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What prompted the protests in Sudan? | News

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Monday marks the sixth day of anti-government protests in Sudan

The protests started over the rising costs of bread and fuel, but have since widened to call for the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir

In less than a week, the demonstrations which began on December 19 in the city of Atbara quickly spread across the country, including to the capital Khartoum.

In some cities, security forces have used tear gas on protesters and witnesses report the use of batons and live ammunition by riot police. Protesters have attempted to storm official buildings and set fire to tyres in the streets. 

At least 12 people have been killed, according to official estimates. Opposition groups say the death toll is higher. 

Sudanese have reported limited internet access and have accused the government of blocking social media platforms, allegations officials deny. 

Officials blame the protests on “infiltrators”. On Sunday, Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported that authorities had arrested a “cell of saboteurs”, which had planned “acts of vandalism in the capital”.

Amnesty International called for the immediate release of those arrested, and for the government to restore the internet and “respect the people’s right to information”. 

In his first public comments since the protests began, al-Bashir warned citizens on Monday against responding to “attempts to instil frustration”, according to SUNA, which also reported that the president and security aides had met. Bashir was quoted as saying the government was “continuing with economic reforms that provide citizens with a decent life”. 

As the protests are set to continue, Al Jazeera breaks down what triggered them and what is expected to happen next: 

Why are people protesting?

The main trigger for the recent protests was the government’s decision to increase the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (about $0.02 to $0.06).

But anger has been boiling across Sudan, with some describing it as a “ticking time bomb”, over the rising costs and other economic hardships, including soaring inflation and limits on bank withdrawals.

“There is no cash at the ATM machines most of the time. Banks keep sending people away with only 500 SDG [about $10.50 at the official exchange rate] in their pockets, which is barely enough for a day,” said 29-year-old Yusuf Elhag, who has been protesting in Khartoum.

In 2011, South Sudan seceded from Sudan, taking most of the oil fields that its now northern neighbour relied on to boost its economy. 

Although the United States lifted its 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in October 2017, the country has been unable to recover from losing three-quarters of its oil output. 





A bonfire is lit along the street during protests against price increases in Atbara, Nile River state in northeastern Sudan [El tayeb Siddig/Reuters]




Anti-government protests continue in Sudan for fifth day

“Many had expected the lifting of US sanctions in October 2017 would invite foreign investment and bring about an improvement in the economy, but the opposite has happened, for multiple reasons,” said Isma’il Kushkush, an independent journalist who reported for eight years from Sudan and East Africa.

According to Kushkush, the Sudanese people have become angry over the Central Bank’s decision to devalue the pound. Inflation also rose by nearly 70 percent, he said. 

But what started as an economic protest has now turned political, with many calling for the end to al-Bashir’s rule.

“Protests that started against high bread price have become calls of ‘the people want to bring down the regime’,” Kushkush told Al Jazeera. 

Many have also pointed to what they call widespread corruption within the government. 

A long history of protests 

The Sudanese people have been fighting for a better quality of life for decades.

The country gained its independence in 1956. Two years later, Ibrahim Abboud took power in a military coup that forced out the elected civilian government. 

During Abboud’s rule, Sudan’s economy suffered, leading to widespread discontent. 

On October 21, 1964, police stormed a meeting of Khartoum University’s Student Union whose members were discussing the political situation. Mass protests and strikes ensued in what became referred to as Sudan’s October Revolution. Abboud was forced out. 

In the years that followed, Sudan experienced a series of coups and conflicts. 

In 1989, al-Bashir took power in a coup while the country was experiencing a civil war. The war officially ended in 2005, but other conflicts broke out, including in Darfur. The International Criminal Court has issued two arrest warrants for al-Bashir, accusing him of a number of war crimes, genocide and other grave human rights abuses allegedly committed in the country’s western region. 

In 2013, hundreds protested against the rising costs of fuel and cooking gas. The government used force to crack down on the demonstrations. Multiple people were arrested and, according to rights groups, more than 200 people were killed.

In 2016, life came to a virtual standstill on the streets of Khartoum when citizens took part in several days of civil disobedience, with many staying home from work, universities and schools. The strike was in response to a dramatic increase in the price of medication, fuel and electricity.

Protests continue to spread

The current wave of protests is taking place in multiple cities across Sudan, including in Khartoum, Atabara, Um Rawaba and Gadarif. 

States of emergency and curfews have been declared in several of the protesting cities. 

In a viral video sending a message “from Sudan to the world” posted by Elhag, he said, “People are protesting in north Sudan in the city of Atbara where it all started and broke out and also in east Sudan in the city of al-Gadarif and in west Sudan in the city of El Obeid in the state of Kordofan. The capital Khartoum is facing mass protests in different areas.”

Kushkush added that the protests by high school students in the northern town of Atbara is what caught national attention. People of all ages are taking part in the demonstrations.

In Khartoum, Elhag told Al Jazeera that the average age of protesters has been around 17 to 23 years old. 

What’s expected next?

On Monday, doctors part of the independent Central Doctors’ Committed, which is affiliated with the independent Sudanese Professionals’ Association, began a nationwide strike. 

According to the Associated Press, the coalition said the doctors will continue to respond to emergencies during the strike. The coalition also said the work stoppage aims to “paralyse” the government, denying it much-needed revenue. 

Strikes among other professions are also expected to begin this week. 





Omdurman Islamic University students hold a demonstration in Khartoum, Sudan [Handout/Sudanese Activist/AP Photo]

According to AFP news agency, the ruling National Congress Party said it understands the protesters concerns, but a spokesman for the party also blamed the unrest on Israel and “left-wing parties that hope to destabilise the state”.

On Sunday SUNA quoted a military statement that read,  “The armed forces asserts that it stands behind its leadership and its keen interest in safeguarding the people’s achievements and the nation’s security, safety along with its blood, honour and assets”.  

Kushkush said he would be surprised if the government cracked down on protesters as it did in 2013 when more than 200 people were killed. 

Ultimately, he said, the outcome of the protests will be “shaped by how protesters, opposition activists organise, what actions the government and its allies take, and how the global community reacts. Protests and uprisings have a logic of their own.”

The people of Sudan are simply “asking for a better lifestyle, better human rights and a better life,” Elhag added.  

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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