By MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
Sudan’s main civilian lobby for democracy on Friday issued five conditions to resume talks with the ruling junta, sticking out its perennial demand for the military to stay out of government.
After Thursday’s meeting with representatives of the Sudan Sovereignty Council—the military body in charge of the government—the civilian group Forces for Freedom and Change, which is the Central Committee, said it needs assurance that the military will leave governing to civilians.
Sudan has been in chaos since the junta seized power on October 25 last year, toppling the transitional government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. But the Committee demands a return to the arrangement before the coup, a handover of power back to civilians, unification and reform of the military and its removal from political life, and the end of the current course of the tripartite mechanism of dialogue consisting of the United Nations, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The Committee includes a coalition of civilian groups that helped topple Omar al-Bashir through protests in 2019 before a transitional government was formed. The junta, under Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the government arguing it had fallen into wrangles. This delayed the transitional project which was originally meant to last 30 months from August 2019.
But the civilian groups argue that only civilians should run the government and any talks at re-establishing the transitional administration must be based on this arrangement.
The meeting came at the request of Molly Phee, the US Assistant Secretary of State, who has been holding talks since June 5 in Khartoum to resolve the country’s deepening crisis that has gone on for more than seven months.
The Saudi embassy in Khartoum confirmed, on Friday, that the meeting, which included the Sudanese military component and the Central Council of the Forces of Freedom and Change, with Saudi-American mediation, was for exchanging ideas on how to solve the current crisis and reach a political process that leads to a democratic transition.
The Saudi embassy said that the meeting does not constitute a substitute for the tripartite mechanism and corresponds to supporting all efforts to build confidence between the parties.
The embassy also expressed its welcome for the two parties’ commitment to the interest of their country and dialogue with other stakeholders. “We thank the participants for their frank views and their willingness to end the political crisis and build peace in Sudan.”
US Chargé d’Affaires in Khartoum, Ms Lucy Tamlyn, said that the meeting between the military component and civilians exchanged views to resolve the crisis.
“We welcome the parties’ commitment and readiness to end the political crisis,” she added, noting that the meeting is not a substitute for the mechanism of the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD.
The Forces for Freedom and Change explained that the meeting, which was held at the residence of the Saudi ambassador in Khartoum, discussed ending the October 25 procedures and all their consequences; handing over power to civilians; immediate implementation to create a democratic climate; and stopping the procedures of the tripartite mechanism in gathering forces in support of the procedures and elements of the former regime in the political process.
The statement indicated that the meeting came after the leadership of Freedom and Change refused to participate in the inaugural meeting of the dialogue on Wednesday.
He explained that the Forces of Freedom and Change adopted three means to address the measures of the twenty-fifth of October, including the popular revolution, international and regional solidarity, and a political solution that leads to the handover of power to civilians.
The absence of the forces of freedom and change and other major revolution forces, such as the gathering of professionals and resistance committees, from the opening meeting of the Sudanese dialogue sponsored by the tripartite mechanism raised doubts about the possibility of its success, in which only the military part and a group of parties and small components supporting the measures announced by the President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan participated.
The tripartite mechanism acknowledged that it is not possible for dialogue to succeed in reaching an agreement to resolve the crisis as long as civilian groups continue to boycott joint sessions.
The Mechanism spokesperson lamented the absence of major civilian groups when the talks were relaunched again this week. They include the Committee, the Umma Party, the Sudanese Communist Party, the Women’s Rights Group, the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees.
On the other hand, the Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the main entities leading the current movement in the Sudanese street, affirmed its adherence to the escalation of street protests and not to negotiate with the military, warning against forming another “lame partnership.”
Demonstrations organised by the Sudanese Resistance Committees and other revolutionary forces continued in Khartoum and a number of other cities of the country against the measures taken by Al-Burhan, raising the slogan “no negotiate with the army” calling for “full civilian rule.”