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Sudan’s Military Abandons Talks and Opens Fire on Democracy Protesters

Despite punishing summer temperatures, the sit-in continued into the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ends this week. The protesters enjoyed the backing of the United Nations and the African Union, which on May 1 warned it would suspend Sudan from the bloc if the military did not transfer power to a civilian authority.

But political talks to end the crisis were scuttled by the military’s obduracy. Opposition and military leaders have spent weeks arguing over who should head a sovereign council to rule Sudan during a transitional period leading up to elections that both sides agree should last about three years.

General al-Burhan and the military have said publicly that they agreed to strong civilian participation in a transitional government, but insist they should retain overall power. In an effort to break the deadlock, civilian negotiators offered compromises that included rotating power between civilian and military leaders, according to Western officials.

But the talks collapsed and the civilians showed their muscle by calling a two-day strike that was respected across the country. Monday’s raid appeared to be an effort to break that strength.

Analysts have long warned that Sudan’s transition to democracy, if it goes awry, could plunge the country into much greater chaos.

One of Africa’s largest countries, it is awash in arms after years of battle between the government and rebel groups in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. The United States, which once led Western policy on Sudan, has largely ceded that role in recent years. Gulf countries are filling the vacuum, looking to safeguard the own interests.

For the Saudis and Emiratis, Sudan is a major troop contributor to the war they are fighting in Yemen. Last month Anwar Gargash, the de facto foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, called for an “orderly transition” in the country. “We have experienced all-out chaos in the region and, sensibly, don’t need more of it,” he said.

Such statements stoked fear among Sudanese protesters that the military might try to forcibly disperse them, much as Egypt’s military did in 2013 when it killed more than 800 people in Cairo to end street protests led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

News credit : Nytimes