Sudan army rulers, protesters plan more talks after no agreement

It was Sudan’s worsening economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests against Bashir. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 May 2019
0

Sudan army rulers, protesters plan more talks after no agreement

  • Both sides have been at loggerheads over the new governing body that would rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period
  • The latest discussions were launched Sunday evening following pressure from world powers to install a civilian-led governing body

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s army rulers and protest leaders said more talks were planned for Monday on finalizing the makeup of a new ruling body, after hours of negotiations through the night ended without agreement.
Both sides have been at loggerheads over the new governing body that would rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period after the ouster last month of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir.
The latest discussions were launched Sunday evening following pressure from world powers to install a civilian-led governing body — a key demand of demonstrators.
After continuing into the early hours of Monday, the ruling military council announced the talks would resume at 9:00 p.m. (1900 GMT).
“The structure of the sovereign authority has been discussed,” Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters.
“It’s agreed to resume negotiations today (Monday) evening... hoping to reach a final deal.”
The Sudanese Professional Association — the group that initially launched the protest campaign against Bashir in December, said Monday that it was in no rush to finalize the deal.
“We are not in a hurry for the crucial victory... whatever be the outcome, it will be a step forward,” it wrote on Twitter without elaborating.
The agreement had been expected on Wednesday, but the military council suspended the negotiations for 72 hours.

Ahead of Sunday’s talks, the umbrella protest movement — the Alliance for Freedom and Change — raised the ante by insisting that the country’s ruling body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation.”
The existing military council is headed by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the generals insist that the overall new body be military-led.
On the eve of the talks, hundreds of supporters of Islamist movements rallied outside the presidential palace in Khartoum warning they would reject any deal that would exclude sharia — Islamic law — from the country’s political roadmap.
“The main reason for the mobilization is that the alliance 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.
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.
Saudi Arabia meanwhile on Sunday deposited $250 million in Sudan’s central bank as part of an aid package it announced following Bashir’s ouster.
The UAE said on April 28 it would also deposit $250 million in Sudan’s central bank.
The oil-rich Gulf states have pledged a further $2.5 billion in aid to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products.

It was Sudan’s worsening economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests against Bashir.
Before talks were suspended earlier this week, the generals and protest leaders 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.
But those talks were 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 military rulers demanded that they 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.


Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

Updated 33 min 24 sec ago

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

  • Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals

ISTANBUL: Renowned Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart says he has spent as much time in prison and courthouses as he has at work since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power.

His latest stint in jail started in April, after an appeals court upheld his sentence of three years and nine months for “helping terrorist organizations.”

Released last week pending another appeal, Kart told AFP: “For 15 years, prisons and courthouses have become a second home to me.”

Kart, who was recognized last year by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, was among 14 journalists and staff from the renowned opposition paper Cumhuriyet convicted in the case.

He was initially arrested in 2016 after Erdogan launched a major crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed coup.

“I have spent almost the same amount of time in court corridors as I spent in the paper. It is very unfortunate,” he told AFP.

Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals, and says he always made an effort to look his best for prison visitors.

“I never welcomed my visitors in a hopeless state,” he said. “I would shave, pick my cleanest shirt from my modest wardrobe and welcome them with open arms. We would spend our time telling jokes.” His morale was boosted by the knowledge he had done nothing wrong.

“If you believe that your position is right, if you have an inner peace about your past actions, then it is not that difficult to stand prison conditions,” he said. Kart has been in and out of trouble since Erdogan took power in 2003.

His first lawsuit came in 2005 over a cartoon portraying Erdogan, then prime minister, as a cat entangled in a ball of wool.

“I have drawn cartoons for over 40 years ... I did it in the past with other political leaders, but I was never the subject of a court case,” Kart said. 

“The frame of tolerance has seriously narrowed today.”

The current case against him claims he contacted members of the Gulen movement accused of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016. 

It also says the 14 Cumhuriyet staffers had conspired to change the paper’s editorial policy to support the Gulenists, as well as Kurdish rebels and the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front.

“Today the accusations of terrorism have gone well beyond a realistic point,” Kart said.

“When you take a look at my cartoons, you see how much I am against any kind of terrorist organization and how seriously and strongly I criticize them.”

Rights advocates including the Reporters Without Borders have called on Turkey to revise its anti-terrorism and defamation laws, which they claim are abused to silence opponents.

Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest daily founded in 1924 — is not owned by a business tycoon but by an independent foundation, making it an easier target for authorities.

The paper’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria.

It has its own internal problems, too — Kart and some of the others actually quit the paper last year over disagreements with the new management.

But the case has added to the chilling effect that has infected the whole of the media in Turkey, which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

No date has been set for the next appeal, and Kart has no idea how the saga will end.

“Everyone knows that there has been a political shadow hanging over our case,” he said.

Whatever happens, he said his focus would remain on drawing.

“Cartoons are really a very strong language because you can find a way to express yourself under any circumstances, even under pressure.”