Friday, November 30, 2012

Zimbabwe Empowerment: Lessons for South Africa

Zim empowerment: Lessons for SA

Friday, 30 November 2012 00:00
Zimbabwe Herald

Black Business Council of South Africa secretary general Mr Sandile Zungu (right), Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa follow proceedings at the Economic Empowerment Conference held in Harare yesterday

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE and South Africa have been urged to join forces in the fight for economic empowerment to ensure that the economies of the two countries lie in the hands of black people.

Speaking at the economic empowerment indaba that ended in Harare yesterday, secretary general of the Black Business Council in South Africa Mr Sandile Zungu said South Africa was faced with the same war that Zimbabweans were fighting to empower locals but reiterated that the situation was worse in his country.

“Less than 25 percent of the South African economy is in the hands of black people and less than 10 percent of large companies are owned by blacks,” he said.

Mr Zungu noted that although the companies had tried to cover up this shortfall, there were still just a few blacks in influential positions.

He commended Zimbabwe’s indigenisation and empowerment programme and said South Africa still had a long way to go in implementing such programmes.

The empowerment initiative has seen the launch of Employee Share Ownership Trusts and Community Share Ownership Schemes that have proved to be beneficial to the development of communities and empowerment of employees in local companies.

Many companies and mines have complied with the requirements of the law.

Mr Zungu noted that while there were a few black chief executives in South Africa, the economy was mainly led by whites that took the influential positions.

“While there are a few black CEOs in a mainly white-led economy, you find that top management at food and clothes retailing firms are exclusively white,” he said.

He also noted that these companies refuse to include black people in their businesses but would rather do corporate investment schemes to help workers instead of having indigenous retailers in their industries.

Mr Zungu also said CFOs on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange were mostly white males with a few white females and a few black males. He lamented the lack of representation of black women and small-scale enterprises in the running of the economy.

“Enterprise development is not doing well in South Africa, business still prefer to do business with established companies than with emerging players in the market.

He said the SMEs were not getting the support they need from large corporations.

“We are advocating for the setting up of a Black Empowerment Commission to make sure that the fronting being done by companies is curtailed. We want to give more weight to women and youths so that they can have access to finance and equal opportunities,” Mr Zungu said.

Malema Claims He Is Victim of a Conspiracy in South Africa

Malema claims he is victim of a conspiracy

Former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has threatened to reveal details of a plot by several government officials to bring about his downfall.

30 Nov 2012 19:45 - Sandy Moeketsi
South African Press Association

"Now advocate [Nomgcobo] Jiba who heads the National Prosecuting Authority, was in a meeting with [Justice] Minister Jeff Radebe, [Police] Minister Nathi Mthethwa, [International Relations Minister] Maite Nkoana-Mashabane with [national police commissioner] Ria Phiyega, where they developed a plan to arrest me," he told his supporters outside the high court in Polokwane on Friday.

He appeared, along with four business associates, in the court earlier on charges of fraud, money-laundering, and racketeering.

He told the crowd the meeting was intended to find ways to remove him from politics. "I wrote to advocate Jiba. And I told her that you were in a meeting where politicians interfered with the independence of prosecutions and gave prosecutors a mandate to persecute me, because they have political differences with me," he said.

"I also brought that matter to the attention of the court." He intended to prove these "conspiracies" in court. He told the crowd that the charge of racketeering that had been added to the case was serious as it could see him sentenced to life imprisonment.

Malema, however said he was not afraid of the added charge as he was innocent. "I say to you, I do not have butterflies in my stomach ... I do not panic that I will be arrested for committing a crime."

He thanked the group gathered near the court since Thursday night. They held a night vigil ahead of his appearance on Friday and waited for him to address them after proceedings.

Malema's lawyers said in court they would challenge two issues when the matter resumed next year. These were his apparent unlawful arrest on September 25, and the alleged conspiracy to remove him from politics.

He told the crowd that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe should be elected ANC president at the party's national conference in Mangaung next month. "If we fail in Mangaung we fail South Africa, we fail Africa, we fail the people and we fail humanity ... [Jacob] Zuma remains a wrong president. Even if you bring more charges, you can bring as many charges as you can, it won't change the fact that we have a president who can't read," Malema said to cheers.

The matter was postponed to April 23 2013.

– Sapa

Lamola on E-Tolling: Where Are the White People?

Lamola on e-tolling: Where are the white people?

ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola said he was disappointed that few white South Africans supported Cosatu's march against e-tolling.

30 Nov 2012 15:52 - Aneesa Fazel
South African Mail & Guardian

The federation on Friday embarked on its second march this year against e-tolling, with a relatively smaller turn out than expected.

Various unions including National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), South African Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo), Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and others including the Young Communist League (YCL) and the ANC Youth League came out in support of the march in Johannesburg, which started at Mary Fitzgerald Square and continued to the office of the Gauteng premier in Simmonds Street and the Gauteng department of housing in Sauer Street.

Lamola said he was disappointed that many white people did not attend the march.

"The march represents all South Africans, rich and poor. We are disappointed that we have only seen a few whites. This is a march for all South Africans and a march for all our futures. This must unite all of us."

Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said Friday's march was just the beginning of what is yet to come. "South Africans need to show where the power lies, which is not in the offices of those who can afford to pay for e-tolls.

"On December 6 at 5am, go to the nearest e-toll gantry and park your car there for the whole day. Everyone in the country, you must do this. Do it for one day so we can show where the power in this country lies".

On Wednesday, Cosatu threatened to demolish e-toll gantries if it was not scrapped. But a National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) shop steward Ephraim Lifuwa told the Mail & Guardian that he did not think they would go so far as to vandalise the gantries. "Our federation is very militant, so we have a lot of discipline. On the sixth we will slow traffic down, but I don't think we will take down the gantries because you know they are actually the resources of the country."

Lamola said that South Africans must not allow roads to be owned by private individuals. "This is a sophisticated way of stealing from the poor. I call on all the youth of South Africa to not buy e-tags and bring down the system."

Young Communist League chairperson Buti Manamela told the crowd that it was their constitutional right to have freedom of movement. "With the gantries of e-tolls, this means we will not be able to move."

He also said it was clear that money from e-tolling will go to "e-toll premiers".

Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance's chairperson, Wayne Duvenhage, also attended the march in his own capacity. He was called on stage by union leaders to address the crowd outside the premier's office, where he said that e-toll gantries must be taken down if South Africa intends to move forward.

"E-tolls will not be tolerated. We want that money to be put into better things so that our country can move forward. This peaceful march shows that we can make an impact in a non-violent way."

On Wednesday the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria reserved judgment on the future of e-tolling.

Cosatu has given the departments of transport, finance, and housing until 5pm on Monday to respond to their demands.

An official at the national treasury in Pretoria, Huntly Pringle, said they would do their best to give a reply by Monday.

The federation's provincial secretary Dumisane Dakile told a transport department official that if authorities were unable to demolish the gantries, "Call us, we have capable comrades."

"If we don't get a response, we are marching on the freeways. Comrades, bring your bicycles, we have organised tractors," Dakile said.

"This action for today is just a warm up ... We must brace ourselves for a series of actions ... If they are not going to respond positively, we are going to occupy all the streets on December 6."

During the marches, Cosatu called for Sanral to be disbanded and a commission of inquiry to be launched into the e-tolling system.

"We want to know who are the beneficiaries, because they are milking us of billions and billions of rands every year," said Dakile.

"Voetsek e-tolls, voetsek," he shouted.–

Additional reporting by Sapa

South African Farmworkers May Resume Strikes, Labor Group Warns

South African Farmworkers May Resume Strikes, Labor Group Warns

By Mike Cohen - Nov 27, 2012

South Africa’s largest labor group warned that farmworkers in Western Cape province may resume violent strike action after the government said it couldn’t meet a Dec. 4 deadline to review minimum wages.

Protests that claimed the lives of two people swept across the province after farmworkers in the grape-growing De Doorns region went on strike on Nov. 6 for higher pay. Calm has been restored to most towns since Nov. 17, after the Congress of South African Trade Unions brokered a two-week suspension of the strike pending a minimum-wage review.

Under South African law, the government can only legislate new minimum wages from April when the prevailing rates will have been in place for 12 months, Labor Minister Edna Molewa told reporters today in Pretoria, the capital. Public hearings on the issue are under way and will end on Dec. 13, she said.

Cosatu said the minister was undermining the negotiating process and needed to do more to meet worker demands for the minimum daily wage to be increased to 150 rand ($17) from 70 rand so that further strikes are avoided.

A resumption of the strikes “can set back labor relations on farms by decades and could see a reversal to the low-level civil war we all witnessed on farms a few weeks ago,” Cosatu said in an e-mailed statement. “The entire country saw the desperation and anger of the workers against these low wages.”

Agriculture makes up about 2.1 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product directly, and farms produce about 6.5 percent of the country’s exports, including wine, citrus fruit, corn, grapes, sugar, apples and pears.

The protests have already caused about 120 million rand in damages, with grape growers hardest hit, according to AgriSA, the main farmers’ group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at

Another Coup Plot in Sudan: The Politics of Temptation

Sudan: Another Coup in Sudan - the Politics of Temptation

By Magdi El Gizouli, 27 November 2012

The contradictions ravaging the Sudanese Islamic Movement (SIM) matured in the folds of its 8th General Conference into an antagonism between loyalists and dissidents, an antagonism that the state attempted to resolve by means of a purge.

Media coverage tended to portray the first as 'hardliners' and the second as 'reformers', a mystification compounded by the drama of the foiled coup plot which landed Salah Gosh, Sudan's former spy chief, and Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abd al-Jalil, the 'emir of the mujahideen' better known to his admirers as 'Wad Ibrahim', and their associates in detention.

Instead of reaping the benefits of their political investment in reform rhetoric, meagre as they may appear, the dissident 'Saihoon' of the SIM and National Congress Party (NCP), a pregnant Arabic term that translates in this context roughly into 'God-seeking wanderers', were tempted by the presence of combat-hardened officers and paramilitary 'jihadists' in their midst to try their luck at a putsch, the routine folly of the notoriously self-indulgent and vicissitudinous Sudanese petty bourgeoisie.

In the late hours of 21 November operatives of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested their former chief Salah Gosh and his alleged associates, among them the celebrated Wad Ibrahim, a man who once commanded the President's guard, the former commander of the Sudanese-Chadian Border Force Fath al-Raheem Abdalla Suleiman, and the senior military intelligence officer Adil al-Tayeb. Fingers were instinctively directed at Ghazi Salah al-Din, assistant to the President and leader of the NCP's parliamentary caucus, as the suspected poster boy of the coup plot.

Ghazi was the Saihoon's revered candidate for the leadership of the SIM. He withdrew from the competition once it became clear that the loyalist camp had engineered a safe majority to drown the immediate demands of the Saihoon in the General Conference.

The 'democratic' exercise did not satisfy the Saihoon's ambitions. They accused the SIM leadership of swarming the conference with rustics from the provinces who did not know better, the standard argument raised by elite Islamists against the transformation of the SIM under the NCP from a closely-knit vanguard of predominantly petit bourgeoisie composition to a mass 'tareeqa' with little in the way of entry requirements and wide exit door.

In defeat, the Saihoon announced themselves an inner-party platform of the NCP. They issued a statement under the name of the 'NCP - Reform Platform' pleading President Bashir to release the detainees.

The Saihoon fulminated against the Minister of Defence, Abd al-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, asking for his immediate dismissal. The Minister, said the statement, was responsible for the poor performance of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF) in the Sudanese war zones and directly to blame for the failure of the army to respond to repeated Israeli attacks on the country.

"We remain in expectation of the decisions you will make. Be assured that they [the detained officers] all love, adore, and respect you [President Bashir] but your minister of defence has left them with no other option," concluded the statement addressing President Bashir.

The Minister, complained the Reform Platform, forced the chief of military intelligence and other senior officers into retirement because they offered their advice and counsel, and is currently "creating problems with the commander of the Armoured Corps".

The demand for 'reform' with a popular and national scope unravelled to read like the imploring of a jealous lover anguished by an unforeseen spell of neglect. Indeed, the Saihoon could only remember their immediate effendiya concerns, positions in the SAF hierarchy in this case, when surprised by the counter-intrigue of the state apparatus.

While Sudanese commoners went on with their daily lives recording the coup attempt as another instance in the long tale of petit bourgeoisie squabbles over control of the state, star dissidents of the historic Islamic Movement came out in defence of the 'reform' putschists.

Abd al-Wahab El-Affendi, a Westminster University scholar and coordinator of its 'Democracy and Islam Programme', praised 'Wad Ibrahim' to the holy heavens.

Wad Ibrahim is more popular in the officer corps than the Minister of Defence, he wrote.

This is a man who still lives in a humble government-owned house, and does not possess a house of his own, a man unstained by corruption, he added.

The same could have been said about President Bashir before he assumed office of course. To the great mass of the Sudanese the state-sponsored life-style of Wad Ibrahim, a salary and a government house and car and possibly government-funded Hajj, is the object of revolutionary envy, one severe enough as to ignite the rebellions that he excelled in combating over the years of his career in the SAF.

El-Affendi, as if by instruction, attempted in a terribly twisted argument to make the claim that Salah Gosh, a Sudanese Yagoda if any, was arrested together with the 'noble' officers led by Wad Ibrahim, in order to taint their "good reputation".

He then went on to make the argument for a "move by the army", i.e. a coup, as the less costly route to effecting democratic change in the country. Either way, he concluded, whether an initiative of the army supported by the people or a popular movement supported by the army, the countdown of the regime has started.

Well, when it took over power by the same putschist route in 1989 the National Islamic Front (NIF), the political cloak of the SIM at the time, traded the same alibi, 'salvation' by conspiracy. Petty bourgeoisie oscillation between the 'path of the masses' to use a preferred phrase of the late Abd al-Khalig Mahjoub, i.e. collective emancipatory action, and the fantasy of a swift short-cut to 'genuine democracy' led by a circle of 'progressive' officers could not be better illustrated. El-Affendi titled his piece "The army sides with the people (in advance)".

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute.

Conflict With Sudanese Rebels Hampers Security Arrangements, Says US Envoy

Friday 30 November 2012

Conflict with Sudanese rebels hampers security arrangements – US envoy

Sudan Tribune

November 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan said that the conflict between Khartoum and Sudanese rebels hampers the improvement of bilateral relations between the two countries and to implementation of security arrangements.

"Without stopping the conflict there it’s hard to get that full trust and understanding and security along the border that both countries want," Princeton Lyman said before to leave Sudan after talks in Khartoum.

Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan signed a cooperation agreement including a security agreement including to stop support to rebel groups from both sides, and to work together to secure their common border from rebel attacks.

After a first meeting of the joint security committee in Juba earlier this month, the two parties failed to enforce this agreement and Khartoum renewed its accusations against Juba of continuing to support the rebel groups. Nonetheless, a second meeting is announced for the next week in Khartoum.

Lyman in a conference call with the press form the US embassy in Khartoum said that the implementation of the security arrangements should take place before the resumption of oil exportation or the other protocols. He believes that this move would allow to enhance trust between the countries.

He explained their failure to implement the 27th September agreement because "they haven’t reached that degree of confidence and trust which is essential in carrying out this type of agreement."

South Sudan’s Ambassador to the United Nations held Wednesday similar statements before the Security Council when he underlined that the continuation of South Kordofan and Blue Nile conflict makes difficult the implementation of the security arrangements.

President Salva Kiir on Monday said Khartoum asks to disarm the rebel SPLM-North and adding it is an "impossible mission" they cannot achieve as South Sudan is now an independent state.

The mediation was supposed to organise a meeting between Sudanese government and SPLM-N this month, but the African Union did not explain the reasons of the delay. Thabo Mbeki, AU chief mediator, was also expected to brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday but he declined his participation.

Lyman said a referendum should be held in Abyei and supported the proposal of the African Union panel on this respect.

He further said that the border between the two countries cannot be demarcated unless violence is curbed.

On the bilateral relations between Washington and Khartoum, the American envoy said that the conflicts in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur should be resolved before to end sanctions of remove Sudan from the list of countries supporting terror.

The American diplomat is expected to visit Juba soon.

Welcoming Rallies for Puntland Leader in Waiye and Armo Districts of Somalia

Nov 28, 2012 - 9:32:53 AM

Somalia: Welcoming rallies for Puntland leader in Waiye and Armo districts

BOSSASO, Somalia Nov. 28, 2012 (Garowe Online) - A delegation led by the president of Somalia's Puntland government received big welcoming rallies in Waiye and Armo districts on Wednesday, Garowe Online reports.

Since Friday, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole has been traveling by road towards the port city of Bossaso with stopovers in Qardo, Waiye and Armo, where the President's delegation spent Wednesday night.

The Puntland leader's delegation includes Finance Minister Farah Ali Shire, Security Minister Khalif Issa Mudan, Ports and Counter-Piracy Minister Said Mohamed Rage, Puntland Darawiishta Force commander Gen. Said Mohamed Hersi (Said Dheere), Puntland Police Commissioner Mohamed Said Jaqanaf, deputy ministers, and presidential staffers.

Earlier this week, President Farole engaged in meetings with local government officials and community leaders in Qardo. The President's delegation received a warm welcome in Waiye district, where supporters wore brand new T-shirts supporting Horseed political association declared by President Farole earlier this month as Puntland's first political party.

One slogan read: "Yes Horseed, No to Clan. We want development in Puntland".

While in Waiye district, President Farole launched a water project completed with the aid of UNICEF.

In Armo district, Puntland Police Force officers saluted President Farole at the Armo Police Academy followed by a lunch hosted by community leaders. President Farole was engaged in meetings with community leaders during his overnight stay in Armo.

The Puntland leader's delegation was expected to arrive soon in Bossaso, Puntland's commercial hub.

EAC to Verify Somalia Government's Application to Join the Bloc

Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 09:24 pm

SOMALIA: EAC to verify Somalia government’s application to join the bloc

By Abdalle Ahmed

NAIROBI (RBC) The leaders of the East African Community [EAC] have directed the council of ministers of the EAC member states to look into Somalia’s application to join the fast-growing bloc after Somalia government submitted official application to join the bloc, RBC Radio reports on Friday.

“We will wok closely with Somalia. The ministers should explore things for EAC to work constructively with Somalia”, a communiqué read by EAC secretary-general Richard Sezibera.

Reports say that the decision comes as a blow to local businesspeople who will continue to face restrictions in moving goods and investment capital especially into Juba and Mogadishu which both had made an application for admission.

In 14th Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State in Nairobi, the EAC leaders have on the other side called for the government of South Sudan the completion of verification work which is to be done by the EAC council of ministers.

“The council of ministers should start negotiations with Juba following completion of the verification work” Sezibera added.

The East African Community comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, a five-member bloc with a single market allowing free trade and movement of citizens in East Africa.

In earlier March this year Somalia has applied to join the East African Community after major developments in Somalia that have seen the country begin the journey to stability and peace after several years of civil strife.

Five Committees to Prepare for Southern Somalia Convention

Nov 30, 2012 - 10:08:41 AM

Somalia: Five committees to prepare Jubaland convention established

30 Nov 30, 2012 - 9:51:53 AM

KISMAYO, Somalia Nov. 30, 2012 (Garowe Online) – Five committees to make preparations for the opening of the anticipated convention to establish Jubaland have been setup, Garowe Online reports.

According to Jubaland authorities, there have been five committees set up to establish the Jubaland state in southern Somalia.

The committees include a Security Committee, Election Committee, Selection Committee, Logistics and Financial Committee, and an Awareness Committee, according to Jubaland sources. Each committee consists of 11 members.

The committees will be fundamental in creating the Jubaland state that has been backed by IGAD regional bloc.

A total of 485 delegates from the local communities in Lower Jubba, Middle Juba, and Gedo regions will be invited to the convention. The delegates are expected to discuss and ratify the Jubaland state charter that legally establishes Jubaland.

A new Jubaland State Parliament is expected to be formed, which will then elect a new state president. According to local sources in Kismayo, the frontrunner for President of Jubaland state is Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Ahmed Madoobe), who is the leader of Ras Kamboni militia aided by Kenyan-AMISOM forces in the liberation of Kismayo from Al Shabaab group’s control in September.

The three regions that make up Jubaland include Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba, and Gedo regions in southern Somalia. The 485 Jubaland convention delegates are allocated as such: 185 delegates for Lower Jubba region, 165 delegates for Gedo region, and 135 delegates for Middle Jubba region.

Local communities have been actively involved in establishing Jubaland state since earlier 2012. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has opposed Jubaland, preferring instead to appoint a local governor from Mogadishu. Jubaland communities have protested President Hassan’s position, and in recent public speeches, President Hassan has softened his position on Jubaland.

Security has improved in Kismayo, although Al Shabaab fighters have been responsible for bombings and guerrilla attacks.

Once formed, Jubaland will join states like Puntland to form part of the new Federal Republic of Somalia.

Neo-Colonial Libya's Main Oil Refinery Resumes Operations

Western Libya's main oil refinery resumes operations

4:01am EST
By Hadeel Al Shalchi

TRIPOLI, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Western Libya's main refinery resumed operations on Friday after protesters shut it down for a day, a spokesman said.

Essam al-Muntasir of the Zawiya Oil Refining Company said employees were able to resume work and fuel trucks were able to leave the refinery.

"Employees have gone back inside the refinery and are beginning the process of starting up the machinery," he said. "Fuel tanks are also able to enter and exit the refinery to transport fuel."

A large crowd of war veterans demanding government compensation prevented employees from entering the refinery on Thursday and fuel tanks from leaving.

Muntasir said the demonstrators were wounded veterans demanding to be sent abroad for treatment.

A similar protest in early November forced the refinery to shut down for two days, hitting fuel supplies in the capital.

Panicking Tripoli residents formed long queues at petrol stations to fill up their tanks on Wednesday night after hearing the news of the latest protest.

A number of protests outside refineries have posed a significant challenge to Libya's new government, which is dependent on oil for most of its revenue.

The administration is still struggling to impose order on a vast and divided country awash with arms and militias after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Muntasir said the veterans were persuaded to end their protest after members of the ruling national assembly and Zawiya's local council intervened.

He refused to say what guarantees if any had been given to the refinery to prevent further disruption.

"We are working on a solution with Zawiya security, but cannot give details at the moment," he said.

The Zawiya refinery, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and provides 40 per cent of western Libya's oil needs. (Writing by Hadeel Al-Shalchi; editing by Andrew Roche)

Egyptian Protesters Gather for Anti-Morsi Demonstrations

Live Updates: Protesters gather for anti-Morsi demonstrations

Hazel Haddon, Randa Ali, Salma Shukrallah, Friday 30 Nov 2012
Ahram Online

Tens of thousands protest in Tahrir Square in opposition to President Morsi's Constitutional Declaration, with smaller opposition protests and pro-Morsi rallies nationwide

21:00 That’s all for Ahram Online’s live updates today. You can read the first part of the day’s coverage here.

20:40 Back to Tahrir Square, where Ahram Online correspondent Osman El-Sharnoubi is talking to demonstrators.

Adel Rabie, a member of the Higher Council of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, comments:

“If the declaration is not withdrawn we will call for civil disobedience. As for the constitution, we will call for a no vote if it is is put to referendum.”

“How can we pass a constitution written in the absence of representatives of 80 per cent of Egyptians - workers and farmers?” he asked.

20:35 The Constitution Party is calling for Cairo University students to march from the university in Giza to Tahrir Square on Saturday at 2pm, protesting the president’s Constitutional Declaration, according to the party’s Facebook page. The Muslim Brotherhood and various Salafist parties will be holding their demonstration in support of Morsi’s decree on the same day, in front of Cairo University where the student march is planned to depart from.

20:30 The National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition groups and figures formed last Saturday to counter Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration (including Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Free Egyptians Party, the Wafd Party, the Nasserist Coalition, among others) are currently meeting at the headquarters of the liberal Wafd to discuss their response to recent events regarding the Constitutional Declaration and the constitution-drafting process.

20:20 Ahram Online's Sara Rashidi reports that the square is very crowded, the mood is upbeat, with drums being played loudly and lots of cheers and clapping from the crowd.

20:10 Privately-owned newspaper Al-Watan has reported that the house of Saad El-Husseini, who is the governor of Kafr El-Sheikh and a Muslim Brotherhood member, was attacked today. The house, which is in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, not in neighbouring Kafr El-Sheikh, was attacked by protesters who threw rocks at the building, the paper reported.

20:00 Outside the capital, some pro-Brotherhood demonstrations have reportedly been taking place.

The northern coastal city of Damietta saw a pro-Morsi rally today organised by the Brotherhood, reported the Al-Ahram Arabic news website. The rally marched from Ezbet El-Lahm Mosque, chanting "Stand fast, president" according to the site.

An Ahram Online correspondent reported that Beni Suef also saw a pro-Morsi demonstration of more than a thousand in one of the governorate’s districts on Friday. There was also a mass demonstration in support of the president on Thursday, organised by all local Islamist factions, which numbered more than ten thousand.

19:45 Sara Rashidi has also been talking to protesters in the square about the ongoing problems of sexual harassment and assault. One volunteer anti-harassment guard, Amr Rico, told her he had encountered several incidents today.

Mona Prince, a professor at Suez University, told Rashidi that she didn’t feel that sexual harassment in the square was bad today or on Tuesday, although she was very happy to see that there are now volunteer security initiatives protecting women from harassment.

19:30 In Tahrir, Ahram Online reporter Sarah Rashidi spoke to Ali Ismail, the owner of a management consultancy firm in his 60s, who told her that his main fear is Egypt becoming a religious state like Iran.

"This is the first time in my 61 years that I have come to Tahrir to demonstrate. We have always been the gate between East and West, and now we are becoming a fascist state," he said.

"What is happening is a shame. I will come tomorrow too I have nothing to lose; I'm 61 and I'm willing to die."

19:15 Several members of the April 6 Youth Movement in President Morsi’s home governorate of Sharqiya have gathered at Morsi's house chanting "Down with the president."

Security forces are at the scene but have not interfered with the protesters, given their small numbers and the non-violent nature of the demonstration, Al-Ahram’s Arabic website reported.

The protesters also chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood.

19:10 After speaking to the masses in Tahrir and announcing that he will be sleeping in the square overnight, Mohamed ElBaradei further denounced the president's decree via Twitter.

"The president & his constituent assembly are currently staging a coup against democracy. Regime legitimacy fast eroding," said ElBaradei.

19:05 Ahram Online reporters in Tahrir say that the square is less full than on Tuesday. ##

19:00 The imam of Sidi Gaber Mosque in Alexandria, Hassan Abdel-Baseer, has resigned from his position, complaining in a statement that he has been facing pressure from the Ministry of Religious Endowments to support President Mohamed Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration in his speeches.

Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported that Abdel-Baseer read his statement in front of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members and loyalists at the mosque on Friday, while they were demonstrating in support of the declaration.

The sheikh announced that he had received instructions from the ministry to urge people who come and pray at his mosque to support the president’s decision, a demand which he refused. He further condemned the instructions as being similar to those given to imams by the former regime.

Abdel-Baseer was attacked by Brotherhood supporters at the mosque and was forced to leave, Al-Ahram reported. Muslim Brotherhood member Talaat Fahmy then took the pulpit, urging people not to believe Abdel-Baseer, claiming that he was a member of the state security apparatus and was instructed to make such statements.

18:50 Human Rights Watch released a report slamming the constitution for not protecting human rights. Ahram Online journalist Bel Trew caught up with HRW's Egypt Director Heba Morayef.

"If you look at the freedom of expression section of the constitution, it is worse than the [Mubarak-era] 1971 constitution," she commented.

"The article which worries me the most is Article 71, a provision which says that 'every rights article in the Rights Chapter is subject to conforming with Chapter 1' which is on state and society. The language of Chapter 1 is full of very broad terms, such as the state has to maintain 'moral behaviour' and guarantee the 'true nature of the Egyptian family' - you could use any of this vague language to negate any part of the Rights chapter."

"The language on women in the current constitution now will not stop regression in legislation for women's rights - the constitution sets a worrying precedent linguistically and technically."

"For example, in 2009 the State Council ruled that they didn't want women to work at the body; this was overturned by the Constitutional Court, who were able to say, because of the non-discriminatory provision in the Constitution, that you couldn't prevent women from assuming these roles."

"In the current constitution, it doesn't specifically say you cannot discriminate on the grounds of gender; therefore it would be harder to push through the Constitutional Court's verdict. The language instead says that women must balance their work and family life - it makes these battles more difficult."

"Article 11 says that you cannot 'insult an individual' - what does this mean? One of the biggest problems today is prosecuting people on the grounds of insulting the judiciary, or insulting the president or insulting the army - anything can be interpreted as an 'insult'."

18:40 Earlier in the day, Ahram Online's Bel Trew spoke to senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, Gehad El-Haddad.

“The constitution is extremely balanced - it walks a fine line between right and left and the end result is satisfying for the majority. We were expecting more but it’s a big step forward. I have some concerns with the document - for example, we want the decentralised management of the state on a municipality level which is not yet stated clearly in the constitution," he commented.

“However, my analysis is that it removes 50 per cent of the powers that the president had in the 1971 constitution and balances it with the power of the parliament."

In response to a Human Rights Watch report criticising the lack of key articles protecting human rights, El-Haddad said that there are grey areas, as nations have different perspectives on what is acceptable or not, and the constitution reflects Egypt's culture.

“The constitution is not a single document that suits all nations in the world but is tailored to the country’s own specificity.”

ElBaradei’s criticism of the national charter was unfounded according to El-Haddad, sayinng that the liberal figure was discussing articles that don’t actually exist. The opposition figure had earlier said that the constitution belonged in the “garbage can of history."

“At the end of the day, the constitution was passed by a two-thirds majority, which is pretty unanimous. When there is a parliament in place, there can be amendments made the constitution as was done in France and the US.

The constitution in my mind is one of the most successful initiatives during Morsi’s presidency. It is very sad for me to see this political bickering from opposition figures, which is against finalising the transition of Egypt.”

18:35 Ahram Online reporter Bassem Abou El-Abbas spoke to former leading Muslim Brotherhood member Kamal El-Helbawi.

"Even if the Muslim Brotherhood manage to gather big numbers at their protests tomorrow, the heart of the ones in Tahrir [today] will give them the will to fight," said El-Helbawi.

18:30 Singer Ramy Essam, famous for performing revolutionary songs in Tahrir Square during the revolution in 2011, is in the square now, singing on the stage.

18:25 Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website has reported that the general assembly of the State Council has recommended that Morsi's legal advisor, Judge Mohamed Fouad Gadalla, and members of the group Judges for Egypt, have their names removed from the Judges’ Club list, a symbolic move that would not have an impact on the judges’ work.

‘Judges for Egypt’ have recently voiced their support for the president's constitutional declaration.

18:15 Egyptian Islamist cleric, Sheikh Youssef El-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, is supporting the project of the constitution.

"Egypt has never witnessed a constitution like this at any point in time," he stated during Friday prayers in Doha.

"What has been achieved is great and the people have the last word by either accepting or rejecting it."

"The constitution contains values and principles of freedom and justice, which is all that Egyptians need, in all aspects."

"Over time we can make additions to the constitution; this will be over the years. We cannot achieve everything at once. That is why we are persisting and we are optimistic about this constitution."

"People should not withdraw from the Constituent Assembly, since withdrawal will not lead to a result."

He also stated, regarding the president's interview on Thursday evening: "What President Morsi said was absolutely just and righteous. People have the right to oppose, but they don’t have the right to fight."

18:05 Egyptian Communist Party leader Moustafa El-Gamal says that the party is in the square today to topple President Morsi.

“The constitutional decree and Constituent Assembly are illegitimate and we are most concerned that the constitution does not protect social justice,” he told reporter Sarah Rashidi.

18:00 Ahram Online’s Sara Rashidi speaks to Heba, an unveiled woman in her mid-30s, who describes herself as a former “sofa party” supporter, or politically-indifferent.

“I came from Alexandria to tell Morsi...I didn’t elect you and I don’t approve of you. You made a constitution in 48 hours and you’re changing everything for the worse. Women are scared now of not wearing the veil...Now we have ignorant people writing our constitution - they should talk to our brains, not through ignorant religious talk...This constitution is a shame to Egypt.”

17:55 In Egypt's Nile Delta, around four thousand Beheira residents, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party, took to the streets to voice their support for Morsi's constitutional decree, according to Ahram’s Arabic news website.

Forming human chains and holding pictures of the president, the protesters chanted: "Oh president, keep moving on, millions are following you."

It was reported earlier that several hundred had been protesting against the president and his controversial decree in the city.

17:45 Mohamed ElBaradei spoke on the stage in Tahrir as crowds cheered loudly, repeating the famous phrase: “The people want the downfall of the regime,” says Ahram Online’s Osman Sharnoubi, reporting from the square.

ElBaradei added that: “It is necessary to go back to the stage before the declaration. We say the current draft constitution is illegitimate...We hold Morsi fully responsible for the state of division and civil strife the country may experience.”

Founder of pro-democracy movement Kefaya, George Ishaq, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website in Tahrir that he will be participating in the overnight sit-in with other political figures like ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa. He also announced a general strike, to start on Tuesday if the president does not back down, starting with various satellite channels which will cease transmission and newspapers that will not publish their daily editions.

17:40 Famous football player and former parliamentary candidate for the moderate Islamist Wasat Party list, Nader El-Sayed, speaks in Tahrir Square, pointing out the large numbers of Egyptian flags displayed and commenting:

“This is because all Egyptians are comparison it will be hard to see the veiled and the unveiled next to each other in tomorrow’s protest [organised by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties] at Cairo University.”

Meanwhile in Upper Egypt's Qena, hundreds of Salafists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood are protesting in Manshia Square.

"These marches are for saving sharia law," Ammar Hanafi, spokesperson of the Brotherhood in Qena, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

17:35 Political groups in the city of Ismalia, on the Suez Canal, organised an anti-Morsi rally through the city. Marchers chanted “No to the Brotherhood constitution,” and “Down with the rule of the Brotherhood Supreme Guide.”

Among those who participated in the rally are the liberal Wafd Party and the Constitution Party, as well as the Nasserist Karama Party, the Popular Socialist Coalition and the 6 April Youth Movement.

17:30 Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei takes to Tahrir Square's main stage. Meanwhile, the news announced by stage speaker that ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa will sleep over in the square is met with applause and cheers by the 1000s-strong crowd. ##

17:15 We're back in Tahrir Square, where clashes between protesters and police are still ongoing on the periphery by Simon Bolivor Square and the Corniche.

Early this morning security forces built another concrete barricade by the US embassy, walling in the area. Khaled Mahmoud, a field doctor in the square told Ahram Online journalist Sarah Rashidi that they are in urgent need of medical supplies.

"Most of the injuries are caused by glass and stones," said Mahmoud.

Meanwhile back in Tahrir Square, Soheir, a teacher wearing the niqab (the full face veil) told an Ahram Online reporter she is against Morsi's decree and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Breaking the stereotype of ultra-conservative Muslims supporting Islamist political groups, Soheir says that she supported Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential elections run-offs against Mohamed Morsi.

Her husband, Atef, agreed with her, saying that "if Morsi doesn’t change the constitution then he must go."

17:10 Welcome to the second part of Ahram Online's live coverage of a day of protests against President Mohamed Morsi's constitutional declaration. You can find the first part here.

Protesters are also opposing the draft constitution, which was finalised by the controversial Constituent Assembly in the early hours of this morning. Opposition groups argue that Morsi's recent moves have shored up his own power and moved Egypt closer to dictatorship, while presidential supporters argue that the measures are temporary and necessary for Egypt's transition – and that the majority of Egyptians support the president.

So far this morning, protests have been taking place in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the Nile Delta cities of Damanhour and Mahalla, and in Alexandria, while pro-Morsi rallies have been reported in Wadi El-Gedid, Minya and Assiut in Upper Egypt.

Live Updates: Friday protests against Egypt's draft constitution, Morsi's 'power grab'

Bel Trew, Nada Rashwan, Yasmine Fathy, Yasmine Wali, Friday 30 Nov 2012
Ahram Online

Opposition forces protest Egypt's new draft constitution passed in the early hours of Friday morning; Demonstrations expected across the country against President Morsi's contentious Constitutional Declaration

17: 10 With 10,000s still in Tahrir Square, Ahram Online's afternoon shift bids you farewell.

17:05 Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Nasser, son of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, joins Tahrir protesters, to cheering crowds.

17:00 Osama Najdi, member of Nasserist Karama Party, talks to Ahram Online's reporter Osman Sharnoubi

"We are not against Morsi's legitimacy; we are for it as long as he follows the revolution's principles, which he is not.” Najdi explained:

"The Constitutional Declaration is unnecessary and entrenches a dictatorship. He is not taking concrete steps to hold accountable those who killed protesters and is not targeting the Ministry of Interior or punishing those who withheld evidence. Instead, he is asking the families of martyrs to bring evidence themselves. He also did not hold the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) responsible and is now going to trick the Egyptians by referendum like the Brotherhood did in March 2011."

16:45 Shifting South to Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, 1000s of Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members are demonstrating in support of Morsi's decree.

The gathering crowds chanted against opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi, according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

16:30 Father of slain activist, Saleh Gaber, or "Jika", who was gunned down by security forces on 20 November, speaks from the 6 April Movement stage on Tahrir Square. Jika was a member of the youth group.

"Jika is not one of Morsi's sons he is the son of Egypt, Morsi's real sons are ones with American passports not concerned with Egypt," Jika's father said, slamming Morsi's yesterday's statement on state TV.

The father saluted the youth of 6 April movement "for what they have given to Egypt."

16:25 Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi takes to the main stage on Tahrir and addresses 1000s of protesters.

“Egypt will not be forced to choose between a dictatorial declaration and a rushed constitution written by a fraction of Egyptian society. Egypt will not bow down to the will of a few,” he said, as crowds chanted back, “The people will overthrow the regime.”

Speaking to the Constituent Assembly directly, the Nasserist figure continued "You are afraid that the High Constitutional Court’s verdict on Sunday will be against you so you are racing to finish the constitution.”##

16:20 The freshly completed Constitution remains Egypt's hottest topic, with the country's top political actors continuing to exchange barbs over the document's content.

Senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, Gehad El-Haddad speaking to Ahram Online reporter Bel Trew, responds to some of the criticism leveled at the national charter:

“The constitution is is extremely balance - it walks a fine line between right and left and the end result is satisfying for the majority. We were expecting more but it’s a big step forward. I have some concerns with the document - for example, we want the decentralised management of the state on a municipality level which is not yet stated clearly in the constitution.

“However, my analysis is that it removes 50 per cent of the powers that the president had in the 1971 Constitution and balances it with the power of the parliament. “

In response to Human Rights Watch report criticising the lack of key articles protecting human rights El-Haddad said that there are grey areas, as nations have different perspectives on what is acceptable or not, the constitution reflects the cultural specificity of Egypt.

“The constitution is not a single document that suits all nations in the world but is tailored to the country’s own specificity.”

ElBaradei’s criticism of the national charter El-Haddad said was unfounded, as he was panning articles that don’t actually exist. The opposition figure had earlier said that the constitution belonged in the “garbage can of history."

“At the end of the day, the constitution was passed by two-thirds majority, which is pretty unanimous, when there is a parliament in place, there can be amendments made the constitution as was done in France and the US.

The constitution in my mind is one of the most successful initiatives during Morsi’s presidency, it is very sad for me to see this political bickering from opposition figures, which is against finalising the transition of egypt.”

16:00 Meanwhile ex-presidential candidate Amr Moussa is heading a 1000s-strong march from the Wafd Party headquarters.

Wafd chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi is also in the march together with the party's senior committee, as they enter Tahrir Square to participate in the million-man Tahrir rallies.

"Egyptians will not lose their political conscious and will not allow their will to be broken," Al-Badawi told the crowds, “They won’t give up their right to the quality of life they demand.”

The head of Al-Wafd Party called for unity, confirming that Egyptians will stand together and face up to the Constitutional Declaration until it gets cancelled.

“Egyptians will stand against every attempt to destroy national unity.".

"Down with the supreme guide rule. Void the constitutional declaration; down with Morsi," the crowds shout back.

15:55 Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei is expected to give to a speech on the main stage in Tahrir Square at 4pm, ElBaradei's media spokesman announces.

15:50 The Nasserists are out in full force again. On Tuesday posters of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser were being sold by every vendor on the square- now a symbolic museum has erected near KFC restaurant to commemorate the late state leader, whose era is famously remembered for its intolerance of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The museum, dubbed the "Museum of the Revolution", also displays newspaper clippings of notorious Islamist figures.

One example is FJP member Azza El-Garf, who sparked uproar when he recommended the removal of articles in the constitution calling for gender equality.

In the revolutionary museum, protesters have also laid floral wreaths to the martyrs of the January 25 Revolution.

15:45 Moving further south, more counter protests are being held by Brotherhood members and Salafists in Assiut.

Hussein Lazoomy, the youth secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party in Upper Egyptian city said that “the purpose of the march is to show support and to demand that the remnants of the old regime are purged from Egypt.”

15:40 Not all the protests in Egypt today are against the president. A pro-Morsi march has erupted in the southwestern governorate of Wadi El-Gedid.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party are out on the streets chanting: “Yes, to Egypt’s new constitution,” and “Morsi is the people’s president.”

15:35 More marches are streaming into the square from El-Fateh mosque in Cairo’s downtown area of Ramses. Thousands of protesters participating in the march chant against the declaration as well as the Constituent Assembly that finalised the draft of the constitution overnight early Friday.

15:24 After a long march from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen, the thousands of protesters are still high spirits as they enter Tahrir Square, waving Revolutionary Socialists and Egyptian Popular Current flags and chanting for social

justice and a representative government.

Leading the chants is labor activist and lawyer Haytham Mohamadein. He is joined by familiar faces including former presidential contender Hamdeen Sabbahi, former MP Ziad El-Eleimi and Egyptian actress and dancer Sherihan.##

15:20 Staying in the Nile Delta, thousands are now taking the streets of the industrial city Mahalla to denounce Morsi's declaration.

Mahalla saw brutal clashes between rival protest groups on Tuesday following a mass demonstration against the president's "power grab", which left more than 100 injured.

For more information on unrest in the Delta, read Ahram Online journalist Yassin Gaber's report

15:15 Moving north to the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, 250 protesters are marching form Autobis Mosque to Saea Square against President Morsi’s controversial Constitutional Decree.

The protesters chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood, yelling, “The Brotherhood used religion to lie to us,” and “Oh Brotherhood, Egypt is for all Egyptians!”

Last week there bloody clashes in Saea Square, which houses the Brotherhood headquarters, between supporters of the Islamist group and opponents to Morsi resulting in the death of Brotherhood member Islam Maasoud, 15.

15:10 Meanwhile, fierce debates continue about the draft constitution. Abdul Aziz Husseiny, organisational secretary for the nationalist Karama Party tells Ahram Online his thoughts on the subject:

“The public opinion division over the constitution, and the persistence in completing the constitution in a very short time period is unheard of in any part of the world.

The Constitutional Declaration that was issued by the president recently allocated more time to finish off the constitution. So, when they draft the constitution quickly, they end up passing something bizarre. Also, the court appealed against the Constituent Assembly’s legitimacy. Plus, there are lots of members who were not happy and resigned from the assembly.

Putting the Constitution to referendum overrides the legitimacy and power of the judiciary. Thus, there will be no national consensus. They have to learn from the mistakes made by others and what the consequences were. In the end, the regime has lost its legitimacy, and that is what happened in the January 25 Revolution.”

15:05 Despite reports of sexual assault on Tahrir during Tuesday's protests, Ahram Online reporter Hani Shukrallah, says that there are many women of all ages in the square today.

“It seems that the incidents of sexual harassment that have reported in the last few days have not been put off. Every now and then a woman leads the chants on the main stage in the square,” reports Shukrallah.

15:00 More marches are beginning to pour into the square, the latest 300 people holding banners that read “The residents of Azhar and Hossien (Fatimid working class areas near downtown Cairo) rejects Morsi’s constitutional declaration.” The march was saluted by the protesters in the square.

14:55 Around 2000 people have entered Tahrir Square on a march from El-Fatah mosque chanting “Bread, Freedom, and down with the Constituent Assembly,” says Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy.

Protesters are holding pictures of Gaber Salah, also known as Jika, a 16-year-old member of 6 April movement, who was killed during clashes with Egypt’s police force last week.

14:50 Moving north to Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, a march of around 10,000 protesters has began from Kaed Ibrahim mosque.

According to Alexandria activist Mahienour El-Massry, the march is heading to the Sidi Gaber district of the city. He says, “When we get there, a group of us will head to Tahrir to support the protests there, and the rest will continue holding marches and protests in Alexandria.”

A popular conference will also be held at the end of the march by the different political forces. El-Massry says Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Salafists are also planning to hold a protest in the same area.

“They will gather in Sheikh Street, which is only one street away from where we will be. I am not sure what will happen.”

The march was organised by the liberal Constitution Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Popular Coalition Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6th of April Movement, and the Alexandria based “We are all independent” group.

14:45 Two wooden watch towers have been constructed on the Arab League entrance to Tahrir and one near the Egyptian Museum to maintain security, reports Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Guindy.

Protesters plan to man the towers to keep an eye on sexual assault and thuggery - particularly as there were several reports of mob sexual attacks on women during Tuesday's million-man protest.##

14:30 Reports are coming in that the march at Istaqama Mosque in Giza has been attacked by pro-President Morsi supporters - the second opposition protest to be confronted by pro-Brotherhood groups.

14:15 There are a number of first-time protesters who say they have "had enough" and so joined the thousands-strong march which has yet to leave Shubra Square, Ahram Online reporter Ekram Ibrahim reports.

Ramez Fawzi, 35, is one of them:

“I am here to get rid of Morsi, I am fed up. We wanted the Constitution first but they brought the president first and now he has given us a tailored constitution."

“Egypt has been ruined after the revolution," added 56-year-old housewife Soad Gerges, who admits that she has never demonstrated before, "I am praying that Egypt is fixed."

"The groups are mostly shouting “Yes, we are chanting against the supreme guide”, “Morsi, leave", “Egypt, some thieves have stolen you from us” and “we do not want a Wahabi constitution”," reports Ahram Online's Ibrahim, "In addition, the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Coptic group Maspero Youth Union are the leading organisers of this march. The Liberal Adl and Free Egyptians parties also sent representatives."

14:10 Moving back to Tahrir Square, where the numbers are increasing, Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy says protesters have hung signs saying "No entry for sexual harrassers."

Following a rise in reports of mob sexual assaults on women in the square, "Tahrir Bodyguards" a new initiative was launched by independent activists and rights groups such as Nazra for Feminist Studies, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, HarassMap. Ahram Online reporter Bel Trew spoke to Leil-Zahra, an activist who has been working on the project and similar campaigns like the End Sexual Harrasment Campaign.

"First of all we're working on a guide to advise women on how to dress when going to the square,and for men on how to help a girl who is being attacked. So for example, give the girl your back to protect her, don't smother, get her to a safe space then make sure you get woman to look after her and give her emotional support. The guide will be distributed among activists and then a simplified version will be blown up to A3 size and hung around the square. We are also running a hotline phone number,which is essentially a phone tree to reach volunteers who will intervene and get the girl out. All the volunteers wear a pink band to identify them, as one of the biggest problems the girls who get attacked face in the chaos is trying to work out who is helping them and who is actually attacking them. On friday "Tahrir Bodyguard", will set up an awareness tent on the square."

14:05 Brotherhood figures, meanwhile, are praising the draft Constitution passed in the early hours of this morning. Leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Essam El-Erian, hinted that divine inspiration was behind the national charter on his Facebook page:

“When people read the draft constitution they will all know that it is an honor for every Egyptian. Perfection belongs to God only but we have produced a draft constitution that suits revolutionary Egypt; one that achieves the hopes of the martyrs and the injured revolutionaries. Every Egyptian will realise that there is an organised campaign of rumours and lies promoted against the draft, and that it will fail.”

14:00 Tensions rise in Cairo's suburbs: protesters participating in a march from Raba El-Adwyia Mosque in Heliopolis to Tahrir told Ahram Online reporter Salma Shukrallah that their demonstration have been blocked by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

“There were tens of us and we expected more to join as made our way to Tahrir, however a group of Brotherhood supporters blocked our way and kept chanting in support of the president and the Constitutional Declaration”, one of the protesters said, “as it got nasty we thought we'd have to leave and join other marches. However we gathered again and decided to go on with our march.”

13:50 "This is the worst constitution in Egypt's history," Hana Abul-Ghar, a leading member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and child rights advocate, tells Ahram Online.

“It is not fit for Egypt whatsoever especially after all the sacrifices made before and after the revolution. We are going to Tahrir today and we will sit-in with all the other revolutionary forces and movements because everybody is angry. There was a chance yesterday to contain the anger of people but now they are forcing us to accept the status quo. When we didn’t agree with Mubarak so we made him step down, and if Morsi continues we will make him lose his legitimacy.We accepted that he is Egypt's president but if he doesn't act as a president for all Egyptians so we will not accept him. He wants to be president for part of the Egyptians living here, that's it."

13:45 Back to Tahrir Square, Ahram Online journalist Ekram Ibrahim speaks to 50-year-old ex-Islamist protester Ibrahim Abul-Kheir, who came to demonstrate against Muslim Brotherhood and the constitution:

“I was a member of the [hardline Salafist] Call and Proselytism group in the 1970s, from my experience I can tell you these [Islamists] are all frauds. The Muslim Brotherhood is a fascist group that we need to get rid of. I was arrested during the Mubarak regime and I participated in the 18-day uprising against it, but now I’d rather have him in power than the Brotherhood.”

"I own a medical supplies factory," he continued, "As a member of the industrial section, I see the article about industries in the draft constitution is too ambiguous and does not uphold the industrial section at all.”

13:30 Marches from Fatah Mosque in Ramses, Dawaram square in Shoubra, Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen and Istaqama Mosque in Giza have left and are on their way to Tahrir Square.

13:20 Liberal forces continue to slam the last minute constitution. Elham Aidarous of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, which lost one of its members Tuesday to a heart attack during the clashes just off Tahrir Square, explained his reservations with the draft national charter:

“The military have super powers in the new draft constitution, much more than they had in the 1971 Constitution in terms of allowing military trials for civilians and appointing military officials.

The Armed Forces has a separate board and budget away from the parliament or any other civilian authority. The Shura Council that we wanted to dissolve is now strongly tied to the president. There are no articles added on the personal freedoms. They refused criminalising human trafficking and specifying an age for marriage.”

13:10 Not all in the presidential camp are happy with the way the Constitution has been put together. Consultant to the president, Ayman El-Sayad, says on his official Twitter account that what we saw yesterday with the Constituent Assembly “marathon” session proves that this is not the right enivronment for writing a constitution.

13:00 The reactions are coming in thick and fast to the passing of Egypt’s draft Constitution. Leading member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Dr. Ahmed Okeil spoke to Ahram Online:

“Its called the project of the Constitution now not the constitutional draft. I think it is a very good document, that honors Egypt after the revolution and its martyrs. It fulfilled most of the demands, however there some reservations that I have, that need to be discussed, such as the National Defense Council .. at the end of the day its all in the hands of the public. The real judge will be the people.”

12:45 Protesters in Tahrir chant “leave” and “the people want to bring down the regime,” as they finish prayers. The planned marches are expected to start setting off to Tahrir Square now.

12:30 Just off Tahrir Square, Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Guindy describes the devastation left over from week long clashes between police and protesters:

“The square is almost empty now as private cleaning companies are now removing the remains of the street battles. The smell of tear gas remains strong around the area - the air stings. Protesters have also installed barbed wires to block entrance. Some of them are standing at the entrances to prevent further clashes, where the army built roadblocks in front of the US Embassy at the square. The damage from the clashes has reached the school attached to the Qasr El-Doubara church, its walls are partially destroyed and its windows broken. Groups of Christians are arriving at the church for the sermon, many of them carrying Egyptian flags.”

12:00 The subject of the Friday’s prayers on Tahrir Square is very much centred around the surprise vote on the constitution.

A sheikh leading the prayers tells protesters that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have tarnished Islamic Shari’a Law. He accused the Brotherhood of taking advantage of the “blood of the martyrs” of the revolution, in collaboration with the United States to secure themselves power.

11:45 “The constitution belongs in the garbage can of history,” said leading figure Mohamed ElBaradei in a televised interview with Egyptian private channel Al-Nahra, last night.

The draft nation charter, which has sparked uproar among the opposition forces, ElBaradei said was rushed and “not up to people’s expectations.” However, he did add that Morsi still has a chance to retreat and return the authorities he assumed in Thursday’s Constitutional Declaration back to the people.

11:30The security forces have been busy erecting barricades around Cairo’s flashpoint square ahead of today’s expected million-man protest, says Ahram Online's Zeinab El-Guindy on Tahrir.

“Protesters at the entrance checkpoints block traffic to Tahrir completely as they search incoming people into the square.

There is a new wall just off the square on Simon Bolivar near the US embassy. Surrounding the barricade is the wreckage of last night’s fierce battle between protesters and the police: I can see a burnout car, a smashed shop, broken up pavement and a lot of rocks strewn across the street.

The entrance to Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the site of many clashes between protesters and police in the past, has also been blocked off, with barbed wire fences.

Patriotic songs can be heard playing through the tents erected on the square's central garden - protesters have been camping out here since Friday last week, when Presdient Morsi released his decree.

Ahead of the marches that will converge on Tahrir following Friday noon prayers, a few hundred protesters are already in the square - the focus of dissent is now divided between the new draft constitution and Morsi’s contentious Constitutional Declaration.

Banners decorate the square - one popular slogan is a list of key demands: 'bread, freedom, bringing down the Constituent Assembly.'

The liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, part of the 'Revolution Salvation Front' a coalition of opposition forces behind the sit-in, also has a large sign reading "down with the unconstitutional declaration.”

The liberal Constitution party, meanwhile opted for the sign 'No to monopolising power'."

Above the anti-corruption “Shayfenkom” movement the banner reads 'no to the infringement on the independence of the judiciary' while a farmer rights group has a sign that says 'farmers are in Tahrir because they do not feel any change.'" ##

11:10 Dozens are already gathered on Tahrir for today's expected milion man protest. Fierce clashes between protesters and policecontinued through the night just off the flashpoint square on the Nile Corniche. In response, security forces erected another concrete security barrier in the early hours of the morning on near the American Embassy, walling in downtown Cairo.

11:07 Eleven Egyptian newspapers will not to publish their editions on Tuesday, and three privately owned satellite channels will not broadcast Wednesday in protest of the political events happening in Egypt, reports Reuters.

11:05 The subject of Egypt's draft national charter is expected to be the hot topic on Tahrir, together with Morsi's contentious Constitutional Declaration, as it was passed in the early hours of the morning, despite mass walkouts by liberal and leftist members.

Hossam El-Gheriany, head of the assembly, confirmed after the marathon session which ended in the early hours of Friday morning, that they had passed the national charter and would "call the president today at a reasonable hour to inform him that the assembly has finished its task and the project of the constitution is completed."

The president's critics see the Constitutional Declaration and the rushed draft charter as an attempt to push through the text which they say ahs been hijacked by the Brotherhood.

11:03 "There is no place for a dictatorship," President Mohamed Morsi said in a speech late last night in an attempt to reassure the nation ahead of a weekend of planned protests and growing unrest within the country.

The power grab, he said was "for an exceptional stage," and "will end as soon as the people vote on the constitution," Morsi told state television 10pm Thursday.

Morsi also reiterated that he was "very happy that Egypt has real political opposition," and stressed that the country need to attract investors and tourists to Egypt.

11:00Good morning, we are opening our live coverage of today's protests across Egypt. Dozens are already in Tahrir Square as part of the ongoing sit-in until President Mohamed Morsi rescinds his controversial Constitutional Declaration.

Thousands are expected to gather in Egypt's main squares Friday, in protest called by opposition forces against President Mohamed Morsi's "authoritarian" Controversial Declaration.

Egypt also wakes up to a new draft constitution, which was passed by the beleaguered Constituent Assembly in the early hours of the morning. Just 85 members sat for the marathon session, after mass resignations by liberal and leftists forces and the representatives of the church.

Leftist, liberal and independent political forces met Thursday at the headquarters of Egypt's Socialist Popular Alliance Party headquarters to discuss Friday's demonstrations. Attendees included the Constitution Part, the Popular Current Movement, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, April 6 Youth Movement and the Maspero Youth coalition.

"The only way to break the current impasse is to listen to the pulse of the street," the opposition statement read, "as opposed to following a group that has attempted to steal the revolution."

Egypt's Political Opposition Holds Firm, Mulls Escalation

Egypt's political opposition holds firm, mulls escalation

Hatem Maher, Friday 30 Nov 2012
Ahram Online

Anger remains palpable in Cairo's flashpoint Tahrir Square as thousands take to streets in cities nationwide to protest President Morsi’s controversial decree

The rapid finalisation of Egypt’s new constitution by Islamists did little to dampen protests in Cairo as hundreds of thousands occupied Tahrir Square on Friday in a trademark show of strength.

An Islamist-led Constituently Assembly, which was given two more months by President Mohamed Morsi to finish its work, surprisingly approved the final draft charter early Friday following a marathon session that lasted more than 15 hours.

According to analysts, the move was intended to placate activists and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators angry at what they see as Morsi’s attempt to impose autocratic rule.

The 61-year-old head of state, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, stirred controversy last week after issuing a decree that shields his decisions from legal challenge and protects the Constituent Assembly and upper house of parliament from dissolution.

Once a draft constitution is approved via popular referendum, Morsi's decree will be cancelled and his legislative powers transferred to a newly-elected parliament.

However, protests showed no sign of abating. Tahrir Square demonstrators, who are pushing for a 'no' vote in the upcoming referendum, believe the draft constitution neither fulfils the aspirations of Egyptians nor achieves revolutionary objectives.

The Islamists, who perhaps thought finalising the constitution earlier than expected would quell popular anger – since it means Morsi would soon relinquish the powers he just assumed – ended up only adding fuel to the fire.

"Egypt will not be forced to choose between a dictatorial declaration and a rushed constitution written by a fraction of Egyptian society," former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, a staunch opponent of the Brotherhood, said after joining protesters in Cairo's iconic square.

"Egypt will not bow down to the will of a few," he added to enthusiastic cheers.

Sabbahi and former Nobel Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure, said they would spend the night in Tahrir to support those who had camped out in the square since last Friday to oppose Morsi’s decree.

The opposition has mulled escalating their protests, with some calling for a civil disobedience campaign starting midweek.

Eleven independent newspapers have decided not to go to press on Tuesday in protest against Morsi's decree, while several privately-owned satellite television channels said they would halt broadcasts on Wednesday.

The majority of Egypt’s judges have also continued their strike, casting doubt over the fate of the upcoming referendum on the constitution, which they had been set to monitor.

Several other cities witnessed anti-Morsi protests on Friday, including Alexandria, Mahalla and Assiut.

Clashes to erupt since Morsi announced his decree have so far left two people dead: a Tahrir protester and a Muslim Brotherhood member in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour.

"The president and his Constituent Assembly are currently staging a coup against democracy. Regime legitimacy fast eroding," ElBaradei declared via Twitter on Friday.

Imam supports Morsi

Morsi stressed the temporary nature of his decree during an interview with state television Thursday night, but this failed to allay the worries of many pro-democracy activists, who have likened him to former autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.

The president had to intervene to contain the anger of some worshippers during Friday prayers in an upscale district of Cairo, when the mosque’s preacher dedicated his sermon to defending Morsi’s latest decisions.

"My dear brother, the one who is angry, please come and explain to me why you are angry. It’s your right and it’s my duty [to explain]," Morsi said in the mosque, drawing applause from worshippers.

"After prayers, we will talk for a few minutes," the president said. "I hope you will all listen."

Brotherhood response

No less unyielding, the Brotherhood, meanwhile, has vowed to support Morsi’s decree, which it believes is necessary to tackle deep-rooted "judicial corruption" and reform a legal establishment that for decades served the Mubarak regime.

The group initially planned to demonstrate in Tahrir Square on Saturday, but reversed its decision after being warned of possible clashes with anti-Morsi protesters who are maintaining a sit-in in the middle of the square.

Switching venues, the Brotherhood eventually opted to stage its planned Saturday protests in front of Cairo University.

"The constitution is extremely balanced – it walks a fine line between right and left, and the end result is satisfying for the majority," Gehad El-Haddad, senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, told Ahram Online.

"We were expecting more, but it’s a big step forward," El-Haddad added. "It cuts the powers that the president had in Egypt's 1971 Constitution in half, and balances them with the power of parliament."

The Brotherhood appears to be flexing its muscles in an effort to show that those who oppose Morsi do not represent the bulk of Egyptians.

It remains to be seen which side will have the final word, as Egypt plunges into uncharted waters nearly five months after Morsi assumed power in the country’s first-ever free presidential elections.

Draft Egypt Charter May Allow Military Trials of Civilians

Draft Egypt charter leaves door open for military trials of civilians: Activists

Ahram Online, Friday 30 Nov 2012

Draft constitutional article banning military trials for civilians contains loophole that will allow Mubarak-era practice to continue, Egyptian rights campaigners assert

The 'No to Military Trials' campaign on Friday stated that Egypt's newly-approved draft constitution had a loophole that would still allow civilians to be tried by military tribunals.

In a statement released Thursday, the group strongly denounced the constitutional draft article banning military trials for civilians, accusing the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly of "preserving the repressive tools used by Mubarak and the military."

"It is prohibited to carry out military trials for civilians, unless for crimes that affect the armed forces," the draft article reads.

"The second part of the article's text leaves the door open for repeating the same disastrous measures that enabled the military to subject over 12,000 civilians to military trials within one year," the campaign stated.

The statement continued: "The way the parliament, the presidency, and now the Constituent Assembly, handle the subject of military trials for civilians does not aim at resolving the problem, but only to remove the aspects that attract media attention. But it still provides a loophole for exceptional trials."

Tens of thousands took to the streets on Friday in Tahrir Square and various governorates across the country to protest the Constituent Assembly and President Mohamed Morsi's 22 November constitutional declaration.

Egypt's Constituent Assembly approved the draft constitution on Thursday, despite the withdrawal of about one third of its members.

Protesters, Police Clash in Flashpoint Tunisia Town

Protesters, police clash in flashpoint Tunisia town

AFP, Friday 30 Nov 2012

Protesters clashed with police Friday in Tunisia's flashpoint town of Siliana, where violence has left hundreds wounded this week, as political instability mounts two years after the revolution.

Thousands took to the streets of the impoverished town demanding the governor's resignation and financial aid in a fourth straight day of unrest, with the authorities battling to maintain order.

In a repeat of events on Thursday, protesters attacked a police station, hurling rocks and erecting barricades, with the police firing tear gas and chasing the demonstrators through the streets, an AFP journalist reported.

A local representative of the UGTT, Tunisia's main trade union, which had called Friday's demonstration, urged the protesters to disperse.

"Go back home, it's dangerous. They will fire on you with live rounds," shouted Abdesattar Manai.

The symbolic march towards Tunis, which was initially peaceful, drew a crowd of thousands, who took part on foot, in cars and on motorcycles, chanting: "With our souls and our blood we sacrifice for Siliana."

Protesters told AFP they would continue their agitation until governor Ahmed Ezzine Mahjoubi steps down, police repression ends and a development programme for the region is put in place.

In Tunis, around 100 people marched on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in the city centre in support of the protesters in Siliana, shouting slogans, including "The people want the fall of the regime!" that were used during last year's uprising.

More than 300 people have been wounded since Tuesday when the protesters first took to the streets of Siliana, 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of the capital, sparking clashes with police.

President Moncef Marzouki is due to address the situation there in a televised speech at 1900 GMT.

The streets of the town were Friday littered with stones and the charred remains of barricades from previous unrest.

Residents also set up roadblocks on the highway leading to Tunis, according to AFP reporters.

"We will undertake a symbolic march to show the determination of the people against (economic) marginalisation," the UGTT's regional secretary general Nejib Sebti told AFP earlier, urging the crowd to march "quietly and peacefully".

A delegation from Sidi Bouzid -- the birthplace of the revolution that toppled former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and touched off the Arab Spring -- was expected to arrive later on Friday.

"We are ready for dialogue but without the presence of the governor," Sebti added.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has refused to sack the governor.

Protesters have complained about police violence during the protests since Tuesday. "This is what the Ennahda (the ruling Islamist party) police did to me," said a man showing injuries to his legs and hips.

Jebali has promised an investigation into the violence, which he said was threatening the country's fledgling democracy as it approaches the second anniversary of the revolution triggered on December 17, 2010.

"We will investigate the possible excessive use of force and the origins of the violence," while demanding accountability from those responsible for "this catastrophe," Jebali said on Thursday.

The demands of protesters could not be achieved in chaos and "we will not accept the ... destruction of democracy," he said, while insisting that he is open to dialogue to address the problems of the region.

The violence in Siliana comes as clashes, strikes and attacks by Salafists have multiplied across Tunisia, plunging the country into a political impasse.

Much of Tunisia's interior suffers from a chronic lack of development and has seen rising discontent over the government's failure to improve living standards.

Precarious living conditions and widespread unemployment were driving factors behind Ben Ali's overthrow in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings that have since swept the region.