Shops reopen, life returns to normal in Khartoum - GulfToday

Shops reopen, life returns to normal in Khartoum


Passengers wait for buses at Khartoum’s main bus station on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Shops and restaurants began to reopen in Sudan’s capital on Wednesday after demonstrators called off a nationwide civil disobedience campaign and agreed to new talks, though many residents remained indoors after last week’s deadly crackdown.

The apparent breakthrough in the standoff between the military rulers who toppled veteran leader Omar Al Bashir and protesters demanding civilian rule followed mediation led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis − triggered by a June 3 crackdown on protesters that killed dozens − got a boost as the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Tibor Nagy, arrived in Khartoum on Wednesday, officials said.

On Wednesday morning a correspondent who toured parts of the capital saw buses waiting for passengers at their stations, while shops in some districts re-opened.

Later in the day several restaurants reopened and street vendors came back to work.

But the main gold market in central Khartoum remained shut, and many residents stayed indoors.

“I’m still staying at my home because I’m worried about the presence of security forces carrying guns on the streets,” said Samar Bashir, an employee of a private company.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) − accused of playing a leading role in last week’s crackdown − continued to patrol districts in their trademark pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns.

Other residents said that they stayed at home because internet services − heavily cut in recent days − were still not fully restored, making office work difficult.

Street sweepers cleared piles of trash, while long queues at bank cash points returned across the capital and other towns.

“I went to the bank with a cheque and they said there’s no money. It seems all the money is just finished,” Faisal Suleiman said as he stepped out of a bank in Khartoum.

“The Alliance for Freedom and Change agreed to end the civil disobedience (campaign) from today,” Mahmoud Drir, an Ethiopian diplomat who mediated talks on behalf of Abiy, told reporters on Tuesday.

“Both sides have also agreed to resume talks soon.” The protest movement called on its supporters to resume work from Wednesday.

The generals have not yet commented on this development.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged all sides “to continue working together towards a consensual solution to the current crisis” and voiced support for African-led diplomatic efforts.

It also called for an immediate halt to attacks against civilians and stressed the importance of upholding human rights − a week after Russia and China blocked a similar draft statement on the crisis.

Nagy is expected to hold several meetings with the generals and protest leaders, and also intends to visit Addis Ababa to discuss the Sudan crisis with Ethiopian leaders and the African Union (AU).

The AU suspended Sudan’s membership on Thursday.

Nagy “will call for a cessation of attacks against civilians and urge parties to work towards creating an enabling environment” for talks to resume, the State Department said earlier this week.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) have warned UN peacekeepers against withdrawing from Sudan at a time when the Janjaweed militia is not only keeping up war crimes in Darfur but also taking its “despicable brutality” to Khartoum.

“It’s hard to imagine a worse time to decide to close UNAMID,” the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, said Jonathan Loeb, a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International.

As a June 27 vote on whether to wind down UNAMID nears, Amnesty said it had “new evidence, including satellite imagery, showing that Sudanese government forces, including the RSF and allied militias, have continued to commit war crimes in Darfur.” “These have included the complete or partial destruction of at least 45 villages, unlawful killings, and sexual violence,” the rights group said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The RSF, formed from the former Janjaweed militia, were also responsible for the June 3 crackdown on protesters in Khartoum that killed dozens, Amnesty said.