Sudanese pro-democracy group boycotts proposed talks to end political crisis

Forces of Freedom and Change lays out set of conditions, adding new layer to difficulties facing international efforts to resolve the situation

A Sudanese protester in a street demonstration, which have been taking place almost daily since the military coup. Reuters
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The Sudanese military’s civilian partner in a transitional administration toppled in a coup last year has rejected an invitation to join talks called by the UN and African Union aimed at ending the country’s political deadlock.

The Forces of Freedom and Change said it sought an end to the October 25 coup led by army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan before taking part in any talks.

The FFC said it wanted a fully civilian government in office, the lifting of the state of emergency declared by Gen Al Burhan on seizing power and the release of all those detained by the military since the coup.

Gen Al Burhan, Sudan’s de facto leader, has promised to ease the state of emergency and to look into the release of those imprisoned

But he has been adamant that the military would only step aside if civilian stakeholders reached a consensus on how to proceed with the democratic transition.

The general’s coup, which he has described as a “corrective movement" to prevent civil war, has derailed the transition that began after the 2019 ousting of dictator Omar Al Bashir.

It plunged Sudan's economy into deeper crisis and prompted western powers to suspend billions of dollars’ worth of aid and debt relief.

It has sparked nearly daily protests against military rule that has left more than 90 people dead and 3,000 injured.

The FFC has been the chief target of criticism from the military, which accuses the pro-democracy group of incitement against the generals and seeking to monopolise power. The FFC denies the charges but has publicly acknowledged policy failures and splits within its ranks.

“Talk about a consensus on the civilian front places those who support and oppose the coup in the same basket. It’s an old trick to create a coalition that supports the coup and stays under the control of those behind the coup while marginalising the real revolutionary forces,” the FFC said.

“This paves the way for fake elections that will mirror votes held under Al Bashir’s regime, which is expected since that regime already has made a comeback." The group was alluding to the reinstatement of the dictator’s loyalists in government jobs from which they had been fired, as well as the increasing official tolerance for their activities.

Loyalists of the former regime have been seeking a political comeback, closing ranks and looking into contesting the elections promised by Gen Al Burhan for 2023.

The FFC statement adds a new layer to the challenges facing international efforts to start a national dialogue for all stakeholders to chart a route out of Sudan’s political crisis.

Already, the most active pro-democracy group, the hardline Resistance Committees, has rejected direct talks with the military and wants Gen Al Burhan and his associates to face trial for overthrowing a legitimate government and killing protesters.

The military also appears to be creating difficulties.

Gen Al Burhan this month threatened to expel the UN special representative, saying he was meddling in Sudan’s domestic affairs.

That tussle arose from comments by the envoy Volker Perthes at the UN Security Council that Sudan was headed towards economic and security chaos unless its political deadlock was swiftly addressed.

Adding insult to injury, the Armed Forces newspaper in Sudan has made scathing attack against Mr Perthes in an article this week that made religiously slanted charges against the West and the United States in particular.

It claimed Mr Perthes was working with the blessing of the West to destabilise and sow the seeds of chaos in the vast Afro-Arab nation.

The article, written by Amir Al Mukashafy, accused unnamed Sudanese politicians of complicity in what he called a “Zionist-American-European” plot against Sudan.

Updated: April 19, 2022, 4:00 PM