Sudan: Addis, Juba Rally Behind Khartoum, See Hand of 'External Interests' in Protests

The international community and close neighbours Ethiopia and South Sudan have rallied around Sudan's transitional government in a week defined by protests in a fluid political situation.

On Thursday, World Bank President David Malpass was in Sudan where he met Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdook and government officials.

"Over the past few years, you have made a tremendous effort to put people on a forward path, amid very adverse conditions. Two years ago, Sudan's transitional government inherited a deeply damaged economy and society that had suffered decades of conflict and isolation," he said in a speech in Khartoum on Thursday.

"It's critical to avoid political slippages because there is no development without peace and stability."

The US and French governments announced their support for the democratic transition process in Sudan, sent envoys who met with a number of Sudanese officials on the military and civilian sides. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Brian Hunt said during his visit to Sudan that the US supports the aspirations of the Sudanese people and the cause of freedom in Sudan.

"We are pleased with the steps taken by the various parties to stop the operation that aims to infringe on the democratic transition in Sudan recently."

Prime Hamdook received the French Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Jean-Michel Demand. The French envoy explained that his visit to Sudan was to show support for the transitional government.

US support

Next week, US special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, will travel to Sudan to confirm US support after the coup attempt.

Closer home, Ethiopia and Juba have expressed willingness to mediate to save the Hamdook-led transitional government from implosion, a sign that the two countries' respective ties with Khartoum are strong despite recent differences.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a long pro-Khartoum statement said it advocates comprehensive international and regional support for Sudan, calling for dialogue between parties but claimed the country should be left alone to run its affairs "without external interference."

Addis Ababa said, "There are external forces who are exploiting the internal conflicts of our African countries, in order to impose their control and violate our sovereignty," in reference to the recent mistrust in Khartoum, between factions of the transitional government made up of military and civilian groups. The previous Sunday, the civilian groups protested an apparent withdrawal of security for top officials in government and asked the public to be ready to hold street protests to defend the revolution.

The current situation was brought about by an attempted coup a fortnight ago by masterminds alleged to be affiliated with Omar al-Bashir, the jailed ousted leader.

Although the broken trust from that failed coup needs urgent restoring, not everyone believes Bashir's men were behind the foiled coup.

"Whenever there is confusion here and there, and whenever external evil forces notice that we have slipped into internal conflicts or an economic crisis, we see the overwhelming desire of those forces that plan to attack us, in order to impose their hegemony, and their willingness to interfere in our internal affairs and violate our national sovereignty," says the Ethiopian statement.

Ethiopia said Sudan was undergoing a phase that was always going to be challenging but it suggested outsiders were taking advantage of Sudan's needs.

Border issues

Ethiopia's statement comes at a time it is at loggerheads with Khartoum over a border near Amhara-al-Fashaga region. For nearly a century, the border remained unmarked and previous efforts to address the matter did not bear fruit. But for the past one year, Sudan had deployed troops near the border and have in the past fired shots across to the Ethiopian side.

Addis Ababa claims the border tiff is a proxy dispute meant to distract both countries from pursuing national rebuilding.

Sudan's chaos has attracted international attention because it appears like the recovery of the country had been good optics.

Sudan's transitional government was riding high getting off the US sanctions list, getting back to credit eligibility from global lenders and receiving aid to rebuild its institutions that had suffered in Bashir's years. But old problems have cropped up and this culminated in the failed coup. Now the mistrust in the transitional government, coupled with harsh economic times has added to Sudan's problems.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir condemned the attempted coup and called on PM Hamdook to bring to book all the culprits. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) vowed absolute support for Hamdook, its current chair.

Kiir's emissary

And Kiir sent in his mediator, Presidential Advisor on Security Tut Gatluak to Khartoum on Tuesday. Gatluak said he was confident Sudan's parties are capable of ironing out their differences to "reach solutions that satisfy all sectors of the Sudanese people."

Having unity is important because Gatluak has been pushing other remaining armed groups in Sudan to sign up to the transitional government. The upcoming rounds of talks between the government and the SPLM-North movement led by Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu will depend on whether the transitional government can send one unit of delegation to the table, he said.

South Sudan and Sudan have yet to complete their border demarcation and it has in the past flared up especially in Abyei.

Aanalysts in Khartoum say a stable Sudan will be able to iron out those disputes, meaning that the transitional programme is more important now.

Ahmed Abdel-Ghani, a political analyst in Khartoum told The EastAfrican world leaders want Sudan to be an example for other countries.

"It confirms the keenness of the international community in supporting democratic transition," he said on Wednesday.

"The rumour of external interference does not count in Sudan's interest but this does not disaffirm the existence of the policies of the foreign axis, on some issues."

Under the transitional charter, the civilian component is from November expected to take over leadership of the transitional Sovereign Council, the collective body that runs the affairs of the country. Led by the military side since August 2019, the changeover has already been delayed by a year, attributed to Covid-19 initially.

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