Ambassadors to Khartoum meet AUHIP to discuss future of Sudan

The ambassadors of the USA, UK, Norway, France, and Germany to Sudan travelled from Khartoum to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa last week for a meeting with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

AUHIP chief mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki (File photo)

The ambassadors of the USA, UK, Norway, France, and Germany to Sudan travelled from Khartoum to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa last week for a meeting with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

The meeting on Friday was chaired by United Nations Under Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom. It included the special envoys for Sudan and South Sudan from the UK and Norway, as well as a representative of the EU office of the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa.

Sources close to the delegations confirmed to Radio Dabanga that the meeting included frank discussions about the current situation in Sudan, and the way forward. Sudan has experienced a growing popular uprising since December 2018, calling for the removal of Al Bashir and his regime from power. The uprising is now reaching a crucial stage, with substantial echelons of the Sudanese Armed Forces declaring sympathy for the demonstrators.

Prior to the meeting with AUHIP chief mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the international partners met to prepare their message for the panel.

USA: Sudan opposition ‘nebulous’

The US delegation described the Sudanese opposition as ‘nebulous’, but noted the role of women and youth, pointing out that “the opposition does not want the international community to engage the government, but seeks international support”. The delegation felt that the proposed four-year transition proposed on the streets was too long and would be ‘a hard sell’ for them.

UK: ‘Sudan govt must be pressured to create conducive environment’

The delegate from the UK emphasised the need to push the government of Sudan for a conducive environment, adding that the discussions would have to have the involve the Gulf states, who are key to the economic situation.

Norway: ‘Al Bashir is weak’

The Norwegian delegation suggested that that President Omar Al Bashir is ‘weak’ and that government focus is to fix the ailing economy. The delegate added that Al Bashir is “making new friends including Russia”.

EU: ‘Regional tensions’

The European Union delegate raised the matter of Sudan’s regional neighbourhood and pointed out that there are tensions with Eritrea. He also highlighted a report of comments by Eritrea’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, stating a belief that “Al Bashir’s time has come to an end”.

International Criminal Court

Regarding the current outstanding warrants for the arrest of Al Bashir issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Norway suggested the “the ICC issue is a Sudanese problem and not an international problem”. UK and France are not keen to even pursue Article 16* of the Rome Statute under which the ICC operates as an option for negotiation.

The US delegation underlined that they would not abandon their cause for justice for victims of Darfur, and they have not softened their stance on Article 16.

Partners meet with AUHIP, Haile and Unamid

The partners shared their views of Sudan and the AUHIP in a frank discussion. The Panel briefed on the meeting they held with Al Bashir on the margins of the AU Summit. The analysis was that the Sudanese Professionals Association, the spearhead of the uprising, and others did not have the capacity to remove Al Bashir, while the government has no capacity to stop the protests.

AUHIP has been in touch with the opposition and some representatives of ‘the street’ and the position has been that Al Bashir must go before any negotiations must take place. Leaving the situation as a stalemate. Mbeki said that the opposition had strengthened the profile off Al Bashir.

Mbeki stressed the importance of Sudan in Africa and the international community and that the international community would need to impress upon the Sudanese that we are all interested in a stable and united Sudan. It is therefore important to inform the Sudanese that the international community cannot move on things like debt relief before they moved. This would in turn create space for real political engagement.

Clarity of message

UK pushed on clarity of what this message would relay considering that no long-term international support would be sustained without a political solution. The UK and Norway disagreed with the view that Al Bashir is in a strong position and assert that he is losing grassroots support.

Norway agreed that Bashir is weak, citing his new-found closeness with Egypt as an indicator of this. He acknowledged that the international community had the ‘economic carrot’ but the government of Sudan and the opposition did not know how to use the opportunity.

Mbeki explained that the statement would come from the AU covering these elements. However, he asked the ambassadors to identify what new element would need to be said. He explained that there is a need to take many practical steps in addition to a statement including conversations with the street, the region in particular Egypt and others.

The USA asked that in addition to the statement, Mbeki should speak to Al Bashir to  ask him to release political prisoners and stop the arrests for a conducive environment.

Earlier this week, The Troika of the United Kingdom, United States, and Norway, issued a statement on Tuesday following the repeated use of violence by the security authorities in a bid to break up the four-day protests outside the headquarters in Khartoum.

The Troika countries called on the Sudanese government to consider seriously the demand of protesters for political change and pledged to support the East African nation if such transition is implemented.

* Article 16: The Rome Statute establishing the ICC contains a provision, article 16, that allows the UN Security Council to pass a resolution (under its Chapter VII authority) to defer an ICC investigation or prosecution for a renewable period of 12 months. Article 16 states: in full: "No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions."