Ethiopia’s Mediation Effort in Sudan Likely to Face Challenges

(Cairo) Rifts among Sudan’s political forces, procrastination by the ruling army council and growing violence will most likely foil a fresh bid by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abe Ahmed to mediate a settlement of the political crisis in Sudan.

Ahmed visited Sudanese capital Khartoum June 7 to meet the country’s political forces and officials from the ruling Transitional Military Council.

He met a long list of parties to Sudan’s political crisis, including the head of the council Abdul Fattah al-Burhan. He called for a smooth transfer of power to civilians.

Nevertheless, his aspiring mediation effort faces challenges, including the failure of Sudan’s political forces to form a unified front in negotiations with the army council or even have a unified view about how the transitional phase should be managed.

Some of the political forces on the streets of Sudan accuse Ahmed of sidelining them and say attending the meetings with the Ethiopian premier on Friday were political leaders who did not represent either the Sudanese people or its political elite.

“The real revolutionaries on the streets are still trying to find their place on the negotiation table,” said Najy Mustafa Badawi, the head of Sudan Youth Coalition, a group of junior political activists who were part of the popular uprising against deposed president Omar al-Bashir. “Those meeting the Ethiopian prime minister did not represent us.”

Attending the meetings with Ahmed was a coalition of political parties and groups, known as Freedom and Change Forces, along with the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella association of 17 different trade unions.

They told the Ethiopian prime minister that they would not resume negotiations with the military council before it investigated the June 3 violence that left around 100 protesters dead in Khartoum. The two groups also said that the council had to punish officers responsible for the killing of the protesters.

The council said earlier that it would launch an inquiry into the violence which broke out inside a protest camp outside the general army command in central Khartoum.

There is skepticism, however, that the council will take such a move, amid accusations that the army council wants to get around the demands of the revolutionaries in order to hijack the revolution and reinvent the Omar al-Bashir regime which theoretically fell down on April 11.

This is probably why the political forces are escalating their action on the streets. On June 9, the majority of residents in Khartoum reacted positively to calls by the Freedom and Change Forces for staging civil disobedience.

The streets of the Sudanese capital were almost totally deserted. The shops were closed and few cars were running on Khartoum’s highways. This is bringing untold losses to the Sudanese economy and bringing Sudan’s economic life to a near complete halt.

Army troops moved, meanwhile, to reopen roads closed in the past weeks by demonstrators. The troops also removed barriers placed on important streets by the same demonstrators in order to ease traffic.

There are, however, reports of escalating violence, which threatens to make things take an even uglier turn. On June 9, Sudanese medical sources said 11 civilians had been killed in the previous three days, most of them stabbed to death.

There were reports on the same day of the death of an additional four civilians in the same manner.

Sudanese sources also refer to a plan by the ruling army council to organize a million-man protest during which the demonstrators will ask the council to manage Sudan’s transition in the way it sees fit.

This way will most probably include the formation of a government of technocrats, until elections are held after nine months

This will deal yet another blow to the Ethiopian mediation bid, which is why the opposition says it will keep struggling until Sudan’s helm is handed over to civilians.

“We will keep struggling to achieve this goal,” said Noureddine Babakr, one of the leaders of the Freedom and Change Forces. “We know we still have a long way to reach our goal.”