West says a new Sudanese army-led council is violating the transition to democracy

CAIRO, November 12 (Reuters) – The United States and other Western powers on Friday expressed great concern over the appointment of a new Sudanese ruling council by the general who led last month’s coup, saying it complicated efforts to restore a transition to democracy.

The United States, Britain, Norway, the EU and Switzerland also urged the security services to respect the right to freedom of expression “without fear of violence or deprivation of liberty” in the face of protests on Saturday by critics of the army’s move.

Sudan’s state of Khartoum said it would close all but three bridges across the Nile at midnight ahead of Saturday’s demonstrations, Sudan TV reported, announcing what is a routine move to tighten security ahead of demonstrations.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was sworn in on Thursday as head of the new sovereign council, which replaces the power-sharing body he dissolved last month in a takeover that traced Sudan’s transition to civilian rule.

The head of the powerful paramilitary paramilitary forces in Sudan, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, was sworn in as his deputy.

The military’s move undermined its commitment to maintain transitional arrangements requiring civilians on the council to be nominated by Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition that had shared power with the military since 2019, a joint statement from the United States and other countries said.

It “complicates efforts to put Sudan’s democratic transition back on track,” they said, adding that the move was “in conflict” with an agreement establishing the transition.

“We strongly urge further escalating steps.”

In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet appointed Adama Dieng, a former UN adviser on genocide prevention, to oversee the “evolving human rights situation” in Sudan. His term of office will end when a civilian-led government is restored, a UN statement said.

Abdalla Hamdok, the prime minister who was ousted in the October 25 coup, is still under house arrest. Hamdok has demanded the release of top civilians and a return to the transition that began after the ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Earlier, Volker Perthes, the UN Special Representative for Sudan, said that the unilateral move by the army on Thursday “makes it increasingly difficult to return to constitutional order”.

Referring to Saturday’s planned demonstrations, Perthes also called on security forces to exercise extreme restraint and respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Security forces shot dead three people during the latest major protest against the takeover on October 31. A total of 15 protesters have been killed since the coup.

Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Lilian Wagdy in Cairo, Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge in Geneva and Christian Lowe in Paris; Authored by Tom Perry and William Maclean; Edited by Hugh Lawson

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