Sudan protesters insist on civilian head for new governing body in new talks

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Sudanese protesters chant slogans and wave placards during a demonstration in Khartoum on May 14, 2019. (AFP)
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Sudanese cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli speaks as his supporters rally in front of the Presidential Palace in downtown Khartoum on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2019

Sudan protesters insist on civilian head for new governing body in new talks

  • Talks over a transfer of power by the generals have repeatedly stalled, resulting in international pressure to return to the table
  • The generals have allowed protesters to hold onto their sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protest leaders said on Sunday they will insist a civilian runs a planned new governing body in new talks with army rulers, as extremists warned against excluding sharia from the political roadmap.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change is determined that the country’s new ruling body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation,” it said in a statement.

The protesters’ umbrella group said talks would resume with the military council — which has ruled Sudan since President Omar Al-Bashir was deposed on April 11 — at 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Talks over a transfer of power by the generals have repeatedly stalled, resulting in international pressure to return to the table after the military rulers suspended negotiations earlier this week. The generals insist the new body be military-led but the protest leaders demand a majority civilian body.

The deputy head of the military council, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, meanwhile said late Saturday that security forces have arrested those behind an attack on the protesters last week that killed at least five people, including an army officer. Both the military and the protesters had blamed the attack on Bashir loyalists.

“The assailants who opened fire (on protesters) have been caught. Their confessions will be broadcast on TV,” said Dagalo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. He hailed the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, for their role in Bashir’s military overthrow on April 11.

“We want the democracy they are talking about. We want a real democracy, fair and free elections. Whoever the Sudanese choose will rule,” he said.

On Sunday, the protest movement raised the ante by insisting that the ruling body should be headed by a civilian.

The existing military council is headed by Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.

In April, Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced 3 billion dollars (€2.7 billion) in financial aid for Sudan. The UAE said on April 28 it was depositing $250 million in Sudan’s central bank.

The Gulf states pledged to inject $500 million into Sudan’s central bank and $2.5 billion to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said last month.

It was Sudan’s worsening economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests against Bashir.

Before talks were suspended between the generals and protest leaders they had agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers to come from the protesters’ umbrella group.

The previous round of talks was marred by violence after five protesters and an army major were shot dead near the ongoing sit-in outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum, where thousands have camped out for weeks.

Initially, the protesters gathered to demand Bashir resign -- but they have stayed put, to pressure the generals into stepping aside.

The protesters had also erected roadblocks on some avenues in Khartoum to put further pressure on the generals during negotiations, but the miliary rulers suspended the last round of talks and demanded the barriers be removed.

Protesters duly took the roadblocks down in recent days -- but they said they will put them back up, if the army fails to transfer power to a civilian administration.

The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside army headquarters.

Islamic movements rallied outside the presidential palace on Saturday night, to reject any civilian administration that excludes sharia as its guiding principle.

Hundreds took part in the rally, the first organised by Islamist groups since Bashir’s ouster.

“The main reason for the mobilisation is that the alliance (the main protesters’ umbrella group) is ignoring the application of sharia in its deal,” said Al-Tayieb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups.

“This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan,” he told AFP.

Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law.

At Saturday’s rally, hardline cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli had a warning for the military council.

“If you consider handing over power to a certain faction, then we will consider it a coup”, he vowed as supporters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

The protest leaders have so far remained silent on whether sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that their main concern is installing a civilian administration.

 

 


18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

A heavily damaged building following Russian airstrikes and shelling on the town of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Monday. Three members of the same family were killed in the strike. (AFP)
Updated 40 min 28 sec ago

18 killed in clashes in northwestern Syria

  • Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack

BEIRUT, JERUSALEM: Clashes between opposition groups and pro-Assad fighters in northwestern Syria on Monday thwarted regime’s advance and left 12 pro-regime men dead, a Britain-based war monitoring group said.
Another 17 pro-regime fighters were wounded while on the opposition-led side six fighters died, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion, said the war monitor.
But the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance, headed by ex-leaders of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and their allies reportedly thwarted the advance.
Four HTS and two other opposition fighters were killed in the clashes in a rural area of Latakia province, the monitor said.
The HTS-led alliance also controls large areas of Idlib province and slivers of territory in neighboring Aleppo and Hama.
The region they hold is home to some 3 million people, nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.
Syria’s 9-year-old war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population.
The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.
A Russian-backed regime offensive between December and March displaced nearly a million people in the region.
A Moscow-backed cease-fire agreement in March has reduced violence in the area, but shelling and airstrikes by the regime and its backers continue.
Russian airstrikes on the town of Binnish in Idlib province killed three people from the same family on Monday, according to the Observatory. An AFP photographer saw plumes of smoke rising from the site of the attack.

Golan Heights Activity
The Israeli military said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Syria early on Monday staged by four suspected militants it accused of trying to plant explosives.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Israeli troops earlier spotted “irregular” activity in the Golan Heights. Israeli troops opened fire on the suspected militants, some of whom were armed, after observing them placing the explosives on the ground, Conricus said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Forces loyal to Bashar Assad had launched an attack with artillery and heavy gunfire in Syria’s last major opposition bastion.

• The opposition-held area is a regular target of attacks by regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.

There was no official confirmation that the four suspected attackers were killed but a grainy video released by the army shows four figures walking away from barbed wire marking the frontier. The four then disappear in a large explosion that engulfs the area.
The Israeli military has not said if the four are suspected of ties to Iran or Hezbollah, two Syrian allies. However, Conricus said Israel held the Syrian regime responsible for the incident.
Addressing Likud party lawmakers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel “thwarted an attempted sabotage on the Syrian front” and would continue to “harm all those who try to harm us and all those who harm us.”
The incident comes amid heightened tension on Israel’s northern frontier following a recent Israeli airstrike that killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria. Following the airstrike, the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights was hit by explosives fired from Syria and Israel responded by attacking Syrian military positions and beefing up its forces in the area.
Israel has been bracing for further retaliation and last week it said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Lebanon by Hezbollah militants, setting off one of the heaviest exchanges of fire along the volatile Israel-Lebanon frontier since a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.