Sudan's military leader comes under increased US pressure amid continuing protests

US envoys threaten action against those responsible for hindering return to democratic transition

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan has repeatedly said he has ordered investigations into the killing of protesters, but he has never been clear as to who will carry them out or when their findings will be released. AFP
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Sudan’s Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan came under increased pressure on Thursday to reverse the consequences of the military's takeover, with senior US envoys threatening to hold accountable those responsible for holding up the country’s democratic transition.

The US has no intention of resuming economic assistance to Sudan that was paused after a coup unless there is an end to violence and a civilian-led government is restored, the country's embassy in Khartoum said on Thursday. The US suspended $700 million of assistance to Sudan as part of wider international punitive measures in response to the coup on October 25.

The US embassy statement, issued during a visit to Sudan by Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield, said Washington would consider measures against those found to have failed to aid a political transition and create a “peaceful environment” for it to proceed. It did not say what such measures could involve.

During their visit, the envoys called for independent investigations into deaths and injuries among those protesting against the military since last year’s coup.

“They strongly condemned the use of disproportionate force against protesters, especially the use of live ammunition and sexual violence and the practice of arbitrary detention,” the statement said.

Besides meeting Gen Al Burhan and military leaders, the American envoys met with representatives of the main pro-democracy groups and families of some of those killed in the protests.

Demonstrations continue in the capital

Meanwhile on Thursday, police used tear gas to disperse thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Umm Dorman who had gathered to protest against military rule and pay their respects to families of some of the 72 people killed by security forces.

Scores of Sudanese judges and prosecutors, meanwhile, condemned the killing of protesters and called for an investigation in rare public statements.

A letter from 55 judges addressed to the head of the judiciary said military leaders had “violated agreements and covenants since the October 25 coup, as they have carried out the most heinous violations against defenceless protesters".

Separately, more than 100 prosecutors announced they would stop work from Thursday in support of their call for security forces to cease rights abuses and lift a state of emergency. They stated their opposition to a recent emergency order that offered immunity and wider powers to security forces.

Another group of about 50 prosecutors called for an investigation into reported abuse against protesters and for prosecutors to be able to monitor demonstrations.

Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly said he has ordered investigations into the killing of protesters, but he has never been clear as to who will carry them out or when their findings will be released.

Similarly, an investigation into the killing in June 2019 of about 100 protesters when security forces broke up a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum has been stymied after it became clear the findings would find top brass at fault.

Gen Al Burhan has long insisted that his power grab in October was not a coup, but rather a move to correct the course of the transition. He has declared the military the sole guardian of the transition and promised free elections in July next year.

However, the pro-democracy movement, which has mobilised millions in protests against the coup, is adamant that the military must leave politics altogether and declared it will not negotiate with Gen Al Burhan and his associates.

They say they will press on with their street protests until a civilian government is in office to lead the country to elections and Gen Al Burhan and other military leaders are put on trial for the killing of the protesters.

“The military must go back to the barracks,” protesters chanted at one rally on Thursday. Others gathered outside the UN headquarters in Khartoum with banners reading “no to external solutions” and called on the UN special representative to Sudan, Volker Perthes, “to leave".

Last week, Mr Perthes launched consultations among Sudanese factions in a bid to resolve Sudan's political crisis.

The ruling military-led Sovereign Council — formed by Gen Al Burhan following the coup with himself as chairman — has welcomed the UN-led dialogue, as have the US, Britain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The pro-democracy movement has called for mass rallies on Friday in memory of the those killed by security forces since the October coup. The last major rally on Monday left seven protesters dead and scores injured in one of the bloodiest days since the military takeover.

AFP and Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: January 20, 2022, 6:28 PM