Sudan’s leading pro-democracy group has met the country’s generals for the first time since last year’s military coup, the United States Embassy in Sudan has said, in what could signal a breakthrough in attempts to bring the country’s democratic transition back on track.
The meeting was held late on Thursday in the capital, Khartoum, and brought the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC) – an alliance of political parties and protest groups – together with representatives of the country’s ruling military council, the US Embassy said on Friday.
The talks focused on resolving the current political impasse and were mediated by the Saudi Arabia Embassy and the US delegation in Sudan, the embassy said in a statement.
“We thank the participants for their frank and constructive participation and for their willingness to end the political crisis and to build a peaceful, just and democratic Sudan,” it said.
Since the military took over in October, the same pro-democracy group has refused to sit with the generals at the negotiating table, insisting they should first transfer power to a civilian government, end violence against protesters and release all detainees.
“We are keen to have two of the most influential countries in the region and the world remain supportive of the Sudanese people and the pro-democracy forces,” the FDFC said in a statement, referring to Saudi Arabia and the US.
The meeting, which the group dubbed “unofficial”, took place in the Khartoum residence of Saudi Ambassador Ali bin Hassan Jaafar.
The group said it had agreed to lay out a roadmap in consultation with other civilian groups on how to end the current political deadlock and hand it over to the international community, according to the statement.
The FDFC had previously boycotted military-civilian talks that kicked off earlier this week under the auspices of the United Nations political mission in Sudan, the African Union, and the eight-nation East African regional group Intergovernmental Authority in Development. It had criticised the participation of pro-military groups and individuals allied with the former regime.
The military’s takeover has upended Sudan’s short-lived fragile democratic transition and plunged the country into turmoil. The coup also triggered near-daily street protests, which authorities have met with a deadly crackdown. More than 100 people have been killed since October, according to a medical group tracking casualties.
Last week, a UN human rights expert on Sudan called for accelerated investigations into the killings of protesters and other atrocities.
Hundreds of people, including prominent politicians and activists, have been detained since the coup, although many have been released recently as part of trust-building measures.
The military takeover also triggered widespread international condemnation and punitive measures, including crucial aid cuts by Western governments pending the resumption of the transition to civilian rule.
Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, is also struggling with an economy in decline due to decades of international isolation and mismanagement under former President Omar al-Bashir.
A popular uprising pushed the military to remove al-Bashir in April 2019.