Sudan forms sovereign council to lead transition

Sudanese celebrate in Khartoum after generals and protest leaders signed a historic agreement meant to pave the way for civilian rule in the country. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Sudan forms sovereign council to lead transition

  • Ruling body to be composed of 11 members, including 5 from the military
  • The council was created under a power-sharing deal

KHARTOUM: Sudan's generals and protest leaders on Tuesday formed the sovereign council that will steer the country through three years of transition towards civilian rule.
The body replaces the Transitional Military Council that took over from longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir when he was forced from power in April amid relentless protests.
The former president appeared in court Monday, sitting in a cage to face graft charges — a sight that the two thirds of Sudan's 40 million inhabitants who were born under his rule could hardly have imagined.
The very first steps of the transition to civilian rule after 30 years of Bashir's regime proved difficult however with disagreements within the protest camp holding up the formation of Sudan's new ruling body for two days.
The names of the joint civilian-military council's 11 members were eventually announced late Tuesday by the spokesman of the TMC.
The council includes five members of the military and will be headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who was already the head of the TMC.
"The president of the sovereign council will be sworn in tomorrow morning at 11:00 am (0900 GMT)," TMC spokesman Shamseddine Kabbashi said in a short televised address.
Burhan will head the council for the first 21 months and a civilian will take over for the remaining 18 months of the transitional period, which is due to end in 2022 with democratic elections.
Among the six civilian members of the new ruling council are two women, one of them from Sudan's Christian minority.

The protest camp last week picked Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist based in Addis Ababa, as transitional prime minister. He will be formally appointed on Wednesday.
The transition's key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status it had taken on through years of devastating war in Darfur.
But amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan's modern history.
One reason is the omnipresence in the transition of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a paramilitary commander and one of the signatories of the documents, whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.
Sudanese women, who played a leading role in the protests, have also expressed their shock at female under-representation in the transition.
Every newspaper in Sudan made its headlines with Bashir's landmark court appearance Tuesday.
Some of them carried pictures of the ousted ruler in his courtroom cage, an image that instantly became another symbol of his military regime's downfall.
Large amounts of cash were found at his residence after he was toppled and police investigator Ahmed Ali said the case brought before the court concerned some of that money.
"The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25 million sent to him by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget," he said.
On the streets of Khartoum, residents were not trying to hide their contentment at seeing their longtime tormentor in the dock.
"Bashir has done a lot against us in 30 years," said Fatma Abdallah Hussein, a young medical student who took part in the protests earlier this year.
"Hunger, lack of education, what he did in Darfur and other issues, it is for these things we took to the streets, faced the teargas and the harassment," she said.
Alhaj Adam, a Khartoum resident, argued that Bashir's corruption trial should not distract from the need for the new administration to ratify the Rome Statute.
That would allow the former ruler's transfer to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he faces charges over the war in Darfur that erupted in 2003.
"The evidence he committed genocide should come forward... Many civilians inside and outside Sudan have died because of him and he should face justice," Adam said.
 


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 19 October 2019

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”