Ahramonline – Egypt
With a great sense of optimism and amid popular celebrations, Sudan’s Military Council and representatives of the opposition coalition, the Alliance of Freedom and Change, finally signed Sunday a “constitutional declaration” that will pave the way for a transitional civilian government.
The Sudanese people, who sacrificed their souls and blood and endured severe economic hardships since they launched their popular revolt against ousted president Omar Al-Bashir eight months ago, should be the first to congratulate.
Just a few days before the signing of this important document, the entire process mediated by the African Union and several other influential countries behind the scenes, including Egypt, was about to collapse following the tragic death of five innocent students at the city of Al-Obayed on 29 July, shot dead by unruly security forces. The Military Council moved swiftly to condemn this incident, and immediately announced that at least seven officers would be put on trial for opening fire and killing the students.
Meanwhile, simply signing a “constitutional declaration” will certainly not guarantee a smooth transition towards stable, democratic rule in Sudan, ending a cycle of military dictatorships and dysfunctional civilian governments that have defined the country in the 63 years since independence.
The support of neighbouring countries, the African Union, the Arab League and the international community is crucial to implement the agreement reached, especially considering the tight schedule both sides agreed to in order to form a “sovereign council” divided between the military and the opposition, a new government and an interim legislative body.
Other daunting challenges that also require regional and international support include ending armed conflicts in Sudan’s west and south, improving the country’s battered economy, bringing together different ethnic and religious groups and confronting loyalists to the old regime who abuse religion to prevent Sudan’s progress towards a true democracy.
Since Al-Bashir’s removal in April, leaders of the Military Council themselves announced that they aborted at least half a dozen coup attempts by senior officers reportedly loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood group that backed Al-Bashir and formed their own outlawed militias that were reportedly involved in bloody attacks against peaceful protesters.
But the signing of the power-sharing pact is an encouraging sign that the key players in Sudan, namely the Military Council and the Alliance of Freedom and Change, are keen to restore stability in their country and place the interests of the Sudanese people first.
Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, a prominent member of the coalition of political parties and trade unions that represented protesters in negotiations with the military, said signing the document was a “key step towards realising the goals of the revolution”.
The details of the document show a significant level of flexibility from the ruling generals and may usher in an era of harmony between Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and the military.
Six civilians will serve on an 11-seat sovereign council that will act as a collective presidency. The remaining five will come from the military. A member of the military will lead the council for the next 21 months and a civilian will lead it for the 18 months after. The council members and its composition are due to be announced on 18 August.
A government of non-partisan technocrats will be led and made up by civilians selected by the Alliance of Freedom and Change, the opposition coalition. Only the defence and interior ministers will be chosen by the military. This government should be functional by 1 September.
Civilians will also take 201 of the 300 seats in a legislative council, with the remainder going to political groups that are not members of the coalition. The document also pledges to hold accountable anyone found guilty of crimes against the people during Al-Bashir’s rule.
Egypt immediately welcomed the “constitutional declaration” agreement, describing it as “an important step on the right path towards achieving security and stability in [Sudan] and meeting the aspirations of the Sudanese people with its different segments and state institutions, as they are responsible for achieving these aspirations”, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
While confirming Cairo’s full support for the Sudanese people, the statement added that “the steps taken by our brothers in Sudan in the past few days, at the top of which is the constitutional declaration agreement as well as the agreement to form a civilian government made of independent national figures, assert that Sudan has returned to the constitutional path, which will lead to the lifting of the suspension of Sudan’s membership in the African Union.” As current chair of the African Union, Egypt will certainly spare no effort to achieve that goal as soon as the key components of the agreement are carried out.
The Egyptian government will also work with representatives of the new Sudan to assure the support of the international community for the aspirations of its people to achieve peace, stability and prosperity.
The New Times – Rwanda
By: Pan Butamire
Ethiopians certainly broke a climatic record the other day. On a voluntary basis, they planted 350 million tree-seedlings in a single day! It’s a feat that none else has conquered.
Rwandans, used to being the preserve of swiftly-bagged firsts in diverse areas, should feel a tinge of healthy envy.
“Healthy” in the sense that they should civilly give Ethiopians their deserved thumbs-up, without forgetting that being beaten to that heroic tree-planting exploit is a strong censure on their conscience
Only problem: 350 million trees? Rwanda may be a land of countless hills – a “thousand hills” is a miniaturisation manner of speaking, by the way. But accommodating that number of trees would be a sure dilemma.
A population of 12m; hosting refugees and migrants unwanted elsewhere; habitation units, other buildings in towns, villages; domestic, wild animals; roads, pathways; lakes, rivers, rocks; then addition to existing trees.
All these jostling it out on 26,338 square-kilometres?
Well, Rwandans, you’d better give that a pass and do with the little tree-cover you can garner. Yet what an environment-and-fresh-air good it’d do you, only Mother Nature knows.
Still, fret not; all isn’t lost.
If you put your heads together and devise ways of getting benefits of large-scale tree-cover in other ways, maybe you may not benefit from the abundance of the “lungs of the earth” (the Amazon rainforests). But, for sure, it’d stand you in good stead.
What’s the big deal about being wooded, you may ask.
Well, as we learnt in elementary Biology classes, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. And oxygen sustains us all as living things. But little elementary knowledge is one thing.
Knowledge of the complex photosynthesis process that produces oxygen is a totally different other. Certainly, a mystery to some, like a PhD friend who never saw the inside of a Science classroom!
Mystery or not, anyway, again, none need fret. All talk about wood and other plants is a lot of hot air over little oxygen contribution: a tiny 0.01% for our entire earth.
A veritable tiny mystery to us all that we need to kneel down and worship is a dot of a marine plant known as a plankton. It’s a microscopic, single-celled photosynthetic organism that lives suspended in water, I am told.
These plankton darlings are responsible for the bulk of our vital oxygen. So, for their survival, you should tenderly tend your few freshwater basins.
Then the most important task will be to keep carbon dioxide at bay lest it displaces oxygen, pollutes our universe and sends all to certain obliteration.
Your wee contribution? Avoid burning any oil. A tall order, of course, the way you love your cars, riding buses or hopping onto the nearest motorcycle taxi. Other hurdles: ridding yourselves of herbivorous-animal waste, mitigating industrial processes (cement manufacture, etc.) and all forms of fossil fuel combustion.
Deforestation was an irksome habit you have managed to kick.
So, the next logical thing I’ll suggest, dread of all dreads, is a return to “Nyakatsi”!
But before you go for your hammer, hear me out! It’s only in a manner of speaking. Still, sit on a chair in your home or any other building and seriously look around.
From the metallic/plastic chair, the cement floor, concrete-and-steel walls, plastic ceiling to iron roof, they are deadly carbon dioxide emitters. In short, you are snuggled inside a carbon poison-box!
You are safe only if your chair, floor, walls, kitchen, ceiling, roof, all are wood. Which is not exactly “Nyakatsi” but remember how wood and grass used to be inseparable partners.
So, I say: take the timber route if you want a truly well-protected, friendly environment. Wooden buildings, it’s been scientifically proven, is a solution to climate change.
Timber structures “would allow us to draw carbon from the air and store it in our homes”, offices, social halls, stadiums, churches, name it. When these structures are in construction, the sites won’t only be quiet and clean but the structures will also smell good.
Take your KICC, for instance. It’d not be an imitation of your culture; it’d be your 21-century-modernity culture incarnate. Steel columns and pillars (inkingi) for strength and as supports completely wrapped up in wood but otherwise timber core, walls, floor slabs and also those imitative spirals (imbariro) all as wood.
As for height, fret not either. I’ve heard of wooden 60-storey skyscrapers.
To render it strong and robust, it’ll be built with what I hear is called “engineered wood systems such as cross-laminated timber”.
Then you and every visitor will sit and marvel at this wonder structure that’s lighter by 5%, is cleaner and smells good. You can bet that the whole country, nay, the world, will ‘go wood’!
The tricky part: where to get all that timber.
But that’s little sweat. Considering the high demand, everybody, especially ‘jungle-covered’ neighbours, will learn how to regularly plant and harvest as many trees as possible. After all, in old age trees cease to ‘breathe out’ oxygen.
A good time to turn them into wood that draws carbon from the atmosphere and stores it.