Expo Dubai 2020 continues a grand tradition of international exhibitions 

People walk towards the Sustainability Pavilion, a week ahead of its public opening, at the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai on January 16, 2021. (AFP)
People walk towards the Sustainability Pavilion, a week ahead of its public opening, at the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai on January 16, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 01 September 2021

Expo Dubai 2020 continues a grand tradition of international exhibitions 

People walk towards the Sustainability Pavilion, a week ahead of its public opening, at the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai on January 16, 2021. (AFP)
  • World Expos are viewed as a powerful tool for cultural expression and economic development
  • Saudi pavilion holds three Guinness World Records before Expo Dubai 2020 has even opened

DUBAI: Although the term mega event had not yet been coined, there is no question that the first-ever World Expo at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851 was just that. The Great Exhibition was a high-profile spectacle that changed the face of the Victorian capital and captivated the world.

Such was the success of this inaugural World Expo that a grand tradition of international exhibitions, hosted by different cities around the world, was born.

To this day, World Expos are considered a powerful tool for cultural expression and economic development, their impact felt for decades after in the form of trade and diplomatic exchanges.

World Expos are also widely recognized for their architectural legacy. Host nations often invest huge sums in infrastructure projects, vying with one another for signature structures. The iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris was famously unveiled as the centerpiece of the French-hosted 1889 Exposition Universelle.

In 1893, the organizing committee for the World Expo in Chicago was deeply concerned about how to out-Eiffel Eiffel, leading to some truly fringe concepts. One of the suggested designs for Chicago’s signature structure was a replica of the globe spanning 300 meters (the height of the Eiffel Tower), and a scale model of one of explorer Christopher Columbus’ ships.

Another concept called for the construction of a towering spire three kilometers in height — more than three times taller than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa — from which a network of elevated rails would connect Chicago to other cities, including New York, and Boston. Needless to say, the concept was not approved.

The enormous popularity of the Eiffel Tower triggered fierce competition. But although the tower is perhaps the most enduring icon of World Expo architecture, its construction was not without controversy.

In 1886, just three years before the Exposition Universelle was scheduled to coincide with the centenary of the French Revolution, the organizing committee put out a call for design proposals for a fitting Parisian monument.




In addition to architectural wonders, Expo 2020 Dubai promises a host of cultural encounters, debuting the first Emirati opera and a range of public artworks spread across the site. (Emirates News Agency)

One of these proposed building a 300-meter guillotine, a grisly reference to the regicidal excesses of the French Revolution. The idea was predictably rejected and the concept for what would become the world’s tallest structure of its day was given the go-ahead.

Originally derided as a “tragic streetlamp” by many of the French cultural elite, the Eiffel Tower turned out to be exceptionally popular among visitors.

The structure was supposed to be torn down 20 years after the Expo, but during World War I it proved to be an excellent radio transmitter in support of the French war effort. Today, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited monument in the world.

With World Expos growing in scale and ambition, they nurtured global curiosity about distant and exotic nations. As the number of visitors touched millions, the cultural and ideological influence of World Expos had become palpably manifest.




The Saudi Arabia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai under construction. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

At the 1937 World Expo in Paris, the pavilions of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany offered two very different responses to the theme of modern life. The two pavilions — designed by, respectively, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler’s favorite architects — even faced one another in a kind of microcosmic standoff between two totalitarian regimes.

The German architect had somehow managed to lay his hands on the design specifications for the Soviet pavilion in advance and used them to literally one-up the Soviets, making the Nazi pavilion taller and more imposing.

The perceived confrontation between the two powers was widely interpreted by the media as representative of Europe’s secret hope that war could be averted if the two regimes could be pitted against one another. History, of course, tells a different story.

By the 1958 World Expo in Brussels, it was the US and the Soviet Union’s turn to face off in a game of Cold War brinkmanship. Tensions were high, but the exhibition offered a rare opportunity for direct contact when 16,000 Soviet citizens travelled to the West for the event.




General aerial view of Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai (Photo by Dany Eid/Expo 2020 Dubai)

As part of its strategy to weaken communist influence, America’s Central Intelligence Agency commissioned a special Russian-language print run of Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago, set against the backdrop of the Bolshevik revolution, and partnered with the Vatican pavilion to distribute copies. In the pavilion, called Civitas Dei (City of God), the secret book was pressed into the hands of Soviet visitors.

The CIA considered the mission a success. However, Pasternak had not been informed of the plan or its execution and was none too happy about it, especially since the CIA edition was littered with errors. However, the operation may have helped pave the way for Pasternak to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

For visitors, experiential and immersive attractions often constitute the core of the World Expo experience. At the New York World’s Fair in 1939, Spanish artist Salvador Dali designed a surrealist funhouse called Dream of Venus intended to counter the fair’s focus on progress and modernity.

One critic said: “The world of machines, cars, and robots had been replaced — or should one say challenged — by a universe of dreams where one could feel a sense of decadence which no doubt clashed with the proposed cleanliness, order, and clarity of the surroundings. What one saw in the pavilion, in fact, was blurred, confusing, not clear at all.”




Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (2nd R) and Florence mayor Dario Nardella (R) attend a ceremony at the Italian pavillion at Expo 2020 Dubai. (AFP/File Photo)

The pavilion would have been even more confusing had Dali’s original plan been approved, which included live giraffes that would have been exploded as a part of the exhibit. Fortunately for the giraffes, the cruel spectacle was never allowed to happen.

The upcoming World Expo in Dubai, which opens on Oct. 1, has already unveiled its signature structure — its Eiffel for the Emirates, as it were — in the form of the awe-inspiring Al-Wasl dome, which will be used to create immersive shows, projections, and performances.

The UAE pavilion has been designed to look like a falcon at rest, complete with movable wings, while the Saudi pavilion, the largest of all participating nations, holds three Guinness World Records: For the largest LED mirror screen display, the largest interactive floor, and the longest water exhibit.




A night view of the Terra-Sustainability Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 site. (Supplied)

In addition to architectural wonders, Expo 2020 Dubai promises a host of cultural encounters, debuting the first Emirati opera and a range of public artworks spread across the site. The Arab tradition of storytelling will be integrated into every experience and will connect visitors from around the globe.

Over a period of 182 days, the first World Expo to take place in the Arab world will tell the region’s story and create its own piece of Expo legacy. And hopefully, true to Expo style, there will be a few surprises thrown in too.

 


UAE records 97 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

UAE records 97 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
Updated 57 min 31 sec ago

UAE records 97 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

UAE records 97 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
  • The health ministry further reported one death and 129 recoveries
  • The country’s total caseload of recorded infections since the pandemic started now stands at 739,389

DUBAI: The UAE has recorded 97 new COVID-19 infections after conducting 281,817 tests in the past 24 hours, state news agency WAM reported.
The health ministry further reported one death and 129 recoveries.
The country’s total caseload of recorded infections since the pandemic started now stands at 739,389, with 2,131 deaths and 733,379 recoveries.
Coronavirus cases in the UAE have been falling in recent weeks with a total number of COVID-19 vaccination doses reaching 20,921,016.


Lebanese judge charges 68 over deadly Beirut clash

Lebanese judge charges 68 over deadly Beirut clash
Updated 25 October 2021

Lebanese judge charges 68 over deadly Beirut clash

Lebanese judge charges 68 over deadly Beirut clash
  • Clash south of Beirut on Oct. 14 was the worst fighting in the capital in years

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge has charged 68 people in this month’s deadly clash in Beirut that left seven people dead and dozens wounded, the state news agency reported Monday.
The clash south of Beirut on Oct. 14 was the worst fighting in the capital in years and broke out during a Hezbollah-organized protest against the judge leading the investigation into last year’s massive Beirut port blast.
The National News Agency said Government Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Fadi Akiki charged the 68 people with crimes including murder, attempted murder, inciting sectarian strife, having unlicensed weapons and sabotage.
The battle went on for five hours between supporters of Lebanon’s two powerful Shiite factions, Hezbollah and Amal, and gunmen believed to be supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party. It took place on the line between Beirut’s Chiyah and Ain El-Rumaneh neighborhoods, the same frontline that bisected the capital into warring sections during the country’s civil war.
NNA said 18 are in detention while the remaining 50 remain at large. It did not give a breakdown to which groups the 68 belong.
Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, has said that he refuses to be questioned by Akiki unless the judge first questions Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.


How Egypt turned the page with a comeback on the regional stage

How Egypt turned the page with a comeback on the regional stage
Updated 55 min 50 sec ago

How Egypt turned the page with a comeback on the regional stage

How Egypt turned the page with a comeback on the regional stage
  • Egypt is emerging from a decade of upheaval that began with the overthrow of Mubarak
  • From Libya to Arab-Israeli peace, Cairo is reasserting its authority on the regional stage

BOGOTA/ABU DHABI: Egypt has experienced a decade of upheaval since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, contending with two revolutions, environmental pressures, and more recently the economic challenges of COVID-19.

And yet, this most populous of Arab countries, straddling the African and Asian continents, has emerged from the turbulence with a new sense of purpose and a desire for greater engagement with the region and the world.

It has been announced that Egypt is a nominee to host the COP27 UN climate conference for 2022 — a distinction that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago.

This October not only marks the 48th anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel; 40 years ago on October 6, President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamist extremists during the annual victory parade in Cairo.

For many in the Middle East, Sadat’s positive legacy is a work in progress: The Egypt-Israel peace process, Egyptian economic development and political liberalization, the Palestinian peace process, and overcoming the challenge of violent extremism.

“What I have seen recently, in this last year in particular, is that Egypt is much more engaged in trying to determine movement on regional issues,” Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian foreign minister, said during a discussion at the World Policy Conference held earlier in October in Abu Dhabi.

“Egypt faced a couple of hurdles. But (look at) the strength of its system. I doubt very few countries in the region, and some abroad, frankly, could have survived two revolutions in three years and come out standing.”

The latest economic forecasts show that Egypt is now entering the recovery phase following the blows of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s clear evidence of economic progress,” Fahmy said. “Even post-pandemic we’re looking at 4 to 5 percent growth this coming year, which is significant.”

His observations were echoed by Egyptian politician and academic Mona Makram-Ebeid at the same conference.

“Now there is a ray of hope emerging and it comes in the form of natural gas discovery, with a potential to boost Egypt’s limping economy and build a new commercial alliance with eastern Mediterranean countries and Israel.

“Egypt struck the jackpot in 2015 with the discovery of a giant reservoir known as Zohr, which has developed into one of the largest single gas fields in the Middle East.”

To date, Zohr is the biggest gas field discovered in the Mediterranean region, with nearly 30 trillion cubic feet of reserves. The field — which is operated by Italian Eni — started production in December 2017.

From all accounts, there has been marked progress in more than just the economic field. Egypt is also making strides in institutional reform, bolstering the rule of law and addressing international concerns over its rights record.

“Just three weeks ago, we issued a new human rights doctrine,” Fahmy said. “It’s not perfect. Human rights doctrines and applications anywhere in the world are not perfect. But it’s tremendous progress. And it’s a reflection that we want to move forward.

People shop from a stall selling Ramadan lanterns along a main street in the in the northern suburb of Shubra (home to a large Christian population) of Egypt’s capital Cairo on April 12, 2021, at the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. (File/AFP)

“Short term, it’s going to be a challenge. Medium term, I’m much more confident. But, as Egyptians, given our weight, given the role we have to play, I also want us to be able to look long term and engage with our neighbors.”

Makram-Ebeid praised the new doctrine, saying that it would have a positive impact on several aspects of Egyptian life.

“It will give access to job opportunities, education, healthcare and religious freedoms,” she said.

Egypt’s latest decade of upheaval began on Jan. 25, 2011, when thousands of protesters spilled onto the streets of Cairo to demand change. Aggressive police tactics to quell the protests culminated in calls for Mubarak’s removal.

Egyptian demonstrators tear a portrait of President Hosni Mubarak during a protest against his rule in the northern port city of Alexandria on Jan. 25, 2011. (File/AFP)

When he was finally toppled from power, young Egyptians felt their moment had come to create a fairer society. In reality, it was only the beginning of a fresh period of discontent and uncertainty. The country was rocked by new economic calamities and the rise to power of Mohamed Morsi — an Islamist politician affiliated with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The “second Egyptian revolution” came in 2013, a year after Morsi’s inauguration. The resumption of street protests that summer saw Morsi forced from office and the Muslim Brotherhood designated as a terrorist organization.

The following year, Morsi’s defense minister, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, won the presidential election and was sworn into office.

“The basic challenge between the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of the Egyptian system was about our identity,” Fahmy told the WPC event.

“Are we Egyptians including some Muslim Brotherhood, or are we the Muslim Brotherhood that has some Egyptians? That’s an existential threat and that’s why the clash happened quickly. Not only political influencers, but also the middle class were actually against the form of government that was being formed by the Muslim Brotherhood when they came into power.”

Egypt’s deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi sists behind the defendants cage during a trial at the police academy court in Cairo on Nov. 5, 2014. (File/AFP)

The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan Al-Banna, and later spread throughout the Middle East into Sudan, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon and across North Africa, where its affiliates have had varying degrees of success.

“The Muslim Brotherhood was born in Egypt, so there will be some trends in Egypt. But the reality is, if you try to build for the future, then our youth want to be engaged in the world,” Fahmy said.

“A dogmatic ideology doesn’t fit Egypt. We need to engage with the world, and I think that ideology is a threat to modernity.

“The influence of the Brotherhood today in Egypt is highly diminished and the government, currently — whether one agrees or disagrees with some details of policy is irrelevant — is an activist government trying to respond to the basic, immediate needs of the people.”

Egypt’s greater emphasis on regional and global engagement has been evident in recent months. Besides recent talks with senior Iraqi and Syrian officials, Egypt has also made diplomatic headway with its rivals. “We have engaged in a dialogue with Turkey,” Fahmy said. “It’s slow, (so) don’t be overly optimistic.”

One diplomatic front where Egypt has made noteworthy progress in the last year is Libya, which in the past decade has become a haven for human smugglers and religious extremists.

During the same revolutionary wave that overthrew Mubarak, the Libyan people rose up against their long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi. However, a decade on from his downfall, the oil-rich country remains mired in chaos and political gridlock.

Since the two countries share a porous desert border, the extremists based in Libya have, time and again, succeeded in carrying out attacks against Egyptian security forces and Christians.

In recent months, Egypt has engaged with Libya’s feuding parties to ensure that national elections are held in December as scheduled. Cairo believes a fair and transparent election will help put its war-torn neighbor on the path to stability and recovery.

Fahmy says there has been good progress on the Libya issue, but he doubts the elections scheduled for Dec. 24 by the country’s recently installed Government of National Unity will go ahead as planned. “I would love to be proven wrong,” he said.

Fahmy is well regarded after his years as a career diplomat and academic. He is the founding dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and Distinguished University Professor of Practice in International Diplomacy at the American University in Cairo. He has dedicated many years of study to Arab-Israeli diplomacy, making him a leading authority on the peace process.

Last summer, the UAE became the first Arab country to sign the Abraham Accords, a series of US-brokered diplomatic agreements inked between Israel and Arab states. The Aug. 13, 2020 signing marked the first time an Arab country had publicly established relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat (L), Israeli Premier Menachem Begin (R) and US President Jimmy Carter (C) shake hands after a press conference in the East Room of the White House, on Sept. 17, 1978. (File/AFP)

Although the agreements have shown potential, critics say they have done little to bring the Palestinians any closer to statehood. And while several governments have embraced the accords, the normalization of ties with Israel has been harder to sell to Arab publics.

“You can’t overemphasize that the Palestinian issue, per se, is a very emotional issue throughout the Arab world and therefore reactions to it tend to be very strong in either way,” Fahmy said.

“My point is the following — and I have said this to my Palestinian colleagues — I understand your concern, I understand your fear, but focus on building your case rather than on criticizing somebody. Because, in the case of those who signed the accords, even if we don’t agree with them, they have all committed to helping establish and support a Palestinian state.

“So, my recommendation to Arabs: Be a bit sensitive in the steps you take. You will have to face that this is sensitive, you will get some criticism.

“I would tell my Arab colleagues, I would tell the Palestinians, come up with ideas on how to move forward politically, and don’t let the political process die.”

Mona Makram Abed with President El-Sisi, Dec. 4 2016. (Facebook)

Given Egypt’s renewed assertiveness on the regional stage, Fahmy hopes other Arab countries will follow Egypt’s lead and come to the negotiating table to speak frankly about the way forward. “Arabs are lovely in their ability to agree. Our problem is our inability to disagree,” he said.

“Let me seize this occasion to call on Egypt and the Arab countries: We should all speak much more about our vision for the future, for the region, and what we want to see for the Middle East as a whole in concrete terms.

“We don’t have to agree, but we need to engage in a dialogue and let’s see how much agreement and how much disagreement we have. Because allowing others to set the agenda is very dangerous.”


Houthi’s boat attacks pose threat to global trade lines at Red Sea

Houthi’s boat attacks pose threat to global trade lines at Red Sea
Updated 25 October 2021

Houthi’s boat attacks pose threat to global trade lines at Red Sea

Houthi’s boat attacks pose threat to global trade lines at Red Sea

DUBAI: The Houthi militia’s planned attacks using explosive-rigged boats in the Red Sea pose a threat to global maritime trade lines in the area, Yemen’s information, culture and tourism minister Moammar Al-Eryani warned.
The Arab coalition earlier said it destroyed four Houthi boats loaded with explosives during an airstrike in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.
The vessels were being prepared to attack ships sailing through the Red Sea.
“The coalition efforts have contributed to protecting shipping lanes and international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and south of (the) Red Sea,” the coalition said in a statement.
Al-Eryani also called on the international community as well as the UN and US envoys to Yemen to condemn the Houthis’ terroristic actions, which were aimed to destabilize regional and international security and maritime navigation.
Meanwhile, the KSrelief Center’s Demining Project in Yemen (MASAM) has defused 1,500 landmines and unexploded ordnances in the past week.
MASAM’s technical teams managed to remove 6 anti-personnel, 1,067 anti-tanks landmines, 483 unexploded explosive ordnances and one explosive device.
The landmines were rigged by Houthi fighters in different parts of Yemen, the center said.


Sudan general declares state of emergency after military coup

Sudan general declares state of emergency after military coup
Updated 26 sec ago

Sudan general declares state of emergency after military coup

Sudan general declares state of emergency after military coup
  • Special Representative of UN Secretary General for Sudan calls for immediate release of detained politicians
  • General says military will remain until transition of power after elections in 2023

RIYADH/KHARTOUM/CAIRO: Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the head of the Sovereign Council, on Monday declared a state of emergency in Sudan and announced the dissolution of the Sovereign Council and the transitional government following a military coup.

In a televised address, Burhan said the ongoing struggle between the transition partners was threatening the country’s safety and security and that the military needed to step in to protect it.

The military will continue with the democratic transition until the handover to a civilian-elected government once elections are held in July 2023, Burhan said.

Several people were earlier reported injured during clashes outside the Sudanese army headquarters after large crowds took to the streets on Monday to protest against a military coup deposing the government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Army General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan addressed the Sudanese people on Oct. 25, 2021, declaring a nationwide state of emergency. (AFP)

The coup comes despite an earlier agreement Hamdok reached with the head of the country’s ruling council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in the presence of US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman, Adam Harik told the Dubai-based channel.

Sudan’s information ministry said joint military forces detained civilian members of the country’s ruling body and a number of ministers within the transitional government.

“Civilian members of the transitional sovereign council and a number of ministers from the transitional government have been detained by joint military forces,” the ministry said in a statement on Facebook. “They have been led to an unidentified location.”

The military action has also sparked international concern, the Arab League warned against any measures that might shake stability in Sudan, TV news channel Al-Arabiya reported.

Sudan’s political leaders should be released and human rights respected, the African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement on Monday.

 

 

Thousands marched on Khartoum as the military coup took a hold of power.

Faki also added talks should be resumed between the military and the civilian wing of the trasnsitional government.

The head of the PM’s office Harik said they knew the coup would take place six weeks ago.

“The military establishment does not want to fulfill its obligations to hand over power,” he told Al-Arabiya during his phone interview.

Feltman met with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve a growing dispute.

In a video shared on social media, what appears to be gunshots can be heard as protesters continued their demonstrations.

Sudan’s Stat News website highlighted the meetings with military officials.

International reaction

Calling for calm, Saudi Arabia said it was following developments in Sudan with concern and called for a de-escalation in the current troubles and restraint.

The statement from the Kingdom continued, calling for the political and economic gains in Sudan to be preserved, adding that it continued in its support for the Sudanese people to achieve security and stability.

Volker Perthes, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan said: “I am deeply concerned about reports of an ongoing coup and attempts to undermine Sudan’s political transition.  The reported detentions of the Prime Minister, government officials and politicians are unacceptable. 

“I call on the security forces to immediately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest. It is the responsibility of these forces to ensure the security and wellbeing of people in their custody. 

“I urge all parties to exercise utmost restraint.  All parties must immediately return to dialogue and engage in good faith to restore the constitutional order.”

The British envoy to Sudan voiced Britain’s concern over the arrest of members of the government and the German foreign ministry called for an immediate end to the coup.

Meanwhile a UN official said they were also “deeply concerned” by the ongoing coup.

The US has expressed alarm at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government in Sudan.

On the official Twitter account of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, Feltman warned the military takeover would contravene Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration and put at risk US assistance to the country.

“The US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military take-over of the transitional government,” Feltman said.

“This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration (which outlines the transition) and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people,” he said, according to a statement on Twitter.

(AFP)

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been placed under house arrest and moved to an unidentified location with his wife.

Al Hadath TV earlier reported four cabinet ministers and a member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council  were among those arrested.

One of those arrested was Ali Al-Rayh Al-Sanhouri, secretary-general of the Sudanese Baath Party, Al-Sharq reported, quoting unnamed sources.

Multiple high profile arrests made

The report said Council of Sovereignty member Mohammed Al-Jawki was also under arrest, along with Minister of Cabinet Affairs Khaled Omar Yusuf.

Men in military uniform cut off the main roads leading to the capital, and state television was broadcasting patriotic songs.

There was no immediate comment from the military.

The Khartoum airport was shut and international flights were suspended, Al-Arabiya reported.

 

 

There was no announcement from the Sudanese government on the status of the airport.

Military forces also stormed the Sudanese radio and television headquarters in Omdurman and arrested employees, the information ministry said on its Facebook page.

Reacting to the developments, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, Sudan’s main pro-democratic political group, called on people to take to the streets to counter an apparent military coup. 

The association also said there were Internet and phone signal outages in the country.

Since August 2019, the country has been led by a 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 the anti-Bashir protests in 2019, 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 had told the Saturday press conference in Khartoum.

“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions – but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.

A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled autocratic former ruler Omar Al-Bashir in mass protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.

Last week, several cabinet ministers took part in big protests in several parts of the Khartoum and other cities against the prospect of military rule.

The military head of the Sovereign Council has previously asserted his commitment to the transition.

(With agencies and additional reporting by Ephrem Kossaify)