African Union suspends Sudan until civilian government established
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The African Union said on Thursday it had suspended Sudan until a civilian government was formed, intensifying international pressure on the country’s new military rulers to give up power.
Ethiopia meanwhile will launch a mediation effort on Friday, diplomatic sources in Khartoum said.
The moves take place after security forces cleared protesters from a sit-in camp in central Khartoum on Monday, killing dozens of people in the worst violence since President Omar al-Bashir was removed by the military in April after four months of generally peaceful protests.
The opposition had been in talks with an interim military council over a civilian-led transition to democracy, but the negotiations faltered and this week’s crackdown marked a turning point in the power struggle.
The United Nations and several foreign governments have condemned the bloodshed.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council, in a meeting in Addis Ababa on Thursday, decided to suspend Sudan from all AU activities until a civilian government has been formed. Suspension is the African Union’s normal response to any interruption of constitutional rule in one of its members.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was due to visit Khartoum on Friday to try to mediate between the military and an opposition alliance, a diplomatic source at the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum said.
The source told Reuters that Abiy would meet members of the Transitional Military Council and the opposition’s Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces during his one-day visit.
Ethiopia hosts the headquarters of the African Union but it was not clear if Abiy would be acting under AU auspices.
The Sudanese Health Ministry said on Thursday that 61 people had been killed in the crackdown but the opposition put the toll at 108.
The action was led by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary force, witnesses said. The RSF, commanded by the military council’s deputy leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, was built up from militias that fought insurgents in Sudan’s western Darfur region during a civil war that began in 2003. His troops fired on unarmed protesters then mounted a wider operation crackdown in the following days, witnesses said.
The militias are accused of involvement of widespread atrocities in Darfur.
Amnesty International called for international action against the military rulers and condemned the RSF for its role in the violence.
“The RSF, the special military force which killed, raped and tortured thousands in Darfur, brings its murderous rampage to the capital,” Amnesty said. “Reports that bodies have been dumped in the river demonstrate the utter depravity of these so-called security forces.”
The military council has denied the force was involved in any illegal actions and said it was facing a negative media campaign “from hostile parties”. The raid was targeting criminals in an area adjacent to the camp, it said.
Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, said the military council had launched an investigation into the violence and would punish anyone found guilty of abuses.
Cycle of impunity
The deployment of the RSF suggests that Dagalo is calling the shots, at least when it comes to security. He is close to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and has committed Sudanese troops to the military coalition they lead in Yemen’s civil war.
Amnesty said that Sudan’s recent history has been defined by impunity for war crimes and other human rights violations.
“We are urging the African Union Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council to break this cycle of impunity and take immediate action to hold the perpetrators of this violence accountable,” the London-based rights humans group said.
Meanwhile, movement began to return to the Sudanese capital on Thursday after some fraught days. Following the raid on the camp, protesters had blocked roads with rocks and burning byres.
Security forces led by RSF units have been trying to open roadblocks.
Some life had returned to the streets of the capital on Thursday, with limited public transport operating and only a few cars on the roads.
A small number of shops and restaurants were open on the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
But there was still widespread disruption around the capital.
At Khartoum’s airport relatives of travellers stayed late into the night waiting to see if their flights would arrive, following a slew of cancellations over the past few days.
Internet blackouts continued to beset the city.
US warns ‘extreme caution’
On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office said they had summoned the Sudanese ambassador to raise concerns about the violence in Khartoum.
Despite the heavy presence of security forces on Khartoum’s main streets, the groups that spearheaded the demonstrations against Bashir made a fresh call on Thursday for civil disobedience.
“The revolution continues and our people are victorious despite the terrorism and violence of the militias,” the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that initially launched the anti-Bashir campaign, posted on Twitter.
It urged an “indefinite strike and civil disobedience,” warning against calls for violence.
Sudan has been rocked by unrest since December, when anger over rising bread prices and cash shortages broke into protests against Bashir that culminated in the military removing him, ending his three decades in office during which the country became a pariah state in Western eyes.
In the wake of Monday’s events, the military council canceled all agreements reached with the opposition on a democratic transition and announced plans to hold elections within nine months. Protesters rejected the plan.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
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