Sudan's Al Burhan meets the UN envoy he threatened to expel

Military leader’s office says meeting was held at the request of envoy Volker Perthes

Sudan's Sovereign Council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during the opening session of the First National Economic Conference in the capital Khartoum on September 26, 2020. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudan’s military leader, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, has met the UN representative he had publicly threatened to expel after accusing him of meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.

A statement by Gen Al Burhan’s office said the meeting with Volker Perthes on Sunday was held at the envoy’s request.

Gen Al Burhan led a military takeover last year that toppled Sudan’s civilian-led government and derailed its democratic transition, in which the military and the country’s powerful pro-democracy movement were partners.

It plunged the country into political crisis and sparked near-daily street protests against military rule. More than 90 protesters have been killed in the demonstrations and about 3,000 injured.

The coup was strongly condemned by western powers which, led by the US and the World Bank, suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and shelved a desperately needed debt forgiveness programme.

That, in turn, wiped out the small economic gains made by the toppled government and pushed the country deeper into poverty.

The price of fuel and essential foodstuffs have soared and the currency is plummeting against the US dollar.

U. N.  Special Representative in Sudan Volker Perthes. Reuters

The latest tussle between Gen Al Burhan and Mr Perthes is rooted in the latter’s comments to the UN Security Council last week in which he warned that Sudan was heading for chaos unless the political deadlock was swiftly addressed.

“We heard his slander the other day, lying, blatantly lying,” Al Burhan said in a speech at a military graduation on Friday. “If you overstep your mandate, we will put you out of Sudan.

“We say to him you have a specific mandate, and we said we are open for you to sit in talks, but for you to lie and to try to manage the Sudanese people, we will kick you out.”

Mr Perthes’ mission in Sudan has involved holding a series of consultations, along with the African Union, aiming at reaching a political solution that would restore the process of democratic transition, which began after dictator Omar Al Bashir was removed in 2019.

The military initially welcomed Mr Perthes’ efforts, but Gen Al Burhan subsequently said the envoy must not exceed his role as a facilitator.

On Sunday, according to the statement, Gen Al Burhan told Mr Perthes that his briefing at the UN Security Council “did not cover conditions in the country in their entirety and made no mention of the positive indicators on the ground”.

The UN mission, he said, “must stand at an equal distance from all political stakeholders, including the army”.

Since October 25, ethnic and tribal violence has surged in the vast and restless Darfur region, in which Al Bashir’s government crushed an uprising by ethnic Africans who wanted an end to discrimination.

Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly said he does not have any political ambitions of his own, but has insisted that the military would hand the reins of power only to an elected government.

The pro-democracy movement, however, says the general is promoting politicians beholden to him and may want to keep the military as the source of ultimate power in the country even after the free elections he promised for 2023 are held.

The movement, which is leading the street protests against military rule, refuses to talk directly to the military.

It wants Gen Al Burhan and his associates to be held accountable in court for toppling a legitimate government and for the killing of protesters.

Updated: April 04, 2022, 3:18 AM