US Assumes More Active Role in Mediating Sudan Unrest

Top State Department official traveling to Khartoum, though Washington’s policy on country’s role in terror remains unchanged.

June 14, 2019 05:36
3 minute read.
US Assumes More Active Role in Mediating Sudan Unrest

Sudanese demonstrators cheer as they attend a protest rally demanding Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to step down outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 11, 2019. (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)


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The United States will be taking on a more active role to end the current conflict in Sudan when Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy travels to the country this month.

Nagy will also be visiting Mozambique and South Africa during his June 12-23 Africa tour. His stop in Khartoum is intended to bolster the efforts of Ethiopian officials – who up until now have assumed the role of primary mediators in Sudan – as well as representatives from the African Union to reach a resolution for a power transfer to a civilian government.

President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years, was overthrown by a military coup in April following months of protests. The military retained its control over the country and the Sudanese people have been protesting for civilian rule.

Nagy will meet with the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which represents a consortium of Bashir’s adversaries, and the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), made up of generals and other high-ranking officers, to discuss a peaceful resolution to the governing dispute.

The two sides announced yesterday that they would recommence talks to create an interim independent governing body, and that civilians in Khartoum had agreed to stop their protests.

The same day, the US appointed Ambassador Donald Booth as special envoy to Sudan, tasked with advising Nagy. Booth was a special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan in the second term of the Obama administration.

A State Department spokesperson told The Media Line in an email that the U.S. was opposed to the Sudanese military having majority rule and would be advocating for civilian rule.

“Since December, the people of Sudan have clearly and peacefully called for new leaders. We continue to urge the two sides to reach agreement on the formation of a civilian-led government, which places primary authority for governing with civilians,” the spokesperson wrote. “The United States remains firmly committed to working with the people of Sudan, along with our international partners, in pursuit of a peaceful solution in Sudan. Senior Department officials are engaging now with officials in the region, and we call for restraint from violence and [a] resumption of dialogue.”

Sudan’s status as one of the four nations on Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List, alongside North Korea, Syria and Iran, is expected to be discussed at the meetings. Sudan has been advocating to be removed from the list since it was placed there in August 1993.

The listing is accompanied by sanctions that have financially devastating consequences, including an essential embargo on private investment in the country for almost all international companies.

Some experts argue that Sudan’s exclusion from the list is more likely to happen now that Bashir has been removed. The process would involve concessions on the part of the Sudanese, which would include measurable commitments to prove the country is no longer backing terrorist activities or providing a safe haven for such groups to plan attacks.

“Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism remains in effect.  We will continue to calibrate our policies based on our assessment of events on the ground and the actions of transitional authorities,” the State Department official told The Media Line.

According to Eric Reeves, a US-based independent analyst on Sudan, the country will not make progressive strides in governance if the military remains in power.

“Sudan will not be more democratic than it was under former president Omar al-Bashir’s rule as long as the military council remains in power; they are just as ruthless, undemocratic and repressive as the [previous] regime,” he told The Media Line by email.

He said Nagy’s visit would be more of a symbolic gesture than a move that leads to substantive change.

“I doubt [U.S. President Donald] Trump will give him much power to rein in the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, [who are] the key regional supporters of the military council,” said Reeves.

He did not foresee a peaceful end to the conflict anytime soon.

“Continuing violence, particularly by the Rapid Support Forces [government-controlled paramilitary troops], seems inevitable,” Reeves said. “Until the regular army (Sudanese Armed Forces) steps in, things will get worse.”

Tara Kavaler is an intern in The Media Line's Press and Policy Studies

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