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Sudanese Forces Fire Tear Gas As Thousands Gather to Protest Military Rule

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Sudanese security forces fired tear gas Tuesday at protesters rallying against last month’s military takeover and a subsequent deal that reinstated the prime minister, witnesses said.

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Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital Khartoum and marched on the presidential palace, before security forces fired tear gas to disperse them, they said.

“I’m here to demand the fall of military rule,” demonstrator Mohamed Alaaldin told AFP.

Sudan‘s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, seized power and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on October 25, but after international condemnation and mass protests he reinstated the premier nearly a month later.

Critics however have lambasted the November 21 agreement as “whitewashing” and accused Hamdok of “betrayal”, with pro-democracy activists vowing to maintain pressure on the military-civilian authority.

On Tuesday, security forces were stationed around the palace to prevent demonstrators from approaching.

“No partnership, no negotiation, no legitimacy,” protesters chanted, urging the military “to go back to their barracks”.

At least 43 people have been killed in anti-coup protests since last month, according to medics.

Doctors have accused security forces of using live rounds, but police denied the allegations, saying they only used “minimum force” to disperse protests.

On Tuesday, police forces were seen chasing protesters on streets near the presidential palace with “whips”, witnesses said.

“Severe injuries to the hands have been observed among several protesters,” the independent Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.

The wounds resulted from attempts by protesters to throw away the “sound bombs” fired by security forces, it added.

‘Clear and decisive response’

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella of unions which called for Tuesday’s protests, accused Hamdok and Burhan of seeking to “reproduce the former regime” of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir was ousted and jailed in April 2019 following mass protests.

“Taking to the streets is a clear and decisive response to the putschists’ nonsense,” said the SPA, which was also instrumental in the anti-Bashir protests.

Hamdok, who has been prime minister in the transitional government since 2019, has defended the deal, which he signed after he was released from effective house arrest.

He has said he partnered with the military to “stop the bloodshed” and to “not squander the gains of the last two years”.

The Burhan-Hamdok agreement was welcomed by the United Nations, African Union, and Western countries, as well as Arab powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have strong ties with the Sudanese military.

The military has vowed to release detainees kept in custody since the coup, and several politicians have since been freed.

Burhan has also pledged to lead Sudan to “free and transparent elections” in July 2023.

He has insisted the military’s move “was not a coup” but a step “to rectify the transition”.

(AFP)

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Original Source: france24.com

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World at ‘inflection Point’ Warns Biden, Raising Alarm at Democracy Summit

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Democracy faces “sustained and alarming challenges” worldwide, US President Joe Biden said Thursday at the opening of a virtual summit on democracy with representatives from some 100 countries.

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Biden said trends were “largely pointing in the wrong direction” and that democracy needed “champions.”

“We stand at an inflection point,” he said. “Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked?”

The two-day event, held by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic, was billed by the White House as US leadership in an existential struggle between democracies and powerful autocracies or dictatorships.

“Make no mistake, we’re at a moment of democratic reckoning,” said Uzra Zeya, the US under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. “Countries in virtually every region of the world have experienced degrees of democratic backsliding.”

The summit featured opening remarks from Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with representatives from some 100 governments, as well as NGOs, private businesses, philanthropical organisations and legislatures attending.

China, Russia not invited

The conference is a test of Biden’s assertion, made in his first foreign policy address in February, that he would return the US to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.

Both countries were not invited to this week’s event, which coincides with questions about the strength of America’s democracy. Biden is struggling to pass his agenda through a polarised Congress following the turbulent and disruptive Trump presidency.

Amid rising US-China tensions, the Biden administration’s decision to invite Taiwan has irked Beijing.

China considers Taiwan, a democratically ruled island, part of its territory.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said the invitation of Taiwan showed the US was only using democracy as “cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests.”

‘Lip service’

Washington used the run-up to the summit to announce sanctions against officials in Iran, Syria and Uganda it accuses of oppressing their populations, and against people it accuses of being tied to corruption and criminal gangs in Kosovo and Central America.

US officials hope to win support during the meetings for global initiatives, such as use of technology to enhance privacy or circumvent censorship, and for countries to make specific public commitments to improve their democracies before an in-person summit planned for late 2022.

Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at non-profit Freedom House, said the event had the potential to push struggling democracies to do better and to spur coordination between democratic governments.

“But, a full assessment won’t be possible until we know what commitments there are and how they are implemented in the year ahead,” Boyajian said.

Zeya at the State Department said civil society would help hold the countries, including the United States, accountable. Zeya declined to say whether Washington would disinvite leaders who did not fulfill their pledges.

Human Rights Watch’s Washington director Sarah Holewinski said making the invitation to the 2022 summit dependent on delivering on commitments was the only way to get nations to step up.

Otherwise, Holewinski said, some “will only pay lip service to human rights and make commitments they never intend to keep.”

“They shouldn’t get invited back,” she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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Original Source: france24.com

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Top US Scientist Fauci: Omicron ‘almost Certainly Not More Severe’ Than Delta Variant

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Top US scientist Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that while it would take weeks to judge the severity of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, early indications suggested it was not worse than prior strains, and possibly milder.Read More

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Suspected Member of Khashoggi Hit Squad Arrested at Paris Airport

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French police Tuesday arrested at Paris’s main airport a suspected member of the team that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, sources said.Read More

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