Sudanese activists, army finalize power-sharing deal

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The ruling generals and protest leaders reached an agreement. (AFP)
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Sudanese women celebrate in Khartoum on Saturday after Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders reached a deal on the constitutional declaration. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2019

Sudanese activists, army finalize power-sharing deal

  • An African Union envoy said the two sides “fully agreed” on a constitutional declaration
  • The military overthrew President Omar Al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests

CAIRO: The African Union envoy to Sudan said Saturday the pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council have finalized a power-sharing agreement.
Mohammed el-Hassan Lebatt told reporters that the two sides “fully agreed” on a constitutional declaration outlining the division of power for a three-year transition to elections. He did not provide further details, but said both sides would meet later on Saturday to prepare for a signing ceremony.
The pro-democracy coalition issued a statement saying they would sign the document Sunday.
The military overthrew President Omar Al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests against his three-decade-long authoritarian rule. The protesters remained in the streets, demanding a rapid transition to a civilian government. They have been locked in tense negotiations with the military for weeks while holding mass protests.
The two sides reached a preliminary agreement last month following pressure from the United States and its Arab allies , amid growing concerns the political crisis could ignite civil war.
That document provided for the establishment of a joint civilian-military sovereign council that would rule Sudan for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader would head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. There would also be a Cabinet of technocrats chosen by the protesters, as well as a legislative council, the makeup of which would be decided within three months.
Ebtisam Senhouri, a negotiator for the protesters, told a press conference that the pro-democracy movement would choose 67% of the legislative body, with the remainder chosen by political parties that were not part of Al-Bashir’s government. The military would select the defense and interior ministers during the transition.
The two sides had been divided over whether military leaders would be immune from prosecution over recent violence against protesters. It was not immediately clear whether they had resolved that dispute.
The two sides came under renewed pressure this week after security forces opened fire on student protesters in the city of Obeid, leaving six people dead. At least nine troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support forces were arrested over the killings.
In June, security forces violently dispersed the protesters’ main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing dozens of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis.
Protest leader Omar Al-Dagir said the agreement announced Saturday would pave the way for appointments to the transitional bodies.
“The government will prioritize peace (with rebel groups) and an independent and fair investigation to reveal those who killed the martyrs and hold them accountable,” he said.
Sudan has been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades. Al-Bashir, who was jailed after being removed from power, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide stemming from the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. The military has said he will not be extradited. Sudanese prosecutors have charged him with involvement in violence against protesters.

Sudan timeline: 7 months of demonstrations and violence

KHARTOUM: Here is an overview after the ruling generals and protest leaders on Saturday agreed on a constitutional declaration, hailed as a “victory” by demonstrators and paving the way for a promised transition to civilian rule.

● Dec. 19, 2018:  Rallies break out in various cities over a tripling of bread prices. They spread nationwide with protesters demanding that Bashir quit after three decades in power.

● April 6: Thousands set up camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Spurred by the uprising, the army ousts Bashir on April 11, putting military generals in charge. The umbrella protest movement demands power be handed over to a civilian government.

● April 27: Ruling generals and protest leaders agree to establish a joint civilian-military council to govern during a transition. But both sides want their representatives to be in the majority; they also disagree over whether the council should be headed by a soldier or a civilian.

● May 2-29: Demonstrators rally in Khartoum, saying the army is not serious about ceding power.  Pressure grows on the military leaders.

● June 3: Armed men in military fatigues move in on the protest camp at army headquarters to disperse the thousands participating in the two-month sit-in there. It is the start of a crackdown that goes on for several days.

SPEEDREAD

Thousands of jubilant Sudanese took to the streets of the capital Khartoum when the deal was announced before dawn to celebrate the prospect of a civilian government.

● June 9-10: A nationwide campaign of civil disobedience paralyzes the country. There are more deadly clashes.

● June 30: Tens of thousands again rally against the ruling generals. Security forces are deployed en masse and police fire tear gas. Several people are killed.

●  July 3: Talks between the military rulers and protest leaders resume.

● July 5: They agree in principle on a new ruling council made up of six civilians and five representatives of the military. A general would take charge for the first 21 months of the transition and then a civilian for 18 months. Elections would follow. The power-sharing accord is signed by the two parties on July 17, with further talks planned to flesh out details.

● July 23: Hundreds of university students chanting “civilian rule” rally in Khartoum to demand justice for hundreds killed since demonstrations first erupted in December.

● July 28: There are protests in the capital calling for an independent probe into the deadly June raid.

● July 29: People take to the streets in the town of Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, over shortages of bread and fuel. A sniper opens fire on the crowd, killing five teenaged school students. A sixth person dies later. The deaths spark outrage nationwide, prompting demonstrations in Khartoum and other cities. Protest leaders call off talks planned for July 30 with the ruling generals. Bashir’s defense lawyer says on July 31 that the toppled leader will face trial on corruption charges on Aug. 17.

● Aug. 1: Talks between protest leaders and ruling generals resume. Two days later, the AU announces the two sides have reached a “full agreement” on the constitutional declaration, paving the way for transitioning to civilian rule. Thousands of jubilant Sudanese take to the streets of Khartoum to celebrate, expressing relief over the prospect of an end to months of demonstrations and political unrest.


A project helps Syrian entrepreneurs in four countries escape the shadow of war

Updated 13 December 2019

A project helps Syrian entrepreneurs in four countries escape the shadow of war

  • Start-ups are offered competitions, bootcamps and training programs
  • 'Spark' has been running an entrepreneurship program for five years

CAIRO: The Startup Roadshow was founded in 2018 to help Syrian refugees and expats in four different countries: Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan.

It was established when Spark, a Dutch organization supporting youth projects all over the world, reached out to Jusoor.

“We have been running our entrepreneurship program for five years, and we’ve been running training boot camps and competitions for Syrian startups,” said Dania Ismail, board member and director of Jusoor’s Entrepreneurship Program.

“We have also developed our own proprietary training curriculum, which is tailored to Syrian entrepreneurs, in the region and around the world.”

Spark sought out Jusoor to create a project to support Syrian entrepreneurs in those four countries, later bringing on Startups Without Borders to handle the competition’s outreach, marketing and PR.

“We came up with this idea where a team of trainers, facilitators, and mentors would move from one city to another because it’s hard for Syrian youth to travel around. So, we decided to go to them,” said Ismail, a Syrian expat all her life.

The competition goes through five cities: Beirut, Irbil, Amman, Gaziantep and İstanbul.

The boot camps last for five days in each city, and throughout the Roadshow, 100 entrepreneurs will undergo extensive training and one-on-one mentorship to develop their skills and insights into the business world.

“We have five modules that are taught on different days. Then, the pitches are developed, practiced and presented,” Ismail, 39, said.

“In each location, we pick the top two winners — in total, we’ll have top 10 winners from each city.”

The top 10 teams pitched their ideas live in front of a panel of judges, at the second edition of Demo Day 2019, which was held in Amman on Nov. 4.

The best three Syrian-led startups won cash prizes of $15,000, $10,000, and $7,000, respectively.

They also had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas during Spark Ignite’s annual conference in Amsterdam. The competition aims to give young Syrians the hard-to-get chance to secure a foothold in the business world.

“We’re trying to empower young Syrians who are interested in the entrepreneurial and tech space. We want to empower them with knowledge, skills and confidence to launch their ideas,” Ismail said.

Despite the limited duration of the Roadshow and the lack of financial aid, the people behind the program still do their best to help all applicants.

“We try as much as possible to continue supporting them on their journeys with mentorship, advice and connections through our very large network of experts and entrepreneurs,” she said.

Jusoor’s efforts to help Syrian youth do not stop at the Roadshow, and the future holds much in store for this fruitful collaboration.

“We’re expanding our entrepreneurship program, and our next project will be an accelerator program that will continue working with a lot of the promising teams that come out of the Startup Roadshow,” Ismail said.

“We want to provide something that has a partial online component and a partial on-ground one, as well as an investment component where these companies receive funding as investment, not just grants and prizes,” she said in relation to the second phase of the Entrepreneurship Program, which is launching in 2020.

Ismail said: “The Roadshow was created so that Syrian youth can have the chance to change their reality, becoming more than victims of an endless war.

“The competition gives them the tools to become active members of society, wherever they may be, contributing to the economies of those countries.

“Once you’ve built up this generation and given them those skills and expertise, they’ll be the generation that comes back to rebuild the economy in Syria, once things are stable enough there.

“We hope that a lot of these young entrepreneurs the Startup Roadshow was able to inspire, train or help will be the foundation for the future of a small- to medium-sized economy inside Syria.”

 

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.