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UN Chief Condemns Excessive Force Against Sudan Protesters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned a Monday attack by Sudanese security forces

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UN Chief, Sudan Protesters
Sudanese protesters use burning tires to erect a barricade on a street, demanding that the country's Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2019. VOA

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned a Monday attack by Sudanese security forces that broke up a protest site in Khartoum and killed or wounded dozens of people.

“He condemns the use of force to disperse the protesters at the sit-in site, and he is alarmed by reports that security forces have opened fire inside medical facilities,” said a spokesman for Guterres at the United Nations in New York. “The Secretary-General reminds [Sudan’s] Transitional Military Council of its responsibility for the safety and security of the citizens of Sudan. He urges all parties to act with utmost restraint.”

Explosions and heavy machine gunfire were heard as security forces stormed a site outside the Defense Ministry where demonstrators had maintained a protest for the past eight weeks, demanding the military hand power over to a civilian authority.

Witnesses say that by mid-afternoon, the area had been cleared.

UN Chief, Sudan Protesters
An injured man is carried on a stretcher during protests in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2019 in this image taken from a video obtained from social media. VOA

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is close to Sudan’s protest movement, now says the death toll stands at 30 with many more injured.

In remarks from the spokesman, Guterres also called for unimpeded access for first responders at the sit-in site and in hospitals where the wounded are treated, and called on Sudanese authorities to conduct an independent investigation and hold people accountable for the deaths.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also condemned the attack and urged the security forces to stop immediately.

“Those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression must be protected, not targeted or detained,” Bachelet said in a statement. “This is a fundamental tenet of international human rights law.”

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The U.S. embassy in Khartoum tweeted that the attacks on protesters “must stop.”

The British embassy condemned the attack and called it an “outrageous step that will only lead to more polarization and violence.”

Details of the raid

The sit-in began in April as civilians and military officials argued over the makeup of a transitional government, following the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April, after mass protests against his 30-year rule.

With batons in hand, Sudanese forces dressed in police and military uniforms surrounded protesters near the military headquarters and began forcing the demonstrators to leave. Video on several media outlets shows Sudanese forces beating protesters lying face down on the ground.

UN Chief, Sudan Protesters
In this image made from video, Sudanese forces escort civilian in Khartoum, Sudan on June 3, 2019. VOA

Protesters say rapid response forces and paramilitary units surrounded two Khartoum hospitals.

The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces — a coalition of political parties leading the protest — issued a statement calling on all demonstrators to continue with”the revolution.”Protesters later blocked roads leading into and out of Khartoum.

Protest organizers have suspended further talks with the Transitional Military Council and called for civil disobedience across the country until the military hands over power to civilians.

The organizers also say in the statement that security forces who killed protesters must be brought to justice.

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Media reports quote Transitional Military Council spokesman Shams El din Al Kabashi as saying the forces only targeted what he called “dangerous groups” that infiltrated the protesters in the sit-in area.

Kabashi says he believes that a return to negotiations is the quickest way to resolve the problem. (VOA)

Next Story

Central American Countries Rally to Protest For Conservation of Forests

Indigenous Groups Rally to Protect Latin America's Threatened Forests

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Conservation of forests
The coalition of governments, indigenous people, green groups and others announced a plan to protect 10 million hectares of forests. Pixabay

Central American countries are teaming up to conserve the region’s five great forests as part of a regional climate action plan released at U.N. climate talks in Madrid this week, the alliance behind the effort said.

The coalition of governments, indigenous people, green groups and others announced a plan to protect 10 million hectares of forests and degraded land inside those forests — an area roughly the size of Guatemala — by 2030.

In the last 15 years, three of the forests have been reduced by almost one-quarter in size, with illegal cattle ranching responsible for more than 90% of recent deforestation, it said.

Measures planned to safeguard the forests include bolstering agencies that look after protected areas, tracing beef to verify it has been legally produced, cracking down on cross-border cattle trafficking, helping ranchers find other ways to earn a living, and reforesting land where trees have been cut down.

Jeremy Radachowsky, regional director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a partner in the project, said financing would come from multiple sources, including Central American countries, donor governments and a dedicated fund that will be created for indigenous and community forests.

The five forests, spanning from Mexico to Colombia, are key to curbing climate change as they sequester carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels that would otherwise heat up the planet.

Spain Climate Talks
People shout slogans during a march organized by the Fridays for Future international movement of school students outside of the COP25 climate talks congress in Madrid, Spain. VOA

“Nearly 50% of the carbon in Mesoamerica is stored in the five great forests,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Costa Rica’s environment minister, adding he hoped they would not be fragmented by deforestation.

The forests also provide habitat for wildlife such as the jaguar and scarlet macaw, the alliance said. The initiative aims to ensure no species go extinct.

The forests include the Maya Forest in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize; the Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; the Indio Maiz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; the Talamanca region in Costa Rica and Panama; and the Darien in Panama and Colombia.

They provide water, clean air, food security and other natural resources to 5 million people, the alliance said, noting that indigenous and local communities manage nearly half of the forest area.

Candido Mezua  of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, said it was sad to see the forests of the Amazon burning — and the impact that was having on indigenous people.

“In Mesoamerica, we have our five forests. They still exist. We can still protect them, and even expand them,” he said in a statement.

Amazon summit 

Amazon indigenous leaders, meanwhile, said this week they would host a world summit in Ecuador next August aimed at protecting the Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems in “response to the environmental crisis in the basin and abroad”.

Leaders representing 20 indigenous groups from Ecuador and Peru also called for global support to stop oil drilling and mining in the Amazon “Sacred Headwaters” region, an ecosystem rich in biodiversity that spans 30 million hectares in the two countries.

Deforestation in Brazil’s huge tract of Amazon rainforest rose to its highest level in over a decade this year, government data showed in November.

The data confirmed a sharp increase in deforestation under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which is considering permitting commercial agriculture and mining on native reserves.

Risks to Brazil’s forests drew global concern in August when fires raged through the Amazon.

Scientists link the fires to deforestation, with people and companies cutting down the forest for timber and then setting fire to the remains to clear the land for ranching or farming.

Forests
In the last 15 years, three of the forests have been reduced by almost one-quarter in size, with illegal cattle ranching. Pixabay

Gregorio Mirabal, general coordinator of COICA, the biggest indigenous federation in the Amazon, said new ways were needed of dealing with threats to the Amazon, including the “devastating effects” of climate change.

At the U.N. climate conference, states “are making decisions for companies and not for the people”, he said.

“The inability of our governments to solve this (climate) crisis is calling us to do this ourselves, hand in hand with the youth and any others in goodwill who want to join,” he added.

Many indigenous groups are opposed to credits for forest protection being included in carbon trading markets, arguing it would damage their sacred lands and livelihoods, as governments haggle over new rules for those markets at the Madrid talks.

“We do not allow the commodification of nature or that it has a price. For us nature is of value as itself. It is our Mother Earth,” Mirabal said.

According to the Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative, which works on forest issues, up to 65% of the world’s land is communally held by indigenous peoples and local communities and contains 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

But only 10% of those groups’ land rights have been legally recognized, it said.

“The local cultures and indigenous peoples are the ones that have best preserved nature, and we do not believe that solutions can exist without us,” said Mirabal.

Indigenous groups — officially represented at the U.N. conference for the first time — have pushed for language on protecting their rights to be included in the text on carbon market rules that is under negotiation in Madrid.

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But it is not in the latest draft as the talks near an end.

Indonesian indigenous activist Ghazali Ohorella said the rules should ensure safeguards for forest people’s land and rights, as well as a complaints mechanism and opportunities for them to participate in decisions on carbon offsetting schemes. “If not, it will create so much trouble further down the line,” he told journalists at the talks. (VOA)