Sudan crisis: US and Ethiopia step up efforts to defuse tension between military and protestors

The United States and Ethiopia have increased efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Sudan after protestors called off a general strike and civil disobedience campaign, and businesses reopened in capital city Khartoum, AP reported.

Last week, paramilitary forces killed at least 60 people in a two-day crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Khartoum. According to protestors, security forces killed more than 100 people in the capital and across the country. The country has been roiled by protests since April, when peaceful demonstrators forced out President Omar al-Bashir because of rising prices. The military council then took power and imposed a three-month state of emergency.

The US State Department on Wednesday appointed veteran diplomat Donald Booth its special envoy for Sudan. Booth, a retired US ambassador and special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from August 2013 to January 2017, “will lead US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people”, the State Department said.

“His appointment demonstrates that the United States has a firm commitment to the Sudanese people and efforts to advance a peaceful political solution,” CNN quoted State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus as saying.

The envoy was already in the region on Wednesday, travelling with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy to Sudan and Ethiopia, the State Department added. They are expected to urge the Sudanese security forces to end attacks on civilians, withdraw the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces from Khartoum, and allow an independent investigation into last week’s violence.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said the military council and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which is pushing for civilian rule, had agreed to resume talks soon “in good-faith to iron-out the remaining outstanding points”, including establishing a government council to run the country during a set transition period.

However, many activists have criticised the civilian organisation’s decision to call off the strike, saying it had diminished their ability to pressure the generals to give up power. “The problem was not calling off the disobedience, but was its abrupt suspension,” AP quoted Sudanese novelist and activist Hammour Ziada as saying. “It seemed that you are giving orders to people.”