Sudanese want violence and detentions halted, says UN

It says stakeholders want to see culprits behind violence and rape brought to justice

Sudanese anti-coup protesters in the capital Khartoum.  AFP

The vast majority of Sudanese who took part in an initiative to hold political consultations want the killing of protesters halted, the state of emergency lifted and freedom of expression and assembly observed, the UN said on Tuesday.

It said in a report that 800 stakeholders, a third of whom were women, participated in its initiative as a prelude to a national dialogue to resolve the political crisis embroiling Sudan.

A military coup last year upended Sudan’s democratic transition following the 2019 ousting of dictator Omar Al Bashir in a popular uprising.

It said 110 meetings were held and 80 written proposals from stakeholders were received.

“The October 25 coup constitutes a major setback to efforts to achieve the hoped-for goals of the transitional period,” the report said. “The United Nations remains, according to its mandate, committed to supporting a civilian-led democratic government as the ultimate goal of Sudan’s transitional period.”

The coup has led to near-daily street protests against military rule in which at least 85 protesters have been killed and more than 3,000 injured. The UN also reported that at least 13 women were raped by security forces during a street rally in December.

The latest protest took place on Monday, when security forces killed two demonstrators in the cities of Omdurman and Bahri, said an authoritative medical group aligned with the opposition pro-democracy movement, the Central Doctors Committee.

Sudan's top general and coup leader Abdel Fattah Al Burhan. AFP

The protesters are demanding that the military leave politics altogether, that a civilian government lead the transitional period and for army chief and coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his associates be tried for overthrowing a legitimate government in October and for killing the protesters.

The military has repeatedly said it had ordered an investigation into the killings and cases of rape, but it is yet to share with the public the progress of these probes or their findings.

Gen Al Burhan, meanwhile, has repeatedly promised free elections for next year and categorically denied having political ambitions of his own. Pro-democracy activists, however, are sceptical that the military would step down voluntarily.

The UN report said Sudan has been beset by political polarisation since the coup, made worse by a deepening economic crisis.

The coup and crackdown against protesters have been strongly criticised by Sudan’s western backers, with the US and the World Bank suspending hundreds of millions of dollars of aid.

“An overwhelming majority of the participants want to see a halt to acts of violence, killings and for lifting the state of emergency,” said the report. “They also want to see the freedom of expression and assembly respected as a condition to create a suitable climate for the political process as well as an end to unjust detentions and for detainees to be released.”

The report said the participants wanted to see a “comprehensive investigation” into acts of violence against protesters, including the cases of rape.

Sudanese anti-coup protesters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.  AFP

“The importance of accountability at all levels and an end to escaping of justice, including those in supreme leadership positions, was raised as the cause of major concern,” said the report.

The military initially welcomed the UN initiative, but later appeared to have had a change of heart, questioning the mandate of the UN envoy in Sudan, Germany’s Volker Perthes.

The Resistance Committees, the main force behind the post-coup protests, has meanwhile issued its own blueprint for how to end Sudan’s political crisis.

The proposals do away with a 2019 transitional document that established the military-civilian partnership that followed Al Bashir’s removal and call for a comprehensive review of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement with several rebel groups that fought the government for years in western and southern Sudan.

They also envisage special human rights courts and the option of resorting to international organisations to achieve transitional justice.

Several of the protesters who broke through the security cordon around the Nile-side Republican Palace on Monday hung copies of the proposals on its walls.

“They did that so Al Burhan can understand that the youths of this country have a programme and a vision of how Sudan should be ruled,” said protester Omar Henry, an administrative employee at a private university in Omdurman. “They don't take to the streets to cerate chaos but to make specific demands.”

(Additional reporting by Reuters)

Updated: March 01, 2022, 2:37 PM