African leaders meet in Cairo for urgent Sudan talks

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi hosted the leaders of six African nations and senior officials from five others

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi meets with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2019. / AFP / Jim WATSON
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Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and leaders from 11 African nations met in Cairo on Tuesday and urged the Sudanese to work together to stop their country sliding into chaos.

As current chairman of the African Union, Mr El Sisi on Monday invited the leaders of six African nations and senior officials from five others to meet in Cairo to discuss Sudan, where the military removed the country's leader of 29 years on April 11.

They also called for an "immediate and unconditional" ceasefire in Libya, where Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army is seeking to capture Tripoli, home to a rival, UN-backed administration defended by militias.

Field Marshal Haftar, who has Cairo's support, claims his march on the Libyan capital is part of his fight against militants.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord relies on militias because it does not have its own military.

Egypt has not expressed outright support for Field Marshal Haftar's march on Tripoli, but has repeatedly stated since the campaign started on April 4 that militias in Libya must be eliminated.

The UN says the fighting around Tripoli has so far killed 260 people and wounded more than 1,200. More than 30,000 people have been displaced.

"All Libyan parties must exercise self-restraint and respect the safety of civilians," the African leaders said in a statement at the end of Tuesday's talks.

Egypt has a deeply vested interest in the stability of Libya and Sudan, its neighbours to the west and south.

Upheavals in both nations have historically been a source of serious concern to the Egyptians, who go to great lengths to stop them falling into the kind of chaos that would allow militants to flourish.

Egypt has already blamed militants in Libya for recent cross-border attacks on its security forces and minority Christians.

Cairo also has been unhappy with Sudan giving asylum to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has outlawed as a terrorist group.

The Egyptian presidency said the African leaders agreed on the "urgent need" to restore political stability in Sudan through a "democratic and political process" that realises the ambitions of the Sudanese.

It recommended that the Union should extend to three months a 15-day ultimatum issued on April 15 to Sudan's transitional military council to hand over power to a civilian administration.

If Sudan does not comply it may face suspension from the Union.

The Union suspended Egypt's membership in 2013 after Mr El Sisi, then defence minister, led the military overthrow of president Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Relations have been fraught between Sudan's military council and leaders of the protesters who took to the streets in December to demand that president Omar Al Bashir step down.

The protest leaders have suspended talks with the council, saying it appeared unwilling to hand over power to a transitional civilian body in which the military would be represented.

A sit-in protest outside the military headquarters in Khartoum that began on April 6 is continuing, with protesters determined not to leave until their demands are met.

They say  the council is a replication of Mr Al Bashir's autocratic regime.

Mr El Sisi warned Sudan's leaders to protect the state's institutions "to prevent a slide into chaos".

A separate statement by the Egyptian presidency said Mr El Sisi told African leaders that the meeting in Cairo was to protect Libya from "dangers and foreign interference".

He said Libya’s army and police must be empowered to protect order and stability until elections were held.