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Autocrats line up to support Sudanese military

International | Regional Arab powers are fighting against democracy
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/11/19, 02:35 pm

While the Sudanese military continues to grapple for power by violently cracking down on protesters, some regional Arab powers are working to prop up authoritarian rule in the country and quash a possible repeat of the Arab Spring uprising that began in January 2011.

Demonstrators and the military have clashed since the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir on April 11 after months of protests. The military targeted a protester sit-in camp near military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, over the past week. Demonstrators reported more than 100 deaths, including 40 bodies pulled out of the Nile River and more than 500 injuries. Witnesses said militiamen belonging to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) opened fire inside hospitals and other paramilitary soldiers raped civilians.

The ruling military council said the crackdown was in response to the protesters’ criminal activity. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the council, canceled all agreements made so far with the protesters and said the government would hold new elections in nine months. An internet blockade prevented more reports on the unrest.

“It seems the military decided it’s fed up with the protests,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow with the Washington-based Wilson Center. “The only thing it has left as a leverage is the use of the militia.”

Since the overthrow of al-Bashir, a coalition of activists and opposition groups called the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces has led talks with the military over who would lead the transitional government for the next three years. Both sides started to make progress in talks about the transitional Cabinet and legislature but reached a stalemate over the makeup of the top sovereign council. The military initially promised protesters safety and freedom to continue with demonstrations, but after the talks stalled late last month, Burhan, leader of the ruling military council, visited Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia—three nations with interests in maintaining autocratic rule in Sudan.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi pledged to back the will of the Sudanese people, but the sudden violence against protesters mirrors a 2013 army crackdown in Egypt during widespread protests in North Africa and the Middle East, when authorities raided two protest camps, killing more than 800 people.

“Sudan’s military council today are giving the same ridiculous speeches almost verbatim in an attempt to discredit their opponents,” said Osama Gaweesh, an exiled Egyptian journalist who participated in Egypt’s revolution.

Since the military seized power, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan, and Sudan’s militia has backed both countries with troops in their fight against Yemen. As many as 14,000 militia men have fought in Yemen, the majority of them from the RSF. The same militia group faced accusations of human rights abuses in the Darfur region, and the group’s leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, is the deputy head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council.

Burhan offered to renew talks with the protesters, but protest leaders said they wouldn’t negotiate while the crackdown continues. The demonstrators launched a general strike this week that left shops and the international airport mostly empty.

“Our success depends on our full adherence to peaceful protests, no matter how hard the criminal militias seek to drag us into violence,” the association said in a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday. Last week, the African Union suspended Sudan from all of its activities until the military hands over power to a transitional civilian body.

Tibor Nagy, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, will travel to Sudan this week to broker talks between the warring sides amid calls for the United States to step up its involvement in the conflict. The White House will also appoint Donald Booth, a former diplomat with experience on the continent, to advise Nagy.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, said the United States could also appoint a special envoy for Sudan to back peaceful reforms in the country. He said the position would enable the United States to “remind Arab states that Sudan’s civilian leaders can, in fact, protect their long-term security interests in the country while at the same [time extend] civil and human rights to its deserving citizens.”

Associated Press/Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press Associated Press/Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press Attendees at the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Gatineau, Quebec, on June 3

Canada admits to genocide of indigenous women

The deaths of thousands of indigenous women and girls in Canada in recent decades amount to a national genocide, a special commission concluded in a report last week.

The three-year inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women found that national policies and state indifference repeatedly contributed to violence. Over the past 30 years, as many as 4,000 indigenous women and girls have reportedly been killed or gone missing, although the actual number could be higher.

The 1,200-page report, titled “Reclaiming Power and Place,” pointed to government-sanctioned residential schools for indigenous children in the 1880s, where the children faced “starvation, deliberate infection of diseases, beating, torture, rape, solitary confinement, assaults, and ill-treatment.”

The report said the genocide has persisted in the absence of police protection for indigenous women, the excessive detention of indigenous children in the child welfare system, and the continued existence of the 1876 Indian Act.

“These historical policies are appalling in their systematic destruction of indigenous communities, but what is more appalling is that many of these policies continue today under a different guise,” it said.

The report listed 231 recommendations, including equal funding for indigenous police services and the enactment of missing persons legislation in all provincial and territorial governments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the report heralded an uncomfortable day for Canada. “We have failed you,” he said. “We will fail you no longer.” —O.O.

Associated Press/Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets Associated Press/Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets A civil defense worker carries a child in the town of Nairab, in the eastern province of Idlib, Syria, on April 7.

Syrian forces target civilians

Syrian government forces and their Russian allies have repeatedly struck civilian targets in northwest Idlib province since launching a new offensive in the region in April, according to activists and monitoring groups.

About 3 million people are holed up in the rebel enclave, more than half of them from other parts of the country now under the military’s control. The bombardment has left nearly 300,000 people living under olive trees or in overcrowded rooms. More than 300 people have died, including at least 61 children.

No health facilities remain open in southern Idlib after all 16 were either hit by airstrikes or closed out of fear of attacks, said Mustafa al-Eido from the Idlib health authority.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used similar methods to retake the city of Aleppo in 2016. Labeling all civilians as “terrorists and their families” is a “tactic to pressure civilians to succumb,” said Diana Samaan, a Syria researcher with Amnesty International.

Najat Rochdi, a senior humanitarian adviser to the UN special envoy for Syria, said the civilian attacks could amount to war crimes. “We have a collective responsibility to the victims of this conflict, many of whom are too young to try to make sense of this senseless war,” she said. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Al-hadji Kudra Maliro (file) Associated Press/Photo by Al-hadji Kudra Maliro (file) A health worker at a treatment center in Beni in eastern Congo

Ebola cases top 2,000 in Congo

More than 2,000 Ebola cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo as of last week, the health ministry said. The total number of infections reached 2,008 on June 2, the ministry said in a statement. So far, 1,346 people have died from the virus.

The outbreak began in August 2018 and is centered in the northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, also the epicenter of armed clashes and intercommunal unrest. A rebel attack near the affected town of Beni last week left at least 13 civilians dead. Responders are likely only detecting 75 percent of all Ebola cases, World Health Organization emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said.

Community members still distrust medical responders and don’t report to clinics or hospitals when they start to show Ebola symptoms, said Tariq Riebl, the emergency response director with the International Rescue Committee. “We are now seeing eight to 20 cases recorded each day, a number that is very likely an underestimate,” he said. “To say that things are not going well is an understatement.” —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press Associated Press/Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons in Ottawa on May 29

Bible camps sue Canada

Two Canadian Bible camps run by Bible Centered Ministries (BCM) International will challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for rejecting a renewal application for counselor job grants the organization has received for more than a decade.

The government claimed BCM did not demonstrate “that measures have been implemented to provide a workplace free of harassment and discrimination,” The Ottawa Citizen reported.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is challenging the decision on religious freedom grounds, said BCM described its thorough anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies in the application.

Last year, the Canadian government began requiring applicants to affirm a controversial values statement that included “reproductive rights” and anti-discrimination clauses. In December, it replaced that language with an agreement that funds “will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” Julia A. Seymour

Brazilian judges to criminalize anti-LGBT discrimination

A majority of judges on the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court voted to update the nation’s anti-discrimination laws in response to increased LGBT-related killings. The ruling will make it a crime punishable under the country’s anti-racism law to attack people or deny them services based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Brazil legalized same-sex partnerships in 2013, but conservative lawmakers in Congress blocked efforts to add sexuality to the anti-racism law. In 2018, 320 LGBT people were killed in the country, according to the Group Gay da Bahia. At least 126 people have been killed this year alone.

Conservative Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused the court of legislating from the bench during a national church convention. Last week, he said it’s time for “the Supreme Court to have an evangelical minister.” The ruling is expected to go into effect this month. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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