Sudan pro-democracy group says military talks 'betrayed the street'

Criticism of the meeting adds another layer to the complexity of the Sudanese political crisis

Sudanese demonstrators in the capital Khartoum. AFP
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A major pro-democracy group in Sudan has said a rival group's talks with the country’s ruling generals betrayed the “street” — political parlance for the wave of anti-military protests.

Representatives from Sudan's Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) have this month met senior generals twice in what the pro-democracy group described as “informal” talks mediated by Saudi Arabia and the US to find a way out of a political crisis.

The talks are not known to have made any tangible progress.

The FFC later presented its vision for a resolution of the crisis that has engulfed Sudan since a military takeover in October last year. This has derailed what was already a fragile transition to democratic rule.

The FFC blueprint excludes the military from the democratic transition. It calls for reforms in the military, dissolving paramilitary forces operating in near-complete independence from the armed forces, and the overhaul of the Sudanese security services.

FFC officials said the generals remained adamant they should be part of the democratic transition. The generals also rejected any talk or reforming the military or placing it under civilian oversight.

The FFC was the military’s chief partner in a transitional administration that took office shortly after the 2019 removal of former president Omar Al Bashir.

The administration’s executive branch, a civilian-led Cabinet, was dismissed when army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan seized power on October 25 last year.

On Wednesday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), another major pro-democracy group, became the first opposition group to openly criticise the FFC for its talks with the military.

“They chose to sit down with the soldiers and betray the street that refuses to talk with them either directly or indirectly,” the association said.

“The people’s insistence to bring down the partnership of blood [with the military] means they cannot be duped again even if they [the FFC] use up all the words in their diction to justify their action.”

 File Photo: A Sudanese protester in the capital Khartoum. AFP

The group accused the FFC of haughtiness by thinking that, if introduced, its blueprint for the democratic transition would end the uprising.

Both the influence of the FFC and SPA among protesters has waned in recent months. This is a far cry from the time when they led the popular uprising against Al Bashir and subsequent protests to force the generals to hand over power to civilians.

Their leadership of the pro-democracy movement was mostly taken over by the Resistance Committees, a youth and neighbourhood-based movement behind the near-daily protests against military rule since the October 25 takeover. At least 100 protesters have been killed in these rallies and more than 5,000 injured.

The committees have not yet commented publicly on the FFC’s talks with the military.

The FFC is an alliance of large political parties and groups born out of the 2018-19 uprising against Al Bashir. It has been plagued by divisions and is facing accusations of being power-hungry and beholden to the political parties in its ranks.

Sudan's military ruler Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan chairs a meeting of his Sovereign Council. Photo: Sovereign Council

In an apparent bid to regain some of its leverage, it has been calling for large street protests against the military on the anniversary of the June 30 coup that brought Al Bashir to power in 1989.

The Resistance Committees have remained silent on their plans for June 30.

The FFC talks with the military, meanwhile, add another layer of controversy and possible complications to efforts led by the UN, the African Union and the regional IGAD group to end the political impasse.

In a move that is apparently linked to the FFC-military talks, the AU representative in Khartoum said this week that he intended to stay away from “some” of the meetings held as part of the months-long efforts to end the crisis.

Envoy Mohamed Belaiche said his decision was dictated by what he called a lack of transparency and inclusion in the process.

But sources said the envoy was angered by the AU exclusion from parallel, behind-closed-doors efforts to find a resolution that involved the EU mission in Khartoum and others.

The FFC criticised the envoy’s decision on Wednesday, saying it would deal directly with AU officials at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Updated: June 23, 2022, 10:39 AM
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