Sudan opposition leader arrested hours after meeting Ethiopian PM who urged democratic transition

Sudan opposition leader arrested hours after meeting Ethiopian PM who urged democratic transition
Sudanese authorities have made a number of arrests after a call for 'civil disobedience' following the sit-in massacre, protest leaders have said.
4 min read
08 June, 2019
At least 113 people were killed this week by Sudanese paramilitary and security forces [AFP]

A Sudanese opposition leader was arrested on Friday just hours after meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister.

Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed travelled to the capital Khartoum to meet with Sudan's ruling military junta and leading opposition umbrella group the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) after a deadly week that witnessed the deaths of more than a hundred protesters.

The prime minister called for a "quick" democratic transition with the consent of civilians in a statement on Friday according to AFP, offering to mediate talks between protest leaders and the military.

The AFC welcomed Ethiopia's efforts but cautioned that fresh negotiations could only begin if certain conditions were met.

"The Transitional Military Council (TMC) has to admit the crime it committed," AFC representative Omar al-Digeir said.

Calling for an international investigation into the sit-in massacre, Digeir said that "all military elements" should be "removed from the streets" throughout Sudan.

The military junta was prepared to resume "negotiations and reach a solution at any time", foreign ministry official Hassan Ahmed told reporters, despite having initially called off talks and announced a snap election in the wake of the brutal crackdown.

But those overtures were soon followed by the arrest of an opposition leader, Reuters reported.

Read more: The Arab autocracies blocking Sudan's path to democracy

Mohammad Asmat, director of the Khartoum branch of Sudan's Central Bank and a prominent AFC representative in past negotiations with the military junta, was arrested just hours after taking part in the meeting with Abiy.

His detention comes as part of an arrest campaign launched by the TMC targeting opposition activists and workers in key sectors threatening civil disobedience, protest leaders the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said in a statement on Saturday.

Mohammad Esmat, pictured second from the left, during the AFC's meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed [AFP]

Workers from the Central Bank, electricity companies, airports and other "vital sectors" have been arrested or threatened by the security services after the SPA on Tuesday called for a "comprehensive civil disobedience campaign" and a strike encompassing both the public and private sectors in response to the massacre.

Esmat and his fellow Khartoum Central Bank workers took part in a widespread two-day general strike last week in protest against the TMC.

During that strike, soldiers allegedly stormed the bank branch in an attempt to force employees back to work. When they refused to comply, the soldiers reportedly beat and detained workers and confiscated cash boxes from the bank.

Brutal crackdown

At least 113 people were killed this week after Sudanese paramilitary and security forces launched a brutal raid on a mass sit-in in Khartoum on Monday, the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other armed men also raped protesters and doctors, prevented medical care for the wounded, and threw the bodies of killed civilians into the Nile river, eyewitnesses said.

The RSF is an officialised offshoot of the notorious Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes in the Darfur conflict. The RSF, commanded by TMC deputy leader Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, has also been accused of severe human rights abuses against migrants and civilians in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan conflict zones.

Violence has continued throughout the week as armed forces "occupied" the city, reportedly shooting, beating or arresting civilians who venture onto the streets.

Sudanese protesters and members of the Sudanese diaspora are also campaigning for the military to end a five-day internet shutdown.

Social media users have reached out to Google and Elon Musk and tweeted under the hashtags #IAmTheSudanRevolution and #Internet_Blackout_in_Sudan in an attempt to drive the international community to take action against the information blackout.

While those outside of Sudan may be aware of the massacre continuing crackdown, others inside Sudan, especially outside of the capital Khartoum, may be unaware due to the internet shutdown, activists said.

The Sudanese health ministry contends that 61 people died nationwide this week, 52 of them by "live ammunition" in Khartoum.

The military junta has also denied claims that tens of dead bodies had been dragged out of the Nile after the massacre, contending that only a few had been found.

But the World Health Organization has confirmed at least 784 people were wounded according to a survey of hospitals, adding that the actual number could be much higher.