Two Sudanese rebel leaders were arrested early on
Saturday, opposition sources said, shortly after meeting visiting Ethiopian
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is trying to mediate in a crisis threatening a
transition to democracy.
Abiy had on Friday urged Sudan’s military rulers and civilian opposition to
exercise “bravery” in trying to agree steps toward democracy after the worst
bloodshed since the overthrow in April of President Omar al-Bashir.
The Ethiopian premier visited days after Sudanese forces stormed a protest
camp outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum where demonstrators were
demanding civilian rule. Dozens of people have been killed since Monday.
While no breakthrough was announced at the end of Abiy’s one-day visit, an
aide to the Ethiopian prime minister said the talks went well and that Abiy
would be returning to Sudan soon.
The ruling Transitional Military Council thanked Ethiopia on Saturday for
its mediation efforts, state news agency SUNA said.
The TMC expressed its “openness and keenness to negotiate to reach
satisfactory understandings that will lead to a national consensus…, leading
to the establishment of a democratic transition,” SUNA said.
However, two opposition figures who were at Friday’s meeting with Abiy said
Ismail Jallab, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement-North (SPLM-N), and the armed group’s spokesman Mubarak Ardol were
detained a few hours later.
Abiy offered to mediate after the opposition Declaration of Freedom and Change
Forces (DFCF) alliance’s talks with the TMC over who will lead a transition
period before elections had ground to a halt, then collapsed altogether after
the raid on the protest camp.
Opposition medics say 113 people were killed in the storming of the camp and
subsequent security crackdown. The government has put the week’s death toll at
61, including three members of the security services.
On Wednesday, SPLM-N deputy head Yasir Arman was detained by security
services at his house in Khartoum, the organization said. He had returned from
exile after Bashir was toppled by the military, 30 years after he took power in
a bloodless coup.
Arman had been sentenced to death in absentia for his part in a rebellion
against Bashir’s government that started in the Sudanese state of Blue Nile in
The arrest of Jallab and Ardol came hours after Mohammad Esmat, another DFCF
member, was taken into custody after he met with Abiy.
There was no immediate comment from the TMC on the reported arrests.
“This amounts to a practical response from the military council that
effectively rejects the Ethiopian prime minister’s mediation effort,” Khalid
Omar Yousef, a DFCF leader, told Reuters after Esmat’s arrest.
Yousef said that Abiy had proposed setting up a transitional council
comprised of eight civilians and seven military officers with a rotating
The opposition demanded that the military rulers take responsibility for the
bloodshed, allow an international investigation into the violence and free
political prisoners, Yousef added. The Sudanese opposition would not agree to
any deal before all of its conditions are met, he said.
The SPLM-N includes many fighters who sided with South Sudanese rebels in
decades of civil war fueled by ethnicity, oil and ideology that ended in a 2005
But they were left inside Sudan when that agreement paved the way to the
secession of South Sudan in 2011.