Khartoum: Ethiopia’s prime minister arrived in Sudan on Friday to try and mediate between the ruling military and the country’s protest leaders amid an army crackdown that has killed over 100 people this week.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was met by Sudanese generals who in April ousted longtime autocrat Omar Al Bashir and took over the country after four months of mass protests against his rule.
The young Ethiopian reformist premier - who since taking office a year ago has been at the center of high-profile diplomatic efforts in the Horn of Africa region, including a surprise restoration of diplomatic ties with rival Eritrea - first went into a meeting with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Al Burhan, the head of the ruling military council.
Abiy was also expected to hold talks separately with the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of political groups and parties that represent the protesters who have been demanding that the military hand over to civilian rule.
The visit comes after the African Union, based in Ethiopia, suspended Sudan on Thursday over the deadly crisis roiling the nation. The AU also threatened “punitive sanctions” if the military doesn’t quickly relinquish power to civilians.
The crackdown - a new violent chapter for Sudan - started on Monday when security forces dispersed the protest movement’s main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.
Protesters alleged that since then, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and other security forces have carried out attacks in over a dozen cities and towns.
After Al Bashir’s ouster, the Ethiopian prime minister congratulated the Sudanese people for their “resilience in leading change” toward a democratic Sudan. He met with Al Burhan during the general’s visit to Addis Ababa last week, during which he committed to “non-interference” in the situation but urged inclusiveness in the political process.
Talks between the ruling military council and protesters over the make-up of a transitional government following al-Bashir’s ouster had been halted amid the crackdown.
Leaders of the protest movement turned down an offer by Al Burhan to resume talks this week, saying they could no longer trust the generals while troops are shooting and killing protesters.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which has been spearheading the anti-government protests since December, said it would instead press its campaign of civil disobedience until the military council is ousted and killers of protesters are brought to justice.