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Sudan’s military rulers open to dialogue on democratic transition4 minutes read

Our basic mission is to maintain the country’s stability and security.

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Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, the head of the new Sudanese military council's political committee, addresses a press conference on April 12, 2019 in the capital Khartoum, one day after Sudan's army ousted the Arab-African country's veteran president Omar al-Bashir. - Sudan's military council pledgeed talks with 'all political entities' and vowed the new governtment will be 'civilian', adding that it will allow no security breaches. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudan’s new military rulers vowed Friday to open a dialogue with all political groups on forming a civilian government as protesters railed against their seizure of power after ousting president Omar al-Bashir.

But the military council warned it would tolerate no breaches of security after protesters defied a night-time curfew to keep up a sit-in demanding immediate civilian rule.

The head of the council’s political committee, Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, confirmed that Bashir, who had ruled the country for 30 years and was one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, remained in custody.

But he said the council would never extradite him, or any other Sudanese, despite a longstanding arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bashir on charges of genocide and war crimes.

Protesters had held mass demonstrations for four months demanding Bashir’s overthrow, defying repeated deadly attempts to crush them by riot police and the feared intelligence services.

But when the ouster was finally announced on Thursday in an address to the nation by Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf, it was met not with joy but anger.

Protest leaders dismissed the transitional military council as the “same old faces” from the old regime which had led the country into multiple conflicts and worsening poverty and social inequality.

Thursday’s announcement meant “we have not achieved anything”, said one protester who gave his name only as Adel.

“We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir.”

Analysts said that Bashir’s overthrow in a palace coup made the transition to democracy in Sudan a more distant prospect.

“Ironically, the prospects for democratic transition may be more remote than when Bashir was in power as there’s no centre of power with which to negotiate,” said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

“The power struggle within the security cabal that took power yesterday is just beginning. Bashir had kept their rivalries and ambitions in check; his removal brings in its wake an unregulated uncertainty.”

Calls for restraint

Thousands defied a warning from the military council to respect the night-time curfew imposed from 10 pm to 4:00 am, to maintain their vigil outside army headquarters in Khartoum for a sixth straight night. 

Protesters were seen chatting with soldiers posted outside. They said their quarrel was with the commanders who had led the coup, not the rank and file.

“There was no difference between last night and previous days and nights for us,” said one protester who gave his name as Abu Obeida.

“This is now our square. We have taken it and won’t leave until victory is achieved. 

“We broke the curfew. We will continue doing it until we have a civilian transitional government.”

Calls for restraint on all sides have poured in from abroad.

Washington called on the military council “to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government”.

The European Union urged the army to carry out a “swift” handover to civilian rule.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a transition that would meet the “democratic aspirations” of the Sudanese people and appealed for “calm and utmost restraint by all”, his spokesman said.

That came after the African Union decried Bashir’s military overthrow, saying it was “not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people”. 

Most shops and offices were closed on Friday which is the day of prayer and rest in Sudan.

But vast crowds were expected to throng the streets of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman after the main weekly Muslim prayers at noon raising fears of confrontation between protesters and the security forces. 

“Our basic mission is to maintain the country’s stability and security,” the head of the military council’s political committee told Friday’s news conference.

“We will not allow any breach of security anywhere.”

Sudan’s last elected prime minister, opposition Umma party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was overthrown by Bashir in a military coup in 1989, was expected to address supporters after prayers at one of Omdurman’s most revered mosques.

Since returning to Khartoum from self-imposed exile, Mahdi has allied his party with the grass-roots who were the driving force behind the mass protests that preceded Thursday’s military takeover.

The military council said it was declaring a ceasefire across the country, including in war-torn Darfur.

But the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW) fighting government forces in Darfur denounced what it called a “palace coup”.

It was the Bashir government’s brutal response to the ethnic minority rebellion which erupted in the western region of Darfur in 2003 that prompted the ICC genocide charges against him.

The ousted president stands accused of unleashing Arab militias in a scorched earth campaign against minority villages that killed tens of thousands of civilians and forced hundreds of thousands more into camps.

But the military council’s political chief said it would never hand over Bashir.

“We as a military council, we will not deliver the president abroad during our period” in office, Abdin said when asked about the ICC arrest warrant.

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Health

Algeria insists on hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment

WHO said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus.

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Algeria has disclosed plans to continue the use of hydroxychloroquine in tackling the coronavirus, despite the discouragement by the World Health Organization that has suspended clinical trials of such treatments following a study which showed that the drug caused more harm than good.

“We’ve treated thousands of cases with this medicine, very successfully so far,” said Mohamed Bekkat, a member of the scientific committee on the North African country’s Covid-19 outbreak. 

“We haven’t noted any undesirable reactions,” he said.

Bekkat, who is also head of the Order of Algerian Doctors, said the country had not registered any deaths caused by hydroxychloroquine.

“For confirmed cases, we use hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Then there is a whole protocol for serious cases,” a health ministry official said on Monday.

Bekkat’s comments came days after medical journal The Lancet published a study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients, showing no benefit in those treated with the drug, which is normally used against arthritis.

The study found that administering the medicine or, separately, the related anti-malarial chloroquine, actually increased Covid-19 patients’ risk of dying.

The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus, following the Lancet study.

Bekkat argued that the Lancet study had led to “confusion” as it “seems to concern serious cases in which hydroxychloroquine is of no help”.

“There is evidence that the use of chloroquine by some Arab and African countries has proven to be effective when used early,” he explained.  

Public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy — despite several studies showing it to be ineffective and even increasing COVID-19 hospital deaths.

Algeria’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst in Africa, with a total of 8,503 cases and 609 deaths officially recorded since February 25.

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North Africa

Libyan Coast Guard rescues 315 illegal migrants

At least five boats carrying nearly 400 people attempted to flee Libya during the previous 48 hours, IOM said earlier Monday.

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FILE PHOTO: This picture taken on October 1, 2019 shows rescued migrants sitting on a pier next to a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms, a town 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the capital. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

The Libyan Coast Guard has rescued 315 illegal migrants, bringing them back to the capital Tripoli, the United Nations Higher Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

“Today at dawn, Libyan Coast Guard returned to Tripoli 315 refugees and migrants after being intercepted/rescued at sea aboard several boats,” the UNHCR tweeted Monday.

“Two people lost their lives and their bodies were recovered. UNHCR partner IRC (International Rescue Committee) was on site to provide urgent medical care to all survivors,” the UNHCR said.

At least five boats carrying nearly 400 people attempted to flee Libya during the previous 48 hours, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said earlier Monday.

The IOM reiterated call for ending returns of rescued migrants to Libya and establishing a safe alternative disembarkation mechanism.

After the fall of the late leader Gaddafi’s government in 2011, Libya became a preferred point of departure for thousands of illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores.

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Business News

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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