US threatens to impose sanctions on Sudanese, hampering return to democracy

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UNITED NATIONS – The United States on Tuesday called for speedy progress in Sudan’s military-to-civilian rule and threatened sanctions on anyone who obstructs or hinders the transition to democracy.

US Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Mills said Washington supported the joint efforts of the UN political mission in Sudan, the African Union and the eight-nation regional group IGAD to facilitate the transition to a Sudan-led democracy.

Speaking before the Security Council, he urged Sudan’s civilian and military forces to use the process to move quickly “within the framework of a civilian-led interim government.”

Sudan has been in turmoil since a military coup overthrew the powerful Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule in October. Al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed government were ousted in a popular uprising in April 2019.

The military has called for a return to civilian rule and for security forces to crack down on protesters. The coup has sent Sudan’s already fragile economy to the brink of collapse, with living conditions deteriorating rapidly.

The two main opposition groups, the Sudanese Professional Association and the Resistance Committee, have long called for the removal of the military and the establishment of a full-fledged civilian government.

The generals say they will only hand over power to the elected administration. They said the election would be held in July 2023, as planned in a constitutional document.

Mills hopes the dialogue, supported by the UN, AU and the East African IGAD regional group, “will be successful and soon.”

“The transfer of power to a civilian-led government will enable the recovery of international financial aid and development assistance – the support that is sorely needed,” the ambassador said. “We are ready to take action against those who obstruct or otherwise undermine the transition to democracy in Sudan, to ensure that progress can be made and that the people of Sudan are well served.”

In UN diplomatic parlance, “consequence” means sanctions.

The UN special envoy to Sudan, Volker Parthes, was asked what he thought the sanctions would do, and replied: “I believe in incentives more than sanctions.”

He said that since the end of March, Sudanese authorities had released at least six detainees, including high-profile officials and staff, but that there were at least 111 detainees in Khartoum, Port Sudan and elsewhere.

Violence by security forces against protesters appears to have subsided, with another protester killed on Saturday, bringing the total to 96, he said.

“If authorities want to build trust, those responsible for the violence against protesters must be held accountable,” Parthes said.

Following the initial release of detainees and the reduction in violence, Parthes said the United Nations, the EU and the IGAD had begun indirect talks with the parties on key issues on 12 May. These include the term and composition of key constitutional organs, the future relationship between military and civilian elements, and the process and criteria for electing a prime minister, he said.

To reach an understanding on these issues, Parthes said, “will help pave the way out of the crisis and address the institutional vacuum after the coup.”

The UN envoy was also on alert.

“Let me be clear: there are some spoilers who do not want a peaceful transition to democracy, or reject a solution through dialogue,” Parthes said. “Sudanese parties should not allow such spoilers to waste their chances of exiting the crisis through negotiations.”

Al-Harith Mohammed, the new UN ambassador to Sudan, told the council: “We are working to complete the political transition in Sudan and move towards democracy, freedom, peace and justice.”

He said the government was involved in the UN, EU and IGAD initiatives to build a national consensus and establish a civilian government. “And in this case, the military will hand over power to the government,” but the ultimate goal is democratic elections.

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