Protesters hit Sudan streets to demand reforms, justice

Riot police officers hold position against protesters near the Parliament buildings, as members of Sudanese pro-democracy protest on the anniversary of a major anti-military protest, while groups loyal to toppled leader Omar Al-Bashir plan rival demonstrations, in Omdurman, Khartoum, Sudan June 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 July 2020

Protesters hit Sudan streets to demand reforms, justice

  • Many chanted the catchphrase of anti-Bashir protests: “Freedom, peace and justice”

KHARTOUM: Tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets on Tuesday calling for reforms and demanding justice for those killed in anti-government demonstrations that ousted president Omar Bashir last year.

The protests in several cities and the capital Khartoum went ahead with security forces deployed in force and despite a tight curfew since April designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“Our demands are peace ... and justice. We call for economic reform and appointment of civilian governors to states,” said a protester in Burri, east of Khartoum.

“This march is to put the revolution back on course, not to overthrow the government.”

Many chanted the catchphrase of anti-Bashir protests: “Freedom, peace and justice.”

In Dongola, north of the capital, hundreds carried banners demanding “retribution” for demonstrators killed in clashes with security forces last year.

Similarly, in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, demonstrators draped in the Sudanese flag carried banners that read: “Retribution and peace.”

Protesters also gathered in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman and Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur.

At least 246 were killed and hundreds others wounded during the 2018-19 anti-government protests, according to doctors linked to Sudan’s protest movement.

Tuesday’s rallies coincided with the 31st anniversary of the 1989 military coup that brought Bashir to power.

Bashir was ousted by the military in April 2019 following months-long mass protests against his 30-year rule, in an uprising triggered by economic hardship.

Sudan has since August been led by a civilian-majority administration presiding over a three-year transitional period.

The country is reeling from economic woes, largely blamed on Bashir-era policies. Since his ouster, the former strongman has been detained and he was handed a two-year prison sentence on corruption charges in December.

He faces separate charges over the deaths of protesters and the 1989 coup.

Bashir is also been wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict.

Yemenis fear decaying oil tanker could cause major disaster

Updated 05 August 2020

Yemenis fear decaying oil tanker could cause major disaster

  • Beirut explosions spur activists and fishermen to warn of potential impact if Safer tanker is not repaired

AL-MUKALLA: Following Tuesday’s huge explosions in Beirut, Yemenis have been voicing their concern that the decaying Safer floating storage and offloading terminal could lead to a devastating disaster in Yemen if it is not repaired soon.

Having seen footage of the destruction wrought by the explosions in Lebanon, Yemeni fishermen, politicians, government officials, military officers and activists have urged the international community to pressure the Houthis to give experts from the United Nations access to the damaged ship so that it can be fixed.

The Safer has been stranded off the western city of Hodeida since early 2015. It reportedly carries around 1.1 million barrels of crude oil and has recently shown signs of rusting, with water entering the engine room. That leak prompted UN officials to warn of a major impending environmental disaster in the Red Sea, as well as the potential risk of a massive explosion caused by the build up of gases in the storage tanks, or by weaponry fired deliberately or accidentally.

Under pressure from local and international bodies, the Iran-backed Houthis, who control Hodeida, initially agreed to allow a UN team to board the ship to assess the damage and unload the oil. However, they later reversed that decision, citing a conspiracy between the UN, the US, and the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

Khaled Al-Rami, a Yemeni fisherman from Hodeida’s Khokha district on the shores of the Red Sea, told Arab News that his “first thought” on seeing the images from Beirut on Tuesday was that an equally devastating disaster could occur if the Safer spills oil into the water.

Last month, the Yemen-based environmental group Holm Akhdar (Green Dream) warned that an oil spill would have devastating consequences for fishermen, marine diversity, and the country’s fish stock.

“At least 115 of Yemen’s islands in the Red Sea would lose their biodiversity and their natural habitats. About 126,000 Yemeni fishermen — including 67,800 in Hodeida — would lose their only source of income because of the disaster,” the group said in its report.

“If the ship is not repaired, then after Lebanon, it will be Yemen,” Al-Rami said. “On WhatsApp, my friends and other fishermen shared their concerns about a predicted disaster from the ship. We are all worried about the impact of any oil spills on our lives. This is our major concern at the moment. It causes us great horror and panic. I appeal to the international community, the Arab Coalition and the UN committee (in Hodeida) to save us from a possible disaster.”

Nabiel Ali, also a fisherman from Khokha, told Arab News that his generation and his children’s would suffer the consequences of an oil spill from the Safer. “I urge the international community and all the good people in the world to find an urgent solution to this problem,” he said. “For the sake of humanity, please save Yemenis in general and the fishermen in particular.”

On social media, Yemeni activists echoed similar concerns about a possible disaster off the Yemeni coast.

“The Beirut Port explosion came to remind us of another imminent catastrophe that threatens Yemen and the whole world,” Mustafa Ghoules, a Yemeni journalist, said on Twitter. “The Safer tanker, which contains more than a million barrels of oil, is on the verge of leakage and explosion and is used by the Houthis as a weapon,”

Mohammed Saeed Al-Sharabi, an activist, called on his compatriots to save their country from disaster by emptying the decaying tanker before it is too late.

“The Safer tanker must be unloaded before oil spills and causes a major environmental disaster in the Red Sea. You must learn a lesson from the Beirut port disaster,” he said.

Abdullah Al-Saqqaf, another activist, called for mass protests across Yemen to pressurize the Houthis into allowing UN teams to maintain and unload the ship. “There must be popular demonstrations demanding the unloading of the tanker and exerting public pressure on the Houthis to abide by the United Nations resolution on the tanker,” Al-Saqqaf said.

The internationally recognized government of Yemen expressed its support for Lebanon and offered condolences to relatives of the victims of Tuesday’s explosions, according to a brief statement carried by the official Saba news agency on Tuesday night.

“We would like to assure everyone that the Yemeni community members are well and healthy and only two students were lightly injured,” the Yemeni Embassy in Lebanon said in a statement on its official Facebook page.