February 2, 2023

United States and European leaders call on Sudanese military to hand power to civilian-led government

General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan on February 6, 2020 [Twitter]
General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan on February 6, 2020 [Twitter]

The United States and its European partners on Wednesday called on Sudan’s military to honor its commitment to withdraw from the nation’s political affairs and to bring an end to the human rights violations that are being regularly committed against civilians.

Sudanese military general and current national leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on July 4 that the nation’s military will withdraw from ongoing political talks and allow for a civilian-led transitional government to be formed.

“We acknowledge the stated intention of the military forces, upon agreement among civilian parties to form a transitional government, to withdraw from the political scene,” said a joint statement from the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, and European Union released Wednesday.

Longtime Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019 via a military coup d’etat led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. A civilian-led council was later established to govern the nation but the council was dissolved when al-Burhan led a second coup d’etat in October of 2021. Sudan has been under military control for the eight months since.

While al-Burham’s claim that Sudan will return to a civilian-led government has been received by the international community as good news, world leaders are also hesitant to blindly trust that this promise will be followed through with, calling for accountability and asking that the commitment be honored.

“The military and security forces should be held to this commitment. They must also end violence against civilians and hold to account those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights violations and abuses,” said the joint statement from the Troika and European Union.

In 2022, Sudan received a total freedom score from Freedom House of just 10 out of 100, indicating that it is heavily repressive. The organization gave Sudan a political rights score of 0 out of 40 and reports that violent human rights abuses are pervasive throughout the nation.

World leaders encourage an open and pragmatic dialogue to transition into a democratic Sudanese government, saying in the statement that the “process must deliver an agreement that defines: a clear timeline for free and fair elections; procedures for selecting a transitional prime minister and other key officials; and a dispute resolution mechanism to help avoid future political crises.”

While it has been eight months since the most recent military takeover of the Sudanese government, the nation’s path and transition toward democracy has been ongoing for years with plenty of challenges along the way.

The last civilian Sudanese president was in office until 2019; however, Omar al-Bashir’s regime was repressive, authoritarian, and undemocratic. His rule lasted for nearly three decades and elections, the most recent of which took place in 2015, were consistently criticized and recognized as unfair.

“A transitional government must be civilian-led, and have broad-based, nation-wide support. There must also be full clarity on, and oversight of, the military’s role and responsibilities. Such matters cannot be defined unilaterally by the military; they require dialogue and transparency to help avoid future disputes,” asserted the United States and its European partners.

While Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s promise to return Sudan to civilian rule offers hope for the potential democratic future of the nation, leaders are justified in being skeptical and reluctant to fully trust the Sudanese general as he has not proved himself to be a proponent of democracy but rather an adversary.

“Sudanese protesters have been met with violence by government security forces including killings, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence against women, beatings, arrests, and detentions,” reports Human Rights Watch. Although it may claim to be transitioning toward allowing civilian-led governance, Sudan’s military led government has not demonstrated a respect for democratic ideals or human rights.

As the people of Sudan hope and protest for a transition into a future elected civilian-led government, international voices such as American and European leaders will likely play an important role in holding those in power accountable.

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