The Biden administration has announced pausing US assistance to Sudan after the military takeover and urged the “immediate” restoration of the civilian-led government.
Department of State spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Monday that Washington will evaluate its “entire relationship” with Khartoum unless the country returns to the “transitional path” to democracy.
The Sudanese military dissolved the transitional government early on Monday and declared a state of emergency after arresting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several members of his cabinet, as well as other civilian officials.
“The United States condemns the actions taken overnight by Sudanese military forces,” Price said on Monday.
“The arrest of civilian government officials and other political leaders, including Prime Minister Hamdok, undermines the country’s transition to democratic civilian rule.”
Since the fall of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir after mass protests in 2019, Hamdok had been leading a transitional government in a power-sharing agreement with the military.
Price warned that the recent developments will affect bilateral ties between Khartoum and Washington if they are not reversed.
“The United States is pausing assistance from the $700m in emergency assistance appropriations of economic support funds for Sudan – those funds were intended to support the country’s democratic transition – as we evaluate the next step for Sudan programming,” he said.
US says it was not given heads up
Ties between the US and Sudan have been warming for the past two years after decades of tensions and mistrust during al-Bashir’s rule.
Last year, the US removed Sudan’s designation as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, and the two countries restored diplomatic ties. The transitional government also agreed to normalise relations with Israel in a US-brokered agreement.
Asked on Monday whether the military takeover will affect the decision to remove Sudan from the state sponsor of terror list and other aspects of the rapprochement, Price said, “Potentially, of course. Our entire relationship with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated.”
US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met Sudanese military and civilian leaders during the weekend, but Price denied that the US administration had prior knowledge about the military takeover.
“To be clear, we were not given any heads up about this,” he said. “Clearly, an action like this is something that the United States would, and now does, oppose.”
Price added that Feltman’s meetings with Sudanese officials were part of his regular trips to the region.
The spokesperson suggested that officially labelling the military takeover as a coup by the Department of State would not have major policy implications because Sudan is already under a coup designation from the putsch that brought al-Bashir to power in 1989.
Congress condemns military takeover
Several top US lawmakers from both major parties described the military takeover in Sudan as a coup and urged releasing civilian leaders.
“I forcefully condemn any efforts to derail Sudan’s transition to democracy and any actions to crack down on those who are peacefully demonstrating in opposition to this purported coup,” Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.
Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “alarmed” by the situation in Sudan.
“These actions undermine Sudan’s transition to democracy & threaten progress toward mending US-Sudan relations,” the committee said in a tweet attributed to Meeks.
Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate’s foreign policy panel, called the military takeover a “deep betrayal of the Sudanese people”.
The reported house arrest of @SudanPMHamdok & arrest of other civilian gov't ministers by #Sudanese military forces reflects a deep betrayal of the Sudanese people & all that #Sudan has struggled to accomplish during its transition period. Sudan’s military must handover power. https://t.co/mJ1Al6vFqP
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member (@SenateForeign) October 25, 2021
The Pentagon also echoed the condemnations in Washington, but it said that it had no military footprint in Sudan that would be affected by the takeover.
“We call on the military to unconditionally release and reinstate all detained civilians in order to allow the civilian-led transition to continue its progress toward elections, and we also call on the Sudanese security forces to respect the right of the Sudanese people to peacefully protest,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.