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Sudanese protesters unhappy with coup results

International | Activists and international players call for civilian leadership
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/16/19, 04:31 pm

In a successful culmination of four months of mostly peaceful protests in Sudan, the country’s military last week ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, ending his three-decade rule. The military coup brought anger and a wary sense of victory, as protesters called for an entirely civilian government.

Al-Bashir’s rule began with a military coup in 1989. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses in the western region of Darfur, but top military officials said they will not extradite him.

In a televised statement on Thursday, Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf announced that al-Bashir remained in a “safe place,” likely under house arrest.

The military set up a two-year transitional council, declared a three-month state of emergency, imposed a nighttime curfew, and shut down the borders and airspace. The transitional council could disband sooner under the right political conditions, the military said. It also ordered the release of political prisoners detained during the uprising.

The protests began in December 2018 after the government raised the price of bread and other basic goods. Last October, Prime Minister Moataz Moussa announced a 15-month emergency economic reform plan, which included austerity measures to cut down excess government spending. The economic demonstrations quickly spiraled into calls for an end to al-Bashir’s leadership.

The protests gathered momentum over the past week as thousands of Sudanese staged sit-ins outside the military headquarters, which also house the Presidential Palace. Security forces responded with an intense crackdown, and members of the army stepped in to defend civilians. At least 35 people died in the clashes that started April 6, including two soldiers.

David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow with the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, said the split highlights factions within the security forces that could exacerbate the conflict as the new political climate takes shape. “The pro-Bashir faction of the security forces brought in the junta militia that caused problems in Darfur,” he explained. “The military didn’t like it.”

Now protesters are calling for the military regime to “fall again” and give way to civilian leadership. Ibn Ouf, who led the takeover, is also subject to U.S. sanctions for his involvement in “fomenting violence and human rights abuses in Darfur.” To quell complaints, Ouf named Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, a reputable former general inspector of the armed forces, as his replacement to lead the transitional council. The council also promised to appoint a civilian prime minister and Cabinet after weekend meetings with protest organizers.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which led the protests, said it wouldn’t back a military coup and insisted on a civilian transitional government. “They are recycling the faces, and this will return us to where we have been,” Sara Abdelgalil, a spokeswoman for the association, told The New York Times. The group called for continued protests until its request is met.

The International Crisis Group said in a statement it is in the security forces’ best interests to hand over power to civilians: “If they do not, protests will continue, raising the specter of an ugly confrontation that could plunge the country into the deeper turmoil they say they are intent on averting.”

Anti-government protests in Algeria led to a similar outcome on April 2, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika unexpectedly stepped down after two decades of rule amid pressure from the armed forces. The Algerian Parliament appointed one of Bouteflika’s allies to serve in the interim until elections scheduled for July 4 can take place. Demonstrators continued to stage protests in Algeria last week, demanding an end to corrupt leadership.

Beyond the political overhaul, Ottoway explained Sudan must still seek solutions to the economic crisis that spurred the protests in the first place.

“It’s going to require a lot of austerity measures that will be unpopular,” he said, adding it could lead to more street protests.

Associated Press/Photo by Ajit Solanki Associated Press/Photo by Ajit Solanki An Indian home guard votes in Ahmadabad, India, on Friday.

Indian election process begins

Some of India’s 900 million voters last week started to cast ballots for a new government in the world’s largest electoral process.

The top contenders include incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came into power five years ago in an unprecedented victory. The vote is widely considered a referendum on Modi amid complaints over the economy and religious polarization. His main opponent, Rahul Gandhi comes from a long line of Indian political leaders and is a major opponent from the resurgent Indian Nationalist Congress party. Gandhi vowed to tackle poverty if elected.

Candidates are also running for some of the 543 lower parliamentary seats. A party or coalition needs to win at least 272 seats to form the ruling government.

Due to the large number of voters across 20 states and 91 constituencies, India spreads out the voting process into seven phases that will last for six weeks. The process allows federal security personnel—considered to be the most impartial—to move across the country to ensure transparency. The electoral commission set up about 1 million polling stations, as Indian law makes it illegal for voters to have to travel more than 1.2 miles to vote. The more than 11 million officials manning the process will travel by foot, road, and water to reach voters.

The second phase of the election will take place on Thursday for 97 seats. The final results are expected by May 23. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Peter Kneffel/dpa Associated Press/Photo by Peter Kneffel/dpa Jennifer W. covers her face as she arrives Munich Higher Regional Court on Tuesday.

German ISIS member facing war crime charges

A German woman who joined Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq went on trial last week on multiple charges, including allowing a 5-year-old Yazidi captive to die of thirst.

The 27-year-old defendant, identified as Jennifer W., is charged with murder, membership to a terrorist organization, and a war crime. She faces a potential maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Jennifer W. left Germany to join ISIS in 2014. Prosecutors said she and her husband, who is an ISIS fighter, bought the 5-year-old Yazidi girl and her mother as slaves.

“After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die an agonizing death of thirst in the scorching heat,” prosecutors said. “The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.”

The girl’s mother will testify as a witness and is also a co-plaintiff. The trial is the first against an ISIS member for crimes against the Yazidi minority group.

“I hope that this will be the first of many trials that will finally bring ISIS to justice in line with international law,” said prominent human rights attorney Amal Clooney, who is part of the mother’s legal team. The trial at the Munich Higher Regional Court will resume April 29. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Pervez Masih Associated Press/Photo by Pervez Masih Pakistani civil society activists protest against forced conversion to Islam in Hyderabad, Pakistan, on April 5.

Pakistan minorities plead for protection from forced conversions

Pakistan’s religious minorities want legislation to protect their women and girls from forced marriage and conversion to Islam, which is a growing problem in the country, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).

In March, one Hindu family reported their underage daughters were abducted and forcibly married to Muslims. This month, a court ruled they were not forced or underage, saying they were 18 and 19. Pakistan’s Hindu Seva Welfare Trust complained the court ignored birth certificates proving they were younger, The Times of India reported.

“The phenomena of forced conversion is getting serious now,” Irfan Mufti, executive director of South Asia Partnership Pakistan, told ICC. “The cases of forced conversions, particularly of the minor girls, have increased.”

Already this year, a dozen forced conversions took place in Sindh and Punjab, including a Christian wife and mother. Her husband’s pleas in a viral Facebook video ultimately resulted in her return.

Last week, a Pakistani court ordered a Christian teenage girl, who was abducted and forced to marry a Muslim man, be returned to her parents.

Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, said the court order is not enough: “It is important to punish all those who were involved in kidnapping, selling, and then forcibly converting her to Islam.” —Julia A. Seymour

Onize Ohikere

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

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