Sudan swears in prime minister, civilian-majority ruling council

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This screen grab taken from Sudan TV on August 21, 2019, shows Abdallah Hamdok during a swearing in ceremony in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Hamdok was sworn in on Wednesday as the prime minister. (AFP)
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General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan was sworn Wednesday as chairman of Sudan’s new sovereign council that will steer the country through a three-year transition to civilian rule. (AFP Photo/Sudan Presidential Palace)
Updated 21 August 2019

Sudan swears in prime minister, civilian-majority ruling council

  • The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests
  • General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the chairman of the new sovereign council

KHARTOUM: Sudan took further steps in its transition toward civilian rule Wednesday with the swearing in of a new sovereign council and prime minister.
The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down longtime ruler Omar Al-Bashir in April.
As a result of Wednesday’s move, it was the first time that Sudan was not under full military rule since Bashir’s coup d’etat in 1989.
The first steps of the transition after the mass celebrations that marked the August 17 adoption of a transitional constitution proved difficult however.
The names of the joint civilian-military sovereign council’s 11 members were eventually announced late Tuesday after differences within the opposition camp held up the process for two days.
General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the chairman of the new sovereign council in the morning.

Wearing his usual green beret and camouflage uniform, Burhan took the oath in a short ceremony, one hand on the Qur'an and the other holding a military baton under his arm.
He will be Sudan’s head of state for the first 21 months of the 39-month transition period, until a civilian takes over for the remainder.
The council’s 10 other members were sworn shortly afterwards and Abdalla Hamdok, who was chosen by the opposition last week to be prime minister, was to be formally appointed later Wednesday.
The sovereign council includes two women, including a member of Sudan’s Christian minority, and it will oversee the formation of a government and of a legislative body.
The inauguration of a civilian-dominated ruling council was welcomed by Khartoum residents but many warned the people would keep their new rulers in check.
“If this council does not meet our aspirations and cannot serve our interests, we will never hesitate to have another revolution,” said Ramzi Al-Taqi, a fruit pedlar.
“We would topple the council just like we did the former regime,” he said.
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 its pariah status.
Sudan’s new rulers are expected to push for the lifting of the suspension from the African Union that followed a deadly crackdown on a sit-in in June.
The ruling council will also seek to have the country removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his role in massacres in the Darfur region, where a rebellion broke out in 2003.
He appeared in court on Monday — but only on charges of corruption for the opening of a trial in which an investigator said the deposed leader admitted to receiving millions in cash from Saudi Arabia.
Pictures of the 75-year-old autocrat sitting in a cage during the hearing instantly became a symbol of his Islamist military regime’s downfall.
The sight of their former tormentor in the dock was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Sudanese but many warned the graft trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces before the ICC.
“The evidence he committed genocide should come forward... Many civilians inside and outside Sudan have died because of him and he should face justice,” one resident, AlHajj Adam, told AFP.
Sudan’s transitional authorities would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of the former military ruler to The Hague.
Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable within the protest camp that brought about one of the most significant moments in Sudan’s modern history.
One reason is the omnipresence in the transition of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a member of the sovereign council and a paramilitary commander whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.
His Rapid Support Forces sprang out of the Janjaweed militia notorious for alleged crimes in Darfur.
Pacifying a country still plagued by deadly unrest in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile will be one of the most urgent tasks of Sudan’s transitional institutions.
The other daunting challenge that awaits the fragile civilian-military alliance is the rescue of an economy that has all but collapsed in recent years.
It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December 2018 that sparked the wave of protests fatal to Bashir’s regime.


Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

Updated 58 min 17 sec ago

Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

  • Law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting

TUNIS: Political outsider Kais Saied was leading Tunisia’s election with just over a quarter of votes counted, the election commission said Monday, in the country’s second free presidential vote since the Arab Spring.
Saied was on 19 percent, leading imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 14.9 percent, and ahead of the candidate from the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party Abdelfattah Mourou (13.1 percent).
The announcement came after both Saied and Karoui’s camp claimed to have won through to the second round, in the highly divisive polls.
Local papers splashed photos across their front pages of law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting.
“An unexpected verdict,” ran a headline in La Presse.
Le Temps titled its editorial “The Slap,” while the Arabic language Echourouk newspaper highlighted a “political earthquake” and a “tsunami” in the Maghreb.
The initial signs point toward a major upset for Tunisia’s political establishment, in place since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It could also usher in a period of immense uncertainty for the fledgling north African democracy, the sole success story of the Arab Spring revolts.
Tunisia’s electoral commission (ISIE) reported low turnout at 45 percent, down from 64 percent in the country’s first democratic polls in 2014.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called on the liberal and centrist camps to band together for legislative elections set for October 6, voicing concern that low participation was “bad for the democratic transition.”
Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.
The election comes against a backdrop of serious social and economic crises.
Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, has been behind bars since August 23 on charges of money laundering and Tunisia’s judiciary has refused his release three times.
A controversial businessman, labelled a “populist” by critics, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
His apparent rival is political neophyte Saied.
The highly conservative constitutionalist, known to Tunisians for his televised political commentary since the 2011 revolt, has shunned political parties and mass rallies. Instead, he has opted to go door-to-door to explain his policies.
He advocates a rigorous overhaul of the constitution and voting system, to decentralize power “so that the will of the people penetrates into central government and puts an end to corruption.”
Often surrounded by young acolytes, he also set forth his social conservatism, defending the death penalty, criminalization of homosexuality and a sexual assault law that punishes unmarried couples who engage in public displays of affection.
“It’s going to be new,” said a baker named Said on Monday, issuing a wry smile.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, what matters in Tunisia is the parliament.”
The first round was marked by high rates of apathy among young voters, pushing ISIE head to put out an emergency call to them Sunday an hour before polls closed.
On Sunday morning, senior citizen Adil Toumi had asked as he voted in the capital “where are the young people?“
Political scientist Hamza Meddeb told AFP “this is a sign of very deep discontent with the political class that has not met economic and social expectations,“
“Disgust with the political elite seems to have resulted in a vote for outsiders.”
Distrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by close to a third since 2016.
Extremist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.
Around 70,000 security forces were mobilized for the polls.
The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.