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Sudanese army faces widening opposition to takeover

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October 28, 2021

KHARTOUM (Reuters) -The Sudanese army was facing widening opposition on Thursday to this week’s coup, with state officials in Khartoum vowing disobedience and activists mobilising mass demonstrations planned for the weekend.

The takeover, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/general-who-led-sudanese-coup-2021-10-26 on Monday against a civilian government, has brought thousands of people on to the streets to reject a return of military rule and demand a transition towards civilian rule be put back on track.

With the coup condemned by the West, a U.N. official urged Burhan to start a dialogue with ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and offered to facilitate a political settlement.

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A statement issued by the office of U.N. special representative to Sudan Volker Perthes did not say how Burhan had responded to the offer made at a meeting on Wednesday.

Perthes urged Burhan to deescalate the situation.

The coup brought an end to a shaky transitional set-up intended to lead to elections in 2023 by sharing power between civilians and the military following the fall of Omar al-Bashir, who the army deposed after a popular uprising two years ago.

In a statement posted on Facebook overnight, ministries and agencies of Sudan’s most populous state, Khartoum, which includes the capital and twin city Omdurman, said they would not step aside or hand over their duties.

They declared a general strike, joining unions in sectors such as healthcare and aviation, although they said they would continue to supply flour, cooking gas and emergency medical care.

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The main market, banks and filling stations in Khartoum were still closed on Thursday. Hospitals were providing only emergency services. Smaller shops were open, but there were long queues for bread.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted overnight that he had spoken by phone to Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Blinken said he condemned the arrest of civilian leaders in Sudan and discussed with Mahdi “how the U.S. can best support the Sudanese people’s call for a return to civilian-led transition to democracy”.

Hamdok, initially held at Burhan’s residence, was allowed to return home under guard on Tuesday. A source close to him said he remains committed to a civilian democratic transition and the goals of the revolt that toppled Bashir.

VIOLENCE FEARED

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The toll of people killed in clashes with security forces since Monday climbed to eight, with a 22-year-old man dying of gunshot wounds, a medical source said. Opponents fear the army-led authorities could deploy more force.

The source close to Hamdok said the prime minister had called for the military to avoid violence against protesters.

Opponents of the coup have been handing out fliers calling for a “march of millions” on Saturday against military rule, falling back on old methods of mobilisation with the authorities restricting the use of internet and phones.

The protest is being called under the slogan “Leave!” used in the protests that brought down Bashir.

Since the anti-Bashir uprising, protests have been organised through neighbourhood committees that can mobilise locally without access to the internet or to major roads closed by security forces.

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Sudan has been in the midst of a deep economic crisis with record inflation and shortages of basic goods, which only recently showed signs of possible improvement helped by aid that major Western donors say will end unless the coup is reversed.

More than half the population is living in poverty and child malnutrition stands at 38%, according to the United Nations.

Burhan’s move reasserted the army’s dominant role in Sudan since independence in 1956, after weeks of mounting tension https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/what-is-happening-sudan-2021-10-25 between the military and civilians in the transitional government over issues including whether to hand Bashir and others over to The Hague where they are wanted for war crimes.

Burhan has said he acted to stop the country slipping into civil war and has promised elections in July 2023.

With backing from the United States, the transitional government had won Western debt relief, secured Sudan’s removal from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism and taken steps to normalise ties with Israel.

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Western envoys had warned Burhan that assistance, including a now frozen $700 million in U.S. aid and $2 billion from the World Bank, would cease if he took power. Sources said he ignored those warnings under pressure from inside the military and with a “green light” from Russia.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in CairoWriting by Tom PerryEditing by Peter Graff and Nick Macfie)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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