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Hundreds of Sudanese protesters demand UN chief quit

A Sudanese women protests outside the United Nations headquarters in Khartoum, calling for the UN chief in Sudan to quit. ©AFP

Khartoum (AFP) - Hundreds of Sudanese protesters on Wednesday demanded the dismissal of the United Nations mission chief, who is working to resolve a political crisis sparked by last year's military coup.

Wednesday's protests, outside the mission's headquarters in the capital Khartoum, criticised efforts by UN special representative Volker Perthes, who heads the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS).

Many of the protesters were supporters of Islamist groups, and come a day after Islamist leader Mohamed Ali Al-Gizouli accused Perthes of "interfering" in Sudan's internal affairs during a seminar titled "the negative impact of the UN mission on the launch of Sudanese dialogue".

"Volker, you German, the crisis will be solved by the Sudanese," protesters chanted.Others called on Perthes to "leave".

The rallies come as the UN Security Council mulled over extending the mission's mandate beyond June 3.

Sudan has been rocked by deepening unrest since an October 25 coup staged by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, which sparked regular anti-coup protests across much of the country. 

The power grab derailed a fragile power-sharing agreement between the army and civilians negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

A violent crackdown on the anti-coup protests has left nearly 100 people killed, according to pro-democracy medics.

Some protesters on Wednesday said they were angry that the UN were involving the civilian alliance known as the Forces of Freedom and Change in talks.

"Volker came to involve parties (of the FFC)...Sudanese society is against these parties," protester Ahmed Ali said.

'Heavy socio-economic toll'

In March, Perthes told the UN Security Council that Sudan was heading towards "an economic and security collapse" unless its civilian-led transition was restored.

In April, Burhan threatened to expel Perthes over alleged "interference" in the country's affairs. 

Last month, Perthes said the political stalemate was "impacting the security situation" and "continues to exact a heavy socio-economic toll" in Sudan. 

Meanwhile, military officials from Sudan's ruling sovereign council met with UN representatives, as well as officials from the African Union and the regional bloc IGAD.

The meeting discussed "the launch of direct talks" among Sudanese factions next week, a statement by the sovereign council said.

The UN mission, along with the AU and IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis.

Western governments have backed the mediation efforts and urged Sudanese factions to participate in the process. 

On Sunday, Burhan lifted the state of emergency imposed since the coup to set the stage for "meaningful dialogue that achieves stability for the transitional period".

The decision came after a meeting with senior military officials, that also recommended that people detained under an emergency law be freed.

The UN mission welcomed Burhan's decision, urging Sudanese authorities to "complete the release of detainees". 

Sudanese authorities have since April released a number of anti-coup civilian leaders and pro-democracy activists arrested in the crackdown. 

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