Jun 05 2019
Sudanese security forces have arrested a senior opposition politician despite an offer from the country's ruling generals offered to resume talks with the pro-democracy protest movement.
Yasir Arman, the leader of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement North, was arrested in Khartoum on Wednesday morning amid a continuing crackdown that has killed at least 60 people, the group said.
Mr Arman returned from exile take part in talks on a democratic transition after Sudan's military ousted Omar Bashir, the dictator who ruled for 30 years, in April.
Earlier Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of the ruling Transitional Military Council, issued a conciliatory statement offering to resume talk with opposition leaders "in the interests of the nation."
The offer came just 24 hours after Lt Gen Burhan said he would scrap all talks with protest leaders and unilaterally rush through hasty elections in defiance of earlier agreements between the two sides.
His deputy, Lt General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, promised an "urgent and transparent" investigation into recent killings by security forces, saying "any person who crossed boundaries has to be punished."
But opposition groups said the conciliatory statements were belied by continuing violence in Khartoum and said they would "continue our protests and resistance."
"This call is not serious," Mohammed Yousef al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, said. "Burhan and those under him have killed the Sudanese and are still doing it. Their vehicles patrol the streets, firing at people."
An opposition-aligned doctors' association on Wednesday morning that 60 people including at least one child have been confirmed killed since the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary unit Hemedti commands, attacked peaceful protesters in Khartoum on Monday morning.
Security forces have continued to clash with youths building barricades over the past two days.
Intense gunfire was heard in Khartoum early on Wednesday morning, in what locals speculated may have been clashes between the Rapid Support Forces and mutinous army units.
"There was very heavy shooting at around 4:30 and it carried on until about 5:30 or 6 pm," said one Khartoum resident. "It sounded like exchanges of fire - so not the the Rapid Support against protesters, but probably fights with the army."
Sudanese soldiers intervened to protect the protesters during the uprising that led to the overthrow of dictator Omar Bashir in April, and opposition activists have been hoping they would do the same again.
However, there are other powerful factions within the military and security establishment operating in the capital.
The SPLM said the men who arrested Mr Arman on Wednesday identified themselves as members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which fields large numbers of its own paramilitary troops.
The organisation has generally lain low since Bashir was overthrown in April, but there have been reports that its forces allied with Hemedti's RSF to attack protesters on Monday.
Several Islamist parties that were allied to the Bashir government also run semi-official armed militias.
Irfan Siddiq, Britain's ambassador to Sudan, condemned Mr Arman's arrest.
"This is outrageous. We need confidence building now. Not further escalation. Call for his immediate release. TMC cannot rebuild trust with such action," he said on Twitter.
On the UK, US, and Norway on Tuesday issued a statement condemning the violence and demanding an orderly transfer to civilian rule "rather than have rushed elections imposed by the TMC ’s security forces."
However, Russia and China blocked a United Nations Security Council statement condemning the violence at a closed door meeting on Tuesday evening.
A Western diplomatic source said there was little prospect of securing a UN resolution addressing the crisis and that an alternative option would be to pressure Sudan's regional allies, which have more clout with the TMC.
Lt Gen Burhan and Lt Gen Dagalo's conciliatory statements came after the US state department said it had contacted Saudi Arabia's ministry of defence to complain about the violence.
Both men have recently visited Riyadh, and the Kingdom has extended emergency financial support to the Transitional Military Council to help it tackle the economic crisis wracking the country.