country and restore trust in its leaders

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Newly sworn-in Tunisia president vows to reunite the country
Kais Saied nspects the guard of honour upon his arrival at the Carthage Palace after his swearing-in ceremony where he took an oath as Tunisia's new President. Photo: Khaled Nasraoui/dpa

Tunisia’s new President Kais Saied vowed Wednesday to defend women’s rights, reunite the country and restore trust in its leaders as the political outsider outlined his agenda following a surprise election victory.

Saied, a conservative academic with no previous political experience who won the overwhelming support of younger voters in an October 13 runoff, was sworn in before members of the constituent assembly and other top state bodies.

He thanked all Tunisians for delivering “this historic moment”, after handily winning over his controversial opponent, businessman Nabil Karoui, in an election that reshaped the country’s post-revolution political landscape.

Tunisians, he said, “needed a new relationship based on trust with their politicians and those in power”.

After sweeping 72.71 per cent of the vote in this month’s runoff, Saied has won a clear mandate to fight corruption and promote social justice, even though his role focuses on security and diplomacy.

The poll followed the death in July of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first president freely elected by universal suffrage.

‘Reuniting’ all Tunisians –

Tunisia’s President-elect Kais Saied takes the oath of office at the National Assembly (parliament) in Tunis on October 23, 2019. Photo: Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency

A constitutional law professor whose rigid and austere demeanour earned him the nickname “Robocop”, Saied vowed as president to “reunite” all Tunisians.

Despite having spearheaded the Arab Spring revolt that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and gaining unprecedented freedoms along the way, Tunisians have been bitterly divided between old political classes and Islamist forces.

Saied said his countrymen were “free in their beliefs and choices” but stressed the state must be immune from “political calculations”.

“The people (Tunisians) have waited for so long…wanting to move from despair to hope”, he added.

Honing his main talking points that distinguished him in the electoral race, Saied promised to uphold the rule of law. 

He also reassured the chamber that “women’s rights would not be diminished”, which received a rousing round of applause from a packed parliament.

He went on to stress that he would “strengthen the rights of the Tunisian woman, especially her socio-economic rights”.

Saeid has previously rejected a bid to overhaul Tunisia’s inheritance law — which remains based on Islamic law, meaning that women inherit half of their male siblings’ part.

‘Will of the people’ –

Newly sworn-in Tunisia president vows to revive divisions
23 October 2019, Kais Saied delivers a speech during his swearing-in ceremony. Photo: Khaled Nasraoui/DPA

An international novice with no real foreign policy experience, he emphasised Tunisia’s respect for “various international agreements but also to revise them according to the interest and will of the people”.

The professor who up until his swearing-in Wednesday lived in a middle-class Tunis neighbourhood will now be moving to the presidential palace in Carthage. 

Tunis, which currently chairs the Arab League, could renew diplomatic ties with Syria, severed since 2012, and play a role in the return of the war-torn country to the bloc.

He has made strong statements against Israel, considering any ties with the Jewish state to be “high treason” — an Arab nationalist position that earned him praise among supporters.

While the security situation has significantly improved since a series of high-profile attacks on tourists in 2015, Tunisia has maintained a state of emergency for four years, with assaults against security forces persisting.

On June 27, a suicide attack killed two people in the heart of the capital Tunis, reviving the spectre of violence.

During the campaign debate, Saied said a key to fighting terrorism was education, arguing that improving primary education would “immunise” youth against extremism.

Another significant task he will face is reforming the police force, which was a cog in the dictatorship toppled by the Arab Spring revolt of 2011 and which continues to be accused of human rights abuses.

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