Sudan's military chief says ready to resume talks as death toll rises to 60

  • 5 Jun 2019

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan says he was still ready to hand over power to an elected government, as the number of people killed since security forces stormed a protest camp in Khartoum rose to 60.

A protester stands near a barricade on a street in Khartoum, Sudan. Protesters have been demanding the country's Transitional Military Council handover power to civilians. June 4, 2019. ( Reuters )

Sudan's military ruler on Wednesday offered to resume a dialogue on a transition to democracy, one day after he scrapped all agreements with an opposition alliance.

The offer by the head of Sudan's ruling military council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, came as the number of people killed since security forces stormed a protest camp in Khartoum on Monday rose to 60, according to a medical group linked to the opposition.

In a message for the Muslim Eid al Fitr festival, broadcast on state television, Burhan paid homage to the uprising that began in December and culminated with the military overthrow and arrest of President Omar al Bashir in April.

He was still ready to hand over power to an elected government, he said.

"We in the military council, extend our hands to negotiations without shackles except the interests of the homeland," Burhan said.

Talks between the Transitional Military Council, which has ruled since Bashir was overthrown in April, and the opposition have ground to a halt amid deep differences over who would lead a three-year transition to democracy.

TRT World's Philip Owira has more.

UNSC meeting

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Sudan after Khartoum's military rulers announced plans to hold elections following a crackdown.

Germany and Britain requested the urgent talks amid international alarm over the violence in Khartoum where security forces broke up weeks of protests against military rule.

"We need urgently a return to the negotiating table," said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen ahead of the meeting. "Legitimacy cannot come from the barrel of a gun." 

The German diplomat dismissed a plan by Sudan's military council to conduct elections within nine months, arguing that conditions were not in place for holding nationwide polls.

"Right now, to call for snap elections is to deny democracy," Heusgen told reporters.

TRT World's Khalil Charles has more.

China, Russia block UN action on Sudan

China, backed by Russia, blocked a bid at the UN Security Council to condemn the killing of civilians in Sudan and issue a pressing call from world powers for an immediate halt to the violence, diplomats said.

During the closed-door council meeting, Britain and Germany circulated a press statement that would have called on Sudan's military rulers and protesters to "continue working together towards a consensual solution to the current crisis," according to the draft seen by AFP.

But China firmly objected to the proposed text while Russia insisted that the council should await a response from the African Union, diplomats said.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said the proposed statement was "unbalanced" and stressed the need to be "very cautious in this situation."

"We don't want to promote an unbalanced statement. It could just spoil the situation," Polyanskiy told reporters after the two-hour meeting.

EU countries condemn attacks

After the council failed to agree, eight European countries said in a joint statement that they "condemn the violent attacks in Sudan by Sudanese security services against civilians".

Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands and Sweden said the military council's "unilateral announcement to cease negotiations, appoint a government and call for elections within a too short period of time is of great concern."

"We call for an agreed transfer of power to a civilian-led government as demanded by the people of Sudan," said the European statement.

Transition plan rejected 

Sudan's opposition had earlier rejected a plan by its military rulers to hold elections within nine months.

But Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces opposition alliance, said a civil disobedience campaign would continue to try to force the council from power.

"What happened, killing protesters, wounding and humiliation, was a systematic and planned matter to impose repression on the Sudanese people," he said.

The leaders of protests have demanded preparations for elections during a transitional period led by a civilian administration.

The military council has also been under both domestic and international pressure to hand over power to civilians.

Quiet on the streets

Streets in the Sudanese capital were empty on Tuesday.

An Associated Press journalist saw protesters still building up barricades in the suburbs of Khartoum, even as security forces in the city centre were not allowing any access to the former sit-in site, setting up checkpoints around the area.

Scattered by the bloody assault, the protesters have vowed to keep up their campaign, suspending talks and calling for a general strike and civil disobedience.

Burhan has said military leaders would investigate Monday's violence. 

He didn't mention security forces but said protests leaders bore blame for the volatile situation because they have been "extending the negotiations and seeking to exclude other political and security forces" from participating in any transitional government, accusations rejected by the SPA spokesman.

Activists said the assault appeared to be a coordinated move, with other forces attacking similar sit-ins in Khartoum's sister city of Omdurman and the eastern city of al Qadarif.