Protests continue in Sudan after military leaders demand Islamic law in constitution

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May 11, 2019

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By Countercurrents Team

Sudan is going through political turmoil as military rulers are trying to capitalize Islamic and Sharia law and lingering with transition to civilian rule while the public demanding democracy are opposing imposition of Islamic and Sharia law. At the same time, female activists are seeking half of transitional authority.

Media reports said:

Sudan’s military rulers said Tuesday that they generally agreed with proposals made by protest leaders on the structure of an interim government. But the military leaders demand Islamic Sharia and local norms as basis of new Constitution.

Protesters whose months of street demonstrations helped force longtime president Omar al-Bashir leave office last month have kept up their demands for change, calling on the military officers who took over to hand over power to civilians.

Responding to a draft constitutional document presented by a coalition of protest groups and political parties, the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) noted that the document omitted 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,” TMC spokesperson Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi told reporters.

Sudanese protest leaders rejected the use of Islamic laws. Amged Farid, the spokesperson for the Sudanese Professionals Association, told Wednesday that the usage of Islamic law is aimed at blackmailing opposition activists.

“The insertion of Islamic and Sharia issues into this situation is an attempt to practice political blackmail,” Farid said. “We are discussing transitional arrangements, transitional institutions. This is the subject, not Sharia,” said Khaled Omar Youssef, a protest leader with the opposition Sudanese Congress Party.

“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. We are not willing to sit for this game,” he said.

Salah Aldoma, a political analyst from Sudan said that using Sharia is counter-revolutionary.

“The Sudanese revolution is against political Islam and anyone seeking the backing of Islamists in Sudan will lose popularity,” he said.

Using Sharia is “the old regime discourse” according to an activist and the whole movement is about disrupting the “old regime.”

The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, an alliance of activists and opposition groups, sent the military council the draft constitutional document Thursday outlining its vision for the transitional period.

Earlier Tuesday the main group spearheading protests in Sudan said that the TMC had responded to its plans for an interim government structure, and it would announce its position once it had studied the reply.

Opposition threatens wave of civil disobedience

The opposition Change and Freedom alliance is threatening to wage a campaign of “civil disobedience” if the ruling TMC refuses to swiftly hand over power to a civilian authority.

At a Wednesday news conference in the capital Khartoum, Khalid Omer Youssef, secretary-general of the Sudanese Congress Party (a component of the Change and Freedom alliance) accused the TMC of “maneuvering” to avoid relinquishing executive power.

“We have many options, including demonstrations and sit-ins, along with plans for a civil disobedience campaign,” Youssef said.

“But we would rather reach a negotiated settlement with the TMC if the latter can take the situation seriously,” he added.

On Tuesday, the TMC rejected a raft of proposals tabled by the opposition alliance.

Medani Abas Medani, a leading member of the Change and Freedom alliance, said the TMC’s continued rejection of the opposition’s proposals was “complicating the situation”.

He described the TMC’s recent statements on the role of Sharia Law as “an attempt to distract attention from the main issue — namely, the sought-for handover of power to a civilian authority”.

Medani accused the TMC of “resorting to the tactics of the former regime”.

He said that Sudan’s sprawling security apparatus was “still running the country”.

On April 11, the Sudanese army announced the “removal” of President Omar al-Bashir following months of popular protest against his 30-year rule. The TMC is now overseeing a two-year “transitional period” during which it has pledged to hold free presidential elections.

Female activists seek half of transitional authority

Sudanese women leaders affiliated with the Change and Freedom alliance have claimed women’s right to half the seats in every institution of the transitional authority.

Under the name of “Sudan Women for Change”, women leaders have recently launched a protest in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum to highlight women’s will to take part in the institutions of the transitional phase.

These female figures stressed women’s role in the success of the revolution against Al-Bashir and the way they were subjected to the repression of the security services and militias of the former regime during the last four months of protest.

“Since 1989, the women’s movement has actively participated in the opposition against Al-Bashir’s old regime, despite its repressive nature, has made great sacrifices, and does not consider its just demands as a grant to be offered by anyone,” said Nahed Jabrallah, a representative of the Alliance.

She continued: “The Sudanese women have participated in organizing demonstrations, protests, harboring revolutionaries, sit-ins, and social support. Their role has not only been limited in supporting men but also in leading the daily resistance movement.”

Jabrallah considered that “it is natural to launch a campaign aiming to achieve equal participation for women in the mechanisms of change to bring about real democratic transformations using civil mechanisms that can transform the slogans of the revolution into a real fact. We will not get involved in any compromises, and we will not tolerate any attempt of manipulation in this regard”.

She stressed that “this message, which is not only designated for the military council but all the forces engaged in the Declaration of Freedom and Change, aims to ensure a genuine democratic transition that guarantees fair participation for women.”

The parties, implicated in the Declaration on Freedom and Change, have already expressed their commitment to fair representation of women in the next phase.

Women participated in Al-Bashir’s regime with a minor symbolic representation, in limited ministries of service and social nature, such as education, care, and social security.

Sharia law must be legislation source, says army chief

The ruling military council is insisting that Sharia remain the basis of the country’s new laws.

The 10-member military council said it had “many reservations” about the suggestions made by alliance demanding democracy. The military council said the protesters demanding democracy are conspicuously silent on Islamic law.

Talks between the military and opposition remain deadlocked.

The protesters’ proposals were put to the military council the coalition of activists and opposition political groups.

On Wednesday, DFCF member Khalid Umar, a leading figure in the Sudanese Congress party, said they would continue with peaceful resistance through sit-ins and other legitimate means until their demands were met.

Lt-Gen Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesperson for the TMC, told reporters “the declaration failed to mention the sources of legislation, and the Islamic Sharia law and tradition should be the source of legislation”.

Our view is that Islamic Sharia should be the sources of legislation,” he said.

Sudan’s constitution currently specifies that Sharia is the country’s guiding principle.

Under Bashir’s rule it was used to target women. Some women’s rights organizations say thousands of women were flogged for “indecent behavior”, according to news agency AFP.

A top military council official earlier told that they would not accept a civilian-majority transitional council – a statement that sparked widespread criticism.

Demonstrators are on the streets

Demonstrators, however, have remained on the streets to demand that the military council hand over power — at the earliest possible date — to a civilian government.

Protest groups remain camped out in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum, calling for civilian rule.

Army threatens protesters demanding democracy

“We will deal with it firmly in accordance with the law,” Sudanese army threatened the protesters demanding democracy and civilian government.

The ruling TMC said Tuesday the army would not accept unrest in the country amidst continuous sit-in outside army headquarters in demand of a civil government.

“We will not accept chaos. We will deal with it firmly in accordance with the law,” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the TMCs vice president said Tuesday. “We do not want to escalate the situation. We are committed to negotiation. After today, there will be no chaotic scenes,” he added.

A curfew and three-month emergency period were announced, which thousands of protesters defied.

Since then thousands of protesters are camping outside the army headquarters in the capital city Khartoum demanding a quick transition to a civil government.

“The military council is a copy cat of the toppled regime. The army is trying to disperse the sit-in by removing the barricades,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), one of the leading groups of the movement. “We are calling on our people to come immediately to the sit-in area. We are calling on the revolutionaries to protect the barricades and rebuild them.”

UN support civilian-led transition

The United Nations say they are supporting a civilian-led transitional government in Sudan.

African Union

The African Union recently granted the Sudanese military council a three-month deadline to hand over power to a civilian administration; however, this was rejected by the opposition alliance.

AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told reporters after meeting Monday with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres there is no question of sustaining the military council that assumed power after al-Bashir’s ouster, saying, “it is not acceptable.”

Politicians brawled at meeting with TMC

Representatives of political forces for a meeting with the TMC Wednesday over the participation of supporters Sudan’s former ruling party.

The TMC called for a second meeting in capital Khartoum all the forces that had presented their views on the transition period to meet them for a briefing on Wednesday.

Most of these forces were partners to the former government and an ally of the National Congress Party (NCP) of ousted President Omer al-Bashir. They were part of the National Dialogue Initiative and were part of successive Bashir governments.

According to some politicians who attended the meeting, the atmosphere was characterized from the outset by intense tension after the objection of a number of participants to the presence of personalities known for their support to the National Congress Party. Some led campaigns to re-elect President Omer al-Bashir in the 2020 elections.

Some participants chanted slogans against the Council and called for civil authority, forcing the military council members to shorten their interventions and leave the place.

Presence of a large number of members of the National Congress Party and its allies contributed to the spread of more tension to transform the meeting room to an arena of fierce fighting.

Video footage that was widely circulated showed that some of the participants had been kicked out of the seats and clashed with their hands in a state of chaos and tension.

Video footage also showed some of the participants threw chairs against each other and clashed with their hands among chaos and tension.

During the first week, the TMC even refused to recognize the Freedom and Changes forces as the legitimate parent of the revolution.

The Freedom and Change forces say the TMC wants to form a government with these small forces as the opposition refuses to accept its perception of the transitional structures.

Currency crisis deepens

In recent days, the bank machines have only dispensed small sums of cash – about $40 for the lucky few – until the money in the ATMs runs out.

It is not that the people at the bank have no money. They do. The issue, as everyone complains, is that the central bank has not delivered money to the retail banks and so customers have not been able to access their funds.

The crisis is not new. Many cash machines began running out of banknotes in November as the government scrambled to prevent economic collapse with a sharp devaluation and emergency austerity measures, a month before the beginning of the political crisis and protests that brought down the former dictator Omar al-Bashir on April 11.

The currency crisis has been fuelled by longer term and more complex economic problems, not least, a loss of foreign currency since Sudan lost three-quarters of its oil output when the south of the country seceded in 2011.

Now after five long months the shortage of cash is biting hard, despite the promise from Saudi Arabia and the UAE of $3bn in financial aid to help stabilize Sudan’s toxic economic crisis.

It is being felt most acutely, however, on a personal level.

The cash shortage, say some, has created unexpected problems in an economy where people have been selling what they own to get by.

Big ticket items such as house and car sales now have two prices, a cheaper one for those who can pay with ready cash and a higher price for payment by cheque because confidence in the banking system has been seriously eroded.

While some believe the money has been stolen, most of the problems are due to the chronic mismanagement of the former regime.

When the bank did move to devalue the pound by about 40%, it triggered soaring inflation that would become a major factor in the protests that brought down Bashir after three decades in power. An economic crisis has still not played out and could have yet more dramatic consequences.

9 May 2019

Source: countercurrents.org

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