Daily Archives: April 6, 2019

Sudan Protesters Reach Military Headquarters for First Time

Many of the thousands of Sudanese demonstrators marching in Khartoum Saturday reached the country’s military’s headquarters for the first time since deadly anti-government protests erupted nearly four months ago.

After protesters began rallying on the streets of the capital city Khartoum, many heeded a call by organizers to converge on the military’s headquarters, located near the residence of President Omar al-Bashir.

Protesters also reached the army’s building in the east central Sudanese city of Madani, witnesses told AFP.

The protests began on December 19, with demonstrators accusing Bashir’s government of economic mismanagement that has sparked skyrocketing food prices, and fuel and foreign currency shortages.

Bashir imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22 in an attempt to suppress the protests after an initial crackdown failed. The government said weeks ago that 31 people had been killed, but the group Physicians for Human Rights estimates the death toll is at least 60.

The government continues to enforce tough measures that have resulted in the arrests of protesters, opposition leaders and journalists.

Since the state of emergency took effect, protests have largely been confined to Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman. But on Saturday organizers called for more rallies and a march on the military’s headquarters.

The protest movement was first spearheaded by the Sudanese Professionals Association but later won the support of several political parties, including the main opposition party, the National Umma Party.

Protest organizers chose April 6 for nationwide rallies because it was on that date in 1985 when a military uprising led to the overthrow of the government of President Jaafar Nimeiri in a bloodless coup.

After an elected government was in place for a few years, Bashir, a career army officer, toppled the leadership in a 1989 coup with the support of Islamist hardliners.

Source: Voice of America

US Congresswoman Calls on Eritrea to Release American

The chair of a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee has called on the Eritrean government to release an American citizen who has been detained in the country for more than six years.

Ciham Ali Abdu was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Eritrea. In December 2012, Eritrean officials apprehended Ciham when she attempted to leave the country without a mandatory exit visa. Her family hasn’t seen or heard from her since, despite attempts to learn about her whereabouts and well-being.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, called for Ciham’s release in social media posts Friday.

I was in Eritrea just last month, Bass wrote on Twitter and Facebook. The country’s leaders should release Ciham, who had a birthday this past week, and all of Eritrea’s political prisoners to send a message that the country is embarking on a new path that includes respect for human rights.

Bass visited Eritrea and Ethiopia with Reps. Joe Neguse and Ilhan Omar, both of whom joined Congress in January. Neguse represents Colorado’s second district. His parents emigrated from Eritrea to the U.S. in 1980. Omar, a Somali-American, came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1992 and represents Minnesota’s fifth district.

It was the first congressional delegation to visit Eritrea in 14 years, according to the U.S. Embassy in Asmara.

Official denials

The Eritrean government refuses to acknowledge Ciham’s citizenship, or even her existence.

Bass, who represents California’s 37th District, near where Ciham was born, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to put a spotlight on her case. The U.S. State Department hasn’t officially confirmed Ciham’s imprisonment, saying only that the U.S. government is aware of reports about Ciham’s detainment.

Bass told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month that she had just recently learned about Ciham’s case, according to the Associated Press. Human rights groups have for years called for the 22-year-old’s release.

At a town hall meeting Saturday in Los Angeles, Bass said she was committed to working with both the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments, along with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara, to secure Ciham’s freedom.

Vanessa Tsehaye founded One Day Seyoum, an organization focused on securing the release of her uncle, Seyoum Tsehaye, an Eritrean journalist who has been imprisoned since 2001. Tsehaye spoke to VOA Wednesday, on Ciham’s birthday.

She has been in prison without a trial, and it can’t, it simply cannot stand, Tsehaye said. Even the excuses they try to use for people, like journalists or politicians, or [raising] issues about national security. And those kinds of excuses don’t stand when you are talking about a girl who was 15 when she was imprisoned for simply attempting to leave the country.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and other rights groups have accused the Eritrean government of human rights violations designed to suppress dissent, including arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances and torture.

The government has denied those claims and criticized the U.S. and U.N. for seeking to undermine its sovereignty. VOA’s attempts to reach the Eritrean embassies in London and Washington went unanswered.

After fighting a 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia, Eritrea gained international recognition in 1993. The country has not held a national election nor ratified its constitution since then, but recent peace overtures with Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia have raised hopes for reform and justice for detainees like Ciham.

We think that there’s a chance that Ciham might hear and see our messages, Tsehaye said. So we want her to know that there are people fighting for her and that she is being remembered and that we will stand in solidarity with her until the day she is released.

Source: Voice of America

US Congresswoman Calls on Eritrea to Release American

The chair of a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee has called on the Eritrean government to release an American citizen who has been detained in the country for more than six years.

Ciham Ali Abdu was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Eritrea. In December 2012, Eritrean officials apprehended Ciham when she attempted to leave the country without a mandatory exit visa. Her family hasn’t seen or heard from her since, despite attempts to learn about her whereabouts and well-being.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, called for Ciham’s release in social media posts Friday.

I was in Eritrea just last month, Bass wrote on Twitter and Facebook. The country’s leaders should release Ciham, who had a birthday this past week, and all of Eritrea’s political prisoners to send a message that the country is embarking on a new path that includes respect for human rights.

Bass visited Eritrea and Ethiopia with Reps. Joe Neguse and Ilhan Omar, both of whom joined Congress in January. Neguse represents Colorado’s second district. His parents emigrated from Eritrea to the U.S. in 1980. Omar, a Somali-American, came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1992 and represents Minnesota’s fifth district.

It was the first congressional delegation to visit Eritrea in 14 years, according to the U.S. Embassy in Asmara.

Official denials

The Eritrean government refuses to acknowledge Ciham’s citizenship, or even her existence.

Bass, who represents California’s 37th District, near where Ciham was born, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to put a spotlight on her case. The U.S. State Department hasn’t officially confirmed Ciham’s imprisonment, saying only that the U.S. government is aware of reports about Ciham’s detainment.

Bass told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month that she had just recently learned about Ciham’s case, according to the Associated Press. Human rights groups have for years called for the 22-year-old’s release.

At a town hall meeting Saturday in Los Angeles, Bass said she was committed to working with both the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments, along with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara, to secure Ciham’s freedom.

Vanessa Tsehaye founded One Day Seyoum, an organization focused on securing the release of her uncle, Seyoum Tsehaye, an Eritrean journalist who has been imprisoned since 2001. Tsehaye spoke to VOA Wednesday, on Ciham’s birthday.

She has been in prison without a trial, and it can’t, it simply cannot stand, Tsehaye said. Even the excuses they try to use for people, like journalists or politicians, or [raising] issues about national security. And those kinds of excuses don’t stand when you are talking about a girl who was 15 when she was imprisoned for simply attempting to leave the country.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and other rights groups have accused the Eritrean government of human rights violations designed to suppress dissent, including arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances and torture.

The government has denied those claims and criticized the U.S. and U.N. for seeking to undermine its sovereignty. VOA’s attempts to reach the Eritrean embassies in London and Washington went unanswered.

After fighting a 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia, Eritrea gained international recognition in 1993. The country has not held a national election nor ratified its constitution since then, but recent peace overtures with Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia have raised hopes for reform and justice for detainees like Ciham.

We think that there’s a chance that Ciham might hear and see our messages, Tsehaye said. So we want her to know that there are people fighting for her and that she is being remembered and that we will stand in solidarity with her until the day she is released.

Source: Voice of America

Protesters, Security Tangle Outside Sudan Leader’s Compound

KHARTOUM, SUDAN Thousands of Sudanese protesters clashed with security forces outside President Omar al-Bashir’s residence in central Khartoum on Saturday in what appeared to be the biggest demonstration in months of protest

against his 30-year rule, witnesses said.

Across the River Nile in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, which also saw protests into the evening, one civilian died from injuries suffered during “rioting,” and other civilians and police officers were wounded, state news agency SUNA said, citing police reports.

The victim was a laboratory doctor, according to a statement from an opposition doctors committee. Medical staff have played a prominent role in the protests, in which dozens of people have been killed over the past 3� months.

Security forces fired tear gas at protesters in Omdurman and at stone-throwing demonstrators near Bashir’s residence, who had responded to a call by activists trying to increase pressure on Bashir to step down.

They waved Sudanese flags and chanted slogans demanding “freedom, peace and justice” as they gathered outside the gates of the compound, guarded by army soldiers, that also houses the defense ministry, army command and security headquarters.

By the evening, the clashes subsided as security forces pulled back, allowing the thousands still gathered to remain outside the compound. Witnesses said young demonstrators sang nationalist songs and danced for joy. Some said they would stay until Bashir stepped down.

Praise for security forces

Information Minister Hassan Ismail, who also serves as the government spokesman, praised security forces for the manner in which they handled the protests and said the government remained committed to dialogue to resolve the crisis.

“The approach followed by government apparatus was met with satisfaction from citizens,” Ismail said in a statement. “Sudanese blood is the most precious thing we need to preserve.”

Bashir has refused to step down, saying his opponents need to seek power through the ballot box.

“Today, we won and we are confident that the regime will fall,” said Mohamed Saleh, a 63-year-old university professor who estimated the crowd to be at more than 100,000 people.

An independent estimate for the number of protesters was not available. But witnesses said the protest appeared to be larger than previous ones.

“There are crowds as far as the eye can see,” one witness told Reuters.

Anniversary

Sudanese activists, apparently emboldened by the success of similar but much larger protests in Algeria that forced ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down, called Saturday’s protests to mark the anniversary of the 1985 coup that forced then-President Jaafar Nimeiri to step down following mass protests against his rule.

The demonstrators said they wanted to deliver a message to the country’s armed forces to side with them in trying to push Bashir out of power.

Sudanese say the armed forces had in the past backed popular protests against autocratic rulers, including the 1985 move against Nimeiri.

Nimeiri’s downfall paved the way for national elections and a civilian government, which Bashir ousted in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989. Bashir had since run and was elected president in repeated elections that his critics say were neither fair nor free.

Price increases, cash shortages

Representing the most sustained challenge to Bashir since he took power in 1989, the wave of protests that began on Dec. 19 were triggered by price rises and cash shortages but have evolved into demonstrations against his long rule.

In February, Bashir declared a state of emergency in the country of 40 million and sacked his government and state governors in a series of moves aimed at tightening his control.

Bashir is wanted by international prosecutors for alleged war crimes while trying to put down an armed uprising in the country’s western Darfur region since 2003. Sudan denies committing any war crimes.

Source: Voice of America

G-7 Ministers Hope to Seal Commitments on Global Challenges

DINARD, FRANCE Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies were wrapping up a two-day meeting in the French seaside resort of Dinard on Saturday where they hope to seal joint commitments on a range of global challenges and lay the groundwork for August’s G-7 summit in Biarritz.

Diplomats from G-7 countries, which include the U.S., France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the U.K., walked side-by-side against the rocky Atlantic coast backdrop and in the fresh Brittany air to project a united front before a working lunch. They hope to agree on a joint statement on the fight against trafficking drugs, arms and migrants in Africa’s troubled Sahel region, fighting cybercrime and stopping sexual violence against women in conflict zones, especially in Africa.

But U.S. officials said that points of discord will also be discussed at the talks led by the host, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said that Washington will use the G-7 forum to galvanize support for Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, who the U.S. has backed to lead the country into a democratic transformation from the failed regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

Guaido has embarked on an international campaign to topple the socialist administration of Venezuela’s president amid deepening unrest in the country, which has been plagued by nearly a month of power outages.

Washington seems to be at odds with Italy over its stance on the crisis-hit South American country, being the sole G-7 member state to not back Guaido.

The U.S. and Canada have pursued a pro-active stance on widening support for Guaido, according to French officials. But there has already been widespread alarm after Guaido was stripped of immunity by Maduro loyalists earlier this week.

With Juan Guaido being stripped of his immunity … we don’t want the situation to escalate, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Dinard on Saturday.

We are still of the opinion that free elections should take place during which Venezuelans can decide themselves who will lead the country, he added.

Italy has also irked EU and U.S. allies by becoming the first G-7 member to sign up to a contentious Chinese plan to build a Silk Road-style global trade network, the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

Source: Voice of America