Talks to end Sudan crisis begin with boycott of anti-coup groups

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CAIRO – Talks aimed at ending Sudan’s ongoing political deadlock began on Wednesday, the United Nations said, although the country’s main pro-democracy alliance is boycotting them over an ongoing police crackdown on those protesting the military coup d’état. last October.

The joint peace effort is being mediated by the UN Political Mission in Sudan, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional group, which consists of eight countries in East Africa. The effort is aimed at bringing the generals and a range of political and protest groups to the negotiating table.

The takeover of the military has rocked Sudan’s short-lived, fragile democratic transition and left the East African nation in turmoil. Sudan was on the road to democracy after nearly three decades of repression and international isolation under Islamist-backed strongman Omar al-Bashir. A popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir in April 2019.

The UN, AU and IGAD launched the process Wednesday with a technical meeting involving military personnel and civilians. It came after months of separate discussions with a range of groups, including the military and the pro-democracy movement.

The UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, is said to be in the process of discussing a “transitional programme”, including the appointment of a civilian prime minister and arrangements for drafting a permanent constitution and elections at the end of the transition.

Gene. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the coup leader who also heads the ruling sovereign council, welcomed the talks as a “historic opportunity to complete the transition phase”.

In a speech to the nation late Tuesday, he urged all factions to participate in the talks, vowing that the military will carry out their outcome.

“We are fully committed to working with everyone to end the transition period with fair and transparent elections as soon as possible,” he said.

However, The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, or FDFC – an alliance of political parties and protest groups – is boycotting the meeting. They say the talks should lead to “an end to the coup and the establishment of a civilian democratic authority”. They also criticized the participation of pro-military groups and Islamists associated with al-Bashir’s government.

The alliance also called for the implementation of confidence-building measures, including the release of coup-related detainees and an end to violence against protesters.

The talks come as the violent crackdown on anti-coup protests in Khartoum’s capital continues. A five-year-old was killed on Tuesday when a police vehicle hit her while she was chasing protesters. That brought the total death toll among protesters since October to at least 101, according to a medical group monitoring the victims.

The coup has sparked almost daily street protests, which authorities have suppressed with deadly consequences. Hundreds of people, including prominent politicians and activists, have been detained since the coup, although many have been released recently as part of confidence-building measures.

Under concerted international pressure, military leaders lifted the state of emergency they declared after the coup at the end of last month.

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