Khartoum / London — The head of the Sudan Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, left Khartoum for London on Sunday morning, accompanied by Foreign Minister-designate, Ambassador Ali El Sadig, to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who died at the age of 96 on Thursday.
The funeral, which will be held in Westminster Abbey at 11:00 (BST) today, will be attended by about 500 presidents, prime ministers, royalty and other dignitaries from across the globe. However critics in Sudan say El Burhan’s attendance is “an attempt to break the barrier of isolation” of the Khartoum junta following thecoup d’état of October 25, 2021.
A media statement issued by the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) confirmed that El Burhan will visit the UK, accompanied by the Foreign Minister designate, Ambassador Ali El Sadiq. “During the visit, the President of the Sovereignty Council will extend condolences and sympathy of the Sudanese Government and people on the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the Royal Family and the British people,” the SUNA statement says.
It recalls the visit by Queen Elizabeth II to Sudan in 1965, “during which the Sudanese showed feelings of cordiality, appreciation and respect”, and continues: “Sudan’s participation in this sad occasion also comes in recognition of the strong ties linking Sudan with the United Kingdom. The two countries have close relations that are deeply rooted in history.”
However, in an interview with Radio Dabanga, Saleh El Din El Doma, professor of political science at Sudanese universities, argues that El Burhan’s visit to Britain was an attempt to break the barrier of isolation following the coup. “It is a scramble behind international forums in an effort to search for recognition and legitimacy,” he says.
Prof El Doma says that the visit does not have any strategic weight. He explained that “the invitation was simply extended to the highest authority in Sudan right now”.
He further suggests that as El Burhan was seen off at Khartoum airport yesterday by Sovereignty Council member Lt Gen Shamseldin Kabbashi, instead of Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo ‘Hemeti’, could be a sign of a rift developing between the two men.
Commenting on conflicting statements by Hemeti and media advisor to El Burhan and the Sudan Armed Forces, Lt Gen El Taher Abu Haja, as reported by Radio Dabanga yesterday, Prof El Doma suggests that “the information provided by Hemeti in his statement about his meeting with El Burhan about withdrawing from power and ceding it to civilians is correct, however Abu Haja’s statements indicate that El Burhan wants to go back on his promises.”
He said that the differences between El Burhan and Hemeti will contribute to weakening the junta, which will have a positive impact on the revolution and the revolutionaries, and will reduce the negative effects of the differences on the country in general.
El Burhan also travels to London just weeks after making demands that the United Kingdom provide an official apology for crimes committed during the British colonial era. In a speech celebrating the 124th anniversary of the Battle of Karari, also known as the Battle of Omdurman, which was fought on September 2, 1898 between British-Egyptian and Sudanese Mahdist forces, El Burhan described the British actions as a crime against humanity that should be accounted for.
“They [the British forces] committed murder and atrocities for four days after the battle,” said El Burhan, before going on to describe British actions as “tantamount to genocide and ethnic cleansing”.
In 2008, the now-ousted President Omar Al Bashir, also called for Britain and other western countries to apologise for the ‘massacres’ that took place in Sudan and other countries, and to return what had been stolen.