Sudan unrest continues as Pope calls for peace
By Devin Watkins
Protests continue to roil Sudan in the wake of an October coup, with demonstrators calling on the military to return to the democratic transition.
Security forces killed at least one protester in the capital, Khartoum, on Sunday.
Sudan’s doctors committee said the man was killed after being hit by a tear gas canister in the neck. His death brings the tally of casualties since the 25 October coup to 62.
Pope Francis weighed in on the internal conflict on Monday, expressing his concern.
The Pope urged all sides to “find once again the path of reconciliation and peace through a forthright encounter that places the needs of the people above all else.”
He was speaking to diplomats accredited to the Holy See during his annual “state-of-the-world” New Year address.
Efforts for transition talks
The Pope’s appeal came on the heels of a UN-backed initiative to kick start talks between opposition groups and the ruling generals.
The UN envoy to Sudan offered on Saturday to host meetings to seek a “sustainable path forward towards democracy and peace” in the country.
Volker Perthes, the UN envoy, added that all parties would be invited, including the military, rebel groups, political parties, and protest movements, as well as women’s groups and civil society.
His offer came one week after the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who cited failure to reach a compromise between the pro-democracy movement and the military as the reason for his departure.
Opposition to dialogue
However, already on Sunday, a leading Sudanese protest group rejected the UN-backed initiative.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association refused to participate in talks, saying their only goal was to remove the generals from power.
The group said it seeks a completely civilian government to lead the democratic transition, and holds the motto: “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing” with the military.
The association led the charge in 2019 to overthrow longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government.
Al-Bashir’s ousting by the military led to a civilian-army power-sharing agreement that was supposed to lead to elections in 2022.
But last year’s coup scuppered many hopes of a peaceful transition to democracy in Sudan.