UN extends Sudan mission amid anti-coup protests

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The UN extended its mission in Sudan for another year Friday amid protests in the country against the mission’s chief, who is working to resolve a political crisis sparked by last year’s military coup.

The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously at the UN headquarters in New York to renew the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS) until June 3, 2023.

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On Wednesday, hundreds of Sudanese protesters demanded the dismissal of UN special representative Volker Perthes, who heads UNITAMS, during a demonstration outside the mission’s offices in the capital Khartoum.

Many of the protesters were supporters of Islamist groups.

The demonstration came a day after Islamist leader Mohamed Ali Al-Gizouli accused Perthes of interfering in Sudan’s internal affairs during a seminar titled “the negative impact of the UN mission on the launch of Sudanese dialogue.”

Sudan has been rocked by deepening unrest since an October 25 coup staged by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, which sparked regular anti-coup protests across much of the country.

The power grab derailed a fragile power-sharing agreement between the army and civilians negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

A violent crackdown on the anti-coup protests has left nearly 100 people killed, according to pro-democracy medics.

The UN mission, along with the African Union and the regional bloc IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis.

Western governments have backed the mediation efforts and urged Sudanese factions to participate in the process.

Some protesters on Wednesday said they were angry that the UN was involving the civilian alliance known as the Forces of Freedom and Change in talks.

In March, Perthes told the Security Council that Sudan was heading towards “an economic and security collapse” unless its civilian-led transition was restored.

In April, Burhan threatened to expel Perthes over alleged “interference” in the country’s affairs.

On Sunday, Burhan lifted the state of emergency imposed since the coup to set the stage for “meaningful dialogue that achieves stability for the transitional period.”

Sudanese authorities have since April released a number of anti-coup civilian leaders and pro-democracy activists arrested in the crackdown.

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