Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

Sudanese protesters wave the national flag during a "million-strong" march outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2019

Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

  • Rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee

KHARTOUM: Tens of thousands of protesters converged from all directions on Sudan’s army headquarters Thursday after calls for a “million-strong” demonstration to demand the ruling military council cede power.
The day after three council members resigned following talks with protest organizers, demonstrators flocked toward the central Khartoum site Thursday evening, beating drums and singing revolutionary songs, said an AFP journalist at the scene.
“We want the military council out. We want a civilian government,” said protester Adam Ahmed, a medical student.
The rally came after Sudan’s new military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee, to chart the way forward two weeks after the ouster of veteran president Omar Al-Bashir.
The Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella group leading the protests, had called for a million-strong march to “continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved.”
Many of those rallying chanted “Blood for blood! We will not accept compensation!,” demanding punishment for officials responsible for killings during Bashir’s iron-fisted, three-decade rule.
“All those responsible for the conflicts in Sudan should be tried and brought to justice,” said protester Ismail Jadallah.
Also at the protest were dozens of judges, dressed in their robes, who had marched from the constitutional court, an AFP photographer said.
“We are here to give a message that the judiciary should be independent without any political intervention,” a judge told journalists.
But protesters expressed anger at the judges when they arrived at the demonstration, an AFP photographer said.
“Leave, Leave!” protesters shouted, blaming the judges for pro-regime verdicts during Bashir’s rule.
An AFP photographer in downtown Khartoum said crowds of protesters had gathered earlier outside Egypt’s embassy and consulate, which were surrounded by riot police.
Several people held banners calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi not to “interfere in our affairs,” after Cairo hosted a summit of African leaders who said more time was needed for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan.
Across the city, demonstrators arrived at the army headquarters from the states of Jazeera, White Nile and also from Bashir’s hometown Shendi, boosting the ranks of those already camped at the site, many of them for the past several weeks.
The giant rally followed a late-night meeting between the military council and leaders of the protest movement’s umbrella group.
“We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters afterwards.
He did not elaborate on the key demand of handing power to a civilian government, but said there “were no big disputes.”
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which initially spearheaded months of protests against Bashir, described the meeting as a step toward “confidence-building.”
“Both sides agreed on the importance of joint cooperation to steer the country toward peace and stability,” the SPA said Thursday.
Writing on Twitter, the association said a “joint committee” was being set up to “discuss outstanding disputes” as part of efforts to reach a “comprehensive agreement.”
On Thursday, activist Ahmed Najdi said he was expecting “a joint military-civilian sovereign council, which I think is the middle path and most protesters would agree to that.”
He said he would participate in the demonstration throughout the night.
“More crowds are expected in the evening. We will continue our sit-in through the night, tomorrow and up until we achieve our demands,” Najdi told AFP.
Wednesday’s meeting was followed by the military council announcing three members of the ruling body had stepped down after demands from protesters.
The United States has backed protesters’ demands.
State Department official Makila James said Tuesday that Washington supports “the legitimate demand of the people of Sudan for a civilian-led government” and urged all parties to work together to that end.
Siddiq Farouk, a protest leader, said demonstrators were preparing for a general strike if the military council continues to refuse to hand over power.
The council, led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan since his predecessor quit after barely 24 hours in the post, says it has assumed power for a two-year transitional period.
Protesters have flocked to Khartoum from across the country, including on a packed train Tuesday which rolled in from Atbara, where protests began on December 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.
They swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.
Protester Hayam Kamal said she had returned from the Gulf to take part in the protest.
“I have been living in Saudi Arabia all my life,” she told AFP. “I returned to call for our freedom and better living conditions so that I can come back and live here.”


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 7 min 47 sec ago

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.