Saturday 19 October 2019

Ethiopian leader bids to broker peace deal

Diplomatic skills: Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images
Diplomatic skills: Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

Eltayeb Siddig

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Sudan's capital yesterday in a bid to ease the political and humanitarian crisis that has followed the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April.

A diplomatic source said Mr Abiy planned to meet members of both the ruling Transitional Military Council headed by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the opposition in Khartoum.

The Ethiopian initiative follows the worst bloodshed in Sudan since Mr Bashir was ousted by the military after four months of protests against his repressive three-decade rule.

It is claimed by the opposition that 113 people were killed in the storming of a civilian protest camp on Monday and a subsequent wider crackdown. The government put the toll at 61 people, including three security personnel.

The African Union has suspended Sudan until the establishment of civilian rule, intensifying global pressure on the military leaders to stand down.

Both sides had been in talks over a civilian-led transition to democracy. But the already faltering negotiations collapsed in the wake of this week's crackdown.

Mr Abiy, who took office in Ethiopia last year and introduced political and economic reforms, has won wide praise for his diplomacy, including brokering peace with his country's neighbour and long-time foe Eritrea.

A doctors' group linked to the protest movement said hospitals are overcrowded with people injured in the crackdown. Five main hospitals had been shut down by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), it said.

"There is a great shortage in medical staff, mainly caused by the military militias targeting doctors and preventing them from reaching hospitals and clinics to perform their duty," it said. "For all these reasons, more and more lives are being lost every day."

The United Nations' health agency also said medical staff had apparently been targeted for treating the wounded.

Staff had been wounded and some female workers reportedly raped in hospital raids, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Emergency services were being shut down, and staff and patients had been wounded, it said. Mobile tent clinics set up to treat injured protesters had been set ablaze and destroyed while medical equipment had been looted.

Amnesty International and the opposition have said the RSF were the main participants in the violence.

The military council claims people had put on RSF uniforms to impersonate them in an attempt to harm their reputation. Monday's raid was targeting criminals in an area next to the camp and but got out of hand, it said.

Irish Independent

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