The military council in Sudan turned from talks to terror this week as it broke off negotiations with protestors. This left over a hundred civilians dead and many more injured.
It’s a very sad state of affairs that only the African Union (AU) has taken a decisive stand against the crackdown. On Thursday the AU suspended Sudan’s membership and threatened punitive sanctions if the military transitional council does not relinquish power to civilians. Today, Friday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad arrived in Khartoum to help negotiate a way forward.
The Arab League, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states put out only anodyne statements urging restraint on all sides. The White House and the US Secretary of State have remained generally silent.
On the positive side, David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, called the Saudi defense minister and urged Riyadh to use its well known influence with Sudan’s military to end the crackdown. And indeed this seems to have made a difference, as the Sudanese junta stopped the crackdown, at least for now, and promised a resumption of talks.
So the US seems to have influence, but much more needs to be done. The aspirations of the Sudanese people to bring decades of tyranny to an end and move toward elected and accountable government should not be allowed to be crushed by another military dictatorship.
If there is little hope coming from the Arab countries, at least the US should follow the lead of the African Union by threatening serious consequences and sanctions on the Sudanese transitional military regime if it does not immediately resume talks and quickly relinquish power to a civilian body.
This is also a chance for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to show both moral and political leadership by visiting Khartoum and emphasizing US insistence on a peaceful transition.
The idea that the Sudanese people should be left to the terrors of the Janjaweed militia that terrorized Darfur for so many years is too horrific to contemplate. It’s not only morally unconscionable but it will also lead to a disintegration of order in Sudan and perhaps years of chaos and bloodshed. A negotiated transition to civilian rule in Khartoum is both a moral and practical necessity.
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