Egypt hosted African leaders for emergency talks Tuesday on the upheavals in neighbouring Sudan and Libya, as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned against “a slide into chaos”.
Sisi, current chair of the African Union, called for a coherent regional response as protesters in Khartoum pressed demands for a civilian government and Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces bear down on Tripoli.
The leaders in Cairo called for an “immediate halt” to the fighting in Libya and urged Sudan’s new military rulers to implement “peaceful, organised and democratic transition measures” within three months, the Egyptian presidency said.
But they also agreed on “the need for more time” for a transition, urging the African Union to extend its end of April deadline for the ruling military council to hand power to civilians or face suspension from the bloc.
An extension would ease international pressure on the council, which took power after the army’s toppling of longtime president Omar al-Bashir, to yield power.
Bashir left office on April 11, but protesters have continued to hold mass rallies and world powers have backed their calls for a swift transition to a non-military government — demands the council has so far resisted.
Addressing the Sudan meeting, Sisi called for “African solutions to African problems” and urged the country’s political actors to “safeguard the state’s institutions… in order to prevent a slide into chaos”.
Last month, he warned against the dangers created by protests, without explicitly naming Sudan or Algeria, where demonstrations have toppled another long-time leader, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The Egyptian president also called on the international community to “shoulder the pressing economic burden” facing Sudan.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday announced three billion dollars in financial aid for Khartoum.
The AU suspended both Egypt and the Central African Republic in 2013 following coups in both countries. Both have since had their membership restored.
It has echoed Sudanese protesters’ demands, saying “a military-led transition would be completely contrary to the aspirations of the people of Sudan”.
Attending the Cairo talks were senior officials from across the continent, including South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
First African talks on Libya
In the first African summit on Libya’s latest crisis, the leaders meeting in Cairo also called for an “immediate and unconditional halt” to fighting in Libya.
The AU’s Libya “troika”, which includes Sisi and his Rwandan and South African counterparts, urged “all parties to act with restraint” and to facilitate “the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognised unity government, on April 4.
Fighting on the southern edges of the capital has so far left at least 264 dead and wounded more than 1,200 others, according to the World Health Organization.
The United Nations says the Haftar offensive has also displaced more than 30,000 people, and threatens a broader conflict in the North African country.
Egypt and the UAE, which strongly oppose Islamist militants and the Muslim Brotherhood, back Haftar, who also spoke by telephone to President Donald Trump last week, according to the White House.
Before the launch of the Tripoli assault, AU commission chair Moussa Faki had said the organisation would host a “reconciliation” conference in July aimed at uniting Libya’s political rivals.
A similar effort by the UN was postponed following the launch of Haftar’s offensive.
Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 ouster of dictator Moamer Gaddafi and a series of international efforts have so far failed to stem the violence.