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Lobbies demand AU suspends Sudan from forums until civilian rule is restored

By Jael Mboga | October 27th 2021

A road barricade is set on fire during what the information ministry calls a military coup in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 25, 2021. [Reuters]

Lobby groups and human rights defenders have said the unconstitutional change of government that was perpetrated in Sudan has had a long build-up, whose signs include the failed coup of September 21, 2021.

“The position of the African Union on Unconstitutional Change of Government is very clear, and requires an uncompromising rejection of such unconstitutional changes, the immediate suspension of the Member State in question, and immediate engagements, based firmly on AU law to reinstate democratic and legitimate government.”

They added that in the face of clear danger, the AU has dithered to implement this hard letter of the law on a few occasions in the last few years, a fact that might have encouraged the current situation in Sudan.

“While we are grateful that both the AU and Igad provided initial public statements on the situation in Sudan, their statements were not strong enough.

“We also acknowledge that the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU-PSC) held a Session on Sudan and has suspended its government in line with the applicable AU law. This is a positive first step.”

The civil society groups in a joint statement said they stand in solidarity with the people of Sudan and demand more resolute action from the African Union, Igad, and the UN.

Sudan's military seized power from a transitional government on Monday and a health ministry official said seven people were killed by gunfire and 140 injured in clashes between soldiers and street protesters.

The leader of the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council that had been established to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.

Burhan announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security. He promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over power to an elected civilian government then.

The lobby groups said the military takeover has negative consequences for Sudan’s transition into a democracy, a journey that had a major turning point in 2019 when civilians got rid of dictator Omar Hassan Al-Bashir through a peoples’ revolution.

"We are aware that many Sudanese, committed to democratic ideals that they relentlessly fought for, have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the military takeover. We are, however, alarmed by reports appearing in a section of the media of the killings, torture, and injuries of some of the protesting civilians by sections of the military."

The lobbies include Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA), Kampala, Uganda, Coalition for an Effective African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACC), Arusha, Tanzania, and Eastern Africa Youth Empowerment on Peace and Security, among others. 

As African citizens and institutions from across the continent and its diaspora, the lobbies demanded that General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan and the parts of the military leadership under his control immediately release Prime Minister Hamdok, his wife, the ministers, other government officials, and members of civil society.

They also called for soldiers to desist from participating in the illegal martial government in any way.

"We call for the protection of civilians and the upholding of their right to protest and further call on the security forces to act with restraint in managing the public order situation in Sudan."

The groups asked the AU to urgently convene the AU Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) and take the necessary follow-up measures.

They called upon the UN to prioritise discussion and action on Sudan, respecting the aspirations and demands of the Sudanese people, and bearing in mind the potential ramification for the country.

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