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Sudanese protesters begin strike amidst fraying talks with military4 minutes read

Strike action grounds airport and bus terminal services in Khartoum

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Sudanese protesters begin strike amidst fraying talks with military
Passengers wait outside the departure terminal at Khartoum airport on May 28, 2019 as aviation professionals take part in a two-day national strike to step up pressure on the ruling military council. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Hundreds of passengers at Khartoum airport and the Sudanese capital’s main bus terminal were stranded Tuesday as protesters began a two-day national strike to pile pressure on the military to hand over power to a civilian administration.

Leaders of an umbrella protest movement remain at loggerheads with army generals, who seized power after ousting president Omar al-Bashir last month, over who should lead a new governing body -a civilian or a soldier.

The new governing body is expected to install a transitional civilian government, which in turn would prepare for the first post-Bashir elections after a three-year interim period.

In a bid to step up pressure on the ruling military council, the Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement has called for a two-day general strike starting on Tuesday.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Khartoum airport as scores of employees at the facility went on strike, chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule,” an AFP correspondent there said.

Sudanese protesters begin strike amidst fraying talks with military

Many employees carried banners or wore badges that read “We are on strike”.

Sudanese airlines Badr, Tarco, and Nova suspended flights on Tuesday, although some international flights were still scheduled.

Passengers were also stranded at Khartoum’s main bus terminal as hundreds of employees observed the strike.

Many carried banners reading: “Today, tomorrow no buses as we are on strike”.

“I have to travel to Gadaref to be with my family for Eid, but I’m not angry as I understand the reason for the strike,” traveller Fatima Omar said as she waited with her children at the bus terminal.

‘Still no breakthrough’-

Protest leader, Siddiq Farukh told AFP that the strike was a message to the world that Sudanese people “don’t want the power to be with the military”.

Another prominent protester, Wajdi Saleh, told reporters late Monday that there was “still no breakthrough” in negotiations but the protest movement was ready to negotiate if the generals offered fresh talks.

“We hope that we reach an agreement with the military council and won’t have to go on an indefinite strike,” he said. 

Protest leaders had said medics, lawyers, prosecutors, employees in the electricity and water sectors, public transport, railways, telecommunication and civil aviation were set to take part in the strike.

They said actions in the telecoms and aviation sectors would not affect operations.

But the protest movement’s plan has been dealt a blow after a key member, the National Umma Party, said it opposed the plan as there had been no unanimous decision for a strike.

Umma and its chief Sadiq al-Mahdi have for decades been the main opponents of Bashir’s iron-fisted rule, and threw their weight behind the protest movement after nationwide demonstrations erupted in December.

Mahdi’s elected government was toppled by Bashir in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Civilian rule ‘only solution’ –

Protester, Hazar Mustafa said a civilian government was the only solution to Sudan’s problems.

“We see the military council as part of the former regime. We don’t see it upholding any rights and building a just state,” she said.

The army ousted Bashir in April after months of protests against his autocratic rule, including a sit-in by tens of thousands of protesters outside Khartoum’s military headquarters.

But the generals, backed by key regional powers, have resisted calls from protesters and Western governments to hand over power to civilians.

Thousands of protesters remain camped outside army headquarters, demanding the generals step down.

Ahead of the strike, the chief of the ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo toured Khartoum’s regional allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt and the oil-rich Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are seen as backing the generals, even as the United States leads Western calls for a swift transition to civilian rule.

Before suspending talks last week, protesters and the generals had agreed on several key issues, including the three-year transition and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers coming from the protesters’ umbrella group.

But negotiations stalled as protest leaders insisted a civilian must head the new sovereign council, with civilians making up the majority of its members, a proposal that has been rejected by the military.

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Algeria to invest $3 billion in solar power, free up gas export

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The Coronavirus pandemic is proving to be the motivator for more economic diversification. An example of this, is Algeria’s plan to invest further in renewable energy and generate more electricity. The country intends to invest at least $3 billion dollars in this endeavor.

These new photovoltaic solar plants will generate a combined production capacity of 4000 mega watts (MW). The electricity will be consumed locally and excesses sold. The move will enable more gas to be sold externally.

Recently, Algeria lost its main gas supply destination due to cheaper alternatives with more supplies.

Currently, gas is used in generating about 98% of total electricity production in Algeria. But recent development has been encouraging Algiers to increase its exports of gas and crude oil, which are the main sources of Algeria’s revenue. Solar generated electricity makes up the remaining 2%.

Algeria’s Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerrad’s office announced the development on its website following a meeting of the government.

“In addition to meeting national demand for energy and preserving our fossil resources, this project will allow us to position ourselves on the international market,” it said in a statement.

It gave no details on where the electricity might be sold abroad or how much the proposed plants would contribute to domestic supply.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global movement restriction has influenced the drastic drop in crude oil and gas sales affecting countries like Algeria. The past two weeks has seen a gradual rise in price but Algeria like many other OPEC members have announced plans to seek foreign loans in 2020 for the first time in years to fund what they called “strategic projects”.

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Business News

Morocco- Consumer Price Index dips

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The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Morocco has fallen. In March, the CPI recorded 1.5% dipping to 0.9% in April year-on-year.

Morocco’s Finance Minister, Mohamed Benchaaboun says the country’s economy has been hit hard by the Coronavirus outbreak adding that plans are being set up to relaunch economic activity through promoting state investments, tourism and fostering domestic consumption.

According to the High Commission for Planning of Morocco, on a month-on-month basis, the index rose 0.1%. Food prices rose 2.7% while non-food prices dropped 0.3%. Core inflation, which excludes prices of volatile goods, was 0.1% month-on-month and 0.9% year-on-year.

The reduction in commercial activities has impacted negatively on the economy. Exports dropped during the first four months 61.5% due particularly to a retraction of sales of the car industry, aeronautics, electronics and textile, in a context worsened by the halt of tourism activity and fewer remittances.

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North Africa

Sports stars in Egypt hit with new taxes

Egyptian parliament has approved a draft law imposing financial development fees on football contracts

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The Egyptian parliament has approved a draft law imposing “financial development fees” on contracts related to the buying, selling, loaning or renewing the contracts of Egyptian or foreign athletes and coaches.

The new law states that a fee of 3 percent will be imposed on contracts lower than EGP 1 million, and 4.5 percent on contracts from EGP 1 to 2 million.

The law also states that a fee of 6 percent will be imposed on contracts worth EGP 2 to 3 million, 7.5 percent on contracts worth EGP 3 million to 5 million, and 9 percent on contracts worth more than EGP 5 million.

The committee also released a new article imposing a 10 percent tax on contracts worth more than EGP 10 million, and the games’ association will be responsible for collecting the newly imposed taxes and sending them to the tax authorities before registering the contracts, according to parliament’s statement.

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told parliament’s budget and planning committee that the draft law comes out of necessity and aims to contain the disastrous impact of the international economic crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

“Please know that a finance minister is not a magician and he does not have a magic wand to procure financial resources,” said Maait, adding that “we as a government have a lot of duties such as offering subsidized goods and spending on services, and in this respect, we seek to generate new financial resources as long as these will not be a new burden for ordinary citizens.”

Approximately 15% of the players in the Egyptian Premier League are foreigners while 6 of the 18 clubs are managed by foreign coaches. The new law will affect high profile foreign stars like Zamalek duo Ferjani Sassi (Tunisia) and Achraf Bencharki (Morocco), Al Ahly’s Nigerian striker Junior Ajayi, Al Ittihad’s Ugandan winger Emmanuel Okwi and Pyramid’s Ghanaian attacker Jon Antwi among others.

Egypt’s foreign reserves fell by $5.4 billion, or 9.7%, to $40.1 billion at the end of March, a Central Bank of Egypt statement said on April 7. The central bank ascribed the decline to what it described as “an unprecedented blow to the global financial markets arising from the coronavirus epidemic.

Egypt was expected to earn roughly $16 billion from tourism in 2020 prior to the coronavirus crisis, which has dealt a direct blow to the aviation and travel industries.

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday approved Egypt’s request for emergency financial assistance of $ 2.772 billion to meet the urgent balance of payments needs stemming from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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