Major opposition group in Sudan and top generals hold surprise talks

The meeting between generals and Forces of Freedom and Change was arranged by Saudi-US mediators

Sudanese anti-military protesters in Khartoum. AP
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A major pro-democracy coalition in Sudan confirmed on Friday that its representatives have "informally” met three senior generals for five hours to discuss what it said were steps to end military rule and restore a civilian-led democratic transition.

It said the meeting late on Thursday between the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and the military was a result of Saudi-US mediation and took place at the Khartoum residence of the Saudi ambassador.

The US embassy in Khartoum confirmed that the meeting took place, but the military has remained silent.

The meeting came a day after a national dialogue facilitated by the United Nations, the African Union and the regional IGAD grouping held its first session, but all pro-democracy groups, including the FFC, boycotted the process.

Their boycott left representatives of the military, which seized power in October last year, talking with groups that are either aligned with the ruling generals or had publicly encouraged a military takeover in the weeks leading to the October 25 coup.

The UN has said the dialogue, which is aimed at charting a way out of the political crisis engulfing the country since October, was unlikely to produce any tangible results if opposition groups continued to stay away.

In a statement, the FFC said on Friday that it had agreed to meeting the generals because it wanted to end the dialogue, which it claimed was legitimising the military. It also wanted to maintain the goodwill and support of Saudi Arabia and the US.

During the meeting, it added that it demanded an end to military rule and handing over power to civilians.

"The FFC will not take part in the dialogue or any other bogus political process that is aimed at legitimising the coup," said the statement.

It said its representatives have also called on the military to immediately do more to create a "democratic climate" without which, it explained, no political process will succeed.

"The political process is a result of what we do on the ground and is not a substitute for our main endeavour, which is daily peaceful protests."

An earlier statement by the FFC said its representatives had planned to to demand an end to efforts by the UN, AU and IGAD to include in the dialogue forces supporting the October 25 coup and remnants of the regime of former dictator Omar Al Bashir.

Participation in the dialogue, it said, should be restricted to “those who staged the coup and the revolutionary forces that are resisting it.”

The meeting with the FFC is the first known encounter of its kind since the military seized power. While it offers a glimmer of hope for a breakthrough that would end the country’s political crisis, it may sow further divisions within the pro-democracy movement.

The FFC was the military’s partner in a transitional administration that took office after the April 2019 removal of Al Bashir. It has since been plagued by divisions and accused by the military and other opposition groups of practicing nepotism and pandering to major political parties.

Like other pro-democracy groups, the FFC had vowed not to negotiate with the military until the generals ceded power to civilians, and also demanded that the generals be held accountable for the killing of more than 100 protesters since October. Another 5,000 have also been hurt in near daily street protests against military rule.

Updated: June 10, 2022, 10:59 AM