UN and AU endorse Sudan’s coup government, the streets do not

Protesters are not convinced by the UN and AU’s position that democracy can be won by accepting a government where the real levers of power are held by the military while a cabinet of technocrats is paraded before the international community to maintain the facade of ‘joint military-civilian rule’   

December 09, 2021 by Pavan Kulkarni
Sudan protest
(Photo: Herculesami/Twitter)

While the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) have legitimized the coup-government in Sudan, resistance to the military shows no signs of abating as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest once again on Monday, December 6.

Tear gas, live ammunition and hired gangs were used to attack the protesters, leaving scores injured. There is widespread concern that dozens of protesters and activists who were arrested and are being held in unknown locations will be tortured. 

“No partnership, No negotiations, No bargaining with the military” was the slogan that resounded in towns and cities across Sudan, reiterating a mass rejection of prime minister Abdalla Hamdok’s reinstatement on November 21 on the military’s terms.

According to these terms – to which Hamdok agreed by signing a political agreement with coup leader and army chief Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Burhan – a new cabinet of technocrats who do not represent any of the political parties will be formed by the prime minister. 

However, sources and observers indicate that given the across-the-board rejection of this compromise by political parties and the civil society, the military may soon make a move to form a government on its own without Hamdok. Such a move will further escalate the confrontation with the pro-democracy protest movement, which is already intensifying.

In the capital Khartoum on December 6, soldiers fired tear gas at protesters near the presidential palace where multiple rallies taken out from different assembly points in the city were converging. Goons with sharp weapons, reportedly ferried in buses, attacked the protesters on Sixty Street where protesters had reached after breaking through security barricades.    

In neighboring Omdurman, security forces entered neighborhoods and fired tear gas into homes. Several were detained outside the Omdurman Central police station, Radio Dabanga reported. In Khartoum North, after an abrupt and seemingly timed withdrawal of security forces, “bandits” set fire to El Safia police station to prepare grounds for the forces to unleash violence against protesters, the resistance committees said in a statement.

Over 700 protesters injured by security forces since the coup 

By the beginning of December, a month and a half since the coup on October 25, almost 700 protesters had suffered serious injuries, according to Omega Research Foundation’s analysis of the field reports of the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD).

While 186 of these injuries were from live ammunition, 197 injuries were caused by suffocation induced by inhalation of tear gas. Another 133 injuries were due to trauma from being hit directly by tear gas shells.

“Tear gas projectiles are not designed to be fired directly at a person. Any such use would amount to excessive force and be unlawful. Direct fire at persons can result in severe injuries and death, especially when at close range or at the head or other sensitive part of the body,” according to the report

At least 44 protesters are known to have been killed since the coup, although the total number of deaths remains unclear.

Despite the risk to life and limb, Sudanese have continued to pour onto the streets, not only in the three cities of Khartoum State, but across the country including in troubled war-torn regions like Darfur. 

Cities including Nyala, Zalingei and El Daein saw large demonstrations despite the ongoing inter-tribal violence triggered in this region due to attacks on the communities by state-backed militias. Formerly armed rebel groups have joined forces with the state-backed militias after reaching a power-sharing deal in the Juba peace agreement. 

UN and AU endorse coup-government

While the unarmed protesters continue to resist the military through civil disobedience under these dangerous conditions, UN general secretary Antonio Guterres and AU Commission chairperson Moussa al-Faki have sought to buy legitimacy for the coup-government.

At a joint press conference the duo held in New York on December 1, al-Faki said, “For the first time in Sudan for several decades, the political parties, the armed component, the component of the armed movements, find themselves together and I believe that it is a momentum that should not be lost despite the slippages that it has had.”

Warning that rejecting the compromise Hamdok struck with Burhan will lead to a “dangerous” destabilization of the country, Guterres appealed “to the Sudanese people to support Prime Minister Hamdok in the next steps so that it is possible for a peaceful transition to true democracy in Sudan.”

“We refuse any settlement with the coup leaders”

However, the protesters are not convinced that “true democracy” can be won by accepting a government where the real levers of power are held by the military while a cabinet of technocrats is paraded before the international community to maintain the facade of a ‘joint military-civilian rule’.  

The center of Khartoum State Resistance Committees said in a statement on December 5 that its delegate invited for a meeting with the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) will reiterate that:  “Sudan is now under a complete military Coup orchestrated and executed by the armed forces and militia generals who are implicated in several wars, atrocities, and crimes against humanity.”

Outrightly rejecting the position advocated by the UN and AU, its statement added, “We refuse any intermediation or settlement with the coup leaders, and we will carry on our struggle and fight to oust the Coup and take the criminals before justice.”