'Encouraged' US sends envoy to Sudan

'Encouraged' US sends envoy to Sudan
Makila James, the US deputy assistant secretary of state who is in charge of eastern Africa, will head to Khartoum this weekend, an official said.

3 min read
19 April, 2019
The US praised orders by Sudan's new military leader [Getty]

The United States on Thursday praised orders by Sudan's new military leader to free political prisoners and end a night curfew as it dispatched an envoy to Khartoum to encourage a transition to democracy.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that the United States will "calibrate our policies based on our assessment of events" but added that talks on delisting Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism remained suspended.

"We are encouraged by the decision to release political prisoners and cancel the curfew in Khartoum," Ortagus said in a statement.

She said that the United States wanted the military council and other armed units to "show restraint, avoid conflict and remain committed to the protection of the Sudanese people."

"The will of the Sudanese people is clear: it is time to move toward a transitional government that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law," she said.

Last week, the military ousted leader Omar al-Bashir, whose three-decade tenure included welcoming al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to Sudan and leading a crackdown in Darfur described by Washington as genocide.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the second leader to take charge in the week after the coup, ordered the release of prisoners jailed by special emergency courts and lifted a night-time curfew.

He promised to "uproot" the legacy of Bashir's regime, although military rulers say they will stay in charge for two years.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the short-term US goal was to "get the military folks out of center-stage" and "back to being responsible for security, nothing else."

"Longer term is to make absolutely sure that whichever group is going to be responsible for the transition prepares a transition implementation that will lead to a truly democratic government that will reflect the will of the Sudanese people," he said.

The official did not specify whom James would meet in Khartoum but said, "the US engages with everyone."

"Nothing beats being on the ground and actually talking to people, seeing with your own eyes, hearing with your own ears as to what's going on," the official said.

The remarks came as huge crowds of protesters massed again outside Sudan's army headquarters on Thursday, determined to seek civilian rule one week after the military ousted veteran leader Omar al-Bashir.

Every road leading to the protest site was full of people as throngs of demonstrators converged outside the complex in central Khartoum.

Protesters chanting "power to civilians, power to civilians" and "freedom, peace, justice" marched from several areas of the city towards the complex, a witness said.

"It's extremely difficult to move closer to the protest site as there are hundreds and hundreds of people everywhere on roads leading to the complex," a witness said.

The sit-in outside the army headquarters has been the epicentre of the protests for almost two weeks, but numbers had dwindled there in the days since Bashir was toppled.   

Thursday's rally was not convened by protest organisers who campaigned for four months against Bashir's iron-fisted rule, but was a result of widespread calls by activists and individual demonstrators on social media networks.

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