Sudan's pro-democracy groups reject UN outreach

Resistance committees snub invite from UN representative to Sudan for a meeting and professionals' association criticises Guterres

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Sudan’s pro-democracy resistance committees have vowed to force the military out of politics and put the army chief and the leader of a powerful paramilitary force on trial for their part in an October coup that derailed the country’s democratic transition.

The latest comments by the Khartoum committees came in response to an invitation by the UN chief envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, for a meeting with their representatives.

He tweeted that the purpose of the meeting was “to learn about their vision and views and discuss the way forward”.

Another pro-democracy group, the powerful Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), has announced a similar hard-line position on the military’s political role, blasting the UN chief Antonio Guterres for saying a deal reached last month to reinstate civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been dismissed by the military, constituted a realistic chance for Sudan’s democratic transition to succeed.

The position of the two groups is likely to prolong Sudan’s political crisis, as street protests and violence continue.

Their stand also means that Mr Hamdok is denied the political support and popular base he enjoyed during his first stint as prime minister, which gave him leverage in the face of any perceived encroachment on his powers.

The resistance committees are centred in the Sudanese capital’s districts, where they have organised near-daily rallies against the October 25 takeover led by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and the November 21 deal to reinstate Mr Hamdok after he spent a month under house arrest.

The role being played by the committees is a continuation of the months of street protests they helped to organise during a four-month uprising in 2018 and 2019 against the 29-year rule of Omar Al Bashir that forced the generals to remove him.

The statement by the committees indicated a polite rejection of Mr Perthes’ invitation for a meeting and instead gave him a reminder of their position.

“Our declared and clear position is that Sudan is in the grip of a typical military coup carried out by armed forces’ generals and allied militias … who stand accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” they said.

It cited crimes committed in the western Darfur region during an uprising there in the 2000s and the killing of more than 100 people when security forces broke up a sit-in protest outside the armed forces’ headquarters in June 2019.

More recently, at least 43 people have been killed and hundreds injured during anti-coup streets protests.

Gen Al Burhan has denied the army’s involvement in the killings, but activists said the use of live ammunition against protesters could not have happened without senior officials' approval.

They also accused him and other generals of obstructing the work of an independent committee created to investigate the break-up of the sit-in protest in June 2019.

“The leadership of the state of Sudan must be completely civilian. Military institutions must be kept out of politics and all militias must be disbanded and a national army is formed under civilian oversight,” said the committees on Saturday.

The comments by the committees came one day after the SPA criticised the UN chief for urging the Sudanese to support the deal that reinstated Mr Hamdok.

The SPA said Mr Guterres’ comments were a “justification for violence” against anti-coup protesters.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Photo: EPA

Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Guterres said he understood “the indignation” and outrage of Sudanese who have seen the military coup and don’t want any solution involving the military.

“But I would like to appeal for common sense,” he said. “We have a situation which is, yes, not perfect, but which could allow for a transition towards democracy.”

The UN, along with the US and its allies took the lead in condemning the October coup and the use of excessive force against protesters. However, the deal between the military and Mr Hamdok has somewhat softened their position and eased the pressure on Gen Al Burhan.

Sudan's Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan. Photo: AFP

The army chief and one-time Al Bashir favourite has insisted his coup was a “correction” of the democratic transition and vowed the military will quit politics when elections are held in 2023.

But Sudan’s pro-democracy movement sees the military’s deal with Mr Hamdok as a tool to further empower the military’s role in politics and grant the prime minister a fig leaf to cover the direct military rule.

Gen Al Burhan had also stated in a television interview at the weekend that he would not run for president even if asked.

Updated: December 05, 2021, 8:42 AM