- A new report from the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said that 108 people were killed and more than 500 were injured during a paramilitary attack on Sudanese protestors on June 3.
- The Sudanese government contradicted the CCSD report on Thursday when a Health Ministry official told Reuters that the death toll was at 61.
- International leaders have condemned the paramilitary forces that attacked the protestors.
- They have also expressed concern about stalled negotiations and clashes between the Sudanese military and protest leaders, who have been battling over who will lead the country’s transitionary government.
Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors Report
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), an opposition-linked doctors’ union, reported that 108 people were killed and more than 500 others were injured in a violent attack on Sudanese protestors in Khartoum on Monday.
Earlier this week, paramilitary security forces attacked a weeks-long demonstration staged by Sudanese protestors who have been camped outside the military’s headquarters since early April.
The security forces entered the camp, opening fire at civilians and torching their tents. It was also reported the security forces used live ammunition inside a hospital where wounded protestors were being treated.
After several hours, the paramilitary forces were successful in gaining control over most of the camp, having effectively dispersed the protestors and sealing off nearly a square mile area that the sit-in had previously occupied.
Since the attack, the reported death toll has been steadily rising. The CCSD first posted the recent information on their Facebook page late on Wednesday, and then provided more information in an updated post on Thursday.
However, there is a discrepancy between the doctor’s field report and the numbers given by the government. On Thursday, the director general of Sudan’s Health Ministry, Suleiman Abdel Jabbar, told Reuters that the death toll was at 61 people.
While Monday’s attack was especially violent and lethal, Sundanese demonstrators have been clashing with security forces since anti-government protests first broke out in December.
Ever since a military coup overthrew the long-time Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on April 11, civilians and the military have been grappling for control of power.
Following the coup, the military installed the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to oversee a transition of power that they said will last at most two years.
However, demonstrators have demanded that the military ruler hand over power to a civilian-led government immediately.
Military leaders agreed to negotiate with protest leaders to form a transitional government, but the military and the opposition protesters have not been able to agree on the role of the military in that transition.
Over the last month or so, Sudan’s political climate has been defined by on-and-off negotiations as well as continued protests and demonstrations, some of which have reportedly been met with violence from security forces.
Following the attacks, numerous foreign leaders and government officials responded by condemning the violence.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton referred to the attack as “abhorrent” in a tweet.
That was also echoed in a statement from a U.S. State Department Spokesperson that said: “The United States condemns the recent attacks on protesters in Sudan.”
U.K. Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt condemned the incident in a tweet and said that the security forces’ actions would “only lead to more polarisation and violence.”
The following day the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. issued a joint statement condemning the security forces for attacking civilians, and calling for “an agreed transfer of power to a civilian-led government as demanded by the people of Sudan.”
The African Union, Egypt, Germany, and Qatar also issued separate statements calling for protest leaders and the TMC to return to negotiations, and the European Union called for a peaceful transition to a civilian government, according to Al Jazeera.
A number of international organizations responded to the attack too, like Human Rights Watch, which referred to the attack in a statement as “egregious rights violations” that “require urgent international action to halt further violations.” The group also called for the U.N. to launch an official investigation.
On that note, the U.N. Secretary General’s office released a statement following the attack. “The Secretary-General strongly condemns the violence and reports of the excessive use of force by security personnel on civilians, that have resulted in the deaths and injury of many,” the statement said.
However, on Tuesday, China and Russia blocked an effort by the U.N. Security Council to formally condemn the killing of civilians and call on world powers to stop the violence.
Additionally, on Thursday, the U.N. announced that it will be pulling all its personnel from Sudan, Al Jazeera reported.
The African Union also issued a more formal response on Thursday, announcing in a tweet. that they will suspend Sudan’s membership from the union.
With everything that has happened this week, it’s unclear how Sudan will proceed. Following the attack, the TMC said they would no longer negotiate with the protestors and called for snap elections in nine months.
Then on Wednesday, military leaders went back on that decision and said they wanted negotiations, but were rebuked by the protest leaders, who refuse to negotiate with them after the attack.
Meanwhile, demonstrators are still protesting and the military has said they will investigate the attack.
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Washington Post) (BBC)
China Cautiously Crawls Out of Zero COVID Policy
Estimates put the number of people who will die if China fully reopens between 1.3 and 2 million, but higher vaccination rates could limit the death toll.
People Go Back to Bars
The Chinese government has begun to ease some of its notoriously strict pandemic lockdown measures, signaling that the end of the “zero-COVID” policy may be on the horizon.
On Monday, commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities were allowed to board buses and subways without a virus test in the previous 48 hours for the first time in months.
In Shanghai, visitors to most sites will require a negative test within the last week, rather than the last two days, though schools, hospitals, and bars will require one within the past 48 hours.
Dining in restaurants in some parts of Beijing is still prohibited, but bars and restaurants in many areas of the country are reopening.
In Urumqi, where anti-lockdown protests erupted late last month after an apartment fire killed 10 people, authorities said in a statement Monday that malls, markets, and other venues will reopen.
Zhengzhou, the central city home to the world’s largest iPhone plant which was last month rocked by violent unrest, will no longer require COVID test results for public transport, taxis, and visits to “public areas”, authorities said in a Sunday statement.
Beijing authorities had required registration to purchase fever, cough, and soar throat medicine, which they believed people were using to hide their coronavirus infections, but that mandate has been lifted. Certain districts in the capital also announced that some residents may self-isolate inside their homes rather than being forced to quarantine in a centralized facility.
Is China Ready to Reopen?
Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said last week that the country’s health system had withstood the test of the virus and that the omicron subvariant is less deadly than previous strains.
But there has not been a significant drop in cases recently to prompt the easing of restrictions. On Monday, the government reported 30,014 new cases, down from last week’s peak of over 40,000 but still near record highs for China.
Some observers speculate that the government’s move was related to the recent protests, in which thousands of people poured onto the streets of several major cities to demand freedom and an end to the zero-COVID policy. Authorities cracked down on demonstrators, and any mention of the protests was rigorously censored on Chinese social media.
There was no sign of any significant unrest this weekend.
Although many people are excited to enjoy less restricted lives and restart a shuddered economy, others are concerned about the public health consequences reopening society could incur. Estimates put the number of people who will die from the coronavirus if China fully reopens between 1.3 and 2 million, but higher vaccination rates could limit the death toll.
Last week, the government launched a campaign to vaccinate the elderly population.
Only about 40% of people over the age of 80 have gotten their booster shot, according to official statistics.
Health experts and economists say vaccination rates and ICU preparedness won’t be sufficient to fully end the zero-COVID policy until mid-2023 or 2024.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People
The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.
After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people.
According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125.
During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.
“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.
Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government.
In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.
“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.
The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.
“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.
Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters.
Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals
Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.
Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies
Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.
Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.
The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.
For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.
An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”
Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.
As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.
Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.
The Arc of History Bends Toward China
Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.
Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.
Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.
At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.
Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.
Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.
Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.
Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.