Army will withdraw from Sudan's democratic transition talks, says military chief

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan says forces would abide by any solution decided by civilian representatives

Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan made a televised speech on Monday. Reuters
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Sudan’s army will withdraw from negotiations meant to find a way out of the country’s political crisis, its military leader Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan said on Monday in a major concession to the pro-democracy groups that have been calling on the military to step aside.

The decision leaves civilians to hammer out a political road map by themselves, after which Gen Burhan said he would dissolve the military-led Sovereign Council that he chairs when a civilian government is formed.

In a televised address to the nation, he said the military would abide by the solution the civilians would reach.

Gen Al Burhan's surprise announcement would allow the pro-democracy and other civilian groups to restore the political transition process derailed by a military coup last October that he led.

The announcement also comes at a time when the movement against the military was gaining steam after security forces killed nine protesters and wounded more than 600 last week during the largest anti-military rallies in months.

The latest deaths took the number of protesters killed since the October 25 coup to 114. About 6,000 others have been injured.

Gen Al Burhan's change of tack, however, also puts the resolve and unity of the pro-democracy groups to the test.

They have been beset by differences and internal divisions, exchanging accusations of opportunism or betrayal of the principles of the 2018-19 uprising that toppled the 29-year regime of dictator Omar al Bashir.

Gen Al Burhan said the aim of his decision to withdraw the military from the negotiations is to "allow the political and revolutionary forces along with other national factions to sit down and form a government of independent technocrats that takes care of the requirements of the transitional period".

"The armed forces will not be used as a bridge for any political force to reach power and will be committed to the implementation of the outcome of that dialogue," said Gen Al Burhan.

"I hope that these forces will immediately start a serious dialogue that restores the unity of the Sudanese people."

After the formation of the government, he said, the military-led Sovereign Council that he chairs will be dissolved and a supreme council of the armed forces will be formed to take charge of security and defense issues.

Gen Al Burhan's announcement followed the indefinite postponement last month of the negotiations facilitated by the UN, the African Union and the regional IGAD group.

The postponement followed the boycott of the process by virtually all opposition groups. The United Nations said the boycott rendered the negotiations meaningless.

Updated: July 04, 2022, 9:08 PM