Sudan: UN chief Guterres urges army to reverse takeover after civilian protests

UN envoy for Sudan Volker Perthes said he spoke to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok about mediation with military

Tens of thousands stage nationwide protests against Sudan’s military takeover

Tens of thousands stage nationwide protests against Sudan’s military takeover
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called on Sudan’s generals to reverse their takeover of the country, as protesters kept roadblocks and staged rallies to build pressure on the junta.

Tens of thousands took to the streets of the capital on Saturday in the largest pro-democracy protest since the military dismissed the transitional government and arrested civilian officials last week.

Mr Guterres said the military leaders should take heed of Saturday’s protests. “Time to go back to the legitimate constitutional arrangements,” he wrote on Twitter.

He was referring to a power-sharing deal that established joint military-civilian rule following the removal of president Omar Al Bashir and his Islamist government from power in April 2019.

The UN envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, said that on Sunday he met Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was under house arrest in the capital, Khartoum.

“We discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan. I will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders,” Mr Perthes said.

Mr Guterres expressed concern about violence against protesters on Saturday, calling for perpetrators to be held accountable.

At least three people were shot dead when security forces opened fire on protesters in Omdurman, a city adjacent to the capital of Khartoum.

A doctors’ union said more than 110 people were injured by live rounds, tear gas and beatings in Omdurman and elsewhere in Sudan.

With Saturday’s deaths, the overall number of people killed since Monday’s coup rose to 12, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee and campaigners. More than 280 others were injured in the past week.

The coup happened after weeks of tensions between the military and civilians, and generals called for dissolving the transitional government.

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Buhran, who led the takeover, denied it was a coup and claimed he wanted to change "the course of the Sudanese transition".

He said the move was necessary to prevent a civil war, citing what he said were growing divisions among political groups. However, the takeover came less than a month before he was to have handed some power to a civilian official.

Gen Buhran also claimed that the transition to democracy would continue, saying he would install a government of technocrats soon, with the aim of holding elections in July 2023.

But the pro-democracy movement in Sudan fears the military has no intention of easing its grip and will appoint politicians it can control.

Meanwhile, the UN mission for Sudan is working to ease dialogue between military and civilian leaders.

A Sudanese military official said that a UN-supported national committee began separate meetings last week with Mr Hamdok and Gen Burhan to find common ground.

US President Joe Biden has called the coup a "grave setback", while the African Union has suspended Sudan's membership for the "unconstitutional" takeover.

The World Bank and the United States have frozen aid to Sudan, a move that will hit hard in a country in a dire economic crisis.

"No, no, to military rule," protesters carrying Sudanese flags at Saturday’s mass marches chanted as they roved around the capital and other cities.

As night fell on Saturday, many protests in Khartoum and the capital's twin city of Omdurman thinned out. But on Sunday morning, protesters were back on the streets.

They manned barricades in Khartoum using rocks and tyres to block roads as the civil disobedience campaign against the military entered its seventh day.

Most shops remain in Khartoum remained shut. In the capital, many government employees are refusing to work as part of the protest.

Soldiers and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were seen on many streets in Khartoum and Omdurman.

Security forces have set up random checkpoints on the streets, frisking passers-by and searching cars.

Phone lines, which were largely down on Saturday, were back apart from intermittent disruptions. Internet access has been cut since the takeover.

Sudan has enjoyed only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956 and spent decades riven by civil war.

Updated: October 31, 2021, 3:26 PM