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CSOs call on African Union to take ‘urgent action’ in Sudan

May 17 - 2019 KAMPALA
Barricades near the sit-in in Khartoum (file photo)
Barricades near the sit-in in Khartoum (file photo)

Seventeen Sudanese and international civil society organisations have urged the AU to take action after militiamen attacked protesters at the sit-in in front of the military headquarters in central Khartoum earlier this week.

In a joint letter on Thursday, the organisations appeal to the AU Peace and Security Council and Moussa Faki, Chairman of the AU Commission to condemn the use of force to disrupt protests and the suspension of negotiations, and urge the parties to resume and conclude their dialogue without delay.

On Monday and Wednesday, members of an unknown militia, said to be the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan's main government militia, violently attempted to dismantle the barricades placed by the protesters to protect the sit-in area in front of the military command. The EU has called for constraint.

People set up the sin-in on April 6, in protest against the disastrous economic policies and the oppression of civic freedoms by the regime headed by President Omar Al Bashir.

After Al Bashir was ousted in a military coup five days later, the demonstrators, represented by the Alliance of Freedom and Change (AFC), decided to continue their protests until the new Transitional Military Council (TMC) has handed power to a civilian government. The following weeks, the number of demonstrators grew as Sudanese from all parts of the country and abroad arrived at the scene to support their demands for a quick hand-over.

While the TMC and AFC resumed negotiations about the future leadership of the country again on Monday, militiamen attacked protesters at the sit-in at sunset, while they were breaking their fasting.

The TMC has repeatedly requested the protesters to remove the barricades, as they are blocking traffic. Trains are halted as well.

On Wednesday, the military leaders decided to suspend dialogue with the AFC for 72 hours, until the barricades are removed. Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, head of the TMC, said in a statement aired on Sudan TV, that “the revolution has derailed from its peaceful path following escalation on the ground during the last hours”.

“The protestors are in need of immediate protection and the AU needs to take swift and firm action.” - CSOs

Live ammunition

In the letter, the 17 CSOs describe what happened this week:

“On 15 May, an unidentified militia fired live ammunition near Mak Nimir Bridge in an attempt to clear roadblocks and disperse protestors. At the time of writing this letter, at least eight people were reported to have been injured in the attack but the number is likely to be higher. This is the second attack made against peaceful protestors this week and follows an attack on 13 May, in which at least five demonstrators and one military official were killed and over 100 people injured in Khartoum.

“Live ammunition and tear gas were used against protestors at Nile Avenue, a few blocks away from sit-in at army headquarters in an attempt to break up the protest. The attack took place as protestors were breaking their Ramadan fast in the evening and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) was only able to send in army reinforcements hours later. On 4 May, protests in Nyala, South Darfur were dispersed by counter revolutionary forces which resulted in one civilian casualty and injuries.

“The two attacks in Khartoum occurred just hours after announcements about significant breakthroughs in the negotiations between the TMC and the Freedom and Change Forces (FCF). The 15 May announcement indicated that the two sides had reached a consensus on a number of issues – including the Sovereignty Council - and would be signing an agreement on transitional arrangements imminently, including provision for an executive ministerial council and a legislative council where the majority of representatives would be selected by the Freedom and Change Forces (FCF). The ongoing talks have now been put on hold for at least 72 hours by the Chair of the TMC.

“The Sudanese Professionals Association – part of FCF – has called on all Sudanese to join the sit-in. After the incident on 13 May, thousands started making their way to the army headquarters to support the protestors and more continue to join them. The protestors have remained peaceful and avoided clashes but the situation is volatile given the actions of certain armed elements.

“The protestors are in need of immediate protection and the AU needs to take swift and firm action. The AU Chairperson in a statement issued on 15 May commended the parties to the negotiation for the progress being made towards reaching an agreement for a political transition in Sudan. We are extremely concerned that this is now in jeopardy following the announcement to put the talks on hold and that further delays will only allow for more attacks and a massacre may be witnessed.”

“Pressure must be exerted on the military council to transfer power immediately to a civilian-led transitional government which includes women and persons from marginalized areas such as South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.”

'No extension of the deadline'

The civil society organisations therefore call upon the African Union to:  

“Condemn any attempts by the military council or any armed groups in Sudan to use force to disrupt protests and support the rights of the protestors to freedom of expression and assembly, in line with regional legal instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and in the spirit of African solidarity; 

“Urgently establish a commission of inquiry into the violence to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims; 

“Condemn the suspension of negotiations and call on the AU Envoy to urge parties to resume and conclude the process without delay. Pressure must be exerted on the military council to transfer power immediately to a civilian-led transitional government which includes women and persons from marginalized areas such as South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur;

“Ensure there is no further extension of the sixty-day deadline period outlined in the 846th meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council on 30 April 2019. While Sudanese civil society welcomed the African Union’s decision not to give recognition to the military authorities and demand for a transition to a civilian authority, there is concern that any further extension of the deadline could compromise the process and embolden hard-line elements resistant to a handover.”

The letter is signed by: the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, African Federation Association, Ahmed Abusin, Development Consultant, Partners in Development Service Director, Aisha Hamad Mohamed, Partners in Development Service, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Darfur Bar Association, International Refugee Rights Initiative, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Mohamed Nikroma, Lawyer, Mohaned El Nour, Justice Centre for Advocacy and Legal Consultations, Nubsud Human Rights Monitors Organisation, Pan African Lawyers Union, Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society, Skills for Nuba, Sudan Consortium, Sudan Democracy First Group, and the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative.


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