AU envoy: Sudan military, protesters to sign political deal

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African Union mediator Mohamed Al-Hacen Lebatt addresses a press conference in Khartoum on July 12, 2019. (AFP)
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African Union envoy to Sudan Mohamed al-Hacen Lebatt (L) and Sudan's leaders meet on July 5, 2019 after a press conference in Khartoum in which they announced ruling generals and protest leaders have reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body. (AFP / Ebrahim Hamid)
Updated 13 July 2019
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AU envoy: Sudan military, protesters to sign political deal

  • A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18
  • Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir has been involved in mediating between the two sides

KHARTOUM, Sudan: A transition agreement between Sudan’s ruling military council and a pro-democracy coalition was scheduled to be signed Saturday, a top African Union diplomat said, just hours after the military claimed it thwarted an attempted coup by a group of officers.
The AU’s Mohammed el-Hassan Labat made the announcement Friday. The transition agreement sets up a joint Sovereign Council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized.
Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir, who has been involved in mediating between the two sides, told reporters that the political declaration will be “debated on, discussed and signed at the same time.”
The deal is meant to break the political deadlock that has gripped the country following the overthrow of autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of Sudan’s military council, said the coup attempt took place late Thursday, just days after the military and the pro-democracy coalition had agreed to the joint sovereign council.
In a statement, Omar said at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group’s leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said, but the council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details.
“The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change,” Omar said, referring to the coalition of political groups that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Earlier this week, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan told the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the ruling military council has thwarted several military coup attempts and that investigations were underway to determine who were behind them.
Tarek Abdel Meguid, an FDFC leader, voiced skepticism about the military’s announcement of a failed coup, calling it a hoax meant to pressure pro-democracy forces into signing the deal.
“They want to say that the situation in Sudan is very volatile, and that there is a deep state with people capable of staging a military coup, so we should hurry up and sign and leave any points of difference to be discussed later,” Abdel Meguid told the Associated Press.
Last week, the military and FDFC representatives announced that they had reached a power-sharing agreement amid robust African and international pressure.
A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown by security forces on the protests last month — though it’s unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the Internet after a weekslong blackout.
The political transition deal is meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers. A committee of legal experts was assigned to draft the details before it would be handed over for both parties to sign.
The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays were announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details. Several pro-democracy activists and party leaders had said the transitional military council was seeking to alter some of the language to increase the mandate of the generals during the transitional period.
Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer, said the military council’s actions will determine what happens next.
“I believe that the FDFC had already made a lot of concessions in this deal, but it seems that the military still expects more from them. If the military insists on that, the signing will be delayed further,” she said.
Awad also concurred that the announcement of a failed coup might be a ruse to use against the pro-democracy movement. But she did not rule out the possibility that the remnants of Bashir’s regime within the state might be plotting a comeback through a military coup.
“Counterrevolutionary forces represented in the old Islamist regime are very active now,” she said.


‘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.”