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UN urges Sudan’s people to support reinstated prime minister

Sudan could face even darker days ahead if protesters don't accept the junta's concession, the UN chief said.
Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok looks on during a deal-signing ceremony with top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (unseen) to restore the transition to civilian rule in the country in the capital Khartoum, on Nov. 21, 2021.

The head of the United Nations called on Sudan’s people to support the country’s recently reinstated prime minister after a military coup ousted the government in October.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he sympathizes with Sudanese protesters’ “indignation” at the coup leaders' continued role in government after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok returned to office last month.

But the UN chief issued a plea on Wednesday for “common sense” so that Sudan can continue on “a peaceful transition towards true democracy.”

“We have a situation which is, yes, not perfect, but which could allow for a transition towards democracy,” Guterres said.

“For me, it was an important victory to see that the prime minister was freed and could return to his post,” he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

The UN chief said it “would be very dangerous for Sudan” if the Sudanese public continues to oppose the deal last month under which the coup’s leaders released Prime Minister Hamdok from house arrest and allowed him to be reinstated.

Hamdok, who had been detained since the Oct. 25 coup, was allowed to appoint a new cabinet under a deal with the military to release all other detainees taken in the power grab.

The prime minister’s reinstatement was praised as a sign of progress by the UN and United States, both of which have closely supported Sudan’s planned transition to democracy following the 2019 revolution.

But the move only angered anti-coup protesters, who have demanded that the military leaders have no further role in the transitional government.

Several Sudanese cabinet members resigned in response to Hamdok’s agreement with the military. Ex-Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi said last month that Hamdok did not consult with other ministers or warn them before striking the deal, which she called “supportive of the coup.”

Thousands of protesters in Khartoum yesterday took to the streets to call for the exclusion of the military from the government and the establishment of a fully civilian administration. Security forces fired tear gas at protesters in the capital, according to reports.

Coup leader Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Burhan dismissed the country’s general intelligence service chief and at at least seven other senior intelligence officials last week, Reuters reported. Five of those officials had held senior positions under Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted by the military amid a popular uprising in 2019.

The UN's chief envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, tweeted that he had met with Burhan in Khartoum on Thursday, and  "I reiterated that while we cautiously welcomed the 21 Nov[ember] agreement as a first step towards the return of the constitutional order, the agreement itself does not constitute a return to this order [and] that other critical steps need to follow."

The US, which has encouraged international efforts to rehabilitate Sudan’s economic ties with the rest of the world after decades of isolation, has said Hamdok’s reinstatement is not enough. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week called the move a “first step” and reiterated the Biden administration’s demand that the military release all its political detainees and rescind the state of emergency put in place amid the October coup.

The US, World Bank and other international leaders froze up to $19 billion in much-needed debt relief for Sudan in response to the coup, conditioning its release on the reversal of the coup. 

Biden administration officials have signaled that a return to the pre-coup government arrangement would be acceptable. Critics have said allowing the coup’s leaders to continue in their government roles does nothing to resolve the circumstances that had enabled the military to seize power.

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