Johannesburg – As the death toll of Sudanese protesters shot by the notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) escalates, questions are being raised as to what the international community and specifically regional body the African Union (AU) will do to stop the situation descending even further into the abyss.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) met on Tuesday but failed to agree on a common position with Russia and China blocking decisive action by the UN.
The US administration and the European Union (EU), meanwhile, are pressing the AU to take a tough stance by June 30 if the military junta fails to reconsider its position of refusing to negotiate with the opposition unless it has more power in any future government.
However, the history of the AU in regard to military coups in Africa - in addition to member states leaders’ own involvement in such - don’t bode well for Sudanese hopes of meaningful support.
Following the overthrow of Bashir in early April the AU released a communiqué on 15 April giving Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) 15 days to hand over power to a civilian authority or face suspension from the bloc.
But in late April select African leaders convened in Cairo for an "emergency summit" to discuss events in Sudan and Libya with the leaders adopting a resolution giving the generals in Khartoum yet another three more months to hand over power to civilian authorities.
That deadline was later extended once again.
“Broadly speaking, the choice of the heads of state that gathered in Cairo (never mind the venue) was ominous. All of them, save for South Africa, are leaders of countries which are not free and cannot be expected to want democracy in Khartoum. If anything, they hold just contempt for the protesters in Khartoum,” said African journalist Ronald Kato, who is a fellow at the China-Africa Press Centre.
Chadian president, Idris Deby, who has clamped down on political opposition and shut the internet down for over a year as well as being accused of being involved in stealing Chad’s oil wealth, was invited to take part in the talks – an invitation only the AU can explain.
Furthermore, the current chairperson of the AU, Egypt’s autocratic President Abdel-Fateh El Sisi who himself came to power on the back of a military coup in 2013 wouldn’t be expected to be too critical of a similar situation in neighbouring Sudan.
While condemning this week’s violence and calling for a transparent investigation the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, released a rather bland statement several days ago.
In the statement Faki said that the AU was determined to continue supporting the Sudanese people in consolidating a political agreement in line with relevant AU Peace and Security Council decisions – a significant back-pedalling from the earlier threat of suspending Sudan from the AU.
Eritrea’s foreign minister in a Wednesday statement slammed the continental organisation.
“Its evident weaknesses aside the AU’s posturing on the events unfolding in the Sudan is a recent and vivid illustration of a deplorable state of affairs,” said Osman Muhammad.
Kato was even more scathing in his assessment.
“As Sudan’s revolution faces the real threat of failure, it is the response and (in)action of the AU that’s most interesting,” said Kato in a recent article in Africa News.
While the European Union and the US urged an end to the violence, the AU looked on as if all was well in Khartoum and Omudurman, he added.
“The body has been vague, inconsistent, reactive and utterly inept at responding to developments in Sudan,” asserted Kato, adding that it has lost all leverage and can’t keep up either diplomatically or otherwise in “characteristic fashion”.