Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa and The Sudans Makila James spoke at the session of the United States House of Representatives on June 25, 2019. She was to describe the situation in Sudan she had just returned from, however, her report sounded more like an ultimatum.
Essence of US claims
Speaking through Makila James’ mouth, official Washington held accountable for all the civilian casualties exclusively Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC). Its members were also blamed for deliberately blocking the provision of medical assistance to the protesters and humanitarian aid to the population of Sudan at large. The Sudanese authorities are also accused of blocking the Internet in the republic and restricting the media – the measures the Washington officials regard as unjustified.
According to the US ambassador, Chairman of the Transitional Military Council General Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan was warned that he would be held personally liable in the event of mass casualties among the protesters.
Interestingly enough, during her speech, Makila James in fact acknowledged the US involvement in organizing the crisis in Sudan. According to her, Washington had for decades provided support, including financial one, to establish various NGOs in Sudan, which in 2018–2019 turned into the main driving force of the protests.
What State Department woman wants
From what Makila James said, the United States intends to seek from Sudan’s TMC the swiftest possible handover of power to a civilian government. The TMC’s proposal to hold the democratic elections in the country in 9 months was considered unacceptable. It is claimed, such an electoral calendar would help the military to retain power in the country.
James also voiced a demand that the Sudanese authorities must withdraw the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) from Khartoum claiming their units had allegedly participated in clashes with the opposition on June 3, 2019. The RSF are the closest thing to the internal troops. They used to be controlled by the National Security and Intelligence Service but, after the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir, the RSF were reassigned to the army. The RSF’s leader, Lt General Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Hamdan Daglo, also serves as the Deputy Head of the TMC.
Washington also insists on the TMC conducting an investigation of the June 3 events and bringing to justice those responsible, in particular, the RSF members and the Ministry of Defence officials linked to them.
It is necessary to emphasise that the Sudanese authorities are already investigating the June 3 riots, and their viewpoint on the causes and the extent of the incident radically differs from Washington’s opinion. Basically, Khartoum was urged to identify those responsible from the already designated circle of perpetrators without any investigation whatsoever. Given the content of the publications in the Western press, this also means the need to ‘sacrifice’ Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, which may well lead to the start of a full-scale civil war in Sudan.
Leverage over Sudan
Makila James assured the audience that diplomacy would become the main weapon of the US in the ‘struggle for democracy in Sudan.’ However, this did not prevent her from describing in her speech various methods of ‘peace enforcement’ that could be applied to the republic authorities.
According to Makila James, the options of applying various sanctions to the Sudanese authorities are still being discussed. In her speech, she mentioned both economic pressure measures and non-issuance of visas to the Sudanese leadership representatives. She added that Washington was able to achieve mutual understanding with Sudan’s main financial donors – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Makila James claimed the allocation of next financial tranches to Khartoum would be coordinated with the US. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State also mentioned that threats of new sanctions would be combined with the promises to lift the previously imposed restrictions.
It is worth reminding that the US still identifies Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. This, despite the fact that Khartoum actively helped Washington in the fight against al-Qaeda after September 11, 2001. The status of a state sponsor of terrorism reduces the ability to attract foreign investment to Sudan. The latter becomes even more painful with the agreement reached between Washington, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. It was this particular promise to dispose of the state sponsor of terrorism status that Makila James described as the most significant US leverage over Khartoum.
As James made clear, the United States also plans to use the extensive network of contacts created by its allies from Abu Dhabi and Riyadh within the local elites to influence Sudan. This network includes representatives of the leadership of the army and special services, as well as party, trade union and religious leaders. That hints at the US’s willingness to organise a coup d’état in Sudan.
All of the above makes it clear that the US is expanding the scope of its intervention into the political process in Sudan, thereby sabotaging the efforts of the local elites and the neighbouring states to stabilise the situation in the republic.
Nikolay Ponomaryov, a leading analyst of Foundation for National Values Protection