News Brief

Three Major Figures from Sudan's Transitional Military Council Have Stepped Down

This is a victory for the people of Sudan who want the military to hand over power to civilians.

According to the BBC, three major lieutenants from the ruling Transitional Military Council have stepped down. Lieutenants Omar Zain al-Abideen, Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh and Al-Tayeb Babakr Ali Fadeel, tendered their resignations after talks were held between the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders. The three figures are staunch Islamists whose loyalty is with the recently ousted President Omar al-Bashir.


Spokesperson for the military, Lieutenant-General Shamseddine Kabbashi, said earlier that a committee had been established between the military and the protest leaders in an effort to better understand and smooth over their differences.

One of the demands of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group primarily behind the protests, were met after the resignation of the three military figures who were involved in the deadly crackdown that led to dozens of protesters being killed.

READ: Sudanese Military Leaders Attempt To Reassure Protesters After Rejecting 2-Year Military Takeover

However, Dr Sara Abdelgalil who is a member of the SPA said that they were planning a massive march that they hoped would comprise of approximately 1 million civilians. Abdelgalil said, "What we are hoping to do today is to continue our peaceful resistance...What we are hoping to do today is to continue our peaceful resistance."

Thousands of Sudanese civilians have been arriving in the capital city of Khartoum as they prepare to increase the pressure on the military so as to bring about democratic reform.

It is reported that al-Bashir is still being held in solitary confinement at the notorious Kobar prison in the capital city. Aside from the International Criminal Court having charged al-Bashir with war crimes and for his involvement in the Darfur genocide, he is now being investigated for money laundering after suitcases of money were found in his home.

News Brief
Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Sudanese Forces Agree to Protect Civilians, While Rejecting Cease-Fire Efforts

Amid Sudan’s ongoing crisis, rival forces have agreed to safeguard civilians, but there is no progress towards a ceasefire

Amid the ongoing crisis in Sudan, the warring factions have committed to protecting civilians while also allowing the movement of humanitarian aid, according to U.S. officials.

The United States State Department confirmed on their website on Thursday, writing:

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America are pleased to announce that on May 11, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces signed a Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan. The Declaration of Commitment recognizes the obligations of both sides under international humanitarian and human rights law to facilitate humanitarian action to meet the emergency needs of civilians.”

Although this may seem like a sliver of hope, reports have stated that the factions remain far apart on the issue of a long-term cease-fire. In spite of this development, The U.S. government and the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to a temporary cease-fire and the scheduling of "subsequent expanded discussions" to reach a permanent end to hostilities.

The talks, which took place in the Saudi port of Jeddah, resulted in a declaration that the sides would strive for a short-term truce in follow-up meetings. A senior U.S. State Department official told NBC News on condition of anonymity that both warring sides were still “quite far apart.”

Although a text of the declaration released after the talks confirmed that the warring factions would “commit to prioritizing discussions to achieve a short-term cease-fire to facilitate the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services,” there isn’t any confirmation of a full-time arrangement.

According to The United States State Department, the warring parties involved are aiming to reach an agreement for a cease-fire that would last for up to about ten days.

The eruption of violence in Sudan last month has caused a humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of people killed and thousands injured. Even after cease-fire agreements were put in place, the conflict has continued, leaving civilians to face a dangerous landscape of destruction. This has resulted in the displacement of thousands, with others seeking refuge in neighboring states. Several countries have evacuated their citizens from the war-torn country.

The United States has sought to address the situation, signing a declaration on Friday that aims to improve the flow of aid, restore electricity and water services, and provide respectful burials for the dead. However, the Sudanese envoy to Geneva said the conflict is an “internal affair,” and neither side has shown signs of offering concessions to end the conflict.

News
Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan's First Professional Actress Asia Abdel-Majid Killed By Crossfire

The ongoing conflict in North Africa has devastated the lives of hundreds, and now Sudanese society mourns one of their first stars.

As Sudan's civil unrest rages on, consistent reports of fatalities paint a grim picture of the North African nation's current state. One such instance sees the country mourn the loss of its first professional stage actress, Asia Abdel-Majid. The former theatrical performer and teacher was killed on Wednesday, in the crossfire currently ravaging Sudan's capital Khartoum. She was 81 years old.

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Music

Mr Eazi Launches New Group ChopLife Soundsystem

Listen to the new 14-song album Chop Life, Vol. 1 Mzansi Chronicles.

Mr Eazi, the acclaimed music superstar, business visionary, and globe-trotter, extends a heartfelt invitation to music enthusiasts to embark on a sonic journey to South Africa with the release of Chop Life, Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles (Choplife Limited/emPawa Africa), the inaugural offering from his newly-formed pan-African music collective, ChopLife Soundsystem.

Crafted amidst the vibrant locales of Cape Town and Johannesburg, this 14-track album serves as an exuberant tribute to amapiano, the electrifying dance music genre that has burst forth from South Africa and garnered international recognition. Joining forces with an excellent lineup of South African music luminaries such as Moonchild Sanelly, Focalistic, Nkosazana Daughter, Ami Faku, and Major League Djz, alongside a host of emerging talents, Mr Eazi presents his interpretation of the scene's captivating elements.

Mzansi Chronicles is an ode to the amapiano sound that has been the soundtrack to my parties and me going to clubs,” Mr Eazi said of the project. “It’s me working with some of my favorite artists and capturing my interpretation of elements I love from the scene.”

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Film
Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

Rosine Mbakam on the Power of Family and Returning Home in Filmmaking

The Cameroonian filmmaker uses her documentary skills to create her first fictional feature, Mambar Pierrette, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

After a critically lauded career as a documentary filmmaker, writer/director Rosine Mbakam arrives at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight program with her first narrative feature: Mambar Pierrette. The film sees Mbakam returning to her homeland of Cameroon to tell the story of a dressmaker — Pierrette (Pierrette Aboheu Njeuthat) — as she deals with mounting financial calamities that threaten her children’s school year and the health of her business.

It’s a conceit that feels familiar to Vittorio De Sica’s film, but with a different, uniquely African touch. While Mbakam has switched mediums for this film, the story, and its translation is similar to the director’s previous films, such as Chez Jolie Coiffure, Delphin’s Prayer, and The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman in their focus on Black women who use their respective craft to cope with the hurdles they encounter. For Mambar Pierrette, Mbakam retools these familiar themes for Cameroon. The result indicates a change of direction for the filmmaker with regard to mood and tone, switching from ruminative to joyous, from staid to colorful and vibrant. Because all around Pierrette is life: It’s her children, it’s her village; it’s her vivid customers and the lively dresses she designs.

With Mambar Pierrette, Mbakam offers the unique cultural lens she’s spent nearly a decade crafting to give viewers a vision of radical empathy and a change in perspective. After having spent several years working in television, she attended film school in Belgium, where she is now based, before going on to create her first trio of feature-length documentaries that shared stories of Cameroonian women.

She talks to OkayAfrica about wanting to show a different Africa, making a film with her family, and subverting the traditions of Western filmmaking.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve spent your career doing documentaries, but this is your first fictional film. Why did you feel you needed to switch for this particular story?

Fictional features were my first desire. I discovered documentaries when I was in film school. But my desire when I wanted to do cinema was to do features because it was what I was seeing on television in Cameroon. It was not documentaries. When I was in film school I really didn't know what kind of fiction I wanted to do. And when I discovered the documentary [form], it gave me a lot of freedom to be myself, to really experience what I wanted to, because I didn't want an intermediary between me and the people that I wanted to film.

Because of all the legacy of colonialism — I was in Belgium — I didn't want to use a white person or a person that didn't know what I wanted to question. But the documentary really helped me to deconstruct my gaze, and to just find my way and really see what kind of fiction I could do. Because the fiction that I learned in film school was Western fiction, and it was difficult for me to apply it in my reality in Cameroon. I'm really happy to come to my first desire of cinema, of doing fiction and really the fiction that I want to do with all the knowledge that I had from documentaries.

An image of the filmmaker, Rosine Mabakam, holding a microphone.Rosine Mabakam speaks at the premiere of her film in the Directors’ Fortnight program at the Cannes Film Festival.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight / Delphine Pincet.

Your previous films are set in Belgium, but for this one you returned to Cameroon. Why did it make sense to return now?

Because when I was in Belgium I was there in the context of the legacy of colonialism. And I was confronting it every day. I wanted to really find my position there because I chose to live there, even though my inspiration was Cameroon. I wanted to deconstruct that and find my way because I knew that when I was deconstructing it that it would help me to see my reality differently. Because when I was in Cameroon, I was colonized. I didn't know I was reproducing all the things that I was seeing from the films I was watching in Cameroon. I wanted to discover how the rest of the world saw people like me in Belgium. It was important for me to deconstruct that first and to go back to Cameroon afterwards because I didn't want to reproduce the power of Western cinema on people that I wanted to film in Cameroon.

I love that you see it as a deconstruction of the image white people have of people from Cameroon or really any African country. You always get to the inner lives of the people you capture by looking at their craft. With Chez Jolie Coiffure, for instance, you focus on hairdressers. What draws you to a person's relationship with their craft, and why did you choose a dressmaker for this film?

In Cameroon, in my culture, all of those small spaces are where people come and drop stories and drop pain and also reconstruct their mental health. And I want to underline those spaces that sometimes people neglect because for them, maybe, it's not important. For me, for Chez Jolie Coiffure, with the hairdressers, it's the same thing. It's the space where women, and some men, come to just drop something and or take something.

I want to make people understand that sometimes it's not big spaces or important spaces that make us feel confident or that make us feel fine. I grew up in those smaller spaces. My mother was a dressmaker and my grand sister was her hairdresser. I really know those spaces and I know how it's built my imagery for stories of strong women. I wanted to show that.

I love the designs of the dresses; they’re so vibrant and vivid. What do they represent to you and to the character of Peirrette?

It's the dresses and how people can rebuild themselves through them. It's the space where your life can change with the world, with solidarity and also with love that people have brought to you through those spaces. You are surrounded not only by one woman, but by all these people who are coming. And yes, I really like fashion and also the colors.

In Cameroon, we don't have enough confidence in what we have. Even in fashion, we’re always looking at the West and how the West dresses without taking into account what we have. I wanted to show that it's beautiful and our story is important by just talking to ordinary people to show that even if we are ordinary, we have something important to say.


A still from the film of a group of women outside a rural dress shop.Rosine Mbakam’s first narrative feature is set in Cameroon.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

The actress who plays Pierrette is your first cousin, correct? And it’s her first time acting?

It's not only my cousin. All of the cast are members of my family except for two people. But the rest are my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my sisters, my grand sisters.

Did you find it challenging directing people who you're not only related to but are in a situation where they’ve probably never acted before?

It's more challenging. There is a power in cinema and we know how that power has been used to stereotype Africans. I know the consequences of that power. And even more so with my family. Because they didn't really don't know what is the cinema, and how that power can be destructive. It's easy to take that power and to make them do what I want. It's important for me to be more vigilant and to give them the space to express themselves. That was really challenging because I had to be more careful about that.

With all of the travesties that befall Pierrette, a woman on an economic edge, I was really reminded of Vittorio De Sica’s films like Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D. And yet, you don’t remain on a track toward heartbreak like those films do. It’s almost like a De Sica film would be impossible to pull off because the idea of community is so present here?

I didn't feel it was possible to end like that because, usually, it doesn’t end like that in my family. With every problem you have people going together to resolve something, to bring joy, even if there is something very painful. For me, it was a perspective that I wanted to give to that story. And I wanted to give the perspective of that power that I can see in Pierrette and all of the members of my family. I wanted to show that power is higher than the difficulty. That was the intention behind that ending with the mannequin, and of all the neocolonialism that exists. Our power can overtake those problems.

A still from the film, 'Mambar Pierrette,' of a woman walking next to a girl carrying a bucket on her head.In ‘Mambar Pierrette,’ Rosine Mbakam enlisted family members for the film.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

Her shop is also very small, yet open. Whenever Pierrette is making dresses, in the background you can see the street and you can see the life of her neighborhood. Could you talk a bit about why you framed her in that way as opposed, to say, close-ups?

If you see my film Chez Jolie Coiffure, you’ll notice it's really close. But if I close the perspective, here, it's not how we live in Cameroon. There is always a door open somewhere or someone can open the door to give you something, to give you help, to give a testimony. But in Chez Jolie Coiffure, in the West, Black people are closed into their space. In Cameroon it's different. There is always a perspective, there is always a solution. And I wanted to show that, to open that place, even if it's small. In Chez Jolie Coiffure, in the salon there is no door open anywhere. It's really close. It's like a prison. It's really close. In this film, it’s different. You can see the life of the earth coming, you can see light coming.

What do you hope people take away from this film when they’re finished?

I hope people will see another Africa and another way of filming Africa, another way to imagine Africa, and how we can look at Africa differently. I don't think we usually see that perspective, to be in the position of someone in Africa. I want people to be with these people and to help them understand what they want to say. I hope that people will watch the film and will remember the images and the words of this Black woman.

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