Communist leader detained after Sudan demonstration

Soaring bread prices sparked a series of protests in Sudan. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Communist leader detained after Sudan demonstration

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security agents arrested the leader of the opposition Communist Party on Wednesday after it organized a protest in the capital Khartoum against rising bread prices, its spokesman told AFP.
Sporadic protests have erupted in parts of Sudan, including Khartoum, after bread prices more than doubled earlier this month following a jump in the cost of flour.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Sudanese demonstrated near the presidential palace in response to a call by the Communist Party.
Anti-riot police fired tear gas and beat protesters with batons to disperse the crowd.
Early on Wednesday, agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested the Communist Party’s leader, spokesman Ali Saeed said.
“Today, at 3:00 a.m. (01:00 GMT), two trucks full of armed men from NISS came to the house of our General Secretary Mokhtar Al-Khatib and took him to an unknown location,” Saeed told AFP.
“We don’t know where he is but we do know that it was NISS that took him.”
Several other senior Communist Party figures, student leaders and activists have already been arrested since the bread price protests began.
The Communist Party said its members would continue to mobilize people and organize demonstrations, while the country’s main opposition Umma Party has called an anti-government demonstration for later on Wednesday.
The protests erupted after the cost of a 50 kilo sack of flour jumped from 167 Sudanese pounds to 450 ($9 to $25) as wheat supplies dwindled following the government’s decision to leave grain imports to private companies.
So far they have been sporadic and quickly broken up by security forces. A student was killed during a protest in the western region of Darfur on Jan. 7.
Similar protests were held in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.
The authorities cracked down on those protests to prevent a repeat of the deadly unrest that followed an earlier round of subsidy cuts in 2013.
Dozens of people were killed when security forces crushed the 2013 demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.


Lebanese seek to save landmark concrete park from crumbling

Updated 31 min 12 sec ago
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Lebanese seek to save landmark concrete park from crumbling

  • An exhibition is ongoing at the site designed by legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in a call to save it
  • Until Oct. 23, a show titled “Cycles of Collapsing Progress” seeks to celebrate the era that gave rise to the fairground

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Close to the seafront in Lebanon’s Tripoli, giant curves of concrete stand testimony to dreams before the civil war, etchings of an exhibition park never finished but already cracking.
This month, a rare exhibition is being held at the site designed by legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in a desperate call to save it from ruin.
Inside the vast grey grounds of the Tripoli International Fair in northern Lebanon, a palm tree throws its dark silhouette onto a giant concrete dome.
A thin arch sweeps high over a narrow footbridge, and a steep staircase spirals up vertically, onto a circular cement platform perched on a curvaceous pillar.
“It’s a futurist paradigm that is unique in Lebanon and the region,” said Lebanese architect Wassim Naghi.
“In its modernity, in its reliance on curves, it sums up the progress of architecture over a hundred years,” he said.
And with buildings dotted over an area the size of 70 rugby pitches, it’s among “Niemeyer’s largest works outside Brazil,” he said.
The Brazilian architect designed landmarks around the globe during a decades-long career that started in the 1930s and ended in the 21st century.
When he died six years ago aged 104, he left behind hundreds of buildings, in Brazil as well as in the United States, France, Malaysia, Algeria and Cuba.
But today his work in Lebanon is in urgent need of restoration.
“These buildings of reinforced concrete need to be restored rapidly. There are buildings being eaten away at, blocks falling down, and many cracks,” Naghi warned.
“We fear there will be unpleasant surprises, especially during the rainy season,” he said.
Until October 23, a show titled “Cycles of Collapsing Progress” seeks to celebrate the era that gave rise to the fairground, but also sound the alarm.
In the halls under the perched platform, visitors can admire a seabed of snaking rebar, or even an elongated white space rocket hanging from the cieling.
The show “documents a golden age in Lebanon’s modern history — the architectural, scientific and cultural dreams of the time,” said curator Karina Al-Helu.
During the 1960s, the tiny Mediterranean country had its own space program, successfully launching a small unmanned rocket into space.
When Niemeyer was first asked to design the outdoor space in 1962, there were plans for the rooms under the circular platform to house a space museum.
But dreams of outer-space exploration, and any museum to commemorate it, were indefinitely put on hold with the outbreak of the 1975-1990 civil war.
The exhibition aims to remind Lebanese visitors of this chapter of the country’s recent past, Helu said, but also shine a light on a landmark about to collapse.
In a country whose history goes back millennia to the Phoenician period, she urged the authorities to give equal attention to modern architecture.
“It’s great to restore buildings that show Lebanon’s ancient history, but we should also care about the landmarks of this country’s modern history,” she said.
Architect Naghi said he was not optimistic about any immediate intervention by the government.
“The current atmosphere of crisis in the country doesn’t bode well,” he said, referring to a months-long deadlock over forming a cabinet.
Any renovation should involve in-depth studies and specialized companies, he said, “and that would require a lot of money, as well as a government decision.”
Instead, Naghi and others hope that the site can be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Brazil’s capital Brasilia and an outdoor center in the south of the country, both of which were designed by Niemeyer, are already featured on it.
Sahar Baassiri, Lebanon’s delegate to UNESCO, said efforts were now being made toward adding the concrete park to the list’s contemporary architecture section.
Akram Oueida, president of the fairground, said Lebanese officials have made promises of assistance, but none have yet materialized.
Getting the concrete park listed by UNESCO may help, Oueida said: “That could open the door to funding from donors.”