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Sudan swears-in new civilian cabinet3 min read

18 ministers were seen greeting members of the sovereign council, including its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

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Members of the Sudanese cabinet take oath in the presence of the new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok

Sudan’s first cabinet since the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir was sworn in Sunday as the African country transitions to a civilian rule following nationwide protests that overthrew the autocrat. The 18-member cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, which includes four women, took oath at the presidential palace in Khartoum, journalists reported.

It is expected to steer the daily affairs of the country during a transition period of 39 months. The line-up was formed after Sudan last month swore in a “sovereign council” – a joint civilian-military ruling body that aims to oversee the transition.

The 18 ministers were seen greeting members of the military council, including its chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in images broadcast by state television from the palace. “We have to put in a lot of efforts to meet our people’s demands,” Information Minister Faisal Mohamed Saleh told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony.

a section of Members of the Sudanese cabinet take oath
Members of the Sudanese cabinet take oath in the presence of the new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (back- L) and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s ruling military council (back-C) at the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, on September 8, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Read: Prime Minister continues talks as Sudan awaits new cabinet

“The world is watching us. It is waiting to see how we can solve our issues.” The sovereign council itself is the result of a power-sharing deal between the protesters and generals who had seized power after the army ousted Bashir in April.

Hamdok’s cabinet, which has the country’s first female foreign affairs minister, is expected to lead Sudan through formidable challenges that also include ending internal conflicts in three regions. Rebel groups from marginalised regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states had waged long wars against Bashir’s forces.

“The road ahead is not easy. We will face many challenges but we have to work on them,” said Walaa Issam, Minister for youth and sports. Sudan’s power-sharing deal aims to forge peace with armed groups. Hamdok’s cabinet will also be expected to fight corruption and dismantle the long-entrenched Islamist deep state created under Bashir.

Members of the Sudanese cabinet
Members of the Sudanese cabinet take oath in the presence of the new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (back- L) and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council (back-C) at the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, on September 8, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP) / )

Pay Attention: African Union re-admits Sudan after civilian transition

Bashir had seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades until his ouster. It was a worsening economic crisis that triggered the fall of Bashir, who is now on trial on charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. 

According to doctors linked to the umbrella protest movement that led to Bashir’s fall, more than 250 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December. Of that at least 127 were killed in early June during a brutal crackdown on a weeks-long protest sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Officials have given a lower death toll.

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Libya airstrike leaves about 7 dead, 30 wounded

At least seven civilians were killed, most of them foreign workers, and 30 wounded in an airstrike on Monday

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Libya airstrike leaves about 7 dead, 30 wounded
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / This picture taken on November 18, 2019 shows the aftermath of a reported air strike on a factory south of the Libyan capital Tripoli where several people were killed according to a spokesman of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

At least seven civilians were killed, most of them foreign workers, and 30 wounded in an airstrike on Monday that hit a biscuit factory in southern Tripoli, Libya’s health ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Amin al-Hachemi told reporters that two Libyans and nationals from Bangladesh, Egypt and Niger died when the factory in Wadi Rabi took a direct hit, with foreign workers also accounting for the 30 wounded.

The suburb has been at the centre of an assault launched in April by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces to wrest control of the capital from fighters loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Libya airstrike leaves about 7 dead, 30 wounded
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / This picture taken on November 18, 2019 shows the aftermath of a reported air strike on a factory south of the Libyan capital Tripoli where several people were killed according to a spokesman of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

Pro-GNA forces, on their Facebook page, charged that the raid was carried out by United Arab Emirates drones in support of Haftar, from whose camp there was no immediate reaction.

The military strongman is backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, while Turkey and Qatar back his rival, the United Nations-recognised GNA.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The battle for Tripoli, which has come to a standstill on the ground after initial advances by Haftar’s forces, has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced about 120,000 others, according to the UN.

The United States last week urged Haftar to call off his offensive and accused Russia of working to exploit Libya’s latest conflict.

“The United States calls on the ‘Libyan National Army’ to end its offensive on Tripoli,” a joint statement said after a GNA delegation held talks in Washington, referring to Haftar’s self-styled LNA.

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / This picture taken on November 18, 2019 in the Libyan town of Tajura, about 14 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, shows the bodies of victims who were killed a reported air strike at a location south of Tripoli according to a spokesman of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

“This will facilitate further US-Libya cooperation to prevent undue foreign interference, reinforce legitimate state authority and address the issues underlying the conflict,” the statement added.

The US also “underscored support for Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s attempts to exploit the conflict against the will of the Libyan people”.

Western powers have sent mixed signals, with France and Italy welcoming Haftar for visits and US President Donald Trump earlier this year hailing his role in “fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”.

But the US has since distanced itself from the field marshal and joined calls for a ceasefire.

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Sudanese hope Ethiopian dam ends Blue Nile floods

This year alone, flash flooding has killed more than 60 and injured dozens in Sudan

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The Blue Nile is a renegade river, according to Sudanese farmer Osman Idris, its unpredictable flooding swallows crops and houses as it crashes through Sudan from Ethiopia on its way to Egypt.

“Tonight, the level of water will be low,” said Idris, a resident of Juref Gharb, a small village on the bank of the Blue Nile outside Khartoum.

“Tomorrow, it will swallow all the houses… It’s a renegade river, it rises so fast,” said the 60-year-old, dressed in a traditional Sudanese robe.

For Idris, Ethiopia’s construction of a controversial dam on the Blue Nile is a dream come true, as it promises to regulate the floods that inundate Sudan every rainy season.

This year alone, flash flooding has killed more than 60 and injured dozens in Sudan. 

The Blue Nile joins the White Nile in Khartoum and supplies the overwhelming majority of the Nile’s water, which runs through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam began in 2012, but since then Egypt has sounded the alarm that the project would severely reduce its water supplies. 

Egypt depends on the Nile for about 90 per cent of its irrigation and drinking water and says it has “historic rights” to the river guaranteed by treaties from 1929 and 1959.

It sees the project as an existential threat, fearing Ethiopia’s rapid construction of the dam might lead to water and food scarcity for millions of Egyptians.

More cash crops 

After several rounds of talks failed to resolve the issue, a new dialogue between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was mediated by the United States in Washington earlier this month.

The three delegations agreed to resolve the dispute by January 15, with ministerial-level talks being held this week in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia insists the $4 billion hydro-electric barrage is essential for its economic growth given that most of its population still lives without electricity.

And in Sudan, farmers hope the dam will provide predictable flow.

Over the years, farmers like Idris who own farms along the Nile have been forced to change their crops due to flood devastation and tonnes of deposited silt.

Brickmakers fire blocks of mud in riverside kilns, producing smoke harmful to crops.

“I had to shift from cultivating fruits and vegetables to animal feed,” Idris told reporters.

Being reliant on flooding for irrigation means only one harvest per year and limits the kind of crops that can be grown.

If the river’s flow were regulated, more intensive agriculture could be practised, Idris said.

“We can plant crops throughout the year. It will be better for the environment and for marketing our products, which means more income for us,” Idris said.

Ekram Dagash, a professor at Khartoum’s Al-Zaiem Al-Azhari University, agreed that Sudan stands to gain from the dam, which will maintain water levels and block unwanted silt.

“Ethiopia is building the dam for one reason only, to produce electricity and export it, not only to neighbouring countries but to the whole African continent,” she told reporters.

Worried brickmakers 

But one group of Sudanese are concerned about the dam: brickmakers, who depend on the silt for their livelihood.

Dozens of small kilns line the river, providing an income for hundreds of brickmakers like Yakoub Noreen.

“If the dam is built, this won’t arrive,” the 40-year-old said of the silt he was standing in, as he pressed wet clay into a mould. 

Nearby, workers stacked bricks into a kiln belching thick smoke. Later they will be sold for 1,500 Sudanese pounds ($32) per 1,000 bricks, Noreen said.

Professor Dagash said workers can be compensated and provided alternative livelihoods if brickworks close, adding that benefits from the dam outweighed such losses.

Vast areas of land would open up for agriculture as well as industrial projects, she said.

“The dam will provide Sudan with low-cost electricity… and low-cost electricity means more growth,” she said.

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Presidential vote campaigning starts in protest-hit Algeria

Campaigning for Algeria’s presidential election next month started on Sunday

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Campaigning for Algeria’s presidential election next month started on Sunday in a country mired by protests demanding a sweeping overhaul of a decades-old political system.

Five candidates will contest the December 12 election, but protesters charge the vote aims to cement in power the political elite linked to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned in April under pressure from nationwide demonstrations.

Billboards for campaign posters remained conspicuously bare on Sunday, and some were covered in graffiti with insulting remarks or the names of activists detained in a crackdown on protesters.

“It is a symbol that (the vote) is rejected” by the people, said former university professor Mohamed Hennad, adding that he expected the electoral contest to be “difficult”.

The ailing Bouteflika, 82, was forced to quit after demonstrations erupted in February against his bid for a fifth term.

Since then, Algeria has seen weekly Friday protests demanding deep reforms to a political system that has been in place since independence from France in 1962.

To protesters’ disappointment, all five candidates seeking to replace Bouteflika are known to have links to him.

They include former prime ministers Ali Benflis, 75, and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 73, considered the two frontrunners in the race.

The others include Azzedine Mihoubi, head of the Democratic National Rally party (RND), the main ally of Bouteflika’s party.

There are also Islamist ex-tourism minister Abdelkader Bengrina, whose party backed Bouteflika, and Abdelaziz Belaid, a member of a youth organisation that also supported the former president.

On Saturday night, the defence ministry issued called on Algerians “to take an active part alongside security forces… to guarantee a successful” campaign and election.

“It is crucial for the future of the country,” it said in a statement.

Powerful army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah has led a push for presidential polls by the end of 2019 after an earlier date was missed because no candidates came forward.

Meanwhile, none of the candidates has organised an electoral meeting in Algiers or any of the country’s major cities and towns where protesters have thronged the streets on Fridays to denounce the poll.

“If I were to be very generous, I’d say turnout will be less than 10 percent,” said 80-year-old Mohamed Benhrahim, speaking in the capital Algiers, a sly smile on his face.

The only voters he expected to go to the polls are “the families of the candidates, their friends, and other cronies”.

“This election will be taught in history books,” said a teacher who identified himself as Ahmed, also flashing a smile. 

“It will be an election with candidates but with no backing from the people.”

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