Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Questions (40)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

40. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions he is taking to address the latest death toll as a result of attacks on pro-democracy protesters in Sudan calling for the transfer of authority from the military to civilians after Omar al-Bashir was overthrown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24944/19]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Foreign)

This question is about the situation in Sudan, what is happening there and how the Government there is attacking the peaceful demonstrators. After an incredibly peaceful removal of the 30 year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, the military junta now known as a transitional military council is refusing to hand over power to civilians. What will the Irish Government do in relation to that situation?

The recent political events and violence against protestors in Sudan follows over six months of demonstrations, triggered initially by the spiralling costs of living.

On 11 April, it was announced that President Omar al-Bashir had been removed from power and that a transitional military council, TMC, had assumed control in Sudan.

Demonstrators, while welcoming the removal of al-Bashir, continued to demonstrate for a civilian-led government. Final agreement regarding a civilian majority on a proposed 11-member supreme council was opposed by the transitional military council, and negotiations stalled.

Shortly after dawn on 3 June, heavily armed security forces surrounded demonstrators and shot indiscriminately with live bullets and tear gas resulting in significant loss of life. On the same day, the TMC announced that it was cancelling all agreements with the opposition and elections would be held within nine months. Demonstrators demand a longer period to guarantee fair elections.

On 3 June, the EU High Representative, Ms Mogherini, stated that there can be no justification for the use of force to disperse peaceful protests, and that the TMC is accountable for security and rule of law in the country. I also issued a statement strongly condemning the use of violence and excessive force against protestors.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council met yesterday, 17 June, to discuss Sudan. An EU 28 statement issued following the meeting which condemned the violence against protestors, including sexual and gender-based violence. It also expressed EU support for the African Union, which has taken a principled and robust stance to the crisis.

My officials continue to actively monitor developments in Sudan, through the Embassy of Ireland in Nairobi, and through the European Union delegation in Khartoum. Senior officials from my Department also met the Sudanese ambassador to Ireland earlier this year to discuss the situation. Ireland continues to respond to ongoing humanitarian needs through the provision of humanitarian funding, with over €29 million provided through our UN, NGO and Red Cross partners since 2012.

This is a very serious situation. There are many Sudanese citizens, for instance, doctors, in Ireland who are very concerned about what is happening there.

I welcome the EU statement yesterday in relation to the African Union and the establishment of a civilian-led authority, and that Ireland has supported the EU statement. What will the EU do to ensure that takes place and what additional supports can the EU offer to the African Union to allow it to broker that?

It is vitally important that this so-called government be removed. That is the only thing that can ultimately ensure the safety of the people and allow a move back to democratic control and a government elected by the people. I will be interested to see what it is actually intended to do over and above the making of statements.

I thank the Deputies for observing the time. The Tánaiste has one minute to reply.

I will try to respond to the question from Deputy Pringle. The African Union has demonstrated robust and principled leadership in response to the crisis since the transitional military council assumed power in Sudan on 11 April. It set 30 June as the deadline for the transfer of power to a civilian authority and on 6 June decided, with immediate effect, to suspend Sudan from participation in all African Union activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority. This followed sustained but ultimately unsuccessful engagement with Sudan in the weeks since the transitional military council seized control.

This decision was publicly supported by the EU in a statement by the High Representative. I welcome the appointment of an African Union special envoy for Sudan who has been tasked with mediating between the authorities and the opposition. The envoy attended this week's meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, FAC, to inform EU foreign ministers about his activities. We will continue to support the African Union and that is the way forward in trying to get a successful outcome.

That is very welcome. I want to ensure that the EU is not carrying out any unilateral talks with the government and that it is going through the African Union. It is vitally important that a united front is upheld to show that this situation is unacceptable and that what has to happen is a transition to civilian power to resolve this situation. I also want to ensure that the European Union will support the African Union fully to ensure that happens.

The EU has made the judgment call here. As I stated, I was not at that meeting this week because I was in Belfast. The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, was at the meeting, however, and I will talk to her about it. I do think that the judgment of the EU is correct. This needs to be an African-led solution and this is an important intervention by the African Union. Suspending Sudan was a significant statement in response to what was happening. The EU now needs to be very clear and unambiguous in support of the need for a civilian-led government and the facilitation of free and fair elections within the right timeframe.