As anti-coup groups protest, talks to end the Sudan crisis are initiated

CAIRO -- Talks to end Sudan's political impasse began Wednesday, according to the United Nations.

As anti-coup groups protest, talks to end the Sudan crisis are initiated

CAIRO -- Talks to end Sudan's political impasse began Wednesday, according to the United Nations. However, Sudan's main prodemocracy alliance has decided not to attend due the ongoing police crackdown against protestors of the military coup in October.

The U.N.'s political mission in Sudan, African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority in Development, an eight-nation group from east Africa, are the mediators of the joint peace effort. This effort is designed to bring together the generals as well as a variety of political and protest groups to the table.

The military's victory has ended Sudan's fragile, but brief-lived democratic transition and plunged it into chaos. After nearly three decades of oppression and isolation under Omar al-Bashir, an Islamist-backed dictator, Sudan was finally moving towards democracy. In April 2019, the military removed al-Bashir after a popular uprising.

The talks started Wednesday with a Khartoum technical meeting, which included both civilians and the military. After months of discussions with a variety of groups, including military personnel and pro-democracy movements, the meeting was finally concluded.

Volker Perthes (UN envoy to Sudan), stated that the process would address a "transitional programme," which includes the appointment of a civilian prime Minister and arrangements for the drafting of a permeant constitution. Elections will be held at the conclusion of the transition.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan (the leader of the coup and also the head of the ruling sovereign council) welcomed the talks as an "historic opportunity to complete this transitional phase."

He addressed the nation on Tuesday night, asking all parties to participate in the talks and vowed that the military would implement the outcome. He stated that he was fully committed to working with everyone to end the transitional period as quickly as possible through fair and transparent elections.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee traveled to Sudan earlier in the week to meet with civilian and military leaders. She encouraged all parties to participate in the talks in order to "achieve civilian-led democracy for Sudan."

The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, an alliance of protest groups and political parties, has decided to boycott the meeting. This is a major blow to the process.

The alliance claims that the talks should result in "a civilian democratic authority" but criticizes the participation by pro-military groups as well as Islamists who were allied to al-Bashir's government. It also calls for the release of detainees in connection with a coup and an end to violence against protesters.

Two activists claimed that the U.N., United States, and other Western governments had been pressuring the pro democracy alliance to send representatives for the talks.

Some alliance factions favor participation as "the best option" given international support for the talks. But hard-liners such as the influential Communist Party reject the whole process and demand that power be handed over to civilians immediately. To discuss internal deliberations, the activists spoke under anonymity.

These talks were held as violent anti-coup protests in Khartoum continued. A police car ran a 5-year-old girl over as it chased protestors. According to medical records, this brought the number of protesters killed since October to 101.

Nearly daily street protests have been sparked by the coup, and authorities responded with a brutal crackdown. Many people including politicians and activists were detained. However, many of them have been released as part of trust-building efforts.

The Sudanese military leadership lifted the emergency declared by them following the coup, under international pressure.

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