Sudan talks over coup hit “semi-deadlock”

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Talks to resolve Sudan’s political crisis after last month’s coup have hit “semi-deadlock” because the military has refused to return to a path of democratic transition, two sources from the ousted government said on Saturday.

The sources told Reuters the military had tightened restrictions on ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was placed under house arrest during the October 25 takeover when his government was dissolved.

The new restrictions further limited his ability to hold meetings or make political contacts, they added.

Sudan’s military chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said the army intervened because of political turmoil and the risk of civil war. He says the military remains committed to the transition and to elections to be held in 2023.

After arresting top civilians including several cabinet ministers, the military has taken steps that appear aimed at consolidating its control. Late on Saturday, Sudanese state TV said the directors of five state banks had been replaced, a day after it was announced that the boards of state companies had been dissolved.

Mediation efforts involving the United Nations have been seeking to find a way for Hamdok to be brought back as prime minister of a purely technocratic government.

Hamdok has demanded preconditions that include the release of top civilians detained during the coup and a return to a transition towards democracy that began after the overthrow of long-term autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Pro-democracy groups are trying to reverse the coup with a series of mass rallies and neighbourhood demonstrations.

Some small protests took place on Saturday evening, and a new round of civil disobedience and strikes are planned across Sudan for Sunday and Monday.

Many in the protest movement reject any role for the military and call for full civilian rule.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led protests in the uprising that toppled Bashir, announced a new platform on Saturday including a demand for the formation of a purely civilian transitional authority over a four year period.

It also called for the restructuring of the military and the dissolution of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whose leader was Burhan’s deputy in the military-civilian ruling council before the coup.

Critics of Burhan accuse the army of fomenting unrest before the military takeover, which they say made the risk of civil conflict more likely and derailed a transition that had offered Sudan a chance to escape decades of isolation and internal wars.

Western powers have condemned the takeover, paused economic assistance, and said that a deal for relief on tens of billions in foreign debt is at risk.

A delegation from the Arab League, which has called for Sudanese parties to stick to the democratic transition, was sending a high-level delegation to Sudan on Saturday.