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Sudan’s military council, opposition agree on 3-year transition period4 minutes read

A final agreement on the sharing of power will be signed with the protest movement, within a day.

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Sudanese protestors celebrate after an agreement was reached with the military council to form a three-year transition period for transferring power to a full civilian administration, in Khartoum

Sudanese army rulers and protest leaders Wednesday agreed on a three-year transition period for transferring power to a full civilian administration, even as negotiations over a new sovereign ruling body remain unfinished.

The protest movement is demanding a civilian-led transition following 30 years of iron-fisted rule by now deposed president Omar al-Bashir, but the generals who toppled him have been holding onto a leadership role.

Talks between the two sides resumed earlier in the week but were marred by violence when an army major and five protesters were killed by unidentified gunmen at a long-running sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum. 

The two sides announced early Wednesday after nearly 12 hours of negotiations that they had reached an agreement on the transition period.

“We agreed on a transitional period of three years,” Lieutenant General Yasser al-Atta, a member of the military council told reporters.

Atta said a final agreement on the sharing of power, including the forming of the next ruling body — the sovereign council —  will be signed with the protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, within a day.

“We vow to our people that the agreement will be completed fully within 24 hours in a way that it meets the people’s aspirations,” Atta said.

He said of the transition period, the first six months will be allocated to signing peace accords with rebels in the country’s war zones like Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Protester Mohamed Abdullah told AFP that he was happy the way the negotiations had turned out so far.

“We will wait for tomorrow’s talks, but my only question is ‘Who will guarantee this agreement with the military council?’,” he said as thousands of demonstrators gathered for another sit-in overnight.

US blames army rulers

The army generals had initially insisted on a two-year transition period, while the protest leaders wanted four years.

Key negotiations however remain on the composition of the sovereign council, which will replace the existing ruling body made up solely of generals. 

The generals say this should be military led while protest leaders want it to be majority civilian.

After the forming of the sovereign council, a new transitional civilian government will be formed to run the country’s day-to-day affairs and would work towards having the first post-Bashir elections after the end of the transition period.

Atta said that during the transition period parliament will be composed of 300 members, of which 67 percent will be from the Alliance for Freedom and Change and the rest will be from other political groups.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change meanwhile said the shootings on Monday were an attempt to “disturb the breakthrough” in talks.

On Tuesday, the United States blamed the army itself for the deaths.

They “were clearly the result of the Transitional Military Council trying to impose its will on the protesters by attempting to remove roadblocks”, the US embassy said on its Facebook page.

“The decision for security forces to escalate the use of force, including the unnecessary use of tear gas, led directly to the unacceptable violence later in the day that the TMC was unable to control,” it said.

‘Protect your homeland’

Protest leaders, who on Monday had blamed the remnants of Bashir’s regime and allied militias, changed their stand on Tuesday.

“We put the whole responsibility on the military council for what happened yesterday because it’s their direct responsibility to guard and protect the citizens,” Mohamed Naji al-Assam, a prominent figure in the movement, told reporters.

The latest round of talks which opened on Monday come after a break in negotiations that saw protest leaders threaten “escalatory measures” to secure their central demand of civilian rule.

The issue has kept thousands of protesters camped outside army headquarters around the clock ever since Bashir’s overthrow.

The sit-in has become the focal point for the protest movement, overtaking the near daily protests that had been held across Sudan while the veteran president remained in power.

But on Tuesday protesters in the capital’s twin city Omdurman also vented their anger on the streets. 

Protesters gathered in the Abbassiya and Al-Arbaa districts, just across the Nile from the capital, with many chanting slogans against the military council, witnesses told AFP.

“Protect your homeland or prepare to die!” the protesters chanted. 

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Politics

Court orders rearrest of Lesotho ex-first lady in murder trial

Maesaiah Thabane is suspected of orchestrating the shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, who was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru.

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Former Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane (L) and his wife Maesaiah Thabane sit at the Magistrate Court in Maseru, Lesotho, on February 24, 2020. AFP

Lesotho’s Court of Appeal has ordered the rearrest of former first lady Maesaiah Thabane after revoking her bail on murder charges over the killing of her husband’s estranged wife in 2017.

The 42-year-old was charged in February after police quizzed her on the brutal murder of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife two days before his inauguration.

She spent one night in jail, after which Lesotho’s High Court freed her on a 1,000 maloti ($57) bail, according to AFP.

“The decision… is set aside and the bail petition is remitted back to the High Court to be determined by a different judge,” Court of Appeal president Kananelo Mosito ruled on Friday.

Police said Maesaiah Thabane would be arrested and handed over to correctional service officials later on Friday.

“As soon as we get the written judgement… we will arrest her,” deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP.

Maesaiah Thabane is suspected of orchestrating the shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, who was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru.

Police have also charged her for the attempted murder of Lipolelo Thabane’s friend Thato Sibolla, who was wounded at the scene.

Lipolelo and Thomas Thabane, now 81, had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when the 48-year-old was killed.

The former prime minister agreed to step down in January after police linked his mobile number to communication records from the crime scene.

He officially resigned this month, bowing to pressure from his rivals who accused him of hampering investigations into Lipolelo’s death.

Thabane has denied any involvement in the murder.

His wife initially went into hiding after police first called her in to testify in January.

She has not yet been allowed to respond to the charges.

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Politics

Niger passes new wire-tapping law to fight terrorism despite opposition

The opposition decried “the will of those in power to deprive Nigeriens… of all privacy in their communications.”

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Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou

Niger’s parliament has adopted a new legislation authorising wiretapping as a means of curbing “terrorism and transnational criminality”, brushing off an opposition protest walkout.

The new law permits “research of information” which notably may “threaten state security” or “prevent the fight against terrorism and organised transnational crime” in a country large swathes of which are in thrall to jihadist conflict, an AFP report said Friday.

Opposition parties are concerned that the country’s constitution holds that “secrecy of correspondence and of communications is inviolable”.

Under the new law, “obtained proofs can be used in investigations and criminal prosecutions initiated by judicial authorities, “with communications intercepted by “competent technical services” who will target “any person against whom there are serious reasons” to proceed.

Barkai Issouf, minister overseeing relations with institutions, insisted that “this law is not a threat to liberty. It is indispensable and emanates form the government’s wish to secure our people”.

Justice Minister Marou Amadou played down the move, saying: “You feared being listened in on? Well, you were before and you still are — only now it will be organised.”

In a statement, the opposition decried “the will of those in power to deprive Nigeriens… of all privacy in their communications.”

It added “this law will allow surveillance of all Nigeriens, as well as all those who live in Niger under the false pretexts” of maintaining security and fighting terrorism.

Niger has endured repeated unrest in its west near its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso from rival jihadi groups as well as in its southeast from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa, a breakaway group from Boko Haram.

There have been several recent incursions including a massacre in which 20 people were massacred earlier this month.

In the same immense and unstable region of Tillaberi, which covers 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles) and runs into the three-border area of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, three attacks on the army since December left 174 soldiers dead, according to an official report.

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East Africa Politics News

Court sets Tanzanian opposition leader free despite being guilty for sedition

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Magistrate Huruma Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

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Zitto Kabwe, local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party.

A Tanzanian opposition leader found guilty of sedition and incitement on accusations that he falsely said some 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in his home region in 2018 was on Friday set free by a Dar es Salaam court.

Zitto Kabwe, a local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party was set free on condition that he refrain from saying or writing anything that would be considered sedition to the government.

Kabwe, who is member of parliament for Kigoma urban constituency, in western Tanzania, was charged in November 2018 with three counts related to incitement after saying that 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in the region, a Reuters report said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, the head of police in Kigoma said just two herdsmen and two officers had died during an operation to stop pastoralists keeping livestock illegally on a government-owned ranch.

Huruma Shaidi, principal magistrate of Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, said he found Kabwe guilty on all three counts.

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

Kabwe’s defence lawyers said they were going to appeal the verdict.

“Zitto Kabwe is a politician and we are in the elections period, we are going to appeal this ruling to clear him,” Jebra Kambole, Kabwe’s lead counsel, told reporters outside the court.

Kabwe split away from the main opposition CHADEMA movement in 2015 and is now his party’s only lawmaker.

The East African country has been one of the continent’s most stable, but opposition leaders and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on dissent – an accusation it dismisses.

Tanzania is expected to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in October.

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