US names special Sudan envoy as protesters demand guarantees

Municipality workers clean up the streets in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on June 12, 2019. AFP PHOTO

By AFP

IN SUMMARY

  • Global diplomatic efforts, however, received further boost after the UN Security Council on Tuesday urged all sides “to continue working together towards a consensual solution to the current crisis” and voiced support for African-led diplomatic efforts.

The United States Wednesday named a special envoy to Sudan to find a “peaceful” solution between demonstrators and generals, as protest leaders demanded “international guarantees” for implementing any agremeent reached with the army rulers.

Shops and restaurants meanwhile began to reopen in Sudan’s capital Wednesday after demonstrators called off a nationwide civil disobedience campaign and agreed to new talks with generals, though many residents remained indoors after last week’s deadly crackdown on protesters that left dozens dead.

The apparent breakthrough in the standoff between the military rulers who toppled veteran leader Omar al-Bashir and protesters demanding civilian rule followed mediation led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis — triggered by the June 3 crackdown on protesters — got a boost as Washington nominated experienced Africa hand Donald Booth as a special envoy to Sudan to help craft a “peaceful political solution” between the generals and protesters.

Booth, who previously has served as special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, was already in Khartoum along with Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs Tibor Nagy to “engage with the parties,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

This came after an Ethiopian envoy sent by Abiy announced on Tuesday that the protest leaders and the ruling military council had agreed to resume talks and that a three-day civil disobedience campaign was ending. The generals are still to offer comment.

Late on Wednesday protest leader Madani Abbas Madani told reporters that “any agreement (reached with generals) must have regional and international guarantees” for implementing it. He did not elaborate.

Heavy security

The two US officials are expected to hold several meetings with the generals, including General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chief of the ruling military council, and protest leaders during their stay in Khartoum.

They are later scheduled to visit Addis Ababa to discuss the Sudan crisis with Ethiopian leaders and the African Union.

The African Union suspended Sudan’s membership on Thursday.

Negotiations collapsed last month because the two sides disagreed about whether a civilian or soldier should head a new governing body.

On Wednesday morning as the civil disobedience campaign ended, an AFP correspondent who toured parts of the capital saw buses waiting for passengers at their stations, while shops in some districts re-opened.

Later in the day several restaurants reopened and street vendors came back to work.
But the main gold market in central Khartoum remained shut, and many residents stayed indoors.

“I’m still staying at my home because I’m worried about the presence of security forces carrying guns on the streets,” said Samar Bashir, an employee of a private company.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces — accused by protesters and rights groups of playing a leading role in last week’s crackdown — continued to patrol districts in their trademark pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns.

British envoy summoned

Other residents told AFP that they stayed at home because internet services — heavily cut in recent days — were still not fully restored, making office work difficult.

Street sweepers cleared piles of rubbish, while long queues at bank cash points returned across the capital and other towns.

“I went to the bank with a cheque and they said there’s no money. It seems all the money is just finished,” Faisal Suleiman told AFP as he stepped out of a bank in Khartoum.

Sudan has been led by a military council since the generals ousted Bashir on April 11 after months of nationwide protests against his three decade rule.

After Bashir’s fall, protesters remained encamped outside military headquarters in Khartoum for weeks to demand civilian rule, until men in military fatigues moved in to disperse them on June 3.

Around 120 people have been killed since the crackdown began, according to doctors close to the protesters. The health ministry has acknowledged 61 people died nationwide.

On Wednesday, the Sudanese foreign ministry summoned British ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, for expressing what it said were his “unbalanced positions” on Twitter regarding developments in Sudan, state media reported.

Global diplomatic efforts, however, received further boost after the UN Security Council on Tuesday urged all sides “to continue working together towards a consensual solution to the current crisis” and voiced support for African-led diplomatic efforts.

It also called for an immediate halt to attacks against civilians and stressed the importance of upholding human rights — a week after Russia and China blocked a similar draft statement on the crisis.

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