EXPLAINER: What does PM’s reinstatement mean for Sudan?

EXPLAINER: What does PM’s reinstatement mean for Sudan?
Sudanese protest against the military takeover, which upended the country’s fragile transition to democracy, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 23 November 2021

EXPLAINER: What does PM’s reinstatement mean for Sudan?

EXPLAINER: What does PM’s reinstatement mean for Sudan?

The reinstatement of Sudan’s prime minister after weeks under house arrest was the biggest concession made by the military since its Oct. 25 coup, but it leaves the country’s transition to democracy mired in crisis.
The military reached a deal with Abdalla Hamdok on Sunday that would reinstate him as the head of a new technocratic Cabinet ahead of eventual elections. But the agreement has angered Sudan’s pro-democracy movement, which accuses Hamdok of allowing himself to serve as a fig leaf for continued military rule.
Most of the international community has condemned the coup and called for a return to at least partial civilian rule. The United States suspended aid to the cash-strapped country as it slowly emerges from decades of isolation under President Omar Al-Bashir, who was overthrown amid mass protests in 2019.
The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, an umbrella group of Sudanese political parties and pro-democracy organizations, has rejected the deal and says it remains committed to ending military rule.
But the military is wary of handing power to civilians, which could leave top brass vulnerable to prosecution for human rights violations going back decades, or loosen the generals’ grip on lucrative sectors of the economy.
Here’s a look at what happened and what comes next:

Why did Sudan’s military reinstate the prime minister?
The military needed to do something.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan has come under mounting pressure since seizing full power on Oct. 25. Western, Arab and African nations have called for a return to civilian rule, and the US suspended $700 million in aid as it strongly condemned the coup.
Protesters have flooded the streets in the biggest demonstrations since those that ended Al-Bashir’s three-decade reign in 2019, and security forces have killed more than 40 demonstrators since the coup.
The generals have portrayed the reinstatement of Hamdok as a step toward stabilizing the country ahead of elections planned for July 2023, and the international community has cautiously welcomed the agreement. Sudan’s pro-democracy movement has angrily rejected the deal as legitimizing the coup and has vowed to keep mounting mass protests.

Does the reinstatement of Sudan’s prime minister reverse the coup?
No.
The military retains overall control, and by prescribing a technocratic Cabinet, the agreement further sidelines Sudan’s political parties and the pro-democracy protest movement.
“I don’t believe it’s possible for Hamdok’s government to function at all, because it doesn’t have recognition on the streets,” said Jihad Mashamoun, a Sudanese researcher and political analyst.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which led the protests against el-Bashir, condemned the latest agreement as an attempt to legitimize the coup. The local Resistance Committees, which have also played a key role in recent protests, are demanding that the military leave politics altogether.
The military says there will be no return to the power-sharing government that existed before Oct. 25, which was riven with internal rivalries. The coup came weeks before the military was supposed to hand over power to a civilian.
Nafisa Hajjar, a human rights lawyer and deputy head of the Sudanese Darfur Bar Association, says that as much as the installation of Hamdok under military oversight goes contrary to the demands of the protest movement, she believes that the generals’ use of force against demonstrators left the deposed premier little choice.
“This deal has now become the status quo,” she said.

What does the Sudanese military want?
At the very least, it wants to protect itself.
An elected government would likely seek to prosecute generals for human rights violations, including those committed during Al-Bashir’s scorched-earth campaigns against rebels in Darfur — for which the international criminal court charged him with genocide. They could also face charges over the killing of protesters in recent years.
The military also fears losing its hold on mining and other key economic sectors.
“Hamdok is in danger of being the man at the till in the grocery store selling soap, matches and snacks, while the drug dealers in the back room do the real deals,” said Alex de Waal, an expert on Sudan at Tufts University. “The coup was staged to protect the kleptocrats from the cleanup, and the army clearly intends the new formula to be a return to the money-laundering operation with a more respectable face.”

Where does the international community stand on Sudan?
The coup was widely criticized internationally, but the generals have influential friends.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cultivated close ties with Burhan since the uprising against Al-Bashir and likely see the generals as the best hope of maintaining a stable, friendly government in Khartoum.
The wealthy Gulf states view them as a bulwark against the influence of rivals like Turkey and Qatar. Egypt is hoping for Sudan’s support in its long-running dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of a massive upstream dam on the Nile.
Israel is also seen as a potential ally of the generals, who were the guiding force behind Sudan normalizing relations with it last year in exchange for removal from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. Hamdok had expressed concerns ahead of the normalization agreement, part of the so-called “Abraham Accords,” saying a foreign policy shift of that magnitude should only be signed by an elected government.
Israel’s Walla news website reported that an Israeli delegation met with Sudan’s generals days after the coup. The Israeli government has not commented on the coup or its aftermath.
“The US and its allies wanted a partnership, but the people don’t want a partnership at all, they want full civilian rule,” Mashamoun said. “The international community needs to listen to the people’s demands.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that the reinstatement of Hamdok is a necessary first step, but suggested the generals would need to do more before US aid will be unfrozen.

Is there any hope for Sudan’s democratic transition?
There appear to be two paths to democracy, both of them fraught.
Hamdok can work with the generals to pave the way for elections, potentially leveraging his position and international support to get the political transition back on track. But that likely means a return to the tug-of-war of the last two years, which embittered both sides.
The pro-democracy movement has vowed to keep up the street protests until the military hands over power to civilians. But the generals have a lot to lose, and a prolonged standoff could ignite wider unrest.
“The result might be democracy, but more likely it would be state fragmentation. So a compromise is needed,” de Waal said. The compromise restoring Hamdok “isn’t a very good one, but there may be chances to improve upon it.”
Hajjar, the lawyer, also envisages two scenarios. In one, if the generals remain true to their promises, it could eventually lead the country toward an elected government. The other leads to more unrest.
“If the main idea of the agreement between Hamdok and Burhan is making the military look more presentable in front of the international community, then the streets will not be quiet and there will be more protests,” she said.


UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice

UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice
Updated 12 sec ago

UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice

UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice
  • At least 11 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in their sleep on Friday by suspected Daesh gunmen

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned “in the strongest terms” a recent terrorist attack in Iraq’s Diyala Province, and called for all “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism” to be brought to justice.
At dawn on Friday, Jan. 21, at least 11 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in their sleep during an attack on their barracks by suspected Daesh gunmen, according to reports citing Iraqi security officials. It happened in the Al-Azim district, a mountainous area more than 70 miles north of the capital, Baghdad.
The Security Council urged all states to actively cooperate with the Iraqi Government in seeking to hold the perpetrators to account, in line with their obligations under international law and the council’s resolutions. It reiterated that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
In a joint statement, council members reaffirmed that “any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
They highlighted the need for all states “to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”
Council members also shared “their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the government of Iraq, and they wished a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured.”


Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert

Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert
Updated 25 min 10 sec ago

Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert

Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert
  • More than 700 child citizens of 57 countries, including France, Germany, the UK and the US, are detained at Al-Ghuwayran prison, which holds Daesh militants and their families
  • Fighting continues at the prison, where almost 300 detainees have been killed since a deadly jailbreak attempt by hundreds of Daesh insurgents began last week

NEW YORK: A UN human rights expert on Tuesday voiced serious concern for the well-being of more than 700 children incarcerated at Al-Ghuwayran prison, in Al-Hasakeh in northeast Syria, and called on all countries to repatriate their young citizens held in the country.
The prison was the scene of a deadly attempted jailbreak by hundreds of Daesh insurgents last week.
“Boys as young as 12 are living in fear for their lives amid the chaos and carnage in the jail,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN’s special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
“They are tragically being neglected by their own countries through no fault of their own except they were born to individuals allegedly linked or associated with designated terrorist groups.
“The treatment of hundreds of boys who have been detained in grotesque prison conditions is an affront to the dignity of the child and the right of every child to be treated with dignity.”
Almost 300 detainees have been killed during days of fighting at Al-Ghuwayran, which began last Thursday with the detonation of two car bombs. Clashes are continuing at the prison, which holds more than 5,000 alleged Daesh militants from almost 60 countries. The insurgents had seized control of the children’s section of the facility.
Fighters from the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces are said to be closing in on the final section of prison still held by Daesh attackers, as the situation becomes increasingly worrying for inmates.
Humanitarian groups have renewed calls for all governments to repatriate their citizens from Syria.
“The abject refusal of states to repatriate their children is a contributory factor in the security and human rights morass that has ignited in Al-Hasakeh in recent days,” said Ni Aolain, who last year sent official letters to 57 governments of countries believed to have citizens in Syrian camps. They include France, Germany, the UK, Finland and the US.
The failure of governments to repatriate detained children, who are victims of terrorism and in need of protection under international law, “beggars belief,” Ni Aolain said.
“Many of these boys, forcibly separated from their mothers and family members in recent years, have been denied their most fundamental human rights their entire lives,” she added.
“They have been held arbitrarily and never participated in any legal process that would justify depriving them of their liberty, and in conditions that constitute torture, cruel and degrading treatment under international law.
“Treating boys as a distinct class, refusing to recognize in practice their rights as children, is a form of gender discrimination that has had horrific consequences for these children now caught up in the violent confrontation at Al-Hasakeh prison.”
Ni Aolain called on all states and other entities active in northeastern Syria to ensure that civilians are protected, and for those involved in regaining control of the prison to protect the children held there and prevent further harm coming to them.
Special rapporteurs are independent experts who serve in individual capacities, and on a voluntary basis, on the UN’s Human Rights Council. They are not members of UN staff and are not paid for their work.


Opposition group estimates 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in Iran

In the worst-hit province, Tehran, the PMOI said 116,735 people had lost their lives to COVID-19. (WANA/File Photo)
In the worst-hit province, Tehran, the PMOI said 116,735 people had lost their lives to COVID-19. (WANA/File Photo)
Updated 42 min 18 sec ago

Opposition group estimates 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in Iran

In the worst-hit province, Tehran, the PMOI said 116,735 people had lost their lives to COVID-19. (WANA/File Photo)
  • People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran claim 499,800 have died in country from COVID-19
  • Official Iranian figures show 132,274 virus-related deaths, still highest in region

LONDON: An Iranian opposition group operating within and outside the Islamic republic has released figures claiming nearly half-a-million people have died from COVID-19 in the country.

According to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, more than 499,800 virus-related deaths had occurred in Iran, almost four times the latest official toll of 132,274.

In the worst-hit province, Tehran, the PMOI said 116,735 people had lost their lives to COVID-19.

Even by official figures, Iran is the worst-hit country in the Middle East, with deaths and hospitalizations far exceeding those of its neighbors. It was also the first country in the region where the virus was detected.

Official sources have reported that Iran was currently experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19, with a rising number of cases being linked to the highly transmissible omicron variant.

On Monday, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency, the secretary of Iran’s epidemiologist committee said: “If we reimpose all the restrictions today, and if people fully abide by these regulations, the number of our patients will still reach five figures. More than 50 percent of the coronavirus cases are of omicron.”

And the spokesman for Isfahan University of Medical Sciences said: “Omicron has become the main variant in (Isfahan) province. During the past week the number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases has reached more than 1,500 cases.”

Also on Monday, ISNA reported that the dean of Kerman University of Medical Sciences said: “Expect omicron to flare up in the not-so-distant future. The number of positive coronavirus cases has increased from 30 to 50 percent. Therefore, the alarm bell has sounded.”

Iran’s COVID-19 outbreak has been blamed in some quarters on regime incompetence and Tehran prioritizing ideology over effective response.

Last year, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banned the import of British and American-made vaccines, significantly hindering the country’s vaccination drive and, critics have said, causing more deaths.

In August, Dr. Mohammed-Reza Zafarghandi, chairman of Iran’s non-governmental licensing and regulatory Medical Council, criticized the vaccine ban, and said: “Mortality has significantly dropped in countries where they vaccinated the population without any limits and setting (political) borders.

“Will those who said vaccine imports should be restricted be accountable today?”


Iran nuclear talks approaching dangerous impasse — UK’s Truss

Iran nuclear talks approaching dangerous impasse — UK’s Truss
Updated 50 min 4 sec ago

Iran nuclear talks approaching dangerous impasse — UK’s Truss

Iran nuclear talks approaching dangerous impasse — UK’s Truss
  • Truss also held a phone call with the US secretary of state to discuss Iran nuclear talks in Vienna

LONDON: Talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran are approaching a dangerous impasse, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday.
“This negotiation is urgent and progress has not been fast enough. We continue to work in close partnership with our allies but the negotiations are reaching a dangerous impasse,” Truss told parliament.
“Iran must now choose whether it wants to conclude a deal or be responsible for the collapse of the JCPOA (nuclear deal). And if the JCPOA collapses, all options are on the table.” 
Truss also held a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss how to reach a successful conclusion on talks with Iran on mutual return to implementation of the nuclear deal, the US State Department said.
Her comments come a day after a senior member of the US team negotiating with Iran has left the role amid a report of differences of opinion on the way forward, as the urgency to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal intensifies.
A State Department official confirmed on Monday that Richard Nephew, US Deputy Special Envoy for Iran, is no longer on the negotiating team, but was still a State Department employee. The official did not give a reason for the change but said personnel moves were ‘very common’ a year into an administration.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Nephew left after differences of opinion within the US negotiating team on Iran. The paper said he had advocated a tougher posture in the current negotiations.
Iran for the first time Monday said it was open to direct nuclear negotiations with the United States, which declared itself ready to hold talks “urgently” — in a possible turning point in efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.
Tehran has been engaged since last year in talks with the five other world powers still part of the agreement, which offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
After unilaterally withdrawing in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump, Washington has been taking part indirectly in the Vienna negotiations, which seek to bring the United States back into the nuclear accord and ensure Iran returns to its commitments.
But Washington has said on multiple occasions it would prefer to hold direct talks, and on Monday Iran’s foreign minister said his country would consider doing so if it proved the key to a “good agreement” to salvage the floundering deal.
“If during the negotiation process we get to a point that reaching a good agreement with solid guarantees requires a level of talks with the US, we will not ignore that in our work schedule,” said Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
(With Reuters and AFP)


Egyptian, Algerian presidents hold talks in Cairo

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on January 24, 2022 in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on January 24, 2022 in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2022

Egyptian, Algerian presidents hold talks in Cairo

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on January 24, 2022 in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
  • Tebboune hails ‘complete consensus of visions, points of view’
  • El-Sisi cites agreement on Libya, water security, Palestinian state

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday expressed their agreement on the need to hold simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya.

During a joint press conference in Cairo, Tebboune said his talks with El-Sisi represented “a complete consensus of visions and points of view.”

El-Sisi said the talks included the issue of “water security,” adding that “our visions coincided with the need to reach a comprehensive agreement on the Renaissance Dam” in Ethiopia, which threatens to reduce Egypt’s and Sudan’s shares of Nile water.

El-Sisi said he and Tebboune also agreed on the need for foreign fighters to leave Libya “in a way that achieves security” for the country and its people.

Egypt’s president added that they held “intensive and constructive discussions that dealt with international and regional issues,” and “reflected the common will to strengthen all frameworks of cooperation between the two countries … taking into account confronting and rejecting foreign interference in the region.”

He said they also agreed on the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.

El-Sisi wished Algeria success in its presidency of the upcoming Arab Summit.