US, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia 'encouraged' by Sudan political agreement

Protecting demonstrators from violence should remain a priority, the four nations say

Sudanese protestors clash with security forces during a protest near the presidential palace in Khartoum. EPA
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The US, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that they were “encouraged” by the political agreement in Sudan after Abdalla Hamdok was reinstated as prime minister following a military coup in October.

The quartet said in a joint statement that November's agreement is "a first step to resolving Sudan’s political challenges and returning the country to its transition to democracy" based on an agreement signed between the military and civilian parties in 2019 after the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al Bashir earlier that year.

Sudan was rocked by a military coup led by the head of the ruling Sovereign Council, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, in October. The move interrupted a fragile planned transition to democratic rule more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of Al Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

On November 21, Mr Hamdok was reinstated amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic cabinet under military oversight led by him. There has been strong opposition to the deal and protest groups have mounted demonstrations on the streets of the capital Khartoum and elsewhere since the takeover.

Crackdowns on protests have killed at least 44 people, many from gunshots fired by security forces, according to medics aligned with the protest movement.

In the joint statement on Thursday, the quartet said protecting demonstrators against violence should remain a “priority".

“We urge signatories to live up to the commitments made in the political agreement. In this respect, we note with appreciation the recent releases of political detainees, and the establishment of a committee of investigation to ensure that those responsible for violence against protestors are held accountable,” the quartet said.

The countries also urged Sudanese authorities to lift the state of emergency implemented by Gen Burhan on October 25, stressing "the importance of the early publication of a credible roadmap towards elections in late 2023 or early 2024."

Sudanese protest after military deal with prime minister

Sudanese protesters lift national flags during a demonstration calling for a return to civilian rule in the capital Khartoum, on November 21, 2021.  (Photo by AFP)

The US government earlier decried the violence and announced its support for the civilian movement.

“We stand with the Sudanese people as they seek freedom, peace and justice in … demonstrations,” the US embassy said in a statement on Monday.

Now in their eighth week, the demonstrations continue and Mr Hamdok's promised cabinet has yet to be formed.

Staunch oppositionists insist that the military should rotate their leadership of the transitional council -- a body made up of equal numbers of military and civilian members with one mutually agreed on tie-breaker -- to a civilian, as per the terms of the original 2019 transitional power-sharing agreement.

Gen Burhan seized control just weeks before control of the council was set to pass from the military to the civilian leadership.

The four countries also stressed the need for political dialogue that includes all stakeholders.

"We also ... stress the importance of inviting all components of the 2019 civilian-military partnership to participate in a dialogue process," they said.

Updated: December 16, 2021, 4:00 PM