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Sudan: In response to nation-wide protests, Omar al-Bashir declares a state of emergency and dissolves the government

On the 22nd of February 2019 Sudan’s president – Omar al-Bashir, dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency for one year. He addressed the nation on television by saying “I announce imposing a state of emergency across the country for one year and dissolving the government at the federal level and at the provincial levels.” Essentially, he warned his people of potential chaos dramatically similar to the one of the Arab Spring protests leading to massive civil wars in states like Yemen, Syria and Libya. Moreover, he invited the parliament to postpone the scheduled constitutional amendments that would have permitted him to run for yet another mandate next year. Omar al-Bashir is a former army officer and an Islamist who managed to seize power in 1989 through a coup d’etat. Ever since, he has consistently refused to step down (Deutsche Welle “Sudan’s Bashir”).

Recently, al-Bashir has been presented with the most sustained challenge to his long-standing  rule – a multitude of widespread protests. Anti-government rebels have raged in the capital of Sudan – Khartoum, as well as in other towns all across the country in an effort to push the president to withdraw from his post, after holding a firm grip of power for thirty consecutive years. Initially, the uprisings started as an opposition to the increased prices but have since transformed into the greatest challenge to al-Bashir’s rule. The protests erupted in December 2018 and took the lives of nearly 60 people in violent clashes of civilians with security and forces. However, the government claims the death toll is lower, placing the number at 32. In an effort to crack down on the uprisings, the National Intelligence and Security Service detained hundreds of rebels and activists, arrested journalists and oppositional leaders. Nevertheless, the Sudanese Professionals Association, who is leading the uprisings, replied to the president’s announcement of state of emergency by pushing him to step down immediately: “We are calling on our people to continue with demonstrations until the main aim of this uprising, which is the stepping down of the regime chief, is achieved” (Deutsche Welle “Sudan’s Bashir”).

As a matter of fact, in October 2007 the US removed a long-standing trade embargo on Sudan that lasted for twenty years. This move was expected to ameliorate Sudan’s otherwise desperate economic situation, which worsened significantly upon the gaining of independence of South Sudan. The latter took place in 2011 as a result of a decades-long civil war. It led to the loss of one third of Sudan’s overall oil wealth. This forced the ruling elite of Sudan to seek support from gas-rich Turkey and Qatar (Deutsche Welle “Wave of Protests”). The split between north and south inevitably brought about major economic repercussions for Sudan as a whole, where the economic system collapsed ever since. Chronic shortages of fuel and other inelastic basic goods were a commonplace with steadily rising prices for bread (Deutsche Welle “Anger over Dictatorship”).

In that regard, the primary reason for the emergence of the protest movements was the threefold raise of bread prices. Starting as a context-specific issue of discontent, these uprisings developed into a widespread expression of a broader dissatisfaction of the general population with the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in the country and ,crucially, al-Bashir’s thirty-year rule. On his part, the president labeled the protesters “infiltrators” for presenting an immense and unprecedented challenge to his autocratic rule. Therefore, security and government forces forcefully and violently cracked down on the demonstrations by deploying tear gas, live ammunitions and stun grenades in an effort to bring the movement to an end (Deutsche Welle “Wave of Protests”).

Notably, the protesters have been calling for peace, justice and freedom, and essentially an end to the decades-old military dictatorship bringing about human rights abuses, killings and economic grievances. However, even though the demonstrations in Sudan have been deemed to resemble the Arab Spring movements, they are found to share little similarities. For the most part, the Sudanese people are not partaking in an orchestrated demonstration but rather move spontaneously and in their own way. They have used the Arab Spring chant of “The people want to bring down the regime” but, arguably, there have been few points of comparison to be reasonably made between the Arab revolution and the Sudanese uprising (Deutsche Welle “Anger over Dictatorship”).

References:

Deutsche Welle. Anger over Dictatorship, Not Bread, Fueling Sudan Uprising | DW | 29.12.2018. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/anger-over-dictatorship-not-bread-fueling-sudan-uprising/a-46894036. (Accessed February 26, 2019).

Deutsche Welle. Sudan’s Bashir Declares State of Emergency, Dissolves Government as Protests Mount | DW | 22.02.2019. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/sudans-bashir-declares-state-of-emergency-dissolves-government-as-protests-mount/a-47643590. (Accessed February 25, 2019).

Deutsche Welle. Wave of Protests Rock Sudan, at Least One Dead | DW | 24.01.2019. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/wave-of-protests-rock-sudan-at-least-one-dead/a-47224745. (Accessed February 26, 2019).

The 2018 General Elections in the DRC – What next?

The 2018 general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, held on 30th of December, were set out to determine a successor of the long-standing president – Mr. Kabila (Wembi 2017). As a matter of fact, power transfer has never undergone a peaceful process in Congo. In this regard, Mr. Kabila, who ruled as of 2001, attempted with all his might to obstruct the democratic voting processes in the country. The 2011 election which he purportedly won in a legitimate manner, were widely unpopular and considered as mockery and corruption. His last term in office was expected to come to a final end in 2016. However, even when it expired, Kabila did not leave his riling position. Instead, he decided to shift public attention to the chaos in the country and cite it as the primary reason for the government’s inability to organize elections. Thereafter, he consolidated his grip of power for two more consecutive years and ruled against postulations in the Congolese national constitution, while ruthlessly murdering and slamming down pro-democratic movements and demonstrations (The Economist 2019).

In the context of the 2018 general elections in the DRC, Félix Tshisekedi (Union for Democracy and Social Progress) was found out to win the votes on the 10th of January with an overwhelming turnout of 38,6% of the total vote, surpassing his oppositional candidates Martin Fayulu and Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Importantly, Mr. Fayulu, who was second in the voting turnout, asserted that the vote was set up hastily and was absolutely not representative of the popular political affiliation. He then moved to challenge the outcome of the elections in the Constitutional Court of the DRC. The state’s influential Roman Catholic Church took his side claiming that the official voting turnout was not compliant with the results of its own observations. In this regard, the Church had deployed nearly 40,000 election monitors which, as stated, “place Fayulu as the winner” (Burke 2019). Thereafter, the Constitutional Court came up with a decision on the 19th of January declaring that Fayulu’s challenge to the outcome will not be taken into consideration and shall thereby be deemed invalid. As a result, the victory of Mr. Tshisekedi was upheld and conceived of as indisputable and final.

In relation to the other oppositional leader – Mr. Shadary, prior to the vote, opinion polls revealed an evident popularity of the opposition candidates against Mr. Shadary himself, who was backed by the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy. He was seen to offer nothing but a continuation of the present grievances facing the country – widespread poverty, rebel cruelties such as rapes and robbery which go unpunished due to ubiquitous corruption and negligence of the officials and government. Nevertheless, Mr. Shadary possessed indisputably advantages as measured against the backdrop of his opposition. That is to say, he instilled fear and terror in voters by commanding police to threaten people with physical violence unless they casted their vote in his favour. What is more, police blocked oppositional campaigns’ marches in the capital and installed presence of soldiers in the Eastern regions, wherein the latter would forcefully “convince” voters to vote for Shadary: “They were telling people that if they did not choose him, they would be stopped and beaten” (The Economist 2019).

Despite the concerted efforts on part of Fayulu and Shadary with their trusted appointees, Félix Tshisekedi was appointed as the 5th President of the DRC on the 24th of January 2019, marking the first, purportedly peaceful transition of power in the state since it gained its independence in 1960 from its former colonizer – Belgium (Burke 2019).

 

References:

Burke, Jason. “Congo Election Runner-up Rejects Tshisekedi Victory as ‘Electoral Coup’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 Jan. 2019, www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/10/congo-election-felix-tshisekedi-declared- winner-in-contentious-result.

“Congo’s Flawed Vote.” The Economist, 5 Jan. 2019, pp. 26–27.

Wembi, Steve. “Uncertainty as DRC Sets Election Date to Replace Kabila.” GCC News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 9 Nov. 2017, www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/uncertainty- drc-sets-election-date-replace-kabila-171109074747003.html.

African Diaspora: Education and Career Challenges in the Netherlands

The Great Lakes Working Group Meeting Summary: Education and Career Advancement – September 29th, 2017

The Great Lakes Diaspora Working Group is one group within The Hague Peace Projects. Recently, the group came together for its monthly meeting. This meeting’s aim was to hear about the experiences of young Dutch people with African migrant or refugee roots with education in the Netherlands.

Attendees were guided by two questions: How have you used education to achieve your goals? What are the challenges of finding your place in the Netherlands as an African migrant?

From there, participants were asked the following questions:

  1. Were you able to study in the Netherlands?
  2. Did you study what you wanted to study?
  3. Were your diplomas/ certificates acknowledged in the Netherlands?
  4. Do you have a job? Do you have the job you want?
  5. Are you working in the same field as you would have in your country of origin?
  6. Do you feel at home in the Netherlands?
  7. What is holding you back from reaching your life goals in the Netherlands?

Speakers: Julius and Deo

Next, two guests were invited to speak before the audience and share their stories. The first, Julius, an expert in law and criminality, is originally from Uganda and is now based in the Netherlands. He talked about how different the experiences of an immigrant from Africa to the Netherlands versus an immigrant from Europe to the Netherlands may be, though they are both new to Dutch culture. Julius went on to say that “whatever you see in this world is not an accident but a precedent. He believes that immigrants are getting an education to find a job rather than to grow as people. If you have a skill, you want to succeed, and you have an education, then you can find a job. Julius concluded by saying that education needs to be seen as a form of liberation for self-determination rather than merely job training.

The second speaker was Deo, who comes from Burundi. In Burundi, Deo worked as an air traffic controller before he was forced to flee to the Netherlands to find safety. Once in the Netherlands, Deo obtained an NT2 Diploma in the Dutch language. He then tried to find a job in the aviation industry with his international air traffic controller diploma, but was told that his Dutch language level was not good enough, so he went back to school to improve his Dutch. Eventually, Deo returned to the agency to try to prove his skills in Dutch but was turned away, so Deo went back to school, retrained in a logistics course, and got a job in the flower industry. Deo told the audience that as immigrants, many doors are closed to us, but remain positive, think smart, and find your way to success, however small.

Group Session: Challenges in Career, Education, and Beyond

After hearing Julius and Deo speak, the audience broke off into three groups to identify the primary challenges in work, education, and life overall as an African migrant in the Netherlands.

In the category of work, participants identified the lack of Dutch language knowledge as an oft-named reason for job rejection—even if they have earned language diplomas. Those who have found jobs often get short-term contracts, which only makes an unstable life as a refugee less secure. With these temporary contracts, career opportunities like promotions are limited at best. Networking is also difficult, since most immigrants have few connections in a new country. Cultural differences are hard to reconcile, as it is difficult to learn Dutch do’s and don’ts without being told or working in the Netherlands.

As for education, not knowing Dutch well enough can keep immigrants from taking the course of study that they would prefer. Foreign degrees, diplomas, and certificates are difficult to accredit. The Dutch system does not always support people in difficult situations, like a single mother trying to pay for her schooling and take care of her kids at the same time.

Beyond this, some found that being black and having a foreign name feels like a liability that separates them from their colleagues. Despite being integrated into Dutch culture and having attended school in the Netherlands, at work, people will still ask, “Where are you from?” Many attendees cited bureaucratic demands for paperwork and official documents as a legal oversight, since refugees must frequently flee their countries without the documents that they are later asked to supply.

Conclusion

Following this meeting, the group intends to compile a report to help inform and lobby the Dutch government on behalf of Dutch citizens and refugees with African roots. This open discussion night was helpful as many were able to share their stories and opinions. As one participant said, “it is difficult to do what you love as an immigrant. Instead of not doing what you love, be pragmatic, and do what you like.”

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African Peace Party

Peace is more than only talking, we need to connect on different levels. For that reason we organize an African Party with food, drinks, music and of course our best dance moves!

The African Party will take place in the evening of the third day of the Conference, on the 26th of November. The Hague Peace Projects will host the second Great Lakes Conference on the 24th, 25th and 26th of November with the main theme ‘the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding’. The first day will focus on the general function of media, the second day on experiences with media in conflict or peacebuilding and the third day will connect diaspora and media.

We invite all participants and friends to join this evening at the African Party where there will be free drinks and African music. The musician Fabrice will be performing for us on his guitar and after dinner there will be a DJ.

The Party takes places from 7 PM at Paviljoensgracht 20, The Hague. We hope to see you there!