Hundreds of people have gathered in coup-hit Sudan to support a new military-backed initiative that is supposedly aimed at ending the country’s lingering political crisis.
The protest was held in the capital Khartoum on Sunday outside a conference hall where meetings have been held since the day before by a newly created initiative that claims to resolve the crisis that has plagued the country for some years.
“The Call of the Sudanese People” was launched last month by the famous Sufi religious leader Al-Tayeb Al-Jed. The initiative is backed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army chief who last year led a military coup that blocked the transition to civilian rule after President Omar al was ousted. -Bashir in 2019.
In a televised address on Sunday, Burhan called on all Sudanese factions to unite their efforts to bring the Sudanese people together in what he called “pursue the transition and pave the way for elections”. He claimed that the military sided with the people’s aspirations for “democratic rule under an elected civilian government.”
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the main Sudanese civilian bloc ousted from power by the coup, did not join the initiative.
The initiative also held a conference on Saturday and diplomats from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the African Union attended. At the time, Al-Jed said in a speech that the initiative would have brought together some 120 political parties and several factions, including Sufi orders and tribal leaders.
The initiative aims to address “economic deterioration” in Sudan, “achieve peace and security” and ensure that elections scheduled for next year are held “with integrity”, he said. Burhan promised in a televised address last month to stand down and give way to Sudanese factions to reach an agreement on a civilian government.
More than three years ago, massive anti-government protests hit Sudan. The main grievance concerned economic difficulties. The mostly young protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashir, who was eventually overthrown in a military coup in April 2019 after ruling the African nation for three decades.
In August of the same year, a transitional civil-military administration was created to run the country. However, Burhan staged a coup on October 25 last year and dissolved the fragile transitional government, prompting Sudanese to hold protest rallies almost weekly. Anti-coup protests, however, often face violent repression by security forces.
Since the October coup, Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been reeling from a spiraling economic crisis and a vast security breakdown, which has led to an upsurge ethnic clashes in its remote areas.
According to pro-democracy doctors, Sudan has been rocked by near-weekly protests since the coup began and a violent crackdown that has so far claimed the lives of at least 116 people.
The United Nations has time and again pressured the Sudanese military to end the repression and restore a civilian-led government to complete the country’s transition, but to no avail.
Sudan’s economic crisis deepened when the October coup prompted widespread international condemnation and punitive measures, including the suspension of $700 million in US aid.
The African country, home to 45 million people, is also facing a severe economic crisis and inflation reaching 400%.