Sudan Forces Arrest Protest Leaders Who Met Ethiopia PM

Members of Sudan’s security forces patrol on June 6, 2019 in Khartoum./ AFP

 

Sudanese security forces have arrested two prominent rebels and an opposition leader, a day after they met the Ethiopian premier during his reconciliation mission to Khartoum, their aides said Saturday.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has emerged as a key regional leader, met representatives of both sides on Friday in a bid to revive talks between Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders after a deadly crackdown left dozens of people dead in the capital this week.

Among the protest movement delegates he met were opposition politician Mohamed Esmat and a leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), Ismail Jalab.

Sudanese security forces later arrested both men without giving any reason, their aides told AFP on Saturday.

Esmat was arrested on Friday soon after his meeting with Abiy.

Jalab was arrested from his residence early on Saturday.

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“A group of armed men came in vehicles at 3:00 am (1:00 GMT) and took away Ismail Jalab .. without giving any reason,” Jalab aide Rashid Anwar told AFP, adding that SPLM-N spokesman Mubarak Ardol was also detained.

“We don’t know where they are being held,” he added.

Esmat and Jalab are both leading members of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which brings together opposition parties and rebel groups with the organisers of the mass protests which have gripped Sudan since December last year.

The arrest of Jalab comes just days after the SPLM-N’s deputy leader, Yasir Arman, was seized from his home in Khartoum.

The rebel number two had only returned to Khartoum from exile late last month.

The SPLM-N has led uprisings among non-Arab ethnic minorities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states since 2011, that Sudan’s military rulers had vowed to end peacefully after their overthrow of longtime president Omar al-Bashir in April.

Ethiopian PM’s Rally Leaves Scores Injured

Supporters of Ethiopia Prime Minister attend a rally on Meskel Square in Addis Ababa on June 23, 2018. A blast at a rally in Ethiopia’s capital today in support of new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed killed several people, state media quoted the premier as saying. YONAS TADESE / AFP

 

Scores of people were hurt in a grenade blast at new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first mass rally in the capital that sent crowds fleeing in panic.

Abiy had just wrapped up his speech in the heart of Addis Ababa before tens of thousands of people when the explosion went off, sending droves of supporters towards the stage as the prime minister left hurriedly, an AFP correspondent said.

In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, Abiy said the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally but did not name them.

“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”

He said several people had been killed, but his chief of staff Fitsum Arega later said on Twitter that there were no deaths.

“As of now, based on reports from police and hospitals, 83 people are injured. Of the 83 injured, six are in critical condition. No death so far has been reported,” Arega said.

“Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack,” he added, vowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The AFP correspondent said the blast happened stage right from Abiy and sent up a small puff of black smoke.

More than 100 people then stormed the stage, hurling various objects at police, shouting: “Down, down Woyane,” and “Woyane thief”, using a pejorative term for the government, the AFP correspondent said.

Police later used tear gas to clear the area, while an AFP photographer saw two men and two women taken into custody on suspicion of being involved with the blast.

The rally in the central Meskel Square was Abiy’s first public speech in the capital since he took office in April, although he has made several in provincial areas.

In the past three months, Abiy has made major changes in Ethiopia including shaking up the security services, releasing jailed dissidents, moving to liberalise the economy and to resolve a two-decade conflict with arch-enemy Eritrea.

“Ethiopia will be on top again, and the foundations will be love, unity and inclusivity,” he declared, drressed in a green T-shirt and a hat.

 Opposition ends ‘armed resistance’ 

Abiy succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned in February amid a wave of anti-government protests led by the country’s two largest ethnicities, that started in late 2015 and left hundreds of people dead.

While it remains unclear how deep Abiy’s support runs within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), his actions thus far represent dramatic shifts in the power balance within Africa’s second-most populous country.

Political rallies of Saturday’s scale are rare in Ethiopia, where the EPRDF controls all seats in parliament and opposition parties complain of harassment.

But at the rally people openly displayed flags of banned groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front, an act that would usually result in arrest.

Abiy’s reforms have spurred some anti-government groups to seek rapprochement.

After the release of top official Andargachew Tsige in May, anti-government group Ginbot 7 announced on Friday it would cease armed attacks in the country, citing Abiy’s reform agenda.

AFP

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Desalegn Resigns Following Mass Protests

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has submitted a letter of resignation, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate station reported on Thursday.

 

The resignation of Hailemariam, in power since 2012, comes amid protracted anti-government protests and follows a nationwide state of emergency last year.

His stepping down from power is unprecedented in the vast East African country.

The letter was accepted by the executive committee of Hailemariam’s party, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), as well as the wider ruling coalition, The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), state-backed media said.

His resignation will be confirmed once the full EPRDF council meets.

In a short statement, Hailemariam said he was not quitting politics, but wanted to continue his work to reform Ethiopia.

“My decision is to be part of the ongoing reform programmes,” he said, according to Fana.

Hailemariam oversaw a smooth handover on the death of former Marxist rebel Meles Zenawi, turning the relatively little-known politician and technocrat to an influential leader.

However, in 2015, months of anti-government demonstrations spread across Ethiopia, leaving hundreds dead and prompting parliament to declare a 10-month state nationwide state of emergency in October 2016.

The emergency quelled the worst of the violence but periodic uprisings still occur.

This week disenchanted young men wielding sticks and rocks meanwhile blocked roads and businesses stayed shuttered in and around the capital Addis Ababa.

In a bid to ease tensions, the government last month began issuing a string of pardons and prisoner releases, after Hailemariam said jailed “politicians” would be released “to improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform”.

AFP