- The people of Sudan launched a new wave of protests after paramilitary security forces shot and killed six people, including five schoolchildren, during a protest lead by students against food and fuel shortages.
- The military council shut down schools in Sudan for an indeterminate amount of time following the attacks.
- Protestors and other leaders are calling for the attackers to be held accountable, with thousands marching in Khartoum Thursday.
- Negotiations between military and protest leaders were canceled Tuesday because of the attacks, but are expected to resume Thursday.
Protests Break Out After Schoolchildren Killed
Protests have broken out all over Sudan this week after five school children and one adult were killed in a shooting Monday when paramilitary forces opened fire on a peaceful student-led demonstration against food and fuel shortages in the city of El-Obeid.
The attacks also left more than 60 injured, according to opposition-linked medics.
However, the violence did not deter the protestors. Videos circulated later in the day showing students protesting in front of the hospital where those injured in the shooting had been taken.
After hearing of the violence, demonstrators in the Sundanese capital Khartoum also took to the streets to protest the killings.
The protests in Khartoum and El-Obeid continued the next day. Protesters in both cities were met with security forces who fired tear gas and live ammunition at them.
Schools were later shut down and a curfew was imposed in El-Obeid. According to The Guardian, a state of emergency was also declared, the army was deployed, and the internet was cut off.
On Tuesday, Sudan’s Transitionary Military Council (TMC), which has been running the country since President Omar al-Bashir was ousted by a military coup in April, ordered that schools be shut down nationwide.
“Orders have been given to governors of all states to shut kindergartens, primary and high schools from tomorrow [Wednesday] until further notice,” the TMC reportedly told Sudan’s news agency SUNA in a statement.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the TMC, condemned the attacks in a quote to SUNA.
“What happened in El-Obeid is a regrettable and upsetting matter and the killing of peaceful citizens is unacceptable and rejected and a crime that requires immediate and deterrent accountability,” he said.
A representative for Sudan from the United Nation’s children’s agency UNICEF also criticized the violence.
“I am devastated about the fatal shooting that led to the death of at least five high-school children and scores of serious injuries in El-Obeid,” the representative said. “The children, aged between 15 and 17 years old, were protesting the commencement of the school year amid the political uncertainty in Sudan. No child should be buried in their school uniform.”
UNICEF also called for an investigation into the killings, adding in the statement, “UNICEF calls on the government to investigate and hold all perpetrators of violence against children accountable.”
That request was echoed by the UK embassy in Sudan.
The African Union’s (AU) mediator for Sudan additionally called for a trial for those responsible for killing the school children. The AU also urged opposition and military leaders to resume negotiations which had been canceled on Tuesday.
Military and protests leaders agreed to a power-sharing deal early last month to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council to govern Sudan until elections in three years. However, negotiations have been ongoing as the two sides continue to hammer out some key issues.
Protests have also continued intermittently throughout that process.
More Protests as Negotiations Resume
While some opposition leaders reportedly did not want the talks to resume after Monday’s violence, Reuters reported Thursday that the leaders are set to resume talks later that same day.
Reuters added that opposition leaders had said they had resolved some major sticking points and were getting closer to a deal.
Since Monday, thousands of people have continued to protest the killings all across the country.
On Thursday, thousands of protestors reportedly took to the streets of Khartoum again to condemn the killings and call for a government to be formed immediately after protest leaders called for a “million-man march.”
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (Reuters) (The Guardian)
First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession
Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.
First Conviction Under National Security Law
The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.
A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”
According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.
Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”
“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.
More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights
A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.
That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.
It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)
Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response
President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.
President Makes Massive Changes to Government
Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.
The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.
Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.
The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.
After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.
In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.
It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.
One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.
Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.
Legalities of Article 80
The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.
He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.
However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.
In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”
International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)
South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys
The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.
The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.
The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.
At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.
The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.
Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.
Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.
BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.
Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.
The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.
Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.