Days after deadly military strikes in Sudan that killed dozens of people, the African Union (AU) has suspended the country’s membership “with immediate effect.” The AU’s Peace and Security Department said in a post on Twitter on Thursday that Sudan’s participation in all AU activities would be suspended with immediate effect, “until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from the current crisis.”
The decision was made unanimously by members at an emergency meeting of the 55-member state union in Addis Ababa that lasted more than five hours, BBC reports.
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Security forces in Sudan, on Monday morning, attacked a protest camp in the country’s capital, Khartoum. The attack on the pro-democracy protest at the camp has been described as the worst violence since the overthrow of the president, Omar al-Bashir in April and been condemned by many, including the European Union and the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a group which is close to the protesters.
Footage of the crackdown showed people fleeing through the streets amidst gunfire and ammunition while medics say that scores of people have been injured. Opposition groups claim that at least 108 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded, but authorities say only 46 people have lost their lives in the attack.
Witnesses reported that the security personnel involved in the attack belonged to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force that was heavily armed by the former president, al-Bashir.
Sudan has been governed by a Transitional Military Council (TMC) since President al-Bashir was overthrown in April. The main protest group has accused the ruling military council of trying to break up the camp, which has been the main protest site, but the council said the security forces had only targeted unruly groups in an adjacent area.
The leaders of the protest movement, who want a civilian government to take over the running of the country, said they were stopping all contact with the military and called a general strike. Negotiations have been held for weeks over who should govern a transitional period after Bashir’s overthrow, but the talks have not yielded positive results.
Monday’s crackdown sparked unrest around Khartoum, as hundreds of protesters blocked roads with stones while burning tyres in Omdurman, the twin city neighbouring the Sudanese capital, according to a report by The Guardian.
In response, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group that launched nationwide protests in December, asked Sudanese people to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council and to protest on the streets.
The AU, on Monday, condemned the violence, calling for investigations. The body had earlier warned of suspension if Sudan’s military did not hand over power, but extended the deadline after the earlier one was ignored.
Years of economic struggle, dictatorship, police and military brutality and the stifling of dissent in Sudan by the Omar al-Bashir government were cut short in April after four months of protest yielded results.
Bashir, who is being sought by international prosecutors for alleged war crimes in the country’s western Darfur region, had earlier refused to step down and said his opponents should seek power through the ballot box.
After his removal, the military indicated that it would prosecute Bashir, but would not extradite him.
The military dissolved the government and said it will oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections, but this was met with protests on the streets. The AU subsequently gave Sudan’s military three months to transfer power to civilian rule.
Demonstrators have since been occupying the square in front of the military headquarters. In May, organisers and the ruling generals said they had agreed on the structure of a new administration and a three-year transition period to civilian rule.
But, according to the BBC, they still need to decide on the make-up of what has been called the sovereign council, which will be the highest decision-making body in the transition period. They are yet to agree on whether civilians or the military should have the majority of positions.