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Protesters call for Sudanese president’s resignation

International | The unrest began over difficult economic conditions
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 12/31/18, 01:32 pm

Protests that began over rising prices in Sudan have grown into the largest uprising yet against the 29-year rule of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The demonstrations began Dec. 19 in the eastern city of Atbara over the increasing cost of bread and fuel, and then spread to several other cities, including the capital, Khartoum. Amnesty International said last week that at least 37 protesters died over the first five days of clashes with police.

On Monday, protesters demanding al-Bashir’s resignation began a march toward the presidential palace but were repelled by Sudanese police using tear gas, according to activists and videos posted online. Some activists claimed police used live ammunition and that scores of protesters had been detained and at least four suffered gunshot wounds. A similar protest took place Christmas Day, with police responding with tear gas and live fire.

Last week, protesters also torched the offices of the ruling National Congress Party and doctors launched a strike to “paralyze” the government, while several trade and professional unions planned their own strikes.

Sudan’s economic crisis has deepened over the past year. Inflation is at nearly 70 percent and the price of some goods, including fuel and bread, have doubled. Similar economic protests occurred in January, but the government cracked down on opposition leaders to silence the demonstrations. Former Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi said authorities detained at least 16 other opposition leaders.

“I don’t think people on the streets are protesting just because of bread and fuel,” Sara Abdelgalil, president of the Sudan Doctors’ Union in the United Kingdom, told Al-Jazeera. “They are protesting because there is an overall failure of the whole system.”

In October, Sundanese Prime Minister Moataz Moussa announced a 15-month emergency economic reform plan, which included austerity measures to cut down excess government spending. Moussa said the plan aims to “reduce the average inflation, stabilize the exchange rate of the pound, achieve a [gross domestic product] growth of four percent, and to fix the liquidity crises.” But the public has already lost patience with the administration.

Al-Bashir seized power in a 1989 military coup and has ruled the country ever since. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses in Darfur. The ruling party selected him to run for another term in the 2020 election and lawmakers recently introduced a bill to scrap presidential term limits.

Amnesty condemned the government’s use of force, including its move to shut down the internet. “It must address the root cause of the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in the country, instead of trying to prevent people from fully exercising their right to protest against the growing hardships they are facing,” said Seif Magango, the group’s deputy director for East Africa.

Associated Press/Photo by Hau Dinh Associated Press/Photo by Hau Dinh A Vietnamese woman listens to Franklin Graham speak in Hanoi, Vietnam, in December 2017.

Persecution unchanged in Vietnam under new religion law

Despite allowing a large, public Christmas event in Ho Chi Minh City for the first time in eight years, Vietnam continues to persecute Christians and oppose civil society activists.

Following implementation of a new law with possible benefits to Christians in January, World Watch Monitor reported that land disputes between the government and the Catholic Church continued, and the government and surrounding community is still persecuting Christians.

Christians in Vietnam remain anxious since the law gave the government more tools to control religion, and the potential benefits have not been widely applied.

Amnesty International also criticized Vietnamese authorities for shutting down a Dec. 19 conference of policymakers and activists seeking better public services that deal with various social issues in the country, UCA News reported. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press/Photo by Jon Chol Jin Associated Press/Photo by Jon Chol Jin American student Otto Warmbier at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in March 2016

North Korea fined $500 million in wrongful death case

A federal judge last week ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million in the wrongful death of Otto Warmbier, a college student who died after his release from the communist country in 2017.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of Washington, D.C., condemned North Korea’s “barbaric mistreatment” of Warmbier and awarded punitive damages to his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier.

The 22-year-old University of Virginia student visited North Korea with a tour group in March 2016. He received a 15-year sentence with hard labor after he was accused of stealing a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel. Warmbier was comatose when North Korean authorities returned him to the United States, and doctors who treated him said he suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause. He died in June 2017 shortly after his return.

“We put ourselves and our family through the ordeal of a lawsuit and public trial because we promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him,” his parents said in a joint statement.

The court order is mostly symbolic, since there is currently no way to force North Korea to pay the fine. —O.O

Associated Press/Photo by Thibault Camus Associated Press/Photo by Thibault Camus The scene outside the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo after the 2015 attack

France charges Charlie Hebdo attack suspect

French authorities on Dec. 23 handed down preliminary terrorism charges to an Islamic extremist suspect in the 2015 attack on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine that killed 12 people. French national Peter Cherif, also known as Abu Hamza, was arrested earlier this month in Djibouti and extradited to France.

On Jan. 7, 2015, gunmen stormed the magazine’s Paris office shouting “Allah is great” and firing on the staff. Two brothers, Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi claimed responsibility for the attack.

Cherif, a close friend of the brothers, left for Iraq in the early 2000s and is believed to have joined al-Qaeda forces in Yemen. He had been on the run since 2011 after a Paris court sentenced him to five years in prison for terrorism for fighting as an insurgent in Iraq. —O.O

Onize Ohikere

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

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Mon, 12/31/2018 06:10 pm

    Thanks for these important international news reports...  Happy New Year!