US threatens travel ban on Sudanese leaders who derail democratic transition

UN warns of perils ahead as stakeholders negotiate details of agreement between military rulers and pro-democracy coalition

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country 'will hold to account spoilers'. Reuters
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The US has warned it would slap a travel ban on any leader in Sudan who threatens to derail the country's democratic transition.

This threat by Secretary of State Antony Blinken followed Monday's signing in Khartoum of a preliminary agreement to restore Sudan's democratic transition, which was upended by the military when it seized power last year.

The deal also envisions the military's withdrawal from politics and the appointment of a civilian prime minister to steer the country through a 24-month transition, followed by free elections.

It was signed by the country's top two generals — military ruler Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his deputy on the ruling Sovereign Council, Gen Mohamed Dagalo.

The other signatory was a major pro-democracy coalition, the Forces for Freedom and Change.

Mr Blinken commended Monday’s deal, brokered by countries including the US, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

He said a travel ban would be imposed on individuals “believed to be responsible for, or complicit, in undermining the democratic transition in Sudan”.

‘‘Recognising the fragility of democratic transitions, the United States will hold to account spoilers — whether military or political actors.’’ Mr Blinken said.

Washington's satisfaction over the political process in Sudan is key to unlocking billions of dollars' worth of aid and debt forgiveness from the US, its European and Gulf Arab allies, as well as international organisations such as the World Bank.

Sudan's Army chief and military ruler Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan. AFP

The aid was suspended in response to last year's military takeover, plunging the nation of 44 million people into its worst economic crisis in living memory.

Although hailed as a potential breakthrough of Sudan's crippling political crisis, Monday's agreement has left out several thorny issues to be dealt with at a later stage.

These include transitional justice, reforming the armed forces and implementation of a peace deal signed with several rebel groups in 2020.

Several political forces stayed away from the deal. These include the powerful Islamists loyal to the regime of former ruler Omar Al Bashir, who was ousted in 2019, and the neighborhood-based, pro-democracy Resistance Committees that have led street protests against military for the past year.

At least 120 civilians were killed in these protests and some 6,000 injured.

Ominously, some of the rebel groups that signed the 2020 peace deal with the military have stated their opposition to the deal.

Demonstrators flee security forces following the signing of a deal between military rulers and a major pro-democracy coalition. AFP

Gen Al Burhan, who led the October 2021 takeover, has emphasised the preliminary nature of the deal when he spoke in television interviews after the signing of Monday's agreement.

He said he wanted other political forces to join in.

Gen Al Burhan also warned politicians against meddling in the “technical affairs” of the military and how it formulates policies to safeguard national security.

UN special envoy for Sudan Volker Perthes, called the agreement “an important breakthrough” but warned in a video briefing from Khartoum to the UN Security Council that “critical contentious issues still need to be addressed in the final agreement.”

He said the UN would like to have an exchange in the next phase of talks on the economic and development priorities of a new government.

He warned that this week’s encouraging progress on the political track “can still be derailed by challenges and spoilers”.

As a final agreement gets closer, Mr Perthes said, “those who don’t see their interests advanced by a political settlement may escalate attempts to undermine the process”.

Updated: December 08, 2022, 10:10 AM