Sudan talks to resume

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Sudan’s military and opposition groups agreed to resume talks on formation of a transitional council, an Ethiopian envoy said, as an opposition alliance suspended its campaign of civil disobedience and strikes.

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council agreed to release political prisoners as a confidence-building measure, special envoy Mahmoud Dirir told reporters in Khartoum.

The steps appeared to show a softening of positions after talks collapsed following the violent dispersal of a protest sit-in on June 3.

The crackdown, in which dozens of people were killed, dealt a setback to hopes of a transition towards democratic elections following the overthrow of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir in April.

The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) alliance began an open-ended strike bringing Khartoum to a standstill.

The alliance said in a statement it would suspend the strike until further notice, though it encouraged people to remain mobilised.

Opposition leader Khaled Omar struck a cautious note, saying suspension of the campaign was “not tied to any specific political developments”.

Yasir Arman, one of three officials from the southern SPLM-N rebel movement detained and then deported to South Sudan after the breakdown of talks, said the military council did not want to cede power.

“My experience in Khartoum is the military council wants to divide oppositions, to have a deal to keep them in power,” Arman told Reuters in Juba after being tied up and flown out of Khartoum on a military helicopter.

In a statement on Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council called on all parties “to continue working towards a consensual solution to the current crisis.”

MEDITATION MISSION

After the military ousted and arrested Bashir on April 11, following months of protests, talks deadlocked over who would control a sovereign council to would oversee a three-year transition towards elections.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew to Sudan to mediate when the talks broke down.

Opposition sources said Abiy proposed a 15-member transitional council of eight civilians and seven military officers with a rotating presidency.

A leader of the DFCF opposition alliance said the group decided to name eight members to the council and nominate Abdullah Hamdouk, a former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as prime minister.

Bloodshed in Sudan prompted concern from world powers including the United States, which was sending its senior diplomat for Africa to Khartoum to push for a resumption of talks.

The African Union suspended Sudan’s membership.

DARFUR

The recent crackdown led to at least 118 deaths since June 3, according to a group of doctors linked to the opposition. Government confirmed 61 deaths.

The crackdown began with a raid on a protest sit-in outside Khartoum’s Defence Ministry on June 3 which witnesses said was led by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The RSF, led by the council’s deputy head, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, grew out of Arab militias that fought in the western region of Darfur during a civil war that began in 2003.

Rights group Amnesty International accused the RSF and allied militia of  destroying dozens of villages, unlawful killings and sexual abuse in Darfur over the past year.

Amnesty said thousands of civilians in Darfur’s Jebel Marra would become more vulnerable if the UN Security Council and the AU were to vote to close the joint peacekeeping mission UNAMID.

According to the United Nations, the military council demanded UNAMID hand its premises to the RSF as part of the mission’s planned withdrawal in 2020.