Sudan – counter-revolution

Summary: killing of demonstrators stalls negotiations between military and protesters. Ethiopian mediation knocked off course.

The violent actions against protesters in Sudan at the beginning of the month (our posting of 5 June), including killing and rape, may have brought to an end the negotiating process between protesters and the military which following six months of sustained protest seemed to offer some hope of return to civilian government after half a century of domination by the military – “a brutal counter-revolution” (Irish Times).

The African Union’s mediation has been widely praised, for example by the UK Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin in a short debate on Sudan in the House of Commons on 13 June. But on 6 June the AU suspended Sudan’s membership “until the effective establishment of a civilian-led” transitional authority and in an unusually tough communiqué threatened punitive sanctions on those obstructing the transition.

On 7 June the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attempted to mediate, holding separate talks in Khartoum with the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and leaders of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) and urging “bravery” in agreement on a transition to democracy. He proposed a transitional council of eight civilians and seven army officers. On 10 June the opposition said they planned to nominate the eight civilian members, including a prominent economist to head a government, and suspended civil disobedience and the general strike, which had brought Khartoum to a standstill. But two of the rebel leaders who met Abiy Ahmed were promptly arrested.

Ethiopia’s special envoy Mahmoud Dirir said on 11 June that the parties had agreed to resume talks on the formation of a transitional sovereign council. Also on 11 June the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that he was continuing contact with the TMC and the opposition; the UAE had previously pledged support to the military.

On 12 June the US assistant secretary of state for Africa Tibor Nagy met the opposition and the acting deputy foreign minister, urging a resumption of negotiations. But a leader of the DFCF said they refused to have direct negotiations with the TMC, and would only participate in indirect talks subject to other conditions. On 13 June the TMC rejected what they said was a proposal to continue the negotiations in Addis Ababa. They also announced that they have thwarted several coup attempts and that two different groups of officers had been arrested following the shooting of protesters at the beginning of the month, one of five individuals and the other of twelve.

On 14 June Nagy said in Addis Ababa that the new US envoy to Sudan Donald Booth would support mediation efforts led by the African Union and IGAD, an African trade bloc; “Why mediation, why not direction negotiation between the parties? The two parties absolutely do not trust each other in any way.” His conversations with the head of the TMC Lieutenant General Abd al-Fattah al-Burhan had been “about as frank and direct as possible… we mentioned that the events of June 3 constituted a 180 degree turn in the way events were going, with murder, rape, pillaging by members of the security forces.”

The Sudanese government has confirmed 61 deaths in the sit-in raid, and regretted “some mistakes”. (But the British ambassador who had tweeted that there was no excuse for the raid was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to be told that he had contradicted “established diplomatic norms”.) Muhammad Dagalo (known as “Hemeti) deputy head of the TMC and formerly regarded as Bashir’s enforcer has promised to bring those who were responsible “to the gallows“. The New York Times quotes Alaa Salah, the 22-year-old poster girl of the protesters (our posting of 12 April): “For years Hemeti killed and burned in Darfur. Now Darfur has come to Khartoum.”

On 16 June ex-president Bashir appeared in public for the first time since he was overthrown in April to be charged with various corruption offences. 41 former officials from his administration are also being investigated. Bashir is charged with other offences including financing terrorism and ordering killing of protesters. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

Protests continue, with a call yesterday 17 June for night time demonstrations and marches all over the country and a “revolutionary escalation” to bring more pressure on the TMC.

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