Ethiopia’s prime minister on Friday urged Sudan’s military rulers and civilian opposition to exercise “bravery” in trying to agree on a transition to democracy after the worst bloodshed since the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who flew to Khartoum from Addis Ababa to try to mediate the country’s crisis, held separate talks with the country’s ruling military council and leaders of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, an alliance of protesters and opposition parties.
The visit came days after forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum where demonstrators were demanding civilian rule. Dozens of people have been killed since Monday.
Khaled Omar, a leader of the opposition alliance, said Abiy proposed setting up a transitional council comprised of eight civilians and seven military officers with a rotating presidency.
The opposition demanded that the military rulers take responsibility for the bloodshed, allow an international investigation into the violence, and free political prisoners, Omar added.
But, instead of releasing prisoners, security forces arrested Mohammad Esmat, a member of the opposition delegation shortly after he met with Abiy, sources from his party said.
The military council could not immediately be reached for comment.
“This amounts to a practical response from the military council that effectively rejects the Ethiopian prime minister’s mediation effort,” Omar told Reuters, adding that the Sudanese opposition would not agree to any deal before all of its conditions are met.
The military council said it was ready to negotiate at any time, state news agency SUNA reported.
Although no breakthrough was announced at the end of the one-day visit, an adviser to the Ethiopian prime minister said the talks went well and that Abiy would be returning to Sudan soon.
The military council and opposition had been in talks for weeks over who should lead Sudan’s transition to democracy.
But negotiations collapsed after Monday’s violence. The opposition said it could not talk to untrustworthy rulers. Opposition medics say 113 people were killed in the storming of the camp and subsequent crackdown.
The government, however, has put the week’s death toll at 61, including three security personnel.
Abiy made his visit the day after the Ethiopia-headquartered African Union bloc suspended Sudan, backing the opposition’s demand for civilian rule.
He was welcomed by Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi, spokesman for the Transitional Military Council. Abiy later hosted a meeting with the opposition alliance.
“The military and the people and the political forces need to act with bravery and responsibility in taking quick steps to a democratic, reconciliatory transitional period in the country,” he said in a statement.
Abiy, a reformer who took office last year, has won wide praise for his diplomatic skills, including brokering peace with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s neighbor and long-time foe.
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