Thousands on strike in Sudan calling for president to quit

A handout picture released by the British Embassy in Khartoum on March 5, 2019, shows Irfan Siddiq (R), British ambassador in Khartoum, meets with Omar el-Digeir, the chief of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, upon his release in Khartoum. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2019

Thousands on strike in Sudan calling for president to quit

  • Unrest quickly turned to calls for Al-Bashir to resign after two decades in power

KHARTOUM: A one-day strike shuttered businesses and emptied streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and other parts of the country on Tuesday, as pressure mounted on longtime autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir to step down following more than two months of deadly protests.

Initially sparked by rising prices and shortages, the unrest quickly turned to calls for Al-Bashir to resign after two decades in power. A heavy security crackdown has killed scores since the current wave of demonstrations began in December, the most serious protests against Al-Bashir.

Many students, doctors, markets, public transportation and other professionals took part in the strike Tuesday in support of Al-Bashir’s ouster, according to photos and videos provided by activists and posted by the Sudanese Professionals Association. The association is an umbrella group of independent professional unions that has been spearheading the recent wave of protests.

Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the group, said in a video posted late Monday that the strike is part of their “peaceful resistance” against the government.

Media workers at the privately owned newspaper Al-Tayar joined the strike. “We’ve faced daily abuses since protests first broke out,” said Shamayel El-Nour, a journalist. “We cannot do our work. Security agencies censor and confiscate our newspaper and others.”

The opposition Sudanese Congress Party said its leader, Omer El-Digair, was released Monday after two months in detention. El-Digair tweeted Tuesday that he would “resume the path with our people ... to freedom. We will not come back halfway.”

The country’s intelligence and security officials, along with Al-Bashir, insist that the rallies are the work of what they describe as “evil” foreign powers, and have vowed to stop them.

Al-Bashir has banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month, and security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons against demonstrators.

Activists say at least 57 people have been killed in the current wave of protests, but the government total stands at 30, including police. The figures have not been updated in weeks.

Opposition leaders, doctors, journalists, lawyers and students have been arrested, along with some 800 protesters. Emergency laws and night-time curfews have been imposed in some cities.

Al-Bashir’s current term ends in 2020, and he would not be able to seek another term without amending the constitution.

Though he has repeatedly promised not to run again, a parliamentary committee was tasked with amending the constitution to scrap presidential term limits. In February, the committee canceled its meetings in what appeared to be the only political concession by Al-Bashir so far.


Companies must deploy AI to transform industries: Mubadala deputy CEO

Updated 30 min 3 sec ago

Companies must deploy AI to transform industries: Mubadala deputy CEO

  • ‘One of the mega trends you see around the world is that preferences matter’
  • ‘We have to change the way we view technology’

DUBAI: The next wave of value creation in the business world will not come from companies that develop artificial intelligence (AI), but from those that can innovatively deploy technology to transform industries, Waleed Al-Muhairi, deputy CEO of Mubadala Investment Co., said on Tuesday at the first Middle East SALT conference.

The two-day event is taking place in Abu Dhabi, and is run by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

It is hosting more than 1,000 leaders from the worlds of investment, finance and policymaking at the city’s financial hub, the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

Discussing Mubadala’s partnerships with China, the UAE’s largest trading partner, Al-Muhairi referred to billion-dollar investments in China’s private and public sectors.

“We have a wonderful partnership with China. We’ve established a $10 billion fund there with the China Development Bank, and have deployed almost $2 billion in 15 to 16 different sectors, with technology being the main theme,” he said.

Mubadala currently has $240 billion of assets under management, with close to $100 billion invested in the US (60 percent of the state-owned holding company’s portfolio).

The remaining 40 percent is divided “almost” equally between investments in the UAE, Europe and Asia, “with a heavy concentration in China,” said Al-Muhairi.

“But our objective is to participate in the growth and success of a large, growing and dynamic economy like China’s,” he said, adding that it is only a matter of time before the country becomes the “largest economy on Earth.”

On technology, Al-Muhairi cited Asia-focused private equity firm Hill House, which transformed a mid-level athletic footwear company in China to the No. 1 brand in the country through the deployment of AI.

The company applied the expertise of 50 scientists and engineers to revolutionize the manufacturing process of footwear, while subsequently improving the brand’s retail experience.

By placing censors on the shelves to detect customers’ interest in buying specific footwear, they were able to shorten the cycle of understanding customer feedback and preference, said Al-Muhairi.

“One of the mega trends you see around the world is that preferences matter. And those business that are able to curate a customized experience for customers are going to be the ones who succeed, especially in the retail industry,” he added.

While people often refer to technology as a “sector,” Al-Muhairi believes it is similar to the concept of “electricity” in that it empowers projects and is infused in everything we do today.

“We have to change the way we view technology,” he said, adding that while it is the “life-blood of any successful company” and the “single most important enabler,” it is not an objective in itself. 

“We don’t invest in technology for the sake of technology. We invest in it because it will transform something or it will create value and a return,” he said.