Sudan's UN-brokered talks indefinitely postponed

This shows there would be no resolution of the country's political crisis without pro-democracy forces joining the negotiations

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UN-brokered negotiations between Sudan's military rulers and civilian groups on finding a way out of the country's political crisis have been indefinitely postponed.

The inaugural session of the talks was held last Wednesday, with a second round scheduled to be held on Sunday. The first session was boycotted by all major opposition groups, including the powerful Forces of Freedom and Change, the Resistance Committees and the National Umma Party.

The decision to postpone the talks was made by what is known as the "trio" — the UN, African Union and the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development grouping — which has been preparing for the discussions for months.

The FFC was the military's chief partner in a transitional administration toppled by the generals when they seized power in a coup last October. The takeover, led by army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, derailed the country's fragile democratic transition following the ousting in 2019 of dictator Omar Al Bashir.

It has deepened the country's economic and political woes and partially restored the international isolation Sudan endured for most of Mr Al Bashir's 29-year rule.

The FFC held an "informal" meeting with three top generals on Thursday and later said the UN-brokered negotiations were legitimising military rule and should be restricted to those behind the October 25 coup and the forces that have been opposing it.

That was a reference to near-daily street protests against military rule that have, according to the UN and reliable medical groups aligned with the opposition, killed at least 101 people and injured about 5,000.

Thursday’s meeting between the military and the FFC was held at the invitation of US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and Faisal Hamed Al Muallah, the Saudi ambassador to Khartoum.

A senior FFC member told The National on Sunday that the indefinite postponement was made at the alliance's request, suggesting that it had no plans to join the talks. It also held out due to the possibility of more informal talks with the military, the official added.

"Wednesday's negotiations, as we have all seen, were exactly what the military wanted: to sit down with groups that are beholden to it and eventually reach an outcome that enshrines the rule of the generals and serves the generals' political interests," said the FFC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The trio said after Wednesday's talks that the process it brokered could not produce an outcome that would end the country's crisis if those who boycotted it continued to stay away.

The military itself echoed that notion, urging everyone to come forward and join in.

However, the postponement of the negotiations constitutes a victory for the forces that boycotted the process and is likely to strengthen their bargaining position if and when the process is eventually resumed.

The FFC's decision to meet the generals, on the other hand, could deepen existing divisions among the pro-democracy forces, which had been adamant not to negotiate with the military, end its political role altogether, and hold the generals accountable for the killing of protesters since October.

Updated: June 12, 2022, 5:00 PM