Western powers in harsh rebuke of Sudan's military over violence

The EU, Britain, the US and Norway warn army not to name new PM without civilian involvement

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans against military rule in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on January 4, 2022. AFP
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The EU, Britain, the US and Norway have delivered a harsh rebuke of Sudan’s military rulers over violence against protesters and issued a warning that they will not support a government or a prime minister appointed without the “involvement” of a broad range of civilian stakeholders.

In a strongly worded statement, they called for Sudanese parties to immediately engage and take the lead in an immediate and internationally facilitated dialogue on the way forward for the country’s democratic transition.

“Such a dialogue should be fully inclusive and representative of historically marginalised groups, include youth and women, and would help put the country on the path to democracy,” it said.

The statement, issued late on Tuesday, came two days after Abdalla Hamdok resigned as Sudan's prime minister six weeks after he was reinstated by army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, who had dismissed him and his civilian-led government when he seized power in an October 25 coup.

A demonstrator looks on from behind a flaming tire during a protest in Omdurman, Sudan. AFP

The military takeover derailed the country’s democratic transition about three years after dictator Omar Al Bashir was toppled by his generals after a popular uprising against his 29-year rule.

The coup sparked a tumultuous wave of demonstrations in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country as Sudanese protesters took to the streets to demand that the military quits politics altogether.

About 60 people have been killed while hundreds have been wounded since the October coup, with security forces using live rounds, rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas against protesters.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, Mr Hamdok issued a warning that Sudan’s very existence was in danger if nothing is quickly done to end its months-long political crisis.

A former UN economist, Mr Hamdok’s two years in office resulted in Sudan coming out of decades of international isolation under Al Bashir.

He successfully negotiated the country's removal from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, secured pledges for aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars and secured forgiveness of most of Sudan’s $60 billion foreign debt.

Already, the US and the World Bank have suspended substantial aid to Sudan in response to the military takeover amid a wave of international condemnation of the coup and the violence used against protesters.

Sudan protests - in pictures

The EU and the Troika said Sudanese stakeholders needed to find a way out of the current crisis by selecting a new civilian leadership.

They also urged the Sudanese to agree on a timetable for the remainder of the transitional period, under which they establish the judicial and legislative branches of government, set up accountability mechanisms and lay the groundwork for elections. The vote is scheduled for July 2023.

“Unilateral action to appoint a new prime minister and Cabinet would undermine these institutions’ credibility and risks plunging the country into conflict,” said the EU and the Troika.

“This will be necessary to facilitate the European Union and the Troika’s provision of economic assistance to Sudan. In the absence of progress, we would look to accelerate efforts to hold those actors impeding the democratic process accountable,” they warned, in a thinly veiled reference to Gen Al Burhan and his associates in the military.

“At this critical juncture, we continue to hold the military authorities responsible for human rights violations … The killing of scores of Sudanese, sexual violence and the injuries of hundreds more by the security services and other armed groups since the October 25 military takeover is unacceptable.”

It called for an independent investigation into the killing of protesters and other acts of violence.

Reports of sexual assaults by security forces

The UN said at least 13 women were raped or sexually assaulted by security forces during a December 19 protest, hearkening back to similar acts during the June 2019 break-up of a sit-in protest outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.

At least a 100 protesters were killed when the sit-in camp was stormed by security forces, with some of the bodies thrown into the Nile. Scores of women also reported that they were sexually assaulted.

Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly said he had ordered an investigation into the killings and sexual assaults since October 25 but he has yet to announce who will be probing them or when findings will be announced.

Activists claim the military has also stymied an investigation into the June 2019 incident fearing that its findings would incriminate the army’s top brass.

Members of the security forces have also attacked journalists and television news crews during the post-coup protests, beating and detaining them and taking away their equipment.

“Sudan’s people have spoken as loudly and clearly as they did in 2019,” said the EU and Troika, alluding to the uprising against Al Bashir. “They reject authoritarian rule and want the transition toward democracy to continue. Sudan’s leaders must now show they are listening.”

Updated: January 05, 2022, 6:57 AM