Sudan’s military removes Omar Al-Bashir from power and declares state of emergency

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A Sudanese girl flashes the victory sign and holds the national flag during a rally near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on April 11, 2019. (AFP)
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Sudanese people chant slogans in the capital Khartoum on April 11, 2019. (AFP)
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Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, the First Vice President and Defense Minister of Sudan, has announced the military has overthrown and arrested President Omar Al-Bashir. (AFP)
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Sudanese men flash the 'V' for victory sign on April 11, 2019 as they watch an anti-government rally in the capital Khartoum. (AFP)
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Sudanese children wave their national flag on April 11, 2019 as they stand inside an open vehicle in the capital Khartoum. (AFP)
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A Sudanese anti-regime protester kisses a soldier on the head during protests on April 11, 2019 in the area around the army headquarters in Sudan’s capital Khartoum. (AFP)
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Above, a jubilant crowd clamber aboard Sudanese armored vehicle. (AN photo)
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Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup in 1989. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2019

Sudan’s military removes Omar Al-Bashir from power and declares state of emergency

  • Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf says Al-Bashir arrested and all political prisoners set free
  • Constitution suspended and transitional military council to be in place for two years

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military has removed Omar Al-Bashir from power after 30 years and declared a state of emergency.

The move brings to an end the divisive and autocratic reign of one of Africa and the Arab world’s longest serving leaders.

It follows months of escalating protests against his rule that have been met with a brutal response by the security forces. Dozens of people have been killed.

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READ MORE: 

OPINION: Is this a new Sudan or a new coup?

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Omar Al-Bashir: A tumultuous 30-year rule comes to an end

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But while many celebrated the coup, protests leaders expressed their anger at the military intervention and called for the demonstrations to continue.

In a televised address, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, the first vice president and defense minister of Sudan, announced the suspension of the Sudanese constitution and creation of a transitional military council, which will lead the country for two years. Elections would be held after the transition period, Auf added.

“We, the transitional government, bear the responsibility to protect our citizens,” he said “We hope our population will bear the same responsibility.”

Auf, who was sworn in as the head of the council late on Thursday, blamed the 75-year-old leader for his own downfall.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS

*Defense minister announces toppling of the regime and a state of emergncy
*Omar Al-Bashir, who ruled for 30 years, detained at a ‘secure place’

*Transitional military council to run the country for two years, followed by elections
*Political prisoners released and ceasefire declared across country
*Tens of thousands celebrate but protest leaders unhappy, vow to continue demonstrations

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“The regime continued to make false promises in response to the demands of the people,” Auf said.

Wearing military uniform and talking calmly to the camera for almost 10 minutes, Auf offered to reassure the Sudanese people, saying the judicial system will remain the same. He called on all armed groups to join the government and protect the people.

A massive crowd of jubilant Sudanese people thronged squares and streets of central Khartoum ahead of the announcement. 

But the protestors’ Alliance for Freedom and Change said the regime had "conducted a military coup by bringing back the same faces and the same institutions which our people rose against.”

It urged people “to continue their sit-in in front of army headquarters and across all regions and in the streets.”

Alaa Salah, who became an icon of the protest movement after a video of her leading demonstrators' chants outside army headquarters went viral, said: “The people do not want a transitional military council.”

“Change will not happen with Bashir's entire regime hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup,” she tweeted. “We want a civilian council to head the transition.”

The son of the head of Sudan’s main opposition party said Al-Bashir was under house arrest along with a “number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders,” Al-Hadath TV reported.

Al-Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard,” Reuters reported, while it was announced the transitional council would be headed by Auf. 

Sudan's army warned it would enforce a night-time curfew, state media reported, as protesters vowed to continue demonstrating against a military council set up after president Omar Al-Bashir was toppled.
The curfew runs "from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, and all must adhere to it for their own safety," the army said in a statement carried by the official SUNA news agency, adding that it was "doing its duty to keep them and their properties secure".

International reaction to the situation was cautious on Thursday.




Sudanese protesters march towards the military headquarters during an anti-regime rally in the capital Khartoum on April 11, 2019. (AFP)

The US said it supported a peaceful and democratic Sudan and believes the Sudanese people should be allowed a peaceful transition sooner than two years from now.
"The Sudanese people should determine who leads them in their future," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. "The Sudanese people have been clear that they have been demanding a civilian-led transition."

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said two years of potential military rule in Sudan “is not the answer" for “real change” in the country.

Hunt tweeted that Sudan needs "a swift move to an inclusive, representative, civilian leadership" and an end to violence.

 

The US and five European countries — France, UK, Germany, Belgium and Poland — calling for a UN Security Council meeting on Sudan, which will be a closed-door session to be held on Friday. The European Union has called for peaceful and civilian transition.

Al-Bashir has an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against him for the death of an estimated 300,000 people in the Darfur region.

The country’s national intelligence and security service also announced the release of all political prisoners numbering about 5,000, the country’s state news agency reported.

One of those released was Mohammed Naji Elasam, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the main organizer of protests being held across Sudan since December, witnesses said. Elasam had been detained for more than three months.

Meanwhile, Sudanese protesters stormed a building of the powerful intelligence services in the eastern cities of Port Sudan and Kassala after the officers refused to release the detainees there, witnesses said.

“Protesters stormed the building and looted all the equipment that was there,” a witness from Kasala told AFP by telephone.

The military earlier deployed troops around the defence ministry and on major roads and bridges in the capital.

Al-Arabiya TV also reported that soldiers have raided the headquarters of Al-Bashir’s Islamic Movement in Khartoum.




Jubilant Sudanese women chant slogans in the Khartoum on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AFP)

Airports in Khartoum and Port Sudan were closed, which prompted Saudi carriers Saudia and Flynas to announce on Twitter that they had suspended all flights to and from Sudan.

Protesters gathered in front of the military headquarters as military vehicles were deployed on key roads and bridges in Khartoum. They were reportedly shouting “It has fallen, we won,” Reuters said.

The protests, which erupted in December, have become the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule.

Crowds of demonstrators have spent five nights defiantly camped outside the sprawling headquarters complex, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defense ministry.

There has been an often festive mood at the sit-in with protesters singing dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs. State television and radio played patriotic music, reminding older Sudanese of how military takeovers unfolded during previous episodes of civil unrest.

(With Reuters and AFP)


Iraqi PM tightens government grip on country’s armed factions

Updated 17 September 2019

Iraqi PM tightens government grip on country’s armed factions

  • The increasingly strained relations between the US and Iran in the region is casting a large shadow over Iraq

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is putting increased pressure on the nation’s armed factions, including Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops and Kurdish guerrillas, in an attempt to tighten his control over them, Iraqi military commanders and analysts said on Monday.

Military commanders have been stripped of some of their most important powers as part of the efforts to prevent them from being drawn into local or regional conflicts.

The increasingly strained relations between the US and Iran in the region is casting a large shadow over Iraq. 

Each side has dozens of allied armed groups in the country, which has been one of the biggest battlegrounds for the two countries since 2003. 

Attempting to control these armed factions and military leaders is one of the biggest challenges facing the Iraqi government as it works to keep the country out of the conflict.

On Sunday, Abdul Mahdi dissolved the leadership of the joint military operations. 

They will be replaced by a new one, under his chairmanship, that includes representatives of the ministries of defense and interior, the military and security services, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Ministry of Peshmerga, which controls the military forces of the autonomous Kurdistan region.

According to the prime minister’s decree, the main tasks of the new command structure are to “lead and manage joint operations at the strategic and operational level,” “repel all internal and external threats and dangers as directed by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” “manage and coordinate the intelligence work of all intelligence and security agencies,” and “coordinate with international bodies that support Iraq in the areas of training and logistical and air support.”

“This decree will significantly and effectively contribute to controlling the activities of all combat troops, not just the PMU,” said a senior military commander, who declined to be named. 

“This will block any troops associated with any local political party, regional or international” in an attempt to ensure troops serve only the government’s goals and the good of the country. 

“This is explicit and unequivocal,” he added.

Since 2003, the political process in Iraq has been based on political power-sharing system. This means that each parliamentary bloc gets a share of top government positions, including the military, proportionate to its number of seats in Parliament. Iran, the US and a number of regional countries secure their interests and ensure influence by supporting Iraqi political factions financially and morally.

This influence has been reflected in the loyalties and performance of the majority of Iraqi officials appointed by local, regional and international parties, including the commanders of combat troops.

To ensure more government control, the decree also stripped the ministers of defense and interior, and leaders of the counterterrorism, intelligence and national security authorities, and the PMU, from appointing, promoting or transferring commanders. This power is now held exclusively by Abdul Mahdi.

“The decree is theoretically positive as it will prevent local, regional and international parties from controlling the commanders,” said another military commander. 

“This means that Abdul Mahdi will be responsible to everyone inside and outside Iraq for the movement of these forces and their activities.

“The question now is whether Abdul Mahdi will actually be able to implement these instructions or will it be, like others, just ink on paper?”

The PMU is a government umbrella organization established by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki in June 2014 to encompass the armed factions and volunteers who fought Daesh alongside the Iraqi government. Iranian-backed factions such as Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah represent the backbone of the forces.

The US, one of Iraq’s most important allies in the region and the world, believes Iran is using its influence within the PMU to destabilize and threaten Iraq and the region. Abdul Mahdi is under huge external and internal pressure to abolish the PMU and demobilize its fighters, who do not report or answer to the Iraqi government.

The prime minister aims to ease tensions between the playmakers in Iraq, especially the US and Iran, by preventing their allies from clashing on the ground or striking against each other’s interests.

“Abdul Mahdi seeks to satisfy Washington and reassure them that the (armed) factions of the PMU will not move against the will of the Iraqi government,” said Abdullwahid Tuama, an Iraqi analyst.

The prime minister is attempting a tricky balancing act by aiming to protect the PMU, satisfy the Iranians and prove to the Americans that no one is outside the authority of the state, he added.