UN calls on Sudan’s military to restore transitional government

UN Security Council unanimously expresses ‘serious concern’ over the military coup in Sudan but fails to take stronger action.

Sudanese people have staged protests against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule [File: AFP via Getty Images]

The United Nations Security Council has issued its first statement since the military dissolved the country’s power-sharing transitional government, expressing “serious concern” but falling short of issuing a stronger condemnation of the coup.

In a press statement approved by all 15 council members on Thursday, the UN’s most powerful body expressed “solidarity” with the Sudanese people and “called upon all parties to exercise the utmost restraint, refrain from the use of violence and emphasised the importance of full respect for human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression”.

It also demanded the immediate release of all those detained and affirmed its readiness “to support efforts to realise Sudan’s democratic transition” and the peoples’ aspirations “for an inclusive, peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous future”.

The British-drafted text was the product of days of laborious talks among council members that had started with an urgent session on Tuesday. It went through several revisions, diplomats said, mainly to address objections from Russia, which did not want to “condemn” the military takeover as originally proposed.

At the insistence of China, the text notes explicitly that deposed Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok had returned home on Tuesday evening after having been arrested. The UN has maintained he is being denied freedom of movement.

The military took power in the East African country on Monday after a period of intense political crisis, including street demonstrations demanding that the military end its involvement in the government.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who previously headed a transitional government together with Hamdok, announced on Monday that the civilian government had been dissolved and declared a state of emergency.

Foreign diplomats met Hamdok late on Wednesday at his residence and reported him being in good health.

Reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey said the document issued by the Security Council was a press statement and did not have the same weight as a resolution, which are necessary for the Security Council to issue sanctions or start a peace-keeping mission.

While showing that the Security Council is united in expressing concern for the situation, “it didn’t go as far as some council members wanted” in condemning the military takeover, Saloomey said.

Earlier this week, UN chief Antonio Guterres had pointed to strong geopolitical divides within the Security Council causing “difficulties in taking strong measures”.

“My appeal is for – especially the big powers – to come together for the unity of the Security Council in order to make sure that there is effective deterrence in relation to this epidemic of coup d’éetats,” Guterres said on Tuesday. “We have seen that effective deterrence today is not in place.”

International pressure against the coup grows has been mounting. US President Joe Biden on Thursday also urged Sudan’s military leaders to immediately release all those detained and restore the institutions associated with the transitional government.

“The events of recent days are a grave setback, but the United States will continue to stand with the people of Sudan and their non-violent struggle to advance the goals of Sudan’s revolution,” Biden said in a statement.

“Freedom, equality, government under rule of law, and respect for human rights must be the foundation for future security and prosperity in Sudan, just as they are all around the world.”

Several Western embassies in Khartoum have said they will keep recognising toppled Prime Minister Hamdok and his cabinet as “the constitutional leaders of the transitional government” of Sudan.

On Wednesday Sudan’s ruling military announced it would sack six ambassadors, including Sudan’s ambassadors to the United States, the European Union, China, Qatar, France and the head of the country’s mission to the Swiss city of Geneva, apparently over their rejection of the military takeover.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies