UN, US and Sudanese military: exercise restraint during protests
Posted on Saturday, October 30, 2021 | 02:33
Updated 11 minutes ago
CAIRO (AP) – The United Nations and the United States urged key Sudanese generals to allow pro-democracy protests on Saturday and avoid clashes following a military coup earlier this week .
Pro-democracy groups on Saturday called for mass marches across the country to demand the reestablishment of a deposed transitional government and the release of senior politicians.
The takeover threatened Sudan’s fragile West-backed democratic transition that began more than two years ago. In 2019, a popular uprising forced the dismissal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist-allied government after nearly three decades in power.
The UN special envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, met with General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo on Friday evening, a coup deemed close to Sudan’s strongman General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.
Dagalo commands the dreaded Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary unit that controls the streets of the capital Khartoum and played a major role in the coup. The RSF are known for their atrocities and rapes during the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region and for their deadly attacks on pro-democracy protesters in 2019.
Perthes said in a Twitter message that he “stressed the need for calm, to allow peaceful protests and to avoid confrontation” during his talks with Dagalo.
In a separate statement, Perthes said the UN transitional mission “is actively coordinating with ongoing mediation efforts to facilitate an inclusive dialogue, which remains the only path to a peaceful solution to the current crisis.”
Saturday’s protests were likely to increase pressure on the generals, who already face mounting condemnation from the United States and other Western countries for re-establishing a civilian-led government.
The protests were called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the so-called resistance committees. Both were at the forefront of the uprising against al-Bashir and his Islamist government. They demand the dismantling of the now ruling military council, headed by Burhan, and the transfer of government to civilians.
The list of demands also includes the dismantling of paramilitary groups and the restructuring of the army, intelligence and security services to remove officers still loyal to al-Bashir.
Jeffrey Feltman, the United States’ special envoy to the Horn of Africa, also warned of violence against peaceful protesters during a phone call with General Burhan.
“The Sudanese people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully this weekend, and the United States will be watching closely,” he said.
Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, also warned of violence against protesters supporting Sudan’s democratic transition.
“Leaders around the world, including the United States, are saying very clearly to the military: the Sudanese people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully,” she said on Twitter.
Since the military takeover, there have been daily demonstrations in the streets. At least nine people were killed by gunfire from security forces, according to the Committee of Sudanese Doctors and Activists. At least 170 other people injured, UN says
Burhan claimed the takeover was necessary to prevent a civil war, citing what he said were growing divisions between political groups. However, the takeover came less than a month before he handed over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, the main decision-making body in Sudan, to a civilian. Such a measure would have reduced the hold of the army on the country. The council had both civilian and military members.
As part of the coup, Burhan sacked the council and the transitional government, headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was in charge of day-to-day affairs. It has also imposed a state of emergency across the country and military authorities have largely cut internet and mobile phone services. Internet access remained largely disrupted on Saturday, according to Internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.
Burhan has taken over as the head of a military council that will rule Sudan until the July 2023 elections. In an interview with Russian state-run news agency Sputnik published on Friday, Burhan said he would soon appoint a new one. Prime Minister who will form a cabinet which must share the direction of the country with the armed forces.
“We have a patriotic duty to lead the people and help them during the transition period until the elections are held,” Burhan said in the interview. He said that as long as the expected protests are peaceful, “the security forces will not intervene.”
However, observers said it was doubtful the military would allow a full transition to civilian rule, if only to block civilian oversight of the military’s large financial holdings.