UN envoy: Sudan’s military must rebuild trust with opponents

Dec 10, 2021, 4:41 PM | Updated: 4:52 pm
People protests against the October military coup and subsequent deal that reinstated Prime Ministe...

People protests against the October military coup and subsequent deal that reinstated Prime Minister Hamdok in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

(AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Sudan’s military must rebuild trust with the opposition, especially the young generation who feel betrayed by its seizure of power in an Oct. 25 coup that sparked the greatest crisis in the country’s political transition, the U.N. special envoy for Sudan said Friday.

Volker Perthes told the U.N. Security Council that “immediate confidence building measures and a visible commitment to bring the country back on a democratic transition path will be key.” He said Sudan will also have to take “demonstrable steps” for the international community to restore financial, economic and political support.

“This crisis is not over yet, but discussions on a way forward have begun,” he said.

The military takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who now heads the ruling body, and other military leaders dissolved the transitional government and arrested dozens of officials and politicians.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was reinstated last month amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight led by him. The agreement included the release of government officials and politicians detained since the coup.

The Nov. 21 deal, however, was rejected by the pro-democracy movement, which insists power be handed over to a civilian government to lead the transition. Their protests, which saw thousands of Sudanese back on the streets in Khartoum and other cities Monday, follow the slogan: “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing” with the military.

Perthes said he cautiously welcomed the Nov. 21 agreement though it is “far from perfect.” But he said it can help avoid more bloodshed and provide a step toward dialogue and return to constitutional order.

At least 44 people were killed and hundreds injured in protests triggered by the coup, which Perthes blamed on “excessive use of force by security forces.”

“This has deepened the crisis and mobilized the so-called `street,’ which continues to organize regular mass demonstrations,” he said. “Many feel betrayed by the coup, and now reject any negotiations or partnership with the military.”

Perthes said the U.N. political mission in Sudan is prepared to facilitate a dialogue to address unresolved issues for the transitional period as well as broader questions for a new constitution.

He said progress in bridging the divide can be measured by a small number of short-term and medium-term indicators.

“For the immediate term, the main indicator has been the release of all political detainees, cease of arbitrary arrests, and the guarantee of the right to peaceful protest and assembly,” Perthes said. “Almost all civilians arrested since the coup have been released, which is a welcome step.”

But he said arbitrary arrests are reportedly continuing, especially during demonstrations.

Military and political leaders have promised to investigate the use of deadly violence against demonstrators, Perthes said accountability for human rights violations since the coup will be seen “as a critical indicator for progress, and could help to rebuild confidence.”

The U.N. envoy said three other important short-term indicators should also be watched: the ability of the prime minister to freely form a Cabinet of technocrats, the lifting of the state of emergency declared Oct. 25, and the restoration of freedom of the press.

Over the next few months, Perthes said, “the main indicator for a return to a democratic transition path will be the restoration of political space” that is particularly important ahead of elections in July 2023 when power is to be handed over to an elected civilian government. He said elections may even be held earlier than planned.

The U.N. envoy said the decision by donors to “pause” development assistance to Sudan after the coup “is having significant impact on the livelihoods of the Sudanese people and risks rolling back the hard-won achievements of the last two years.”

While those in power need to regain the trust of the international community, Perthes urged council members and donors “to take a balanced approach and not to pause aid for too long, and consider the speedy resumption of funding” for health services and livelihoods “to ensure that the Sudanese people do not continue to bear the brunt of the political crisis.”

Perthes also expressed deep concern at the resurgence of intercommunal conflicts and banditry in Darfur, Blue Nile and the Kordofans where the U.N. has received reports of “a significant rise in the killing of civilians, destruction of property and displacements, as well as sexual violence against women and girls.”

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UN envoy: Sudan’s military must rebuild trust with opponents