Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Egypt adopts constitutional amendments that allow al-Sisi to stay on till 2030

As expected the referendum about the changes to the Egyptian constitution of 2014 turned out to be a yes-vote. On Tuesdat the final results after three days of voting showed that the proposed amendments to the country’s 2014 constitution received a support of 88.8 per cent. Only 11.1 per cent, or 2,9 million voters, voted no to the amendments. The turn out was rather low, only 27.2 million participated in the poll, a turn out of 44.3 per cent of the 61.5 million eligible voters, even though there had been stories that poor voters had been lured to the voting boots with food packages and other presents.
The major significance of the “yes” vote is that the amendments will extend Egypt’s sitting president, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi's term by two years, from 2022 to 2024.President al-Sisi will also be allowed in 2024 to run for another — and final — six-year term. Others who wish to compete in 2024 also will have the chance to run two times. Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, leader of the parliamentary majority, the Support Egypt coalition, explained that the “Members of Parliament decided to give Al-Sisi a chance to run for another six-year term beyond 2024 in appreciation of his role in helping the Egyptian people in 2013 get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood regime and restore stability.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Saudi Arabia executes 37 men on one day

Saudi Arabia executed 37 people on Tuesday after they had been sentenced to death for terrorism-related crimes.The executions were announced in a statement on the state-run news agency, which said the men had been put to death for “their adoption of extremist, terrorist ideology and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disturb security, spread chaos and cause sectarian discord.”
Some of the men had been involved in bomb attacks on security headquarters that had killed officers, the agency said.
It listed the 37 men by name but provided little information about what crimes they had committed or when. They include 11 men who were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial. At least 14 others  were convicted of violent offences related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a majority Eastern Province between 2011 and 2012.The 14 men were subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and told the court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their interrogation in order to have ‘confessions’ extracted from them. One of  them was only 16 when he was arrested, said Amnesty International.
Most executions in Saudi Arabia are done by beheading in a public square.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sudan struggles with disunity in the military and division between the military and civilians

Nasserist Party Member Satei al-Hajj, flanked by a communist and a Baathist, at a press conference., Saturday afternoon by the Sudanese opposition parties.(Photo Mada Masr)

Mada Masr, the leftist internet newssite, has some interesting background about the change of power in Sudan. Based on information from Sudanese military and opposition sources, plus Egyptian anonymous authorities, it reports about the fast demise of Awad Ibn Auf, the minister of Defence,  and his deputy Kamal Abdel Marouf after they had taken over command from Sudan's leader for about 30 years, Omar al-Bashir. Also the head of the National Intelligence and Security Services,Salah Gosh, another figure closely tied to Bashir’s regime, resigned Saturday evening.
All three stepped down within 24 hours after Ibn Auf had taken power. And although the Defense minister did not indicate why he was stepping down, two military sources in Khartoum told Mada Masr that his removal was the result of broad disagreements within the senior ranks of the Armed Forces, that also led to direct confrontations between armed groups. Many changes and conspiracies emerged within the army in the past few days, according to Mada Masr, leading to clashes between the Armed Forces and security units, which have left large numbers of dead on both sides. Mada Masr's source source added that the conflicts were on several fronts: first divisions between the Islamist militias and the armed forces and second the junior officers in one camp and senior army officers in another.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Army seizes power in Sudan, Omar al-Bashir imprisoned

Omar al-Bashir
Sudan's armed forces have overthrown and arrested President Omar al-Bashir after months of protests against his nearly 30-year rule. In a statement on Thursday, General Awad Ibn Auf said al-Bashir was taken to a "safe place". He also announced the formation of a military-led transitional government, which will rule for two years.
"The armed forces will take power, '' said  Ibn Auf, the country's vice president and defence minister.He declared a three-month state of emergency and the suspension of the 2005 Constitution, as well the closure of Sudan's airspace for 24 hours and of border crossings until further notice.
All of Sudan's government's institutions, including the National Assembly and national council of ministers, have been dissolved, Ibn Auf added, assuring that Sudan would soon prepare for "free and fair" elections.
Ibn Auf's announcement came against the backdrop of a sixth successive day of anti-government protests outside Sudan's headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. Demonstrators have staged a mass sit-inoutside the complex to call for the army to support their bid to see al-Bashir peacefully removed from power.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Trump places Iranian Pasdaran on list of 'terrorist organisations'

President Donald Trump announced on Monday that the United States is designating Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also called Pasdaran, a foreign "terrorist organisation", marking the first time Washington has formally labelled another country's military a "terrorist group".
Responding to the move, Iran immediately declared the US as "state sponsor of terrorism" and US forces in the region "terrorist groups", state media reported. 
Iran also condemned the US decision as an illegal act prompted by Tehran's regional influence and "success in fighting against Islamic State," Iranian state TV said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
The US has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organisation as a whole.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

High prison sentences of Rif protesters upheld by court of appeal

Nasser Zafzafi (Wikipedia)
Dozens of activists linked to the Hirak protest movement that rocked northern Morocco in 2016 and 2017 had prison sentences of up to 20 years upheld by a court of appeal on Friday.
The ruling against the 42 protesters in the western city of Casablanca was met with cries of "corrupt state" from relatives.  The Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or "Popular Movement", protests took hold in the country's marginalised Rif region in October 2016.The social unrest was sparked by the death of a fisherman who was crsuihed to death in a garbage truck and escalated into a wave of demonstrations demanding more development in the neglected region and railing against corruption and unemployment.
Authorities accused the activists of having separatist aims.
The sentences were first handed down in June last year, prompting further demonstrations calling for the group's release, backed by human rights organisation such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

Algerians not satisfied with departure of Bouteflika, demand overhaul of the system

Also in other cities than Algiers people demonstrated. This is a picture from Sétif (Le Matin d'Algérie)

The Algerians are not satisfied with the demise of president Bouteflika who tendered his resignation onTuesday. It was not a suprsie that they once again took to the streets in big numbers this Friday to demand an overhaul of the political system after the president of 20 years had left office.
Tens of thousands of people massed in the capital, Algiers, and marched towards the central post office, a symbol of the peaceful widespread protests that began on February 22 in response to 82-year-old Bouteflika's bid to seek a fifth term in now-cancelled elections.
Security was higher than usual, with roadblocks preventing buses of protesters from entering the city. One group of demonstrators from the Kabylie region east of Algiers walked 20km after its bus was stopped at a roadblock.
It was the seventh straight Friday of protests against a leadership the demonstrators perceive as corrupt and repressive but the first since the ailing Bouteflika resigned on Tuesday.The demonstrators now want the departure of key allies of Bouteflika, including the men who head Algeria's three branches of power: the prime minister, chief of the upper house of parliament and the president of the constitutional court. "The people want them all to leave," protesters chanted. Some brandished signs calling for the exit of "the three Bs"- Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, Constitutional Council President Tayeb Belaiz, and upper house of parliament President Abdelkader Bensalah.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Erdogan's AKP loses big cities in election

Erdogan (Wikipedia)
The Justice and Development Party (AKP), the party of president Erdogan has won Sunday's elections in Turkey, although it lost votes compared to the last elections. Nationwide it scored, together with its coalition partner,  more than 50 percent. But the ruling party lost in the capital, Ankara, and in also in Istanbul.
The party made known however that it is objecting to the resultas. Bayram Senocak, the AK Party's top official in Istanbul, said on Tuesday he has submitted objections to results in all 39 of the city's districts, seeking a recount to fix alleged irregularities and a reassessment of invalid votes.
The same happend in Ankara. There Hakan Han Ozcan, AK Party's chairman, told reporters they were also filing an appeal in 25 districts of the city.

Bouteflika steps down

Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has submitted his resignation, state news agency APS said on Tuesday, following weeks of mass protests against his rule.The ailing, 82-year-old leader stood down shortly after the army chief of staff demanded immediate action to remove him from office.
 ''There is no more room to waste time,” state news agency APS quoted Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah as saying.
On Monday, Bouteflika, who was in power for 20 years, had said he would quit before the end of his term on April 28.
It remaisn to be seen what the opposition now is going to do. Opposition parties rejected his abdication as insufficient,. They asked for democratiziation and a change of the system. It was one of the demands during the many demonstrations of the past weeeks against Bouteflika's reelection.
Bouteflika was bound to a wheelchair and underwent many medical treatements outside Algeria. He has rarely been seen in the open since he was affected by a stroke in 2013. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

UN willi nvestigate mass murders in Mali

Burnt house in the village Ogassogu. (Picture Malian government)

The United Nations has sent a team of investigators to Mali's restive Mopti region, where more than 150 people were killed this weekend, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The raid took place on Saturday in the village of Ogossagou, home to the Fulani herding community, near the town of Mopti in central Mali.
Local officials and security sources told AFP news agency that the death toll had climbed to 160, while the UN rights office said at least 153 people were killed and 73 were wounded.
The "horrific attacks" marked a "significant" surge in "violence across communal lines and by so-called 'self-defence groups' apparently attempting to root out violent extremist groups", said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN rights office. 
In the Mopti region alone, attacks had led to "some 600 deaths of women, children and men, as well as thousands of displaced persons" since March 2018, she told reporters.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In Algeria new leaders emerge at the helm of the protests against Bouteflika

Thousands of students, university professors and health workers rallied in Algiers on Tuesday calling for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit. Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by announcing he would not stand for another term. But he stopped short of stepping down immediately and said he would stay in office until a national conference had been convened and a new constitution would be adopted. The demonstraters perceived this move as a masquerade and a way to stay on for a fifth term without having been elected.
The protests have now been going on for about a month. Last Friday an enormous amount of people took part in a demonstration of really hitherto unknown proportions. In the meantime a new group of leaders has emerged, emboldened by the huge protests. The new leaders late on Monday issued a statement titled “Platform of Change”, demanding that Bouteflika step down before the end of his term on April 28 and the government resign immediately.
The Algerian authorities have long quite able to manipulate the opposition. But now the mass demonstrations emboldened well-known figures to lead the reform drive. Prominent members of the new group include lawyer and activist Mustapha Bouchachi, opposition leader Karim Tabou and former treasury minister Ali Benouari, as well as Mourad Dhina and Kamel Guemazi, who belong to an outlawed Islamist party. Zoubida Assoul, leader of a small political party, is the only woman in the group.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Dutch 'Christians for Israel' protest against GreenLeft party that assured BDS is legitimate

Some dozens of people on Tuesday morning assembled in front of the bureau of the political party GroenLinks (GreenLeft) in Utrecht in the Netherlands to protest against a motion that the party adopted at its last convention, whereby it said that BDS (Boycott, Desinvestment and  Sanctions) is a legitimate weapon in the struggle for Palestinian rights. The protestors, members of ''Christian for Israel'', the biggest fan club of Israel in the Netherlands, carried slogans like 'GreenLeft has the wrong friends'', "Shame on GreenLeft'' and ''BDS strives to anihilate the Jewish State''.
What seems to have escaped the attention of the Christians was that GreenLeft did not adopt the goals or methods of the boycott, but  only spoke about BDS as legal and in line with the freedom of expression. In fact GreenLeft even rejected BDS itself. That, however, was lost on this bunch of Isarel loving people, who use to cheer at the establisment of any new colony in occupied territory, or any new breach of international law by the Israeli occupation.
Christians for Israel seems to have more than 100.000 members who are all enthousiastic supporters of the rightist Israeli government, the colonization of the West Bank and the suppression of the Palestinians. They frequently turn criticism of Israel into ''anti-semitism''. It is one of the main organizations in Holland that can be held responsible for the constant denial of basisc facts that is a characteristic of Dutch Middle East policy.