Senior US official criticises Sudan's military over violence and threatens consequences

Molly Phee's comments follow a day of renewed violence in Sudan, with security forces killing three protesters

Protesters during a rally against military rule in Khartoum, Sudan's capital. Reuters

A leading US official who visited Sudan last week criticised the country’s military leaders for the continuing use of violence against peaceful protesters and the arrest of pro-democracy activists.

Sudan’s military leaders could face consequences, Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee said late on Monday.

Ms Phee and the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, met Sudan’s army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and other leading generals when they visited Khartoum last week.

Gen Al Burhan, who led a coup three months ago that upended Sudan’s democratic transition, promised after meeting the two diplomats to start a national dialogue to find a way out of the country's deepening political crisis. He also promised to investigate the killing of protesters since the October 25 coup.

The coup sparked a wave of mass street protests to demand civilian rule. The demonstrations have been met with deadly violence by security forces, who have used live rounds, stun grenades and tear gas. At least 76 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded.

Three were killed on Monday, two in Khartoum and one in the city of Wad Medani, south of the capital.

Security forces fire tear gas at protesters in Khartoum. Reuters

“After SE [special envoy] Satterfield and I met military leaders … they publicly committed to dialogue to resolve the current crisis,” Ms Phee wrote on Twitter. “Yet their actions – more violence against protesters, detention of civil society activists – tell a different story, and will have consequences.”

The US has been among the most vocal critics of the Sudanese military since the October 25 coup, suspending aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It has said there would be no resumption of aid until a civilian government is in office. Ms Phee did not say what further action Washington would take against the military.

Gen Al Burhan, who has promised a free election for 2023, has repeatedly said he will investigate the killing of protesters since the coup as well as sexual assaults on female demonstrators during a rally last month.

The general, however, has consistently failed to explain who will be investigating, the scope of the investigation or when findings will be publicised.

Similarly, Gen Al Burhan signed off on a high-profile, independent investigation into the killing of about 100 protesters in June 2019. The violence happened when security forces broke up a sit-in protest outside the headquarters of the armed forces in central Khartoum.

The investigation, led by a prominent lawyer, was due to present its findings by early 2020. Activists claim that the army's top brass have stymied the inquiry for fear it could implicate them.

Separately, a medical group aligned with the pro-democracy movement said that besides the three killed on Monday, at least 100 others were injured, of whom 32 suffered gunshot wounds. It also accused the security forces of deliberately hindering medics from taking the wounded to hospitals.

In one case, they fired warning shots at the entrance of the Royal Care hospital in Khartoum to stop the medics from taking the wounded inside, said the group, the Central Committee of Sudan's Doctors.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 3:41 PM
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