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Sudan’s opposition rejects Military Council’s election plan4 minutes read

At least 35 people were killed on when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry

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sudan uprising
Sudanese protesters walk past burning tyres during a demonstration in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman

Sudan’s opposition on Tuesday rejected a plan by its military rulers to hold elections within nine months, a day after the worst bout of violence since Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president in April.

At least 35 people were killed on Monday when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry in central Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the opposition.

The military council that has ruled since Bashir’s overthrow afterwards cancelled all agreements with the main opposition alliance.

But Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) opposition alliance, said an open-ended civil disobedience campaign would continue to try to force the council from power.

The opposition rejected all that Transitional Military Council (TMC) Head Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in his statement, Madani says.

“What happened, killing protesters, wounding and humiliation, was a systematic and planned matter to impose repression on the Sudanese people,” he said.

The atmosphere in the capital Khartoum was very tense on Tuesday as many roads were barricaded by protesters, many shops were shut and streets were mostly empty. Security forces were trying to clear the barricades.

Rapid Support Forces vehicles were patrolling the streets in Omdurman, on the other side of the River Nile from Khartoum, and firing into the air.

The leaders of protests that forced Bashir from power after three decades of authoritarian rule in April have demanded preparations for elections during a transitional period led by a civilian administration.

The military council has also been under both domestic and international pressure to hand over power to civilians. It had agreed to a three-year transition period with the DFCF. 

Risk of escalation

The main protest organizers, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), accused the security forces of perpetrating “a massacre” when they raided the camp amid heavy gunfire.

Council spokesman Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi denied this and said security forces were pursuing “unruly elements” who had fled to the protest site and caused chaos.

Sudan has been rocked by unrest since December, when anger over rising bread prices and cash shortages broke into sustained protests that culminated in the armed forces ousting Bashir.

But talks between a coalition of protesters and opposition parties ground to a halt amid deep differences over who will lead a transition to democracy that both sides had agreed will last for three years.

In a televised address in the early hours of Tuesday morning, council leader Burhan said the opposition coalition was equally responsible for the delay in coming to a final agreement.

The council had decided to cancel all agreements with the protest groups and called for elections within nine months, which he said will be organized under regional and international supervision.

“Gaining legitimacy and a mandate does not come but through the ballot box,” Burhan said.

He also announced that a government would immediately be formed to run the country until elections are held.

Burhan also said he regretted the violence and it would be investigated.

The security forces’ operation drew condemnation from Europe, the United States and the African Union.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was clear they had used excessive force on civilians, while British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt called the dispersal “outrageous”.

The European Union urged a speedy transfer of power to civilians. Neighbouring Egypt called for “calm and restraint”, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it hoped that dialogue would prevail in Sudan.

The Soufan Group, a security and intelligence think-tank, warned that the situation could escalate swiftly to more violence.

“There are clear parallels to some of the Arab Spring protests that eventually progressed to full-blown insurgencies, including Syria, where indiscriminate shelling of civilians by the military initially galvanized protest movements that helped launch a broader uprising,” it said in an analysis. 

“There is a real risk that the situation could spiral into full-blown civil war, which would significantly affect the region, with spillover violence impacting the ongoing conflict in Libya.” 

However, Hamid Eltgani Ali, a professor at the American University in Cairo, predicted that the protest movement would succeed in forcing the military to step down. There were two competing visions for Sudan’s future, he told Reuters.

“The vision of hate and division is led by the Janjaweed (militias) and military resisting to preserve their economic interests they enjoyed during Bashir’s rule, while the vision of hope is led by professional associations and syndicates. They want a democratic, open Sudan with a strong developmental vision,” Ali said.

Sudan has been on a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism since 1993 that denies the country access to financial markets and strangles its economy.

Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in discussions to remove it from the sponsor of terrorism list when the military stepped in to depose Bashir.

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North Africa

Egypt, France plan to end terrorism in Libya

Both countries showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed the matter during a telelphone conversation on Saturday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed the development of several regional issues, including the situation in Libya.

During a phone call on Saturday, Macron said he is keen to exchange views with Sisi over these issues as Cairo plays a key political role in the region, Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.

For his part, Sisi affirmed Egypt’s firm position towards the Libyan crisis based on restoring Libyan national state institutions, ending the spread of criminal groups and terrorist militias.

He added that Egypt also gives top priority to combating terrorism, achieving stability and security and putting an end to illegal foreign interventions in Libya, a Xinhua news agency report said.

The two presidents agreed to intensify their coordination in the coming period, stressing the necessity to end the Libyan crisis by reaching a political solution that paves the way for the return of security and stability in the country, the spokesman said.

They showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.

Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Libyan conflict escalated in 2014, splitting power between two rival governments, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and another in the northeastern city of Tobruk allied with self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.

While Egypt supports Haftar’s LNA that seeks to take over Tripoli, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA. 

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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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