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Sudan’s protest leaders and military reach landmark agreement on governing council4 minutes read

The two sides agreed on establishing a sovereign council with a rotating military and civilian (presidency)

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Sudan's protest leaders and military reach landmark agreement on governing council
Sudanese protesters celebrate in the streets of Khartoum after ruling generals and protest leaders announced they have reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body on July 5, 2019. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body Friday, in a breakthrough power-sharing accord aimed at ending the country’s months-long political crisis.

The landmark agreement came after two days of talks following the collapse of the previous round of negotiations in May over who should lead the new ruling body — a civilian or soldier.

Related: “Military council is completely responsible for killings” -Sudan protesters

“The two sides agreed on establishing a sovereign council with a rotating military and civilian (presidency) for a period of three years or little more,” African Union mediator Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt told reporters.

Sudan has been rocked by a political crisis since the army ousted longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir in April on the back of widespread protests, with the generals who seized power resisting demonstrators’ demands to hand it over to a civilian administration.

“We want to reassure all political forces and armed movements and all those who took part in the change… that this agreement is all inclusive and does not exclude anyone,” deputy chief of the ruling military council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo said in a statement.

Related: Protest leaders call for one-day nationwide civil disobedience in Sudan

Tension between the two sides had further soared after a brutal raid on a longstanding protest camp outside army headquarters in the capital Khartoum that killed dozens of demonstrators and wounded hundreds on June 3.

Lebatt did not specify the exact make-up of the new ruling body, but prominent protest leader, Ahmed al-Rabie told reporters that it would comprise six civilians, including five from the protest movement, and five members of the military.

The latest round of talks had resumed Wednesday after intense mediation by Ethiopian and African Union envoys, who had put forward a draft proposal to break the weeks-long deadlock.

Investigation into raid –

The blueprint proposes a three-year transition period, with the president of the new ruling body to be held by the military for the first 18 months and a civilian for the second.

However, it was still unclear if both sides had signed off on the military holding the post first.

Sudan's protest leaders and military reach landmark agreement on governing council

Lebatt, however, said the two sides had agreed to postpone the forming of a new transitional parliament.

Before talks collapsed in May, the generals and protest leaders had agreed on forming a 300-member parliament, with two-thirds of lawmakers to be from the protest movement.

Lebatt said that both sides have now also “agreed to have a detailed, transparent, national, independent investigation into all the regrettable violent incidents that the country faced in recent weeks,” including the June 3 massacre.

Related: Sudan’s protest leaders agree to resume talks with military, lists condition

At least 136 people have been killed across the country since the raid, including more than 100 on June 3, according to doctors close to the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The health ministry says 78 people have been killed nationwide over the same period, with protest leaders accusing the military of orchestrating and executing the raids.

The ruling military council insists it did not order the violent dispersal of the sit-in.

For weeks, the issue of forming the new ruling body has rocked Sudan, extending the political crisis triggered by the fall of Bashir.

Prior to the start of the latest round of talks on Wednesday, Ethiopian mediator, Mahmoud Drir had said that the thorny issue of the new governing body was “the sole point of disagreement” between the two parties.

Students march for civilian rule –

On Sunday, protest leaders managed to mobilise tens of thousands of supporters in the first mass protest against the generals since the raid.

The mass rally had been seen as a test for the protest leaders’ ability to mobilise crowds after the generals imposed a widespread internet blackout and deployed security forces in the capital’s key squares and districts, its twin city Omdurman and other towns and villages.

On Thursday, hundreds of students from several schools in three towns —  Madani, Gadaref, and Sinnar — staged spontaneous protests chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule”, witnesses said.

Earlier on Thursday, a group of 235 fighters from a faction of a Darfur rebel group that is part of the protest movement was released as decided during the talks.

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Two Algerian ex-Prime Ministers get heavy jail terms for corruption

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Two Algerian ex-Prime Ministers get heavy jail terms for corruption
(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on December 10, 2019 shows file photos of then newly appointed Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia attending a congress session in the capital Algiers on September 4, 2017 and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal giving a press conference on March 09, 2017 in Tunis. (Photos by RYAD KRAMDI and FETHI BELAID / AFP)

An Algerian court has on Tuesday sentenced two former prime ministers to a long jail term in the first of a series of high-profile corruption trials launched after longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests in April.

The court ruling came just two days to Algeria’s presidential election to replace ousted Bouteflika

Former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal, who were both close to the ousted president, were sentenced to 15 years and 12 years respectively.

It was the first time since Algeria’s independence in 1962 that former prime ministers were put on trial.

The state prosecutor had sought 20-year prison sentences for the two ex-premiers.

In all, 19 defendants were tried on charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of office and granting undue privileges in the nascent vehicle assembly industry.

-‘Nepotism and favouritism’

The Algerian automotive sector got its start in 2014, via partnerships between foreign groups and large Algerian corporations, many of which are owned by businessmen linked to Bouteflika’s entourage.

One former industry minister, Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run abroad, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years. Two other former industry ministers, Mahdjoub Bedda and Youcef Yousfi, were handed 10-year terms.

Businessman Ali Haddad, founder and CEO of private construction firm ETRHB and former head of Algeria’s main employers’ organisation, was sentenced to seven years.

And three businessmen who own vehicle assembly plants — Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi — were sentenced to seven years, six years and three years respectively.

The prosecutor denounced a sector dominated by nepotism and favouritism, describing businessmen who “managed front companies while benefiting from undue tax, customs and land benefits”.

The automotive scandal cost the treasury more than 128 billion dinars (975 million euros), according to the official APS news agency.

Defence lawyers boycotted the trial, alleging the proceedings were “politicised” and impacted by a climate of “settling scores”.

The defendants protested their innocence and spent the trial shifting blame among themselves.

Before the court retired to deliberate, former prime minister Sellal broke down in tears and begged for leniency, saying, “I don’t have much time left to live.”

In closing remarks Sunday, the prosecutor said the trial sent the message that Algeria had changed this year and that “we are here to apply the will of the people”.

– ‘Children of the system’ 

But the high-profile prosecutions have done little to win over the protesters, who have continued to take to the streets since Bouteflika’s resignation, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence.

Many fear the trials are little more than a high-level purge in a struggle between still-powerful regime insiders, rather than a genuine effort to reform the state.

The military high command, which has long wielded power from behind the scenes, has now been forced to take a visible, frontline role in government — but has rejected the demands of protesters and civil society for sweeping reforms. 

It has paid little attention to popular calls to replace the constitution that served to legitimise Bouteflika’s grip on power.

Instead, the army has pushed for a swift election to pick a replacement for Bouteflika, saying it is the only route to resolving the political crisis.

While no opinion polls have been published, observers expect high levels of abstention, in keeping with previous elections in a political system seen by voters as rigid and unaccountable.

The five candidates in the poll have run low-key campaigns.

All are considered “children of the system”, having either supported Bouteflika or participated in his government — two as ministers and two as prime ministers.

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North Africa Politics

Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest

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Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest
Algerians wave a national flag from a balcony as they watch anti-government demonstrators march in the capital Algiers on December 6, 2019, ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for December 12. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

Algerians are expected to come out en masse on Thursday and cast their votes in the widely opposed presidential election. There have been protests against the presidential election spanning a period of 9 months. Algerians are protesting because they see the election as the regime ploy to hijack power. 

Though no opinion polls have been published, observers predict high voter apathy in Thursday’s election. This is not surprising judging from a widely-held view by the voters that the political system is rigid and uncountable.

Overseas polling booths for expat Algerians opened Saturday, but have been almost empty. The few who cast their votes face a barrage of insults from angry protesters.

Direche, of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), said that despite being traditionally conservative and close to the regime, today the diaspora “is mobilised against the election”.

Read: Protesters march against December general elections in Algeria

The outcome of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s February announcement of a fifth term bid was an unprecedented nationwide protest that forced the 82-year-old to resign. 

Protesters continued with their weekly rallies, demanding the total dismantling of the military-dominated system that has ruled Algeria since independence in 1962.

Algeria’s presidential election to hold on Thursday amidst nationwide protest
An Algerian student holds a placard reading in Arabic, “student against the elections”, during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Algiers on December 9, 2019, ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for December 12. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

The military high command which has wielded power from behind the scenes was forced to take a front-line role in government but refused to bow to pressures from protesters calling for reforms.

The regime has also refused to yield to demands to replace the constitution that served to legitimise Bouteflika’s grip on power.

Rather, the army pushed for an election to pick a replacement for Bouteflika, saying it is the only way to resolve the political crisis.

A previous poll set for July 4 was abandoned for lack of viable candidates and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah’s term technically ended five months ago.

A caretaker government, appointed by Bouteflika two days before he quit, remains in post, led by his longtime ally Noureddine Bedoui.

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Relief International says gunmen attacked office in north of South Sudan

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Gunmen attacked our office in north of South Sudan -Relief International
People gathered at Relief International premises in Sudan (Photo credit : https://www.ri.org/countries/sudan/)

An international aid organisation, Relief International, on Monday said that a group of armed men stormed its premises in northeastern South Sudan, assaulting and injuring five staff members.

Relief International said the attack took place on Sunday in a field office in Upper Nile State.

“Multiple gunmen, armed with assault rifles, pistols and knives, invaded a staff compound. During this assault, five of our staff were assaulted and sustained injuries,” the agency said in a statement.

“We have relocated our team to safety, and they are receiving all necessary care,” said Nancy Wilson, Relief International Chief Executive Officer
“They endured a senseless act of violence in the course of their assignment providing life-saving care to the refugee community in Upper Nile State, South Sudan.”

Read: Fighting between South Sudanese government and NAS rebels near Juba

Humanitarian workers have been repeatedly targeted with at least 115 killed since the country was plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The unrest has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced millions.
A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held but efforts to form a power-sharing government have been repeatedly delayed.

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