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Sudan in limbo

International | Protesters and the military are at odds on how to move forward after coup
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/14/19, 11:04 am

Sudanese protest leaders and the transitional military leadership are still struggling to shape the country’s new government one month after ousting longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. The sides have agreed to a tentative structure for an interim government—to include a sovereign council, Cabinet, and legislature—but are at an impasse about who will serve in it. The protesters, who had been staging demonstrations for the president’s downfall since December, vowed to continue holding sit-ins outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, the capital city, until the military hands power over to civilian leadership.

Senior military officials on April 11 deposed al-Bashir, ending his 30-year rule. Since then, a transitional military council has led the country. Al-Bashir remains under house arrest in Khartoum, but his security forces believed to be loyal to him killed at least five protesters and one army officer in attacks Monday night.

A coalition of activists and opposition groups under the umbrella of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) demanded the interim government include a civilian majority. Their proposal also called for a four-year transition period to ensure a stable democracy. The current ruling council desires a military-majority representation and said it had some reservations about the opposition’s proposal, including the absence of Sharia law.

“Our view is that Islamic Sharia and the local norms and traditions in the Republic of Sudan should be the sources of legislation,” said Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman for the Transitional Military Council. The Sudanese Constitution identifies Sharia law as the guiding principle for the government.

Activists said the council’s response was disappointing, noting the previous government only used Sharia law to crack down on minorities and opposition figures. The DFCF called for more acts of civil disobedience.

“Issues like Sharia or the language of the state, those are ideological weapons the former regime kept using to divide the people on the issue of mobilization, between Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs,” said Amged Farid, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association. “We are not willing to stand for this game.”

The military council has offered some concessions by firing senior al-Bashir allies. It said it could hold elections in six months if the sides fail to reach an agreement. Ebrahim Deen, an analyst with the South Africa–based Afro Middle East Center, explained the military has not proven it will fully back a democratic transition, even though negotiations continue.

“The opposition is fearful an election too quickly will mean many former regime officials would win since they still have consolidated underground support,” Deen said.

The U.S. State Department has urged the military council to move “expeditiously” toward a civilian-led interim government that reflects the will of the people. The African Union this month gave the council a final 60-day deadline to hand over power to civilians.

Associated Press/Photo by Darko Vojinovic Associated Press/Photo by Darko Vojinovic A UN refugee agency worker with one of the deported Afghan families at a center for asylum-seekers in Subotica, Serbia, last week

Hungary deports Afghan families during the night

Hungary last week faced renewed international criticism for its anti-migration measures after it deported two Afghan families to neighboring Serbia late at night.

Rights activists who witnessed the unusual deportation said no official received the four adults and seven children on the Serbian side. Hungarian officials denied the families’ asylum requests and told them they could either go back to Serbia, which they had passed through on their way to Hungary, or return to Afghanistan. Hungary amended its asylum eligibility criteria last year to deny the petitions of people who traveled through countries where they were neither persecuted nor at risk of persecution before arriving in the country.

“We note that such ‘voluntary’ departure could put migrants at further risk, as it could breach Hungarian deportation orders and force migrants to enter Serbia irregularly in contravention of Serbian law,” the United Nations human rights office warned.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his far-right Fidesz party have maintained a tough anti-migration stance and tightened the nation’s laws amid a populist wave across the Continent.

The UN this month also accused the country of denying food to ailing asylum-seekers in an attempt to coerce them to leave. Authorities refused food to at least 21 migrants awaiting deportation since August 2018, “some for up to five days,” at the transit zones along the border with Serbia, according to UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.

Hungarian officials insisted it is not responsible for asylum-seekers whose requests were denied. “Asylum-seekers who have requested asylum and whose claim is under review continue to receive food and shelter as they always have,” the government noted in a blog post. —O.O.

ADF International ADF International Pastor Balu Saste (left) with his son

Indian pastor wins legal fight

After a long legal battle, an Indian court last week acquitted Pastor Balu Saste of forced conversion charges. In 2016, Hindu radicals in Madhya Pradesh state violently attacked the pastor and others at his church and falsely accused him of forcing people to convert from Hinduism to Christianity, according to ADF International, the global arm of the legal defense organization Alliance Defending Freedom.

“The case of Pastor Balu provides a telling example of the injustices faced by many Christians in India,” ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman said. “The important ruling in his case shows that the fundamental rights of religious minorities can and should be protected in the courtroom and through effective legal advocacy.”

Tehmina Arora, director of ADF India, called the acquittal a “vital step towards the protection of religious freedom.”

Hindu extremist violence against Christians has grown in recent years under the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party. According to International Christian Concern, Christians are hoping and praying for political change from this year’s elections, which conclude May 23. —Julia A. Seymour

Getty Images/Audu Ali Marte/AFP Getty Images/Audu Ali Marte/AFP Children take part in a ceremony at Shehu Palace in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on Friday.

Nigerian militia releases child recruits

A pro-government militia released nearly 900 children it had recruited to fight insurgent groups, the United Nations children’s agency said last week.

The Civilian Joint Task Force has assisted Nigerian security forces in protecting civilians and fighting the extremist group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria since 2013. The task force released 894 child soldiers it had recruited back in 2017. The children were all between ages 13 and 19 and included 106 girls.

“Children of northeast Nigeria have borne the brunt of this conflict,” said UNICEF Nigeria chief Mohamed Fall. “They have been used by armed groups in combatant and noncombatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence.”

The UN said the children will undergo reintegration programs to aid their return to civilian life. After signing an action plan in September 2017, the task force stopped recruiting children and has released 1,727 so far.

Boko Haram first became active in northeastern Borno state. The group lost the majority of its territory during a security crackdown in 2015 but has continued with sporadic attacks since then. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Yong Teck Lim (file) Associated Press/Photo by Yong Teck Lim (file) Singapore Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam

Singapore passes fake news law

Lawmakers in Singapore faced accusations of censorship after passing a controversial “fake news” law last week.

The legislation will require online media platforms to publish corrections or remove content the government deems false. Offending companies could pay up to $734,000 in fines, while individuals could face up to 10 years in prison. Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament the legislation will not affect free speech because it only targets “falsehood, bots, trolls, and fake accounts.”

Journalist associations and rights groups condemned the law. Reporters Without Borders currently ranks Singapore 151st out of 180 countries on its press freedom ranking—below Russia and Venezuela.

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia, warned the law gives authorities unchecked powers: “It criminalizes free speech and allows the government almost unfettered power to censor dissent.” —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

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

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Thu, 05/16/2019 05:01 am

    Good reporting!