Sudanese protests demand answers over June crackdown deaths

In Khartoum, protesters called on authorities to step up an investigation into the hundreds of people who went missing on June 3. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Sudanese protests demand answers over June crackdown deaths

  • “If they are alive, where are they, and if they were dead, where are their bodies? This what we want to know,” a SPA activist said
  • The protesters carried posters of the missing people, and marched to the office of the country’s chief prosecutor

CAIRO: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Sudan’s capital and across the country on Sunday, demanding the disbanding of the former ruling party that underpinned Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s three decades in power.
The demonstrations were organized by local groups linked with the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which spearheaded the uprising that toppled Al-Bashir in April. Protests continued throughout the summer, despite a violent clampdown by the country’s security forces, forcing the ruling generals into a power-sharing agreement with civilians.
In the capital of Khartoum, the protesters also called on authorities to step up an investigation into the hundreds of people who went missing on June 3, when security forces dispersed the main sit-in outside the military headquarters. According to the protesters, at least 128 people were killed and hundreds went missing. Authorities put the death toll at 87, including 17 inside the sit-in area.
Dura Gambo, an activist with the SPA, said the demonstrators wanted to know the fate of those who disappeared in the June crackdown.
“If they are alive, where are they, and if they were dead, where are their bodies? This what we want to know,” she said.
The protesters carried posters of the missing people, and marched to the office of the country’s chief prosecutor, where they presented officials with written demands for a new investigation by an independent committee.
Protesters already rejected the results of the prosecutor’s investigation in September, which said the country’s ruling generals did not order the deadly break-up, and blamed the deaths on paramilitary forces who exceeded their orders.
Setting up an independent probe into the crackdown was a key point in the transition deal between the military and civilian leaders signed in August. The new government has just over three years to steer the country toward democratic elections.
Sunday’s rallies also took at aim at the lingering influence of Al-Bashir’s political system, including his National Congress party.
Footage circulated online showing the protesters, mostly youth, in the city of Wad Madani, the provincial capital of Al-Jazirah province, waving Sudanese flags and calling for the former ruling party’s dissolution as well as resignation of the local governor whom Al-Bashir appointed.
There were no reports of any clashes with police or casualties during the protests.
The transitional government previously said it won’t appoint governors or an interim parliament until it makes peace with the country’s rebel groups.
The first round of peace talks between government and the rebel leaders took place in October in South Sudan’s capital, and are to resume later this month.


Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

Updated 57 min 53 sec ago

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu
JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”