Can the Arab world contemplate a future without tobacco use?

Can the Arab world contemplate a future without tobacco use?
A man smokes outside a tobacco shop in the Saudi capital Riyadh late on June 11, 2017. (File/AFP)
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Updated 01 June 2021

Can the Arab world contemplate a future without tobacco use?

Can the Arab world contemplate a future without tobacco use?
  • World No Tobacco Day observed on May 31 to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects
  • Arab Gulf states are using the whole gamut of measures to reduce tobacco consumption

ABU DHABI: When it comes to smoking, all the facts are known yet they have proved to be no cure. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths and tobacco use causes more than 8 million deaths per year worldwide, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

To put that into perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has necessitated national lockdowns, has seen the significantly smaller 3.56 million deaths so far.

Low- and middle-income countries pay a disproportionately heavy price as they have more than 80 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users.

The Eastern Mediterranean region has a comparatively high number of tobacco consumers and that number is rising fast.




A youth smokes a waterpipe (Shisha) at a cafe in Dubai on May 31, 2008. Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. (File/AFP)

The good news is that Gulf states are using the whole gamut of measures to reduce tobacco consumption.

The largest of the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia, with a population of more than 34 million, has been taking a number of steps to curb the menace. These include increasing sales taxes and fines, conducting anti-smoking campaigns, establishing smoking cessation clinics and introducing dedicated mobile applications.

“Saudi Arabia has an ambitious strategic tobacco control plan to reduce smoking rates from 12.7 percent to 5 percent by 2030,” Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health, was quoted as saying in 2019.

In 2017, the Saudi National Committee for Tobacco Control imposed a 100 percent tax on all tobacco products and banned smoking in public areas including malls, parks and workplaces.




A performer walks past an Emirati man as he lights a cigarette at the Meydan race track before the start of the Dubai World Cup, on March 27, 2010. Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. (File/AFP)

Additionally, the Saudi health ministry expanded its specialized clinics to 900 locations across the country.

Consequently, data from 2019 showed an increase in visits to clinics by 213 percent, a drop in tobacco imports by 54 percent, and a 307 percent spike in the number of people quitting smoking. 

Neighboring UAE faces a no less daunting challenge. Authorities have set a target of reducing tobacco consumption from 21.6 percent to 15.7 percent among men and from 1.9 percent to 1.66 percent in women by the end of the year.

FASTFACT

World No Tobacco Day is observed on May 31 to raise awareness of the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use.

By far the most common form of tobacco consumption in the UAE is cigarette smoking (77.4 percent), followed by midwakh use (a small pipe used for smoking tobacco) at 15 percent, waterpipes at 6.8 percent and cigars at 0.66 percent.

The government has launched awareness campaigns on the harms of smoking via regular means as well as social media, said Dr. Buthaina Abdulla bin Belaila, head of non-communicable disease in the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention.




A man smokes waterpipe (Shisha) at a cafe in Dubai on May 31, 2008. Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. (File/AFP)

“The country has started imposing excise tax on tobacco products that has led to a doubling of the price that consumers pay, which will be reflected in a reduction in consumption, according to studies,” she said.

“The UAE has also expanded provision for smoking cessation services by increasing the number of clinics and training more doctors to offer such services, which has resulted in an increase in the number of those wishing to quit smoking.”

INNUMBERS

UAE excise tax rates

* 100% Tobacco products

* 100% Electronic smoking devices

* 100% Liquids used in such devices and tools

The Oman Medical Journal study found that in the UAE prevalence rates of smoking were highest among Arab expatriates (31.9 percent), followed by non-Arab expatriates (22.6 percent) and Emiratis (21.6 percent).

According to Dr. Muhammed Anas Ayoob, a specialist in pulmonary disease at NMC Specialty Hospital in Abu Dhabi,, this could be because smoking is widespread in countries such as Jordan and Egypt, the home countries of many of the UAE’s Arab expats.

Living far away from loved ones and job-related stress may be among the reasons for high tobacco consumption by expats.

Of the GCC countries, Oman has the lowest rate of tobacco consumption, but future projections suggest it can ill afford complacency.

The prevalence of tobacco use among men in Oman (which stood at 17.9 percent in 2010) is predicted to rise to 33.3 percent by 2025, according to a 2017 study in the Oman Medical Journal.

This figure is still low compared with the predicted figures for 2025 for other Arab countries: Lebanon (45.4 percent), Bahrain (48.8 percent) and Egypt (49.9 percent).

The study claimed that before 1970, the ban on smoking in all indoor and outdoor public areas in Oman was enforced by public flogging and jail sentences.

These days, the government has a very different approach: it has set up cessation clinics for smokers and imposed a comprehensive ban on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.

The study also noted that Oman has no tobacco product manufacturing facilities, so more than 80 percent of the domestic demand is met through imports from the UAE, followed by Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Turkey.

In Qatar, a 2021 report on the epidemiology of tobacco use said the government’s National Vision 2030 and the Ministry of Public Health Strategy 2018–2022 aim to reduce the prevalence of smoking by 5 percent.

Qatar’s health ministry has pledged to establish a system for monitoring tobacco consumption and to conduct regular smoking surveys in accordance with the recommendations of the Global Tobacco Monitoring System.

It also intends to offer services to smokers who want to kick the habit, including a helpline and a local website. 




A woman smokes waterpipe (Shisha) at a cafe in Dubai on May 31, 2008. Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. (File/AFP)

The ministry says it will establish a practical and comprehensive tax model on tobacco products, including customs duties and taxes on tobacco production and sale.

“Evidence from countries of all income levels shows that price increases on cigarettes are highly effective in reducing demand,” Dr. Ayoob, of NMC Specialty Hospital, said.

“Higher prices encourage cessation and prevent initiation of tobacco use. They also reduce relapse among those who have quit and reduce consumption among continuing users.

“Several reviews have demonstrated that a price increase of 10 percent results in a decrease of 2.5 percent to 5 percent in cigarette consumption.”




A picture taken on September 28, 2017 shows a man organising cigarette packs at a shop in in Ras al-Khaimah. Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. (File/AFP)

On the question of whether e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative, Dr. Ayoob says that smoking does appear to be more harmful than vaping.

“This does not mean that vaping is safe. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders are also at risk of inhaling this aerosol when the user exhales into the air,” he said.

Dr. Ayoob pointed out that the US Food and Drug Administration has not confirmed that vaping helps people quit smoking. On the contrary, many e-cigarette users fail to kick their addiction, he said.

“According to a report, 58.8 percent of the people who recently used e-cigarettes also continued to smoke cigarettes,” he said.

 

Twitter: @farahheiba94

 


Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration

Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration
Updated 15 sec ago

Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration

Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration
  • Billions of dollars needed to prepare engineering plans for the rebuilding of the war-torn strip

GAZA CITY: Some hope has returned to Gaza resident Ayman Dahman upon learning that his apartment building, completely destroyed during Israeli airstrikes last May, would be reconstructed.

Dahman has despaired over the past months, but Egyptian and Qatari statements regarding the acceleration of the reconstruction process have restored optimism.

Dahman and his family of six lived in a five-story residential building inhabited by 10 families, in the north of Gaza City.

After its destruction, he moved to live with his son in a small two-room apartment. Once the war ended, he relocated to a rented house, which was paid for by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

UNRWA provided $1,500 in rent allowance and $500 for the purchase of basic home furnishings for each victim who lost his or her home during the war.

Dahman said that the Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Hamas-run Gaza contacted him a few days ago to prepare the engineering plans for the building in preparation for reconstruction.

On Oct. 19, the Egyptian Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip announced the launch of its first development project in Gaza: the construction of Al-Rasheed Street in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza.

At the same time, head of the Qatari Reconstruction Committee Mohammed Al-Emadi, currently in Gaza, announced that the coming days would witness an acceleration in the reconstruction process.

Hamas had received Egyptian promises during its leadership’s visit to Cairo earlier this month to speed up the pace of reconstruction and to provide trade and economic facilities at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

After the war, Egypt pledged a grant of $500 million as a contribution to reconstruction and sent engineering delegations to remove rubble in preparation.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing Naji Sarhan, said that the Egyptian grant projects include the construction of three residential cities in Beit Lahia; Jabalia, north of Gaza; and the Al-Zahra area, south of Gaza City.

According to the agreement, these three cities will include 2,000 housing units, giving priority to poor and low-income people. The construction of bridges and roads also will be supported.

Sarhan said that Egyptian officials promised — during meetings in Cairo with an official delegation from Gaza about two weeks ago — to start the reconstruction of the residential high-rises soon.

Egyptian crews had contributed to removing the rubble of damaged high-rises, as well as the construction of the first residential city in northern Gaza, he added.

The talks with the Egyptians, according to Sarhan, resulted in an agreement to operate the largest number of local contracting companies.

It was also agreed to import all the materials needed for reconstruction from the Rafah crossing to ensure the operation of local factories and to provide facilities for the movement of contractors and businessmen through the crossing.

The local authorities estimated the direct losses in the Gaza Strip during the war at $479 million.

Sarhan said that the direct losses are related to the destruction that afflicted the housing and infrastructure sector, as 1,500 housing units were destroyed, and 880 units were severely damaged. Hundreds of units were moderately and slightly damaged, with the value of reconstruction estimated at $145 million.

A great deal of damage was also caused to the infrastructure, including public buildings, roads, energy, communications and sanitation, with reconstruction estimated at $293 million.

Losses were also incurred in the sectors of economy, trade, health, education and agriculture, apart from indirect losses caused by the war.

Sarhan estimates that Gaza needs $2 billion in order to revive it after many years of wars and siege.

Palestinians see the latest Egyptian move as coming within a context of coordination with the US administration, which hopes to establish stability in Gaza.

A few days before the Hamas meetings in Cairo, Gaza reconstruction was discussed during talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Hamas-affiliated columnist Majed Al-Zibda believes that the recent Egyptian meeting with Hamas is consistent with the vision of the US administration, which desires to contain Gaza and ensure stability there so to avoid any deterioration that could lead to new confrontations.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported earlier that Egypt and the US were pressuring Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to work on forming a new unity government with the aim of pushing forward long-term stability and the reconstruction of Gaza.


Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says
Updated 23 October 2021

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says
  • Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey's NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan's 19 years in power
  • In a joint statement on Oct. 18, ten ambassadors called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case, and for his "urgent release"

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.” They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
The US, and French embassies and the White House and US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Erdogan has said previously that he plans to meet US President Joe Biden at summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Rome next weekend.
Norway said its embassy had not received any notification from Turkish authorities.
“Our ambassador has not done anything that warrants an expulsion,” said the ministry’s chief spokesperson, Trude Maaseide, adding that Turkey was well aware of Norway’s views.
“We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention,” Maaseide said.
Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges related to the coup attempt.
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification, but was in contact with its friends and allies.
“We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in a statement.
A source at the German Foreign Ministry also said the 10 countries were consulting with one another.
Kavala said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/philanthropist-kavala-says-no-possibility-fair-trial-turkey-2021-10-22 he would no longer attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by Erdogan.
Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.
It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in Kavala’s trial is on Nov. 26.


Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag
Updated 23 October 2021

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag
  • Activists said the decision amounts to an attempt to silence groups that have documented Israel's harsh treatment of Palestinians over the years
  • The terrorism label would allow Israel to raid the groups’ offices, seize assets, arrest employees and criminalize funding and expressions of support

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Activists called on the international community Saturday to help reverse Israel’s unprecedented designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations, a label that effectively outlaws them.
They said the decision amounts to an attempt to silence groups that have documented Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians over the years. Some of the groups have close ties with rights organizations in Israel and abroad.
Israel claims the targeted groups were a front for a small PLO faction with a violent history, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israel’s terror label for the six groups, including some that receive European funding, appears to have caught the United States and Europe off-guard. Israel later insisted some Biden administration officials were notified ahead of time.
The move against the rights groups comes at a time when efforts to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state alongside Israel are hopelessly bogged down. For years, the US and Europe have been engaged in politically less costly conflict management, rather than pushing for a solution, while Israeli settlements on occupied lands sought for a Palestinian state have continued to expand.
Amid the paralysis, Europe, in particular, has invested in strengthening Palestinian civil society, an effort now seemingly being challenged by Israel’s decision to outlaw well-known rights groups.
The terrorism label would allow Israel to raid the groups’ offices, seize assets, arrest employees and criminalize funding and expressions of support.
Rights groups in Israel and abroad have expressed outrage over the “terror” label.
Palestinian activists said they are counting on international pressure to get the decision reversed.
“We hope that the International community will put enough pressure on Israel so that it will back down,” Ubai Aboudi, head of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, one of the targeted groups, said Saturday. Aboudi said he was previously charged by Israel with being a PFLP member, but denied ever belonging to the group.
Sahar Francis, the director of the prisoners rights group Addameer, told a news conference that she was grateful for the international statements of support, and that “we expect this campaign and pressure to continue in order for it to be fruitful.” Addameer is also one of the targeted groups.
Shawan Jabarin, who heads the veteran rights group Al-Haq, said Israel’s designation came as a surprise and that the groups had not been given a heads-up. Two of the six groups said they would not be forced underground despite the uncertainty of their new status,
An Israeli defense official alleged in a statement Saturday that the six groups “operate as an organized network” under the leadership of the PFLP. The statement claimed the groups serve as a lifeline for the PFLP through fund-raising, money laundering and recruiting activists.
It also named several members of the rights groups who were later arrested as alleged members of the PFLP military wing. The small PLO faction has a political party and a military wing that has carried out attacks that killed Israelis.
The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and Western countries.
The six groups have denied the allegations and have denounced Israel’s terrorism designation as a blatant attempt to squash reporting on rights abuses in the occupied territories, mainly by Israel, but also by the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian autonomy government.
The UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory said Saturday that the reasons cited by Israel’s defense minister were “vague or irrelevant,” and denounced his decision as the latest move in a “long stigmatizing campaign” against the organizations.
The European Union delegation to the Palestinian territories acknowledged financing activities by some of the rights groups. It said past allegations of the misuse of EU funds by partners “have not been substantiated” but that it takes the matter seriously and is looking into it.
“EU funding to Palestinian civil society organizations is an important element of our support for the two-state solution,” it said Friday.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, said it had not been given advance warning about the decision and would seek more information. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday that “we believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.”
The other four groups targeted by Israel include Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. The majority of the organizations target human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists.


Lebanese president returns electoral law to parliament

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2021

Lebanese president returns electoral law to parliament

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
  • Aoun justifies opposition to law by citing ‘natural and climatic factors’ that often occur in March and could prevent voting
  • Bassil may benefit from these developments and reap rewards elsewhere, says analyst

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has sent a law amending legislative election rules back to parliament for reconsideration, the presidency said in a statement.

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered.

Aoun’s objection comes after the Free Patriotic Movement bloc raised its opposition to holding elections in March instead of May because it “narrows its margins of action.”

During the legislative session of Oct. 19, the bloc also objected to proposals to change the expatriate voting formula by canceling the six allocated seats and allowing expatriates to vote for the electoral lists.

The FPM sought to allocate these six seats in the electoral law, provided that voting for these representatives would take place in the 2022 elections.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on the parliamentary committees to convene next Tuesday to discuss Aoun’s response to the electoral law.

Observers described these developments as a sign of a political struggle for the presidency.

The parliament to be elected in March is expected to pick the new president after Aoun’s term ends in October.

In the decree in which he requested a review of the amendments, Aoun said that “shortening the constitutional deadline for the elections could prevent voters from being able to exercise their electoral right due to the natural and climatic factors that often prevail in March, making it impossible for voters to reach their polling stations, not to mention the cost of transportation and the inability to supply polling stations with electricity.”

He added: “This could also prevent voters residing outside Lebanon from exercising their political right preserved in the current electoral law by voting for their representatives in the electoral district designated for non-residents.”

The president said that the amendments to the law deprive the right to vote from 10,685 citizens, who would reach the age of 21 between Feb. 1 and March 30, 2022.

Zeina Helou, an elections expert, told Arab News: “Aoun is trying to pull strings in order to later accuse the other political parties of preventing him from carrying out the reforms he wanted.”

She added: “Aoun and his political team prefer to gain more time to conduct the elections rather than move the date up.

“Freezing the voter lists will deprive new voters who would soon turn 21 from the right to vote, and this may be a reason to appeal before the Constitutional Council.”

Helou added that “the FPM fears that Christian voters who live in Greater Beirut will not go to the polling stations in their remote villages and towns in Akkar, in the north, the south, and Baalbek-Hermel, either because of the high prices of gasoline or because of the stormy weather in the mountains in March, and insists on Mega polling centers.”

She noted that “this process requires a lot of time to be arranged, but I doubt that the rest of the political parties want these polling stations in the places where voters live because they lose the ability to control their voters and know who they voted for.”

Helou pointed out: “The Shiite duo, Hezbollah and the Amal movement — unlike Aoun and his political team — do not fear the upcoming elections. Hezbollah does not derive its legitimacy from the elections but from its weapons and power.

“Hezbollah is able to obstruct any parliamentary session, just as it is currently obstructing holding cabinet sessions until Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the Beirut port blast, is removed. The second Hezbollah feels threatened, it will turn the tables.”

Justifications for disrupting the elections in March may already be in motion, regardless of constitutional reasons that may or may not be taken into account.

Helou told Arab News that FPM head MP Gebran Bassil — who has always wanted to become president — may benefit from the current developments and reap rewards elsewhere.

Although the political parties believe it is still too early to discuss what the upcoming parliamentary elections will bear, Helou said that in 2018, the elections were held amid understanding and settlements between the political parties in power, while in 2022 they will be marked by tug-of-war and alliances.

“The same parties could be re-elected and regain their seats in parliament, and we may see a low voter turnout for lack of convincing alternatives.”

Next Tuesday, parliament is expected to either approve Aoun’s request, which requires the votes of 61 MPs, or appeal it before the Constitutional Council.

Parliament could also introduce some amendments to the law, which requires the votes of half of the quorum plus one; if the quorum is 65 MPs, the law would need 33 votes.


Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’
Updated 23 October 2021

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’
  • Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles
  • Since August 2019, the country has been led by civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule

KHARTOUM: A Sudanese faction calling for a transfer of power to civilian rule warned Saturday of a “creeping coup,” during a press conference that an unidentified mob attack sought to prevent.
Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles since the April 2019 ouster of president Omar Al-Bashir.
Since August 2019, the country has been led by civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule.
The main civilian bloc — the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) — which led anti-Bashir protests, has splintered into two opposing factions.
“The crisis at hand is engineered — and is in the shape of a creeping coup,” mainstream FFC leader Yasser Arman, said in a press conference in the capital Khartoum.
“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions — but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.
The press conference at the official SUNA news agency premises was delayed when an unidentified mob tried to stop it going ahead.
The FFC’s mainstream faction backs a transition to civilian rule, but supporters of the breakaway faction have ratcheted up calls for “military rule.”
On Thursday, tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan to counter a week-long encampment supporting pro-military rule in central Khartoum.
Critics have charged that the rival sit-in has been orchestrated by senior figures in the security forces, Bashir sympathizers and other “counter-revolutionaries.”
Tensions between the two sides have long simmered, but divisions ratcheted up after a failed coup on September 21.
Hamdok has previously described the splits as the “worst and most dangerous crisis” facing the transition.
On Saturday, Hamdok denied rumors he had agreed to a cabinet reshuffle, calling them “not accurate.”
The premier also “emphasised that he does not monopolize the right to decide the fate of transitional institutions.”
SUNA reported that Jeffrey Feltman, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, is expected in Khartoum for meetings.