Sudan opposition rejects calls for talks as crisis worsens following deadly crackdown

Over 100 protesters allegedly killed by military

By Mohammed Tawfeeq, Kareem Khadder and Jonny Hallam, CNN
@bakrialhady/ Twitter/CNN

Small fires and billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen in video taken in the capital of Sudan on June 3, 2019.

(CNN) - Protest leaders in Sudan have rejected calls for talks with the military as the death toll from a brutal armed crackdown on peaceful protestors Monday topped 100.

Medani Abbas Medani, leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), said Thursday there was "no room for negotiations," as military leaders attempted to do damage control in the face of international criticism of Monday's indiscriminate killings.

"There is no way to solve the complexity that cripples the country except by continue the revolution until we eliminate the military council," he said on Facebook. "Khartoum and Sudan are under occupation and that's the only solution"

In a statement, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a body which led protests against former leader Omar al-Bashir, encouraged protesters to continue their "civil disobedience and open political strike" in the face of the military's offer of talks, saying demonstrations would continue until they topple "the coup council."

On Wednesday, the group called on all countries and international organizations to stop dealing with Sudan's Transitional Military Council. They also called on the international community to start looking into "the ongoing violations and crimes committed by (TMC) in all cities and towns and to stop it immediately."

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD), an organization of medical volunteers, said more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured when soldiers and paramilitary groups opened fire on a sit-in that has been ongoing since the dramatic fall of Bashir in April.

Dozens of bodies were pulled from the Nile Wednesday and doctors said they had been weighed down with rocks in an attempt to hide the true death toll.

The official Sudanese Health Ministry has contested this total, saying the death toll was not over 46, according to state media.

Demonstrators have demanded that the Transitional Military Council, which took over after Bashir was ousted in a coup, make way for a civilian-led interim body and hold elections.

The sudden deterioration in relations between the parties came after widespread support from the international community for the end of Bashir's decades-long rule, and the military's crackdown was swiftly denounced.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned "the violence and reports of the excessive use of force by security personnel on civilians that have resulted in the deaths and injury of many," and urged all "parties to pursue peaceful dialogue and to stay the course in the negotiations over the transfer of power to a civilian-led transitional authority."

The UN has temporarily pulled "non-programme critical" staff out of the country.

A spokeswoman for the US State Department said in a statement Wednesday that Washington "condemns the recent attacks on protesters in Sudan."

"We call on Sudan's Transitional Military Council and the Rapid Support Forces to desist from violence and we call for resumed contact with the Forces for Freedom and Change with the aim of a civilian-led transition that leads to timely elections and free expression of the will of the Sudanese people," she added.

The African Union, of which Sudan is a member, has been trying to broker talks between protesters and the military, in the effort to secure a civilian-led transitional body that can pave the way for future elections.

Protest groups, however, have reacted furiously to the suggestion they sit down with military figures after Monday's murderous attacks.

Following the killings, the SPA called for "complete civil disobedience and open political strike ... as the only measure left for the Sudanese people to hold the country from collapsing into total chaos and insecurity under the rule of the military coup council."

"Let the coup council know that they were the initiators of total chaos that they claimed to warn against and protect the people from, and that extremism and terrorism are now taking hold openly, which will also be met by more extremism and terrorism," the SPA said.

"Our country will be lost, and then regret and sorrow will not help. The risks that the coup council took, for the sake of usurping complete power, undermine national peace and would, eventually, affect regional and international peace."

 

Call for elections

 

After April's coup, the military council and opposition groups agreed on a three-year transition to democracy. But on Tuesday, coup leader Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan called for national elections within nine months.

The only way to rule Sudan is through "the ballot box," he said in an address on state TV.

In a later speech, he said he regretted the violence and that "all involved in the events that lead to the disruption of the protests site will be held accountable and brought to justice."

The military presence in Khartoum and other cities remains high however, and there have been reports of the Rapid Support Forces, the notorious paramilitary group previously known as the Janjaweed militia, roaming the streets.

"Today the council invited us to dialogue and at the same time it is imposing fear on citizens in the streets," Madani Abbas Madani, the DFCF leader, told Reuters.

Numerous countries, including the US and UK, have issued strict advice against traveling to Sudan during this period.

CNN's Kareem El Damanhoury, Nourhan Moustafa, James Griffiths, Julia Hollingsworth and Richard Roth contributed reporting.

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