June 19, 2019 / 4:26 PM / a month ago

Sudan military council head says it's ready to negotiate with opposition

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The head of Sudan’s ruling military council said on Wednesday it was ready to meet an opposition alliance to negotiate the country’s transition toward democracy, after talks collapsed following the deadly dispersal of a protest sit-in.

FILE PHOTO: Sudanese protesters attend a demonstration along the streets of Khartoum, Sudan May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

“We are ready to continue negotiations with the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces,” Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said. “We do not deny its role in the uprising or in the popular revolution, their leadership of the masses.”

Talks between the military council and the DFCF alliance had stalled before collapsing altogether when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry on June 3, killing dozens.

They had been wrangling for weeks over who would control a sovereign council to lead Sudan to elections: civilians or the military.

Burhan said the alliance should return to talks without preconditions.

“The solution must be satisfactory for all the Sudanese people,” he said. “We pledge to you and pledge to the people that we will not accept any solution that excludes any faction of the Sudanese people.”

The opposition had called for an international inquiry to be opened into the sit-in dispersal before they would rejoin talks.

There have been no direct talks since the dispersal, but Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the African Union have been trying to mediate between the sides.

The military overthrew and detained then President Omar al-Bashir on April 11 after 16 weeks of street protests against his 30-year autocratic rule.

Burhan renewed the military’s denial of its involvement in the dispersal.

“We all know that we pledged to all the Sudanese people that we would not disperse that place and that is a promise we made and we did not lie to anyone,” he said.

The military council had said the dispersal of the protest camp came about when a campaign against criminals using an area next to the sit-in strayed from its course.

“The committee concluded that a number of officers with various ranks were responsible for clearing the protest site,” a military investigative committee said in a statement read out on state TV, adding that the officers were not part of the force assigned to deal with the criminals.

The statement gave no details on the fate of the officers, but a military council spokesman on Thursday said that some of them were in custody.

State television on Sunday said tribal leaders, known as the National Administration, had given the military council a mandate to form a technocratic government.

Addressing the largely toothless body at the presidential palace, the deputy head of the military council said on Sunday it was ready to form a technocratic government, a remark that suggested the council may seek to navigate the transition alone.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba, Editing by William Maclean

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