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Sudan frees ex-officials in a bid to start a peaceful political process

The move is an attempt to end the political stalemate that has gripped Sudan since the military coup
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PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   General al-Burhan

Sudanese authorities have released two former officials of the former Hamdok government from prison as a "show of confidence" for a return to "stability" amid efforts to end the political stalemate in the country following a coup that brought down the transitional government. 

According to officials, former Cabinet Affairs Minister Khalid Omar was released along with former member of the ruling Sovereign Council Mohammed al-Faki Suliman from a Khartoum prison, marking a step towards understanding. 

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FOTO/ARCHIVO - Protests in Sudan

Both Omar and Suliman were arrested on the day the military wing of the government rose up against the Transitional Government in a violent coup. However, they were released a month later as a result of the first agreement reached between the army and former Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok. However, Hamdok resigned from his post after the internal crisis worsened. 

In February, Suliman and Omar were arrested again, amid a new military crackdown on political and civilian groups opposed to the military's return to power. Dozens of activists were also arrested during these protests, which have been ongoing since the coup. According to Sudan's medical team, the crackdown on protesters killed 90 civilians, mostly young people, and injured thousands. 

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AFP/AFP  -  Location map of West Darfur

Suliman, in turn, was deputy head of an agency that had been run by the government charged with dismantling the legacy of the regime of former dictator Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. The agency, known as the Committee to Dismantle the Regime of 30 June 1989, a reference to the military coup staged by Islamists, worked for two years to purge Bashir's supporters from government institutions.

The military, including General Abdel Fattah Burhan, has criticised the work of the Committee, going so far as to disband it after last October's coup. In this regard, the insurgents reappointed another Committee, without the civilian wing.

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AFP/ASHRAF SHAZLY  -  Maintenance personnel who are part of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) stand guard.

Following the dismissal of the Committee, many of the decisions taken during the old one were reversed, decisions which, according to opponents of the military, are part of a strategy to empower personalities sympathetic to military groups.

Similarly, other members of the Committee to Dismantle the Regime, such as Wagdi Saleh, Taha Osman and Babiker Faisal, were released as a sign of a possible rapprochement between the civilian and military sides. In addition, in early April, the military authorities released dozens of activists who had been detained in recent weeks during demonstrations against the coup d'état.

Sudan is in a state of uncertainty following the military coup. The country is going through a serious economic and social crisis, which has led to a rapid deterioration in the living conditions of the population. 

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PHOTO/ Consejo Soberano de Transición de Sudán vía AP  - General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, centre left, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hold documents during a ceremony to reinstate Hamdok, who was deposed in a coup last month.

The UN envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, warned that the country was heading for "economic and security collapse" unless the current political crisis was resolved. These statements at the UN Security Council were not well received by the generals, who threatened to expel Perthes from the country. 

The special envoy is now leading joint efforts with both the African Union and the regional grouping of eight East African nations under the name of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to facilitate peace talks. 

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PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -  Sudan's Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok

For IGAD's special envoy to Sudan, Ismael Wais, he welcomed the recent releases as a "very positive development". He urged the authorities to release all political prisoners and activists and to lift the state of emergency as a "necessary condition" for an agreement to end the crisis. 

The AU's special envoy for Sudan, Mohamed Al Hacen Ould Lebatt, said the group would start a political dialogue after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan. According to Lebatt, the talks would include the military, political parties and groups, except the dissolved Al-Bashir Congress Party, to agree on how the country will be governed during the transitional period and the holding of democratic elections. 

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AFP/ ASHRAF SHAZLY  -  Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok (centre) and Major General Malik Tayeb Khojali (left) inspect a guard of honour in El-Fasher, North Darfur.

According to Lebatt, "the situation in this country is very delicate" and "extremely dangerous". However, he added that future talks are aimed at "achieving the aspirations of the Sudanese people as expressed during the revolution". 

The military, however, said it would only hand over power to "an elected administration". According to them, elections will be held in July 2023, as agreed in a sort of constitutional document that managed to govern Sudan during the transitional period.