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
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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.


‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface

Updated 19 September 2019

‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface

  • Time magazine posted the photo
  • Trudeausaid he should have known better

TORONTO: Canadian leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign was hit Wednesday by the publication of a yearbook photo showing him in brownface makeup at a 2001 costume party. The prime minister apologized and said “it was a dumb thing to do.”
Time magazine posted the photo, which it says was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts the then 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.
Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.
“I’m pissed off at myself, I’m disappointed in myself,” Trudeau told reporters traveling with him on his campaign plane.
The Canadian prime minister is but the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their younger days. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. Since then, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing blackface in college, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has publicly apologized for donning blackface during a college skit more than 50 years ago. None has resigned.
The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school’s annual dinner, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from “Aladdin.” The prime minister said it was not the first time he has painted his face; once, he said, he performed a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” during a talent show.
“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said. “I’m going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do.”
He said he has always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is “sometimes appropriate.”
“These are the situations I regret deeply,” Trudeau added.
The prime minister, who champions diversity and multiculturalism, said he didn’t consider it racist at the time but said society knows better now.
The photo’s publication could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Trudeau has been admired by liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the United States. His Liberal government has also strongly advocated free trade and legalized cannabis nationwide.
But the 47-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the criminal prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to multiple resignations earlier this year, causing a drop in the leader’s poll ratings.
Following the release of the brownface photo, Trudeau said he would talk to his kids in the morning about taking responsibility.
His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents, who took the prime minister to task for what they said was troubling behavior.
“It is insulting. Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live, for what their lived experiences are. I think he has to answer for it,” said Leftist New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban and the first visible minority to lead a national party.
Scheer, the opposition Conservative leader, said brownface was racist in 2001 and is racist in 2019.
“What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” Scheer said.
Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto, said he was “gobsmacked” at the development and wondered how it would land in Parliament.
“We’ll just have to see how the party reacts,” he said. “I’m very curious to know how Liberal members of Parliament that are black will react.”
How the scandal will affect Trudeau’s campaign remains in question. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he didn’t think the photo’s release would cause people to vote differently. Wiseman said race and blackface play a much bigger role in US politics than in Canada.
“I don’t think this will swing the vote, although the story will get a lot of media play for a couple of days,” Wiseman said. “The Liberals may very well lose the election — they almost certainly will not do as well as in 2015 — but this is not the type of scandal that will drive voters to the Conservatives.”