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AU suspends Sudan from its activities amid pressure from civil societies

By Patrick Vidija | October 27th 2021

Sudanese protesters burn tyres to block a road in the capital Khartoum on October 25, 2021. [Twitter]

The African Union has suspended Sudan from all of its activities until the civilian-led transitional authority is restored.

The Peace and Security Council of the commission in a statement said the suspension would be in place until “the effective restoration” of the transitional authority steering the country towards elections.

The council said the suspension is a result of a lack of progress towards the establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority since its initial meeting following the coup attempt on April 11, 2019.

“The PSC condemned the violence that led to the loss of lives and injuries among civilians,  further requesting the Chairperson of the AU Commission, in close coordination with the relevant stakeholders in Sudan, IGAD and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), within the framework of relevant AU instruments relating to the fight against impunity, to make concrete proposals on the modalities for an investigation into the deadly events which took place from 3 June 2019 in Sudan and submit the report the Council,” read part of the statement. 

The suspension comes amid calls from over 40 African Civil Society groups across the continent.

The groups in a statement said the African Union must confirm unequivocally to the people of Africa and the international community that Sudan currently stands suspended from the AU.

They said the suspension should remain in effect until the military hands over the power to civilians.

We demand that the AU follows up on their initial statements with more robust statements that demonstrate the actions they have taken in the first 48 hours after the coup and that clearly lay out the obtaining law and the processes that they propose to take in the next few days,” the groups said.

They argued that the union must urgently convene the AU Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) and take the necessary follow-up measures.

They include Advocacy Network for Africa, African Defenders, African Union Watch, African Women and Youth Initiative, African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), African Women Leaders Forum, Atrocities Watch Africa and Chapter One Foundation among others.

Soldiers arrested most of the members of Sudan's cabinet on Monday and a military officer dissolved the transitional government, while opponents of the takeover took to the streets where gunfire and injuries were reported.

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a general who headed the Sovereign Council, a power-sharing ruling body, announced a state of emergency across the country and dissolved the council and the transitional government.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was detained and moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup, said the information ministry, still apparently under the control of Hamdok's supporters.

But the groups said the Horn of Africa is already very volatile and that should Sudan be allowed to succumb to military-instigated conflict against a resistant citizenry, not only will there be unnecessary bloodshed and human suffering, but this would also have profound regional peace and security repercussions affecting neighbours.

According to the groups, the United Nations Security Council should immediately prioritise discussion and action on Sudan, respecting the aspirations and demands of the Sudanese people, and bearing in mind the potential ramification for the Horn and East Africa region.

“As African citizens and institutions from across the continent and its diaspora, we demand that  General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan and the parts of the military leadership under his control immediately and unconditionally release Prime Minister Hamdok, his wife, the ministers, other government officials and members of civil society,” read part of the statement.

The groups also demand the impugned military leadership to transfer the leadership of Sudan back to the transitional government to operate as per the terms of the Political Agreement and the Constitutional Declaration of 17 July 2019 and 4 August 2019 respectively, and further that the entire provisions of Constitutional Declaration be respected and implemented.

“Patriotic soldiers, battalions and garrisons desist from participating in or supporting the illegal martial government in any way, and certainly refrain from interfering with or harming peaceful protestors,” the statement read.

It also read, “We call for the protection of civilians and the upholding of their right to protest and further call on the security forces to act with restraint in managing the public order situation in Sudan. Specifically, we call on security forces to desist from the use of force on civilians, as this is contrary to international law and also the various legal instruments created by the African Union.”

The groups said the current military leadership should lift the restrictions on Internet access and use to enable people to communicate freely and access information.

“We further demand that this military leadership also immediately opens up the airspace to enable travel into and out of the country without restrictions,” the groups said.

According to the groups, the unconstitutional change of government that was perpetrated in Sudan has had a long build-up, whose signs include the failed coup of 21 September 2021.

They said the position of the African Union on Unconstitutional Change of Government is very clear and requires an uncompromising rejection of such unconstitutional changes, the immediate suspension of the Member State in question, and immediate engagements, based firmly on AU law to reinstate democratic and legitimate government.

“We note with concern that, in the face of clear danger, the AU has dithered to implement this hard letter of the law on a few occasions in the last few years, a fact that might have encouraged the current situation in Sudan,” the groups noted.

They said while they are grateful that both the AU and IGAD provided initial public statements on the situation in Sudan, the statements were not strong enough.

The civil groups said they strongly condemn the military coup, subsequent purported suspension of several provisions of the constitutional declaration, dissolution of the Sovereign Council, the arrest and detention of the Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, his wife, five ministers and other government officials and the killings, torture and injuries of some of the protesting civilians.

“These actions violate the AU Shared Values and specific provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance regarding unconstitutional changes of government,” the said.

The groups further said the military takeover has negative consequences for Sudan’s transition into a democracy, a journey that had a major turning point in 2019 when civilians got rid of dictator Omar Hassan Al-Bashir through a peoples’ revolution.

“We also note with concern the switching off of the Internet and other communications channels, which has made it difficult for the Sudanese people to receive and send information within and outside of Sudan. We are also greatly troubled by the closure of the Sudanese airspace and land borders, and suspension of all flights,” they said.

The groups said limitations on the rights and freedoms of the Sudanese people as well as other nationalities present in Sudan is in stark violation of both the Sudanese Constitution as well as African and International Human rights norms.

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