Cairo, Jul 17 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council signed a document early Wednesday that outlines a power-sharing deal, but the two sides are still at work on a more contentious constitutional agreement that would specify the division of powers.
The signing ceremony held in the capital, Khartoum, after marathon overnight talks, marks an important step in the transition to civilian rule following the military overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir amid mass protests in April.
But the military appears to have the upper hand, following weeks of negotiations and a deadly crackdown last month in which security forces violently dispersed the protesters' main sit-in.
The document signed Wednesday would establish a joint civilian-military sovereign council that would rule Sudan for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader will head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
It marks a significant concession by the protesters, who had demanded an immediate transition to civilian rule. The pro-democracy movement would appoint a Cabinet, and the two sides would agree on a legislative body within three months of the start of the transition.
But the two sides have yet to agree on a division of powers between the sovereign council, the Cabinet and the legislative body, which would be enshrined in the constitutional document. That document would also set the terms of military leaders' potential immunity from prosecution over last month's violence.
"This is the big hurdle. Sudan's future after al-Bashir will be defined by this constitutional declaration," said Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer.
Protest organizers say security forces killed at least 128 people during last month's crackdown. Authorities put the death toll at 61, including three members of the security forces. The two sides have agreed on a Sudanese investigation into the violence, but have yet to outline its scope.
The agreement signed Wednesday at a ceremony broadcast by state TV stems from a meeting last month brokered by the U.S. and Britain, which support the protesters, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which back the military. The diplomatic push ended weeks of stalemate that had raised fears of further violence or even civil war.
"We are ushering in a new era," said Ibrahim al-Amin, a negotiator for the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and change, a broad-based coalition including independent professional unions, traditional political parties and other groups.
"The upcoming government will be a government of all Sudanese, for all citizens ... we have suffered enough from the totalitarian dictatorial regime."
The military was represented by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who has consolidated power since al-Bashir's overthrow and whose paramilitary Rapid Support Forces are accused of leading last month's crackdown. He hailed the agreement as a "historic moment in Sudan."
Envoys from Ethiopia and the African Union, who had spearheaded mediation efforts, also praised the agreement at Wednesday's ceremony.
Al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years, has been jailed in Khartoum since his ouster. In May, al-Bashir was charged with involvement in killing protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the popular uprising that started in December, initially over price increases.
He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s, but Sudan's military has said it will not extradite him to the Hague. He was the only sitting head of state subject to an international arrest warrant.
Johannesburg, July 15 (AP/UNB) — Former South African president Jacob Zuma has denied corruption allegations against him, saying the charges are part of an international intelligence conspiracy that started more than 25 years ago to assassinate his character.
Zuma is appearing before a state commission that is probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned companies.
Zuma dismissed the accusations against him saying that they stemmed from efforts by South Africa's previous apartheid regime and other foreign intelligence agencies to have him removed from powerful positions in the African National Congress, now the ruling party.
This, he told the commission, was because these intelligence agencies had infiltrated the ANC and feared that Zuma would either expose their spies.
Zuma's first day on the stand saw him staging a fightback against what he claims that he is corrupt.
He alleged that one of the witnesses who made allegations against him at the commission, former mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, had been recruited by the intelligence agencies as a spy during the apartheid days.
He also questioned the fairness of the state commission, saying it was also part of the alleged conspiracy against him.
Among some of the allegations Zuma faces are that members of the wealthy Indian family, the Guptas, influenced his cabinet appointments when he was president and subsequently swayed the awarding of lucrative state contracts.
In this phenomenon, known here as 'state capture', the Gupta family businesses allegedly took control of a large number of government departments and state-owned enterprises including the struggling power utility, Eskom.
Zuma told the commission that his relationship with the Guptas was nothing unusual or unlawful as they also had relationships with his two predecessors, former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
"They were friends with Mbeki and with Mandela as well, and others. In fact, they were stronger with Mbeki," said Zuma.
Earlier Monday Zuma was asked about allegations made by a former cabinet spokesman, Themba Maseko, that he had personally called him and tried to influence the award of significant government advertising contracts to the Guptas' now-defunct media businesses.
Zuma denied this, saying he could not remember any such intervention.
Zuma told the commission that he had suggested to the Guptas that they should start a newspaper and a broadcasting channel, which they did establish.
About 300 people gathered outside the commission venue to show their support for Zuma.
Others who came to show their support for the controversial former president included his son, Duduzane, who was last week found not guilty of culpable homicide related to a 2014 car crashed that killed a taxi passenger.
Two former cabinet ministers and two former deputy ministers also attended the commission to show their support for Zuma.
Zuma continues his testimony this week.
Congo, July 15(AP/UNB) — The Congolese health ministry confirmed an Ebola case in Goma late Sunday, marking the first time the virus has reached the city of more than 2 million people along the border with Rwanda since the epidemic began nearly a year ago.
The health ministry said the man who had arrived earlier Sunday in the regional capital had been quickly transported to an Ebola treatment center. Authorities said they had tracked down all the passengers on the bus the man took to Goma from Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the disease.
"Because of the speed with which the patient was identified and isolated, and the identification of all the other bus passengers coming from Butembo, the risk of it spreading in the rest of the city of Goma is small," the health ministry said in a statement.
The virus has killed more than 1,600 people in Congo and two others who returned home across the border to neighboring Uganda. Health experts have long feared that it could make its way to Goma, which is located on the Rwandan border.
The health ministries in Congo's neighbors have been preparing for months for the possibility of cases, and frontline health workers already have been vaccinated.
The confirmed case announced late Sunday in eastern Congo involves a pastor who became ill last Tuesday. He then left Butembo on a bus, and arrived at a health center Sunday showing symptoms of Ebola, the health ministry said.
Violent attacks against health workers and treatment facilities have greatly compromised efforts to combat the epidemic in Butembo.
Eastern Congo is home to a myriad of armed groups, and Mai Mai militia fighters are active near the hardest hit towns. Health teams have been unable to access violent areas to vaccinate people at risk of infection and to bring infected patients into isolation.
Other times the violence against health teams has come from residents who do not want their loved ones taken to treatment centers or buried in accordance with guidelines aimed at reducing Ebola transmission.
While the experimental vaccine is believed to have saved countless lives, not all Congolese people have accepted it. Some falsely believe that the vaccine is what is making people sick, in part because people can still develop the disease after getting the shot if they already had been infected.
Mogadishu, Jul 13 (AP/UNB) — At least 10 people, including two journalists, were killed in an extremist attack Friday on a hotel in the port city of Kismayo, a Somali official said.
Abdi Ahmed, a local district official, told The Associated Press the death toll may rise as fighting is continuing inside the Asasey Hotel between the extremist gunmen and security forces. He said gunfire is continuing inside the hotel.
He said most of the victims were patrons of the hotel, which is often frequented by lawmakers and local officials. He said the victims include two journalists.
The attack started with a suicide car bomb blast and then gunmen stormed into the hotel.
Somalia's al-Shabab Islamic rebels have claimed the responsibility.
Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to The Associated Press that Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman died in the attack.
"I'm absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people," Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.
Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
Khartoum, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's ruling military council said it foiled an attempted military coup Thursday, just days after the military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed on a joint sovereign council to rule the country during a transition period until elections are held.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of the military council, said in a statement that at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group's leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said.
The council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details. The statement also said five of the arrested officers were retired.
The military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed last Friday on a joint sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. Both sides say a diplomatic push by the U.S. and its Arab allies was key to ending a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.
"The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change," Omar said, referring to the group that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Sudan has been in political deadlock since the overthrow of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.
On Sunday, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan's top general, said the military council that assumed power after al-Bashir's overthrow would be dissolved with the implementation of the power-sharing deal.
The deal was meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers.
In the ensuing weeks, protesters stayed in the streets, demanding that the generals hand power to civilian leadership.
The deal was reached after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Sudan's main cities on June 30 in the biggest demonstrations since the sit-in camp was razed. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
The power-sharing arrangement is to include a joint sovereign council of five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat is to go to a civilian chosen by both sides. The protesters will select a Cabinet of technocrats, and a legislative council is to be formed after three months.
The two sides also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown, but the details have yet to be worked out.