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.

 

 


Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

Updated 30 min 57 sec ago

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

  • Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines
  • In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment

CAIRO: Their accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt’s most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape.
Some were minors when the alleged crimes took place. In all, more than 100 accusers have emerged online in the past two weeks.
It’s resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.
Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines; many in Egypt have previously portrayed harassment as a problem of poor urban youth.
Women’s rights champions hope the authorities’ swift response signals change in how Egyptian society handles accusations of sexual assault.
“What’s before this case is totally different from what’s after,” said Nihad Abuel-Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims.
Sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems in Egypt, where victims must also fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically ties female chastity to a family’s reputation. In courts, the burden of proof lies heavily on the victim of such crimes.
In a statement, the public prosecutor’s officer said the accused man acknowledged he blackmailed at least six girls, saying he would send sensitive photos of them to their families if they cut ties. Several attempts by The Associated Press to contact him or his lawyer were unsuccessful.
Amr Adib, Egypt’s most prominent TV host, said in a recent episode that he’d spoken with the young man’s father, who occupies a high-ranking position at a telecommunication company. He said his son dismissed the allegations.
At least 10 women have officially reported their claims, according to Abuel-Komsan, of the women’s rights center. Activists also set up the Instagram account @assaultpolice to collect allegations, said Sabah Khodir, a US-based writer who helps run the account. She said there are more than 100 accounts.
“We are demanding to be listened to … We are just using what we have, lending our voices to hopefully create some kind of change,” she said.
A court has ordered the accused to remain in custody pending an investigation into an array of accusations that include attempted rape, blackmail and indecent assault, according to a five-page statement by the public prosecutor. In the same statement, the prosecutor urged more alleged victims to come forward.
Last week, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi moved to amend the country’s criminal law to increase protections for the identities of sexual assault victims, which activists have welcomed. The amendment still needs parliamentary approval and El-Sisi’s signature to be made law.
The allegations against the student cover a period of at least three years.
Many of the anonymous accounts appear to be from fellow students at the American International School, one of the country’s most expensive private high schools, and the American University in Cairo, which school officials said the accused left in 2018. It would appear that he then enrolled at the European Union Business School in Spain, in an online program last year.
In February, he spent three weeks at its Barcelona campus, but the school expelled him after an accusation of online harassment that was subsequently proved false, said Claire Basterfield, a spokesperson for the EUBS. The school has filed a 54-page criminal complaint with the Spanish police, seeking further investigation into his actions.
The head of the American University in Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, said the university has a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment, but that he would not comment on an ongoing case.
According to accusations posted on social media in the past two weeks, the former student would mine the pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs. He would start with flattery, then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he later used to blackmail them to have sex with him. If they did not, he would threaten to send the pictures to their family.
In some cases, he “attracted their sympathy by claiming he was going through a crisis,” then lured them to his home in an upscale compound where he sexually assaulted them, the prosecutor’s statement alleged.
In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment. During and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, women were frequently harassed, groped — and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted — during mass protests.
This time, there are signs of wider ripples throughout the society. The current series of complaints has prompted Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, even challenging the widely held belief that a woman is at fault if her clothing is less than modest. It’s a departure from the norm for the conservative Muslim majority country where most women wear headscarves.
There are also other corners where accusations of sexual harassment are emerging, such as in civil society groups and businesses.
Two rights groups said they fired one employee and suspended another, and opened investigations after allegations of sexual misconduct against them were made public. Authorities also detained a prominent publisher over the weekend after a poet filed a complaint with the Cairo police, accusing him of sexually harassing her, the state-run Al-Ahram reported. The publisher denied the allegations in a Facebook posting. He was released late Sunday on 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($313) in bail, pending an investigation.
The recent cases — reaching into the Egyptian elite — have “refuted all previous arguments and justifications for harassment, from poverty to illiteracy and things like that,” Abuel-Komsan said.