US Picks Ambassador To Sudan For First Time In 23 Years

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (L), D-NY, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 4, 2019.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

The United States said Wednesday it would name an ambassador to Sudan for the first time in 23 years as it welcomed the country’s new reformist civilian leader.

The United States hailed early steps taken by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to “break with the policies and practices of the previous regime,” which had tense relations with the West.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would appoint an ambassador to Khartoum, subject to Senate confirmation, and that Sudan would restore full-level representation in Washington.

“This is a historic step to strengthen our bilateral relationship,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

In an accompanying statement, Pompeo praised Hamdok’s civilian-led transitional government for launching “vast reforms.”

Hamdok has “demonstrated a commitment to peace negotiations with armed opposition groups, established a commission of inquiry to investigate violence against protestors, and committed to holding democratic elections at the end of the 39-month transition period,” Pompeo said.

Hamdok, a British-educated former diplomat and UN official, is the first Sudanese leader to visit Washington since 1985.

However, he had a low-key welcome, meeting the State Department number-three, David Hale, as well as lawmakers. Both Pompeo and President Donald Trump were away on foreign travel.

Hamdok took charge in August after months of demonstrations led by young people that brought down veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir and then a military council that had tried to stay in power.

The protests were triggered by discontent over the high cost of bread and other economic concerns.

The United States had tense relation with Bashir, who took power in 1989 and embraced Islamism, including welcoming Al-Qaeda leader Osama in Laden.

In one legacy that still tarnishes relations, the United States classifies Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that the new government calls a severe impediment to foreign investment.

US officials, while voicing sympathy for Sudan’s appeals, say that removal of the designation is a legal process that will take time.

Tensions also soared over Bashir’s scorched-earth crackdown in the parched western region of Darfur, a campaign that the United States described as genocide as it urged prosecution of Bashir.

In a sign of the poor relations, the United States has been represented in Khartoum by a charge d’affaires rather than a full ambassador.

AFP

Corruption: Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir To Know Fate On Dec. 14

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses parliament in the capital Khartoum on April 1, 2019 in his first such speech since he imposed a state of emergency across the country on February 22. al-Bashir has since been ousted and is now on trial. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

The verdict in the corruption trial of Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir is to be delivered on December 14, a judge announced Saturday, as his supporters staged a  protest outside the court.

Bashir, who was overthrown by the army in April, has been on trial in a Khartoum court since August on charges of illegally acquiring and using foreign funds — offences that could land him behind bars for more than a decade.

Several hearings have been held, including one on Saturday, in the presence of the deposed leader who followed the proceedings from inside a metal cage.

“It has been decided that on December 14 a session will be held to deliver the verdict,” judge Sadeq Abdelrahman said.

Authorities seized 6.9 million euros, $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds ($128,000) from Bashir’s home, Abdelrahman said at the start of the trial in August.

Bashir said at the time that the funds were the remainder of $25 million received from Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The aid, he said, formed part of Sudan’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and were “not used for private interests but as donations”.

Several defence witnesses testified in court, some backing up Bashir’s account.

Against the backdrop of trial in Khartoum, calls have grown from global rights groups, activists and victims of the war in Darfur to transfer Bashir to The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

‘No, No to ICC’

Bashir is wanted by the ICC for his alleged role in the Darfur war that broke out in 2003 as ethnic African rebels took up arms against Bashir’s then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region economically and politically.

Khartoum applied what rights groups say was a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The ICC has accused Bashir of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the vast western region of Darfur. He denies the charges.

About 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

On Saturday, dozens of Bashir’s supporters carrying his portraits held a protest outside the court, vowing to oppose any move by Sudan’s new authorities to hand him over to the ICC.

“We are with you. We will never betray you. No, no to ICC,” chanted the crowd as the former president was brought to the courthouse for the hearing.

“President Bashir represents the whole of Sudan. We have an independent judiciary and if any trials are to be held, they must be held here,” said demonstrator Mohamed Ali Daklai.

“We reject any outside or foreign tribunal. ICC is anyway a political court used by Western countries to pressure the weak.”

Bashir was ousted following nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.

The army generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand 75-year-old Bashir over to the ICC.

 

AFP

Sudan Rape Victims Insist Al-Bashir Must Face ICC Trial

Sudan's Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir
Sudan’s Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir

 

 

For Jamal Ibrahim, whose sisters were raped by militiamen in Darfur, only the handover of Sudan’s ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court can bring peace to the restive Darfur region.

“Two of my sisters were raped in front of my eyes by militiamen who stormed through our village, setting our houses on fire,” Ibrahim, 34, told AFP at Camp Kalma, a sprawling facility where tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur have lived for years.

“Bashir and his aides who committed the crimes in Darfur must be handed over to the ICC if peace is to be established in the region.”

Ibrahim, who is from Mershing in the mountainous Jebel Marra area of Darfur, said his village was attacked by Arab militiamen in March 2003 soon after conflict erupted in the region.

The fighting broke out when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Khartoum’s then Arab-dominated government under Bashir, alleging racial discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, a group of mostly Arab raiding nomads that it recruited and armed to create a militia of gunmen who were often mounted on horses or camels.

They have been accused of applying a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The brutal campaign earned Bashir and others arrest warrants from The Hague-based ICC for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, the United Nations says.

 ‘Won’t accept any peace deal’ 

Bashir, who denies the ICC charges, was ousted by the army in April after months of nationwide protests against his ironfisted rule of three decades.

He is currently on trial in Khartoum on charges of corruption, but war victims like Ibrahim want the ex-leader to stand trial at the ICC, something the northeast African country’s new authorities have so far resisted.

Ibrahim said his father and his uncle were shot dead when militiamen, riding on camels, rampaged through their village.

“We fled from there… and came to this camp. Since then we have not returned to our village,” Ibrahim told an AFP correspondent who visited Camp Kalma last week.

Established near Niyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur state, Camp Kalma is one of the largest facilities hosting people displaced by the conflict.

It is a sprawling complex of dusty tracks lined with mud and brick structures, including a school, a medical centre and a thriving market, where everything from clothes to mobile phones are sold.

Hundreds of thousands of Darfur victims live in such camps, subsisting on aid provided by the UN and other international organisations.

In Camp Kalma, hundreds of women and children queue up daily to collect their monthly quota of food aid.

“Often the officials here tell us that we must return to our village, but we can’t because our lands are occupied by others,” said a visibly angry Amina Mohamed, referring to Arab pastoralists who now occupy large swathes of land that previously belonged to people from Darfur.

“We won’t accept any peace deal unless we get back our land. We will leave this camp only when those who committed the crimes are taken to the ICC.”

 Unconvinced victims 

Even as instances of violence in Darfur, a region the size of Spain, have fallen in recent years, there are still regular skirmishes between militiamen fighting for resources and livestock.

Sudan’s new transitional authorities have vowed to bring peace to Darfur and two other conflict zones of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A Sudanese delegation led by generals and government officials is currently holding peace talks in the South Sudan capital of Juba with two umbrella rebel groups that fought Bashir’s forces in these three regions.

On Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a “permanent ceasefire” in the three regions to show that authorities are committed to establishing peace.

But residents of Camp Kalma are not convinced, with hundreds of them staging a protest against the talks in Juba.

Musa Adam, 59, who hails from the village of Dilej but has lived in Camp Kalma for years, is in no mood to forgive Bashir.

Seven members of his family were shot dead by militiamen when they raided his village in 2003, Adam said.

“I know those militia leaders… I am ready to testify at the ICC against them as a witness to their crimes,” he said.

“Until these criminals are taken to the ICC, we cannot have peace in Darfur.”

AFP

Sudan Cholera Cases Surge To 124

 

Sudan said on Thursday that the number of cases of cholera reported in the country have surged to 124, most of them in the war-torn state of Blue Nile.

The health ministry said the disease had been reported in the states of Blue Nile and Sinnar.

Of a total of 124 cases reported so far, 101 were in Blue Nile and the remaining in Sinnar, the ministry said in a statement.

Experts from the World Health Organization have been sent to the two regions, the ministry said.

Last week, the ministry reported four cases of cholera in Blue Nile.

It also said that three deaths from acute diarrhoea had also been reported in Blue Nile.

WHO at the time said it was working closely with health authorities in Blue Nile to tackle cholera cases there.

A WHO official in Sudan warned cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases could spread if no action was taken, due to “suboptimal health conditions” as well as poor water and sewage infrastructure, exacerbated by floods.

Dozens of people died from acute diarrhoea in Sudan in 2016 after thousands of cases were reported nationwide.

Blue Nile state, which has a large ethnic minority population, has been the focus of a rebellion by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North since 2011.

The army declared a ceasefire after the  overthrow of veteran president Omar al-Bashir earlier this year.

AFP

Amnesty International Demands Justice For Victims Of Sudan Violence

Secretary-General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo speaks during a press conference in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on September 13, 2019.
Ebrahim HAMID / AFP

 

Rights group Amnesty International Friday called for justice for those killed during months of protests that rocked Sudan, insisting that demonstrators had faced “disproportionate and unnecessary” violence.

Sudan has experienced unprecedentedly large rallies since December, first against now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir and later against the generals who seized power after overthrowing him.

The protest movement says that more than 250 demonstrators were killed in the violence, including at least 127 in a crackdown on a sit-in during early June outside military headquarters in Khartoum.

“Amnesty International thanks the people of Sudan for showing us courage, for showing us resilience and for showing that we can resist injustice and violation of human rights,” Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo told reporters during a visit to Khartoum, in the first such trip by the rights group’s chief to Sudan.

He said the demonstrators were confronted by “disproportionate use of violence, unnecessary use of violence and provocative use of violence”.

READ ALSO: South African Protesters Demand Crackdown On Femicide

“Amnesty International will back the Sudanese people in calling on the new government to ensure that there are absolute accountability and justice” for the families of those killed.

Protests first erupted in December against the then government’s decision to triple the price of bread.

They swiftly escalated into a nationwide campaign against Bashir’s ironfisted three-decade rule.

The army ousted Bashir on April 11 but protesters continued their street campaign, switching it against the military council that overthrow him.

In August, Sudan embarked on a transition to civilian rule thanks to a power-sharing deal signed between protest leaders and the generals, and a joint civilian-military ruling body was sworn in.

On Sunday, an 18-member cabinet was sworn in, the first since the ouster of Bashir.

AFP

Olympic Qualifier: Nigeria Thrash Sudan In Second Leg Comeback

The Olympic Eagles during a match with Sudan at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba in Delta State. Nigeria won 5-0.

 

 

Nigeria have beaten Sudan in the second leg of the CAF U-23 AFCON qualifier ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Olympic Eagles thrashed their rivals 5-0 in the on Tuesday at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, the Delta State capital.

With the victory, the U-23 AFCON defending champions have qualified 5-1 on aggregate after they lost the first leg in Sudan 1-0.

READ ALSO: Tribunal Sacks Senate’s Spokesman Adeyeye, Declares Olujimi Winner

During the thrilling game in Asaba, Taiwo Awoniyi opened the scoring after nine minutes, when he headed home off a rebound.

Ndifreke Effiong doubled the home team’s lead on 26 minutes with a powerful header just before the Akwa United midfielder completed his brace before halftime.

Substitute Sunday Faleye extended the lead to 4-0 with almost his first touch of the ball while Sunusi Ibrahim slotted in the fifth goal for Nigeria.

The victory means that Nigeria has also qualified for the 2019 U-23 AFCON in Egypt.

Two Aid Workers Killed In ‘Ambush’ In Western Ethiopia

 

 

Two staff members with Action Against Hunger have been shot dead by unidentified “armed individuals” in western Ethiopia, the aid group said.

Action Against Hunger said the aid workers were “ambushed” on Thursday while leaving Nguenyyiel Refugee Camp in the Gambella region.

The camp hosts tens of thousands of refugees from neighbouring South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since 2013.

“Two employees were killed at the scene,” Action Against Hunger said late on Thursday.

“Action Against Hunger has suspended full operations in Gambella, but are maintaining the provision of life-saving assistance.”

READ ALSO: Zimbabwe Ex-President Robert Mugabe Dies Aged 95

The international humanitarian group also said it was “coordinating with the authorities who are investigating this attack.”

The office of the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Ethiopia condemned the attack.

“Attacks on aid workers in clearly marked humanitarian vehicles constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,” it said in a statement.

Neither Action Against Hunger nor the UN provided details in their statements on the nationalities of the dead or if there were any injured.

‘My Entire Home Is Destroyed’, Sudan Villagers Lament Over Nile Floods

 

Days after a devastating flood swallowed up his village, Alsediq Abdelqader bulled his truck through the waters in a desperate attempt to locate his small house north of the Sudanese capital.

Flash floods from the Nile inundated his home last week in Wad Ramli village on the eastern river bank, expelling him and his family who managed to clamber aboard a ferry to the nearest dry land.

His drive through the flash floods was not easy as he had to avoid floating mattresses, house appliances and broken tree branches.

“My entire home is destroyed,” said the 57-year-old. “I have lived all my life in this village and I have never seen a flood like this before.”

“I’m struggling to recognise my house and trying to identify it, as some others have done, by the trees around it.”

His home is among thousands destroyed or damaged by the floods that struck at least 15 states, affecting nearly 200,000 people across Sudan.

The worst hit area was White Nile state in the south.

About 62 people were killed and nearly 100 injured overall, said the official SUNA news agency quoting a health ministry official as saying the crisis “did not reach the level of being declared a disaster.”

Volunteers and aid workers immediately rushed to Wad Ramli when the savage floods hit.

Authorities dispatched lorries and boats to wade through the thick water to rescue families and salvage their furniture and valuables.

But Abdelqader was among the less fortunate, unable to find their belongings.

“I have not managed to recover any of my furniture or belongings. My family is now staying with relatives in a nearby village,” said Abdelqader.

‘Mosquitoes Everywhere’

On the main road outside Wad Ramli, piles of sodden furniture are strewn about as homeless families shelter in dozens of make-shift tents.

The crisis comes as Sudan ushers in a political transition to civilian rule.

A prime minister and a civilian majority ruling body are to oversee a three-year transitional period following the ouster of veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

On Friday, the newly-appointed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited Wad Ramli and gave directives to intensify aid efforts.

The UN says the crisis is expected to drag on until October.

“We have not been able to survey the number of houses affected in Wad Ramli due to the rising water levels,” said Farouk Ahmed, supervisor of a Red Crescent aid team.

He estimates the village alone had about 6,000 residents.

And as Wad Ramli inhabitants reel from the floods, residents of nearby villages are bracing themselves for water levels to keep rising.

In Wawesi Gharb village, about half a kilometre (500 yards), 35-year-old farmer Sami Ali says he is running out of ways to roll back the water threat.

“We placed piles of sandbags around houses to reduce the damage in case we were flooded especially after the water surrounded our village from all sides,” he said.

Another resident, 24-year-old Hozeifa al-Ser, expressed fear of an outbreak of diseases especially as “mosquitoes and flies are hovering everywhere”.

‘We Will Go Back’

Mobile health clinics were set up outside the village to serve Wad Ramli but aid workers say medicine and food are in short supply.

In the tents, hundreds of villagers are pondering ways return to their lives.

Along with her two sisters and their families, Nafisa al-Saeed said they plan to go back home after the water recedes.

“We lived in this village all our lives. We will have to go back and rebuild our houses. Authorities just have to build flood barriers but we will not leave this place,” she said.

But 19-year-old Shehab al-Din Mohamed says he lost his documents and identification cards as well as university application papers.

“The academic year will start soon and I have no idea how I would submit my documents after I lost everything,” he said.

“It seems like we will be living here (in the tent) until October, and I have no idea what to do.”

Sudan Sovereign Council Chairman Sworn In

 

Sudan was taking further steps in its transition towards civilian rule Wednesday with the swearing in of a new sovereign council and the appointment of a prime minister.

The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

The first steps of the transition after the mass celebrations that marked the August 17 adoption of a transitional constitution proved difficult however.

The names of the joint civilian-military sovereign council’s 11 members were eventually announced late Tuesday after differences within the opposition camp held up the process for two days.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the chairman of the new sovereign council shortly after 11:00 am (0900 GMT), state news agency SUNA reported.

He will be Sudan’s head of state for the first 21 months of the 39-month transition period, until a civilian takes over for the remainder.

The council’s 10 other members are expected to be sworn in later Wednesday and Abdalla Hamdok, who was chosen by the opposition last week to be prime minister, is also due to take office.

The sovereign council includes two women, including a member of Sudan’s Christian minority, and it will oversee the formation of a government and of a legislative body.

End of isolation?

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding its pariah status.

Sudan’s new rulers are expected to push for the lifting of the suspension from the African Union that followed a deadly crackdown on a sit-in in June.

The ruling council will also seek to have the country removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his role in massacres in the Darfur region, where a rebellion broke out in 2003.

He appeared in court on Monday — but only on charges of corruption for the opening of a trial in which an investigator said the deposed leader admitted to receiving millions in cash from Saudi Arabia.

Pictures of the 75-year-old autocrat sitting in a cage during the hearing instantly became a symbol of his Islamist military regime’s downfall.

The sight of their former tormentor in the dock was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Sudanese but many warned the graft trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces before the ICC.

“The evidence he committed genocide should come forward… Many civilians inside and outside Sudan have died because of him and he should face justice,” one resident, Alhaj Adam, told AFP.

It’s the economy

Sudan’s transitional authorities would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of the former military ruler to The Hague.

Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable within the protest camp that brought about one of the most significant moments in Sudan’s modern history.

One reason is the omnipresence in the transition of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a member of the sovereign council and a paramilitary commander whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

His Rapid Support Forces sprang out of the Janjaweed militia notorious for alleged crimes in Darfur.

Pacifying a country still plagued by deadly unrest in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile will be one of the most urgent tasks of Sudan’s transitional institutions.

The other daunting challenge that awaits the fragile civilian-military alliance is the rescue of an economy that has all but collapsed in recent years.

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December 2018 that sparked the wave of protests fatal to Bashir’s regime.

Corruption Trial: Bashir Accused Of Receiving $90m From Saudi Arabia

Omar Al-Bashir

 

Omar al-Bashir received $90 million in cash from Saudi royals, an investigator told a court at the opening Monday of the deposed Sudanese strongman’s corruption trial.

The former president, who was forced from power by months of protests in April after 30 years in power, sat in a metal cage wearing a traditional white gown.

His relatives chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) as proceedings got under way in the Khartoum court where he arrived in a huge military convoy.

Bashir faces a raft of charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court over his role in the Darfur war but Monday’s trial is over graft allegations.

Large amounts of cash were found at this residence after he was toppled and the investigator said the case brought forward to the court probed some of that money.

“The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25 million sent to him by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget,” investigator Ahmed Ali said.

According to him Bashir had said he also received two previous payments of $35 million and $30 million from Saudi King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

“This money was not part of the state budget and I was the one who authorised its spending,” the investigator quoted Bashir as saying.

Bashir had said the Saudi money was exchanged and spent and that he could not remember how nor did he have documents providing further details, he added.

Bashir looked calm during the nearly three-hour session, which an AFP photographer and correspondent attended. The next hearing was scheduled for August 24.

 Darfur crimes 

In May, Sudan’s prosecutor general also said Bashir had been charged over killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.

London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International has warned however that the corruption trial should not distract from his Darfur indictments.

“While this trial is a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty urged the country’s new transitional institutions to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute, a move that would allow for his transfer to the international tribunal.

The Hague-based ICC has for years demanded that Bashir stand trial, and has renewed its call since his fall.

The head of Bashir’s defence team, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, said in July that the ousted leader’s trial had no “political background”.

“It is an absolute criminal case with a baseless accusation.”

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December that sparked the mushrooming protests which led to the toppling of Bashir by the army in April.

The trial comes as the composition of the joint civilian and military sovereign council that will steer the country of 40 million through a 39-month transition was due to be unveiled on Monday.

The line-up had been expected to be announced on Sunday but it was delayed after one of the five nominees put forward by the opposition alliance representing protest leaders turned down the job.

The Transitional Military Council which took over from Bashir and will be dissolved by the creation of the sovereign said the announcement had been delayed at the request of the opposition.

The composition of the new body is now expected on Tuesday.

The ruling sovereign council will be composed of 11 members including six civilians and five from the military.

It will be headed by a general for the first 21 months and by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.

The council will oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration including a cabinet and a legislative body.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status the Darfur atrocities and Bashir’s international arrest warrant had conferred on it.

Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable however within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan’s modern history.

One of its main causes is the omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a paramilitary commander and one of the signatories of the documents, whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

And it remains unclear how the transitional institutions will tackle the daunting task of pacifying a country plagued by several conflicts, including in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

AFP

Sudan To Launch Historic Transition To Civilian Rule

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 21, 2019, Sudanese activist Eythar Gubara (L), walks in front of a mural painting of Mohamed Mattar, on the wall of a youth club in Bahri in the capital Khartoum’s northern district. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

 

Sudan’s military rulers and protest leaders on Saturday are scheduled to sign a landmark deal reached after a bloody uprising which is meant to pave the way for civilian rule.

The ceremony will officialise a constitutional declaration inked on August 4 between the country’s Transitional Military Council and the opposition coalition of the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The deal brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilise against president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.

The deal brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides, with protesters celebrating what they saw as the victory of their “revolution” and generals taking credit for averting civil war.

While the compromise meets several of the protest camp’s key demands, its terms leave the military with ample powers and its future civilian government with dauting challenges.

With Saturday’s official signing of the transitional documents, Sudan will kick off a process that will include important immediate first steps.

The composition of the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council is to be announced Sunday, followed two days later by the naming of a prime minister.

On Thursday, protest leaders agreed to nominate former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister.

The veteran economist, who stepped down last year as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa, is to be formally selected on August 20, a statement said.

The cabinet is to be unveiled on August 28, with the newly-appointed ministers due to meet the sovereign council on September 1 for the first time.

Elections must be held after the 39-month transitional period that began on August 4.

– Just paper? –

Until then, the country of 40 million people will be ruled by the 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.

However, the interior and defence ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.

The move towards civilian rule could lead the African Union to lift a suspension slapped on Sudan in June after a bloody crackdown on a sit-in in Khartoum.

The legislative body to be formed within three months will be at least 40 percent female, reflecting the significant role played by women in the protest movement.

The paramilitary force and intelligence services blamed for some of the worst abuses under Bashir and against the protesters are to be brought under the authority of the army and sovereign council respectively.

With many issues still unaddressed, however, observers warn that describing the latest events as ‘successful regime change’ would be premature.

“Political dynamics will matter more than pieces of paper,” said Rosalind Marsden from London’s Chatham House think tank.

“The biggest challenge facing the government will be dismantling the Islamist deep state… which took control of all state institutions and key sectors of the economy, including hundreds of businesses owned by the military-security apparatus.”

– Whitewashing –

The rise of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and became deputy head of the military council that seized power from Bashir — as Sudan’s new military strongman is causing some concern.

He has close ties to Gulf monarchies, has amassed huge wealth since wresting control of gold mines in western Sudan and was a leader of the infamous Janjaweed militia accused of a genocidal campaign in the Darfur region.

The fate of deposed ruler Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over Darfur, is also unclear.

He is due to appear in a Khartoum court on corruption charges on Saturday.

Some within the protest camp feel the power-sharing deal did not do enough to curb the powers of the military and guarantee justice for demonstrators killed by security forces.

The whitewashing in recent days of walls that bore some of the many murals painted during the protests has been seen as a bad omen.

“The signals we are getting tell us that there is no real change, no real freedom,” graffiti artist Lotfy Abdel Fattah told AFP.

Various rebel groups from marginalised regions such as Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan will be absent from Saturday’s ceremony.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front that unites these movements backed the protest movement but rejected the constitutional declaration, demanding representation in the government and more guarantees on peace talks.

AFP

Sudan’s Muslims Mark First Post-Bashir Eid With Muted Celebrations

Sudanese Muslims buy livestock at a market in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on August 11, 2019, as they mark their first Eid Al-Adha feast without Omar al-Bashir as a ruler in three decades. 
Jean Marc MOJON / AFP

 

As Muslims in Khartoum marked their first Eid al-Adha feast without Omar al-Bashir as a ruler in three decades, the mood was upbeat on Sunday but the menu stayed frugal.

Months of bloody anti-regime protests created a historic opportunity for civilian rule in Sudan but also saw prices soar, putting a damper on celebrations.

In Khartoum markets, the price of a sheep — a must in the Feast of the Sacrifice which is considered the holiest day in the Muslim calendar — has doubled since last year.

“You used to be able to find a sheep for 3,500” Sudanese pounds ($60), said Mohamed Abdullahi, a farmer who lives on Tuti, a rural island wedged between the twin cities of Khartoum and Omdurman, where the Blue and White Nile meet.

This year he paid 8,000 pounds, an amount he couldn’t really afford even after raising the selling price of the milk from the few cows he rears on a small plot by the riverbank.

“I have three children, I had to bring them something for the feast,” the greying 43-year-old said.

In Khartoum’s Bori neighbourhood, considered one of the cradles of the protest movement that brought down Bashir earlier this year, an Eid market known for its low prices is witnessing record turnover.

“There’s a lack of cash in Sudan at the moment. Here we are using electronic payment cards a lot, to make it easier for the people,” said one of the traders, Maki Amir.

“Many people feel happy because of the revolution and the peace that was signed last week, that’s why they want a real Eid celebration,” he said.

Sudan’s economy was sent into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and the past eight months of turmoil — which initially erupted with protests over a tripling of bread prices — have taken a further toll.

Still mourning

As buyers swarmed the huddled sheep on the dusty open market ground and inspected the animals’ teeth, the haggling was sometimes acrimonious.

Some men looking to buy a sheep to slaughter blamed traders for taking advantage of the power vacuum to raise their prices.

The traders retorted they were being taxed by the government more than ever before.

Since the last devaluation of the pound in October by the then Sudanese authorities, the currency has plunged by a further 70 percent against the dollar on the black market.

A deal was reached a week ago between the country’s generals and protest leaders to transition to civilian rule in just over three years.

The landmark constitutional agreement is to be signed at a ceremony on August 17 but, even if its provisions are implemented, the country remains on the brink of economic collapse.

On the capital’s walls, some of the protest murals have already been painted over and its streets were largely empty, many residents having left town to celebrate Eid al-Adha in their villages.

At the market in Bori, Amir Abdullah came to buy a goat for an expatriate friend who wants it donated to charity but he will not be able to afford one for himself this year.

He also said celebrating did not feel like a priority after so many protesters, an estimated 250, were killed in their efforts to take down the military regime.

“Eid is not the same for everybody. Now I’m still in mourning for those who lost their lives,” said Abdullah, sweat pearling on his forehead from the afternoon heat.

“Definitely, the situation is getting worse, there is no work, no income and no investment… but we have to stay focused on achieving the goals of the revolution: freedom, peace and justice.”

AFP