Shops reopen as Sudan generals, protesters agree to talk

June 12, 2019 2:10 pm
The civil disobedience campaign had brought the Sudanese capital to a standstill © AFP

, KHARTOUM, Jun 12 – Shops began to reopen in Sudan’s capital on Wednesday after demonstrators called off a nationwide civil disobedience campaign and agreed to new talks, though many residents remained indoors following last week’s deadly crackdown.

The 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.

The United Nations Security Council called on the generals and protest leaders to resolve the crisis triggered by the June 3 crackdown on a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum that killed dozens.

Global diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff were expected to get a boost from a visit by a top US official who was due to meet with the two sides.

Residents of Khartoum queued outside a bank to withdraw money following the end of the strike © AFP

The slow return to normality came after an Ethiopian envoy of Abiy announced 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 negotiations collapsed last month because the two sides disagreed about whether a civilian or soldier should head a new governing body.

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

– Heavy security –

The main gold market in central Khartoum remained shut, and many residents still preferred to remain indoors given the heavy deployment of security forces across the capital.

“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 in a private company.

Municipality workers were out cleaning the streets of Khartoum after the strike ended © AFP

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces accused of having played the lead role in last week’s crackdown continued to patrol districts in their trademark pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns.

Several other residents also told AFP that they were remaining indoors as internet services were still not fully restored across the capital, which made working from offices difficult.

Several private companies had also extended the Eid al-Fitr holidays up to the end of this week.

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

Following Bashir’s removal, protesters camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum for weeks to demand civilian rule until security and paramilitary forces dispersed them.

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

The protest movement had threatened to pile more pressure on the generals by releasing a list of proposed members of a new ruling body — the key point of dispute between the two sides — before backing down.

The heavily armed paramilitaries of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces instil fear as they patrol Khartoum’s Nile Street © AFP

“The Alliance for Freedom and Change agreed to end the civil disobedience (campaign) from today,” Mahmoud Drir, an Ethiopian diplomat who mediated talks on behalf of Abiy, told reporters on Tuesday.

“Both sides have also agreed to resume talks soon.”

The protest movement called on its supporters to resume work from Wednesday. The generals have not yet commented on the latest development.

– UN push –

The UN Security Council 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.

The US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Tibor Nagy, is expected to hold series of meetings over the next two days with the generals and protest leaders in Khartoum, the State Department said.

He is later expected to visit Addis Ababa to discuss the Sudan crisis with Ethiopian leaders and the African Union.

“He will call for a cessation of attacks against civilians and urge parties to work toward creating an enabling environment” for talks to resume, the State Department said.

The United States has led calls for a civilian-led transition even as its Arab allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates appear to back the generals, experts say.

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