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US sees promise in Sudan protest ‘restraint’

2 Nov 2021 By AFP

Washington, US – A US envoy on Tuesday applauded what he saw as restraint during Sudan’s protests against the military coup, seeing a hopeful sign for a peaceful return to civilian-backed rule.

The United States had voiced alarm and warned Sudan’s military not to use force ahead of mass protests called for Saturday over the October 25 ouster of the civilian leadership.

Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said that death toll of three was “far too many” but added, “We also commend those members of security forces who exercised restraint and upheld their obligations to respect human rights.”

Feltman said demonstrators at protests also showed restraint by mostly avoiding sensitive military sites.

“You saw evidence, I think, of the Sudanese understanding that they need to get themselves out of this crisis by the conduct of the demonstrations,” Feltman told reporters.

It “demonstrated an understanding by the Sudanese people themselves that they have to be careful and find a way back to the civilian-military partnership that this transition requires.”

He renewed a call for General Abdel Fattah al Burhan to restore the civilian government, saying that Washington’s suspension of US$700mn in aid showed that the military could not rule alone.

“I think that the military will recognise that they need the type of international support that was being given to the transitional authorities,” Feltman said.

Sudan established a transitional authority with both military and civilian leadership, setting a goal of elections in 2024, following mass protests that in 2019 ousted longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Feltman said both sides will need to work together.

“Our view is that during this transition period, one’s not going to be able to sideline the military, just as the military should not be trying to sideline civilians as they are now.”

Ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in a meeting Monday with US, British and Norwegian ambassadors, said that the reinstatement of his government could pave the way forward.

Hamdok said that Feltman would return to Khartoum on Tuesday. Feltman, who is also handling escalating violence in Ethiopia, was speaking in Washington but said he was finalising plans to return to the region.

A United Nations envoy to Khartoum on Monday said mediation efforts in Sudan and abroad are underway to find a possible solution for the country.

“Many of the interlocutors we are speaking with in Khartoum, but also internationally and regionally, are expressing a strong desire that we move forward quickly to get out of the crisis and return to the steps of normalcy,” Volker Perthes told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York, during a video conference from the Sudanese capital.

The UN envoy to Sudan met Sunday with ousted Prime Minister Hamdok, who is under house arrest. Perthes said on Twitter they “discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan.”

Perthes on Monday urged Sudan to return “to the steps of political transition, as we viewed it before 25 October,” the date of the coup.

Reinstatement only solution

On Monday, Hamdok said the reinstatement of his government could pave the way to a solution in the country, according to a statement from the information ministry.

Hamdok, according to the statement, demanded that the situation in Sudan return to what it was before the coup, refusing to negotiate with the military rulers.

On October 25, Sudan’s top general Abdel Fattah al Burhan dissolved the Cabinet as well as the ruling joint military-civilian

Sovereign Council which had been heading Sudan’s transition towards full civilian rule following the 2019 overthrow of autocrat Omar al Bashir.

In a move widely condemned internationally, Burhan declared a state of emergency and detained Sudan’s civilian leadership, including Hamdok and members of his government.

Hamdok, an international economist, was later released and placed effectively under house arrest.

Hamdok spoke during a meeting at his home, where he is under effective house arrest, with the ambassadors of the United States, Britain and Norway, the ministry which remains loyal to the prime minister said.

The ousted prime minister “insisted on the legitimacy of his government and transitional institutions”, the information ministry said on its Facebook page.

He added that “the release of the cabinet ministers and the full reinstatement of the government could pave the way to a solution,” the ministry said.

Hamdok, according to the statement, demanded that the situation in Sudan return to what it was before the coup, refusing to negotiate with the military rulers.

The statement added that the three ambassadors also informed Hamdok that the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, would arrive at dawn Tuesday in Khartoum “to pursue efforts to ease the crisis”.

‘Dangerous legal situation’

Earlier on Monday a Sudanese lawyer representing the detained civilian leaders said their whereabouts is unknown and that they are in a “dangerous legal situation”.

Kamal al Gizouli is the lead defence lawyer on a team of attorneys which has come forward to represent them with the backing of their families.

Gizouli said his team went to an agency “where they were believed to have been held but we found that they were not there.”

Gizouli expressed concern about the well-being of the detainees and called on those holding them to reveal their location.

“These detainees are in the most dangerous legal situation” since nothing was known about their case nor who was heading the investigation, he added.

Little is known about the whereabout of his cabinet and the members of the council that had been tasked with paving the way to full civilian rule.

Burhan had since August 2019 chaired the council, working alongside Hamdok’s government under a power-sharing deal that outlined the post-Bashir transition.

The arrangement came under strain, however, as splits deepened between the civilians and the military.

Jonas Horner, senior analyst for Sudan at International Crisis Group think tank, speaking to AFP earlier Monday, said Hamdok will “find that his political cache has been boosted” by recent events, “and that he is in fact strengthened from what was a relatively weak position previously.”

Horner cited, for example, Hamdok’s ‘principled stance’ prior to the putsch in refusing to dissolve his government.

In a news conference last week, Burhan defended the military’s takeover, saying it was ‘not a coup’ but a move to “rectify the course of the transition”.

The general also said the detainees were being kept in “a decent place” and that those facing charges “will be moved to where the accused are usually taken while the rest will be released.”

Sudanese and international efforts have been made to mediate a way out of the crisis since the coup.

“We call on all sides mediating to resolve the crisis to demand that the whereabouts of these ministers and politicians be known,” said Gizouli.

On Sunday, the UN special representative to Sudan, Volker Perthes, said options for mediation have been discussed with Hamdok and other Sudanese stakeholders.

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