Sudan protesters dispute generals’ take on transition plans

Sudanese protesters flash victory signs during a protest in Khartoum on Monday. (AP)
Updated 26 June 2019

Sudan protesters dispute generals’ take on transition plans

  • Ethiopia, African Union step up diplomatic efforts to resolve crisis

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protest leaders said Monday that an Ethiopia-drafted proposal for the country’s political transition was already “unified” with an African Union plan, dismissing calls by ruling generals for a joint blueprint.

Ethiopia and the African Union have stepped up diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Sudan, which has been wracked by tensions between the protest leaders and generals since a deadly dispersal of a sit-in earlier this month.

On Sunday, the generals, who seized power after deposing President Omar Bashir in April, said mediators from the AU and Ethiopia had offered “different” proposals for the political transition, and called for them to unify their efforts.

But the protest movement contested that position on Monday.

“The initiatives (by the AU and Ethiopia) were unified a while ago and were presented (as one) to all parties at the same time,” said protest leader Ismail Al-Taj at a press conference on Monday.

“The Ethiopian and African envoys met on Sunday with the Alliance for Freedom and Change to discuss this unified initiative,” said Taj, referring to the umbrella protest movement that spearheaded the anti-Bashir campaign and is now at loggerheads with the generals.

The alliance has already accepted the proposal presented to them by an Ethiopian envoy, which entails creating a 15-member civilian-majority governing body during a three-year transition period.

The Ethiopian blueprint, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, suggests the ruling body be made up of eight civilians and seven members of the military.

The proposal also suggests that the ruling military council chairs the first 18 months of the governing body, and the remaining 18 months would be headed by a representative from the protest movement.

The blueprint further says that a transitional parliament of 300 lawmakers would take 67 percent of its lawmakers from the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The remaining 33 percent would be from other political groups, excluding Bashir’s now defunct National Congress Party.

The AU, which has consistently supported the protesters and urged the ruling military council to ensure a smooth transition, suspended Sudan soon after the violent dispersal of a protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum on June 3.

The protest leaders and generals had previously agreed on a transitional period of three years and that 67 percent of the lawmakers would be from the protest movement.

But tensions between the two sides surged as a result of the deadly break up of the protest camp.

The violent dispersal of the weeks-long rally came after the two sides failed during previous talks to agree on the composition of the new ruling body and who should lead it — a civilian or a soldier.

Medics linked to the protest movement say the crackdown on demonstrators since June 3 has killed at least 128 people, the majority of them on the day of the dispersal.

The Health Ministry says the death toll stands at 61 nationwide.

The generals deny they ordered the dispersal, insisting they had authorized only a limited operation to clear a nearby area of drug dealers.

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

Updated 15 September 2019

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

  • The Syrian Observatory reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control
  • The Idlib region is one of the last holdouts of opposition forces

DAMASCUS: Thousands have returned to their hometowns in northwest Syria after military advances by government loyalist against militants and allied rebels, state media said Sunday.
“Thousands of citizens return to their villages and towns of the northern Hama countryside and the southern Idlib countryside,” state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control.
Since August 31, a cease-fire announced by regime backer Russia has largely held in northwestern Syria, though the Observatory has reported sporadic bombardment.
SANA said the returns came amid “government efforts to return the displaced to their towns and villages.”
The Idlib region of around three million people, many of them dispaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow announced the cease-fire late last month after four months of deadly violence that displaced 400,000 people, most of whom fled north within the jihadist-run bastion, according to the United Nations.
Regime forces had chipped away at the southern edges of the jihadist-run stronghold throughout August, retaking towns and villages in the north of Hama province and the south of Idlib province.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad’s regime now controls more than 60 percent of the country after notching up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists with key Russian backing since 2015.
But a large chunk of Idlib, fully administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate since January, as well as a Kurdish-held swathe of the oil-rich northeast, remain beyond its reach.