Sudan's Opposition Calls for Protests to Crank Up Pressure in Shadow of UN Talks

The army, rebel groups, political parties and representatives from protest movements in Sudan will be invited to the UN talks in a bid to get the transition to 'democracy and peace' back on track after the October coup

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People chant slogans during a protest to denounce the October 2021 military coup, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, Jan. 2
People chant slogans during a protest to denounce the October 2021 military coup, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, Jan. 2Credit: Marwan Ali /AP

A coalition of opposition groups called for new demonstrations in Khartoum and across the country on Sunday, as the United Nations' plan to hold talks to get Sudan back on track to a democratic transition after October's coup didn't specify a timeline for the talks. 

According to reports in Arabic media, the UN envoy is set to deliver a press briefing on Monday, where he is expected to share more information about the mediation efforts, and possibly lay out a time frame for talks.

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The UN offer came a week after embattled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned, citing the failure to reach a compromise between the military and the pro-democracy movement.

The resignation plunged the country further into turmoil amid political deadlock and relentless street protests that have claimed the lives of at least 60 people since the coup.

Volker Perthes, the UN envoy for Sudan, said in a statement that the talks would seek a “sustainable path forward towards democracy and peace” in the country. It wasn't clear when discussions might begin.

“It is time to end the violence and enter into a constructive process. This process will be inclusive,” he said.

Perthes said key players in Sudan, including the military, rebel groups, political parties and protest movements will be invited to take part in the process, as well as civil society and women's groups.

There was no immediate comment from the military on the UN effort.

The pro-democracy movement said it has yet to receive details of the UN initiative, adding that it would continue street demonstrations until “the establishment of a fully civilian government to lead the transition.”

The position of the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees, however, would be crucial, given that both groups are the backbone of the anti-coup protests and have insisted on the transfer of power to civilians.

A demonstrator holds up a Sudanese flag during a protest in Sudanese capital's twin city of Omdurman on January 4Credit: - - AFP

The Oct. 25 coup scuttled hopes of a peaceful transition to democracy in Sudan, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the military overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

Hamdok was ousted in the coup only to be reinstated a month later following a deal with the military meant to calm tensions and anti-coup protests. He resigned Jan. 2, amid ongoing deadlock.

Perthes said repeated violence against protesters since the coup has deepened mistrust of the military among all political parties.

He warned that the ongoing deadlock could push the country into further instability and “squander the important political, social and economic gains” since the uprising against al-Bashir.

The protest movement insists that a fully civilian government lead the transition, a demand rejected by the generals who say power will be handed over only to an elected government. Elections are planned in July 2023, in line with a constitutional document governing the transition period.

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