Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM

Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM
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Sudan’s former prime minister and top opposition figure Sadiq Al-Mahdi died from a coronavirus infection on Nov. 26, 2020, his party said. (File/AFP)
Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM
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Sudanese mourners attend the funeral procession of Sudan's former prime minister and top opposition figure Sadiq Al-Mahdi, in Khartoum, on November 27, 2020. (AFP)
Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM
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Sudanese mourners attend the funeral procession of Sudan's former prime minister and top opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi, in Khartoum, on November 27, 2020. (AFP)
Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM
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Sudanese mourners attend the funeral procession of Sudan's former prime minister and top opposition figure Sadiq Al-Mahdi, in Khartoum, on November 27, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM

Thousands attend funeral of Sudan’s last democratically elected PM
  • Mourners in traditional white garments, mostly wearing masks, wept and waved national flags
  • Mahdi’s body arrived at Khartoum airport on Friday morning

KHARTOUM: Thousands of Sudanese packed into the city of Omdurman on Friday for the funeral of Sadiq Al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister, who died from the coronavirus at the age of 84.
Mourners in traditional white garments, mostly wearing masks, wept and waved national flags ahead of prayers for the two-time prime minister, who was a central figure in Sudan’s political and spiritual life for more than half a century.
“Today the icon of tolerance in Sudan has passed away, a symbol of civilian jihad in Sudan, a warrior knight,” one mourner, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Zein, told Sudanese TV through tears.
Stewards moved through the crowds gathered before the domed shrine where he was to be buried offering hand sanitiser to mourners as a precaution against COVID-19, but there was little sign of social distancing. Mahdi’s Umma Party had urged mourners on Thursday to follow all health procedures.
Oxford-educated Mahdi, great-grandson of the messianic figure who fought the British in the 19th century, contracted COVID-19 last month and had been receiving treatment in the United Arab Emirates.
“The scenes broadcast on television of the funeral despite the health conditions... indicate the extent of the popularity and political weight that the late Imam enjoyed,” said Rasha Awad, editor of Al Taghyeer online newspaper.
“Mahdi was known for his moderation and realistic reading of the Sudanese political arena... His absence will inevitably weaken the democratic transition process,” she added.
National mourning
Some mourners said they had come from various regions of the vast north African country to bid farewell to Mahdi. The government has declared three days of national mourning.
Mahdi’s body arrived at Khartoum airport on Friday morning, where the head of the ruling sovereign council, the prime minister and other top officials attended an official reception.
The coffin then moved to Omdurman, the capital’s twin city across the river Nile, for the funeral, state TV reported.
His body was buried alongside his great-grandfather, the Mahdi, or messiah, who had led an insurgency against British colonial rule in the late 1800s.
Sudan is run by a transitional government formed under a fragile three-year power sharing agreement between the military and civilian groups since the ousting of Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in 2019.
Mahdi had been trying to bridge the gap between the military and civilian leaders, Awad said.
He was last voted into office in 1986, then overthrown three years later in a military coup led by Bashir, then an obscure army brigadier.
Mahdi was imprisoned and forced into exile often during his long career but staged just as many come-backs and remained influential. His Umma Party was one of the largest opposition groups during Bashir’s 30-year rule.
He returned from exile a final time as protests over worsening economic conditions gathered steam in December 2018. Those demonstrations eventually led to Bashir’s overthrow in April 2019.


Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia
Updated 41 min 24 sec ago

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia
  • Saturday’s protests come as the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic
  • The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until February 14

TUNIS: Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunisian cities on Saturday to protest police repression, corruption and poverty, following several nights of unrest marked by clashes and arrests.
Saturday’s protests come as the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has crippled the economy and threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Over 6,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Tunisia, with a record 103 deaths reported on Thursday.
The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until February 14.
But protesters took to the streets in several parts of the country, including the capital Tunis and the marginalized interior region of Gafsa, to demand the release of hundreds of young people detained during several nights of unrest since January 14.
“Neither police nor Islamists, the people want revolution,” chanted demonstrators in a crowd of several hundred in Tunis, where one person was wounded in brief clashes amid a heavy police presence.
Protests were also held in the coastal city of Sfax on Friday.
Much of the unrest has been in working class neighborhoods, where anger is boiling over soaring unemployment and a political class accused of having failed to deliver good governance, a decade after the 2011 revolution that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Economic misery exacerbated by novel coronavirus restrictions in the tourism-reliant nation have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to try to leave the country.
“The situation is catastrophic,” said Omar Jawadi, 33, a hotel sales manager, who has been paid only half his salary for months.
“The politicians are corrupt, we want to change the government and the system.”
The police have said more than 700 people were arrested over several nights of unrest earlier this week that saw young people hurl rocks and petrol bombs at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Human rights groups on Thursday said at least 1,000 people had been detained.
“Youth live from day to day, we no longer have hope, neither to work nor to study — and they call us troublemakers!” said call center worker Amine, who has a degree in aerospace engineering.
“We must listen to young people, not send police in by the thousands. The whole system is corrupt, a few families and their supporters control Tunisia’s wealth.”
Tunisia last week marked one decade since Ben Ali fled the country amid mass protests, ending 23 years in power.
Tunisia’s political leadership is divided, with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi waiting for parliament to confirm a major cabinet reshuffle announced last Saturday.