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Hundreds gather in Sudan to support army-backed initiative

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Khartoum (AFP) – Hundreds of Sudanese gathered on Sunday to support a political initiative backed by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan who led last year’s military coup, AFP correspondents said.

The rallies took place outside a Khartoum conference hall where meetings of a newly launched initiative to end the political crisis in Sudan have been held since Saturday.

The initiative, known as “The Call of the Sudanese People”, was launched last month by renowned Sufi religious leader Al-Tayeb Al-Jed.

Late last month, Burhan – who led the October coup that derailed Sudan’s transition to civilian rule – welcomed the move.

In a televised address on Sunday, Burhan urged all Sudanese factions to unite in their efforts to bring the Sudanese people together to “continue the transition and pave the way for elections”.

He also said the army sided with the people’s aspirations for “democratic rule under an elected civilian government”.

Protester Hozaifa Mohamed said he “supports the initiative which calls for national consensus and which we hope will end the crises in Sudan”.

Another protester, Othman Abdelrahman, also said the initiative “calls for an end to conflict” and “brings together several factions from across Sudan, including Sufis, armed groups and others”.

The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the main Sudanese civilian bloc ousted by the coup, did not join the initiative.

Also absent were members of resistance committees, informal groups that emerged during the 2019 protests against Bashir and that have led calls for recent anti-coup rallies.

Sudan is reeling from political unrest, a spiraling economic crisis and a spike in ethnic clashes in its remote areas.

The military takeover upended a transition to civilian rule launched after the 2019 ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir, who ruled for three decades.

The country has since been rocked by near-weekly protests and a violent crackdown that has so far killed at least 116 people, according to pro-democracy doctors.

A conference organized by the initiative on Saturday brought together diplomats from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the African Union.

In a speech then, Al-Jed said the initiative brought together some 120 political parties and several factions, including Sufi orders and tribal leaders.

He also said he aimed to address the country’s “economic deterioration”, “achieve peace and security” and ensure that elections scheduled for next year are held “with integrity”.

The Sufi figure further called on people to “come together in support” of the army and other security forces to ensure unity. He urged factions that did not attend the meeting to join the initiative even if they “oppose” it or have “reservations”.

Last month, Burhan pledged in a televised address to stand down and give way to Sudanese factions to agree on a civilian government.

Civilian leaders who were ousted in last year’s coup called his decision a “ruse”, and pro-democracy protesters held firm to their “no negotiation, no partnership” rallying cry with the army.