Sudan opposition says it accepts Ethiopian PM as mediator under certain conditions

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is in Khartoum amid ongoing domestic dispute. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2019

Sudan opposition says it accepts Ethiopian PM as mediator under certain conditions

  • Abiy arrived at Khartoum international airport and headed for a series of meetings with the ruling generals
  • The Ethiopian premier was scheduled to meet protest leaders later

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main alliance of opposition groups and protesters said on Friday it would be open to having the Ethiopian Prime Minister mediate between them and the country's military rulers under certain conditions.
Among opposition demands are that the ruling Transitional Military Council take responsibility for the deadly dispersal of a protest sit-in on Monday, an international investigation into the incident is launched and political prisoners are released.

Earlier, Ethiopia's prime minister held separate talks with Sudan's military rulers and opposition in Khartoum on Friday in a bid to ease the political crisis that has followed the overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called for a "quick" democratic transition in Sudan on Friday after talks in Khartoum with the country's protest leaders and ruling generals.
"The army, the people and political forces have to act with courage and responsibility by taking quick steps towards a democratic and consensual transitional period," he said in a statement, during a visit to revive talks between the two sides after a deadly crackdown by security forces on demonstrators.

The Transitional Military Council welcomed Abiy's statement and said that it is open to negotiations and ready to come to an agreement at any time. 

Meanwhile, a Sudanese opposition leader was detained by security forces on Friday after meeting the Ethiopian Prime Minister, sources from his party said.
Mohammad Esmat was part of the delegation of the main opposition alliance that held talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Ethiopian initiative follows the worst bloodshed in Sudan since Bashir was ousted by the military in April after four months of protests against his repressive three-decade rule.
The opposition says 113 people were killed in the storming of a civilian protest camp on Monday and a subsequent wider crackdown. The government put the toll at 61 people, including three security personnel.
At Khartoum airport, Abiy was greeted by Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi, spokesman for Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council.
Abiy later hosted a meeting at the Ethiopian embassy with the opposition Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces alliance.
"He expressed Ethiopia's commitment to fostering peace in the region and underlined that a prerequisite for restoring peace in Sudan is unity," Abiy's office said.
Both sides had been in talks for weeks over who should lead Sudan's transition to democracy. But the already faltering negotiations collapsed in the wake of this week's crackdown.
Abiy Ahmed, who took office in Ethiopia last year and introduced political and economic reforms, has won wide praise for his diplomacy skills, including brokering peace with his country's neighbor and long-time foe Eritrea.
The African Union on Thursday suspended Sudan until the establishment of civilian rule, intensifying global pressure on the military leaders to stand down. The United Nations and several governments have also condemned the bloodshed.
A doctors' group linked to the protest movement said hospitals were now overcrowded with people injured in the crackdown. Five main hospitals had been shut down by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, it said.
"There is a great shortage in medical staff, mainly caused by the military militias targeting doctors and preventing them from reaching hospitals and clinics to perform their duty," it said. "For all these reasons, more and more lives are being lost every day."
The United Nations' health agency also said medical staff had apparently been targeted for treating the wounded.
Some staff and patients had been injured in raids into hospitals, the UN's World Health Organization said in a statement.
Emergency services were being shut down, it said. Mobile tent clinics that had been set up to treat injured protesters had been set on fire and destroyed while medical equipment had been looted. Some women had reportedly been raped, it said.
"These actions represent a total and unacceptable violation of international human rights law and must stop," said Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
The WHO did not say who had entered the hospitals or attacked the staff, but Amnesty International and the opposition have said the Rapid Support Forces were the main participants in the violence.
The military council has said people had put on uniforms of the Rapid Support Forces to impersonate them in an attempt to harm their reputation. Monday's raid was targeting criminals in an area next to the camp but got out of hand, it said.

Tunisia heads to polls for keenly fought presidential contest

Updated 45 min 15 sec ago

Tunisia heads to polls for keenly fought presidential contest

  • The premier’s popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and a high cost of living
  • The election follows an intense campaign beset by personality clashes

TUNIS: Rarely has the outcome of an election been so uncertain in Tunisia, the cradle and partial success story of the Arab Spring, as some seven million voters head to the polls Sunday to choose from a crowded field.
Key players include media mogul Nabil Karoui — behind bars due to an ongoing money laundering probe — Abdelfattah Mourou, who heads a first-time bid on behalf of his Islamist inspired Ennahdha party, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.
The premier’s popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and a high cost of living, and he has found himself having to vehemently deny accusations that Karoui’s detention since late August is politically inspired.
The election follows an intense campaign beset by personality clashes, albeit one with few clear political differences, brought forward by the death in July of 92-year-old president Beji Caid Essebsi.
He had been elected in the wake of the 2011 revolt that overthrew former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Publication of opinion polls has officially been banned since July, but one thing appears sure — many voters remain undecided, due to difficulties in reading a shifting political landscape.
“I am undecided between two candidates — I will decide in the polling booth,” smiled one citizen, Sofiene, who added “honest candidates don’t have much chance of winning.”
Some hopefuls have tried to burnish anti-establishment credentials in a bid to distance themselves from a political elite discredited by personal quarrels.
One key newcomer is Kais Saied, a 61-year-old law professor and expert on constitutional affairs, who has avoided attaching his bid to a political party.
Instead, he has gone door-to-door to drum up support for his conservative platform.
Another independent candidate is Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi, a technocrat who is running for the first time.
However, he has the backing of Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party.
The crowded field of 26 has been narrowed slightly by the last minute withdrawal of two candidates in favor of Zbidi — former political adviser Mohsen Marzouk and businessman Slim Riahi, just ahead of Saturday’s campaign blackout.
But it is Karoui’s detention, just 10 days ahead of the start of the campaign, which has been one of the biggest talking points.
Studies suggest his arrest boosted his popularity.
A controversial businessman, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
But his detractors portray him as a would-be Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier who they allege partly owns his channel.
On Friday, an appeal to have the Tunisian mogul released from prison ahead of the election was rejected, his party and lawyers said, two days after he began what his defense team said was a hunger strike.
The polarization between the different camps risks a derailment of the electoral process, according to Michael Ayari, an analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Isabelle Werenfels, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, has called the vote a democratic “test” because “it may require accepting the victory of a polarizing candidate,” such as Karoui.
Distrust of the political elite has been deepened by an unemployment rate of 15 percent and a rise in the cost of living of close to a third since 2016.
Jihadist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.
Polls open at 8:00 am (0700 GMT), although overseas voting stations for Tunisia’s sizeable expatriate population have been open since Friday.
Some stations will remain open until 6:00 pm, while others will close two hours earlier, for security reasons.
Some 70,000 security agents will be deployed on Sunday, including 50,000 focused solely on polling stations, according to the interior ministry.
Exit polls are expected overnight Sunday into Monday, but preliminary results are not expected from the electoral commission until Tuesday.
The date of the second round, which will decide the presidency, is not yet known, but it must happen by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls — October 6.
Those polls are supposed to be more significant, as Tunisia is an emerging parliamentary democracy.
But several candidates have called for presidential powers to be beefed up, despite years of dictatorship under Ben Ali.