- Ethiopia PM in Khartoum to revive civilian-military talks
- AU suspends Sudan, demanding end to military rule
- Govt puts death toll at 61, doctors say at least 113 killed
Ethiopia’s prime minister arrived in Khartoum yesterday seeking to revive talks between Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders as heavily armed paramilitaries remained deployed after a deadly crackdown, leaving residents in ‘terror’.
The talks mission by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came after the African Union suspended Sudan on Thursday until the military makes way for a civilian-led transitional authority.
The move by the African bloc was backed by the European Union amid a chorus of condemnation of Sudan’s military rulers over Monday’s deadly crackdown on a week-long sit-in outside army headquarters demanding civilian rule.
Since the deadly assault, fearful Khartoum residents have remained largely indoors, leaving the streets virtually deserted at a time when Muslims are normally out celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Paramilitaries of the feared Rapid Support Forces, who have their origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia unleashed in the conflict in the western region of Darfur in 2003 and 2004, have remained stationed in a number of the capital’s main squares.
Others have been seen out on patrol in their trademark pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns or rocket launchers.
“We’re living in a state of terror because of sporadic gunfire,” a resident of south Khartoum told AFP.
The protesters and the military authorities have given sharply divergent death tolls for the crackdown.
Doctors close to the demonstrators say 113 people have been killed in Khartoum, including 40 whose bodies were pulled out of the Nile.
The health ministry says 61 people have been killed nationwide, 52 of them by “live ammunition” in Khartoum.
The crackdown was launched after the breakdown of talks between protest leaders and the generals on a new transitional ruling body to replace the military council.
Despite several initial breakthroughs, the talks hit deadlock over the demonstrators’ demand -- backed by Western and most African governments -- for it to have a civilian majority and a civilian leader.
There has been pressure on the generals to resume negotiations, even from Gulf Arab states that are among their key supporters.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have pledged $3 billion in emergency deposits and credit to shore up the plummeting Sudanese pound and fund imports of basic goods, issued calls on Wednesday and Thursday for renewed talks.
The generals have so far been shielded from condemnation at the United Nations by China, which has made significant investments in Sudan.