Troika warns Sudan about arrests of protesters

Saturday January 12 2019

Supporters of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir 

Supporters of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir raise up sticks and swords in salute as they gather during a rally for him in the Green Square in Khartoum on January 9, 2019. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP 

By FRED OLUOCH
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Sudan, which had been warming up to the West, could be sidelined again after a violent crackdown on protesters that has left at least 22 people dead.

The Troika — the US, UK and Norway — has warned that if Sudan does not release political detainees and rights activists arrested during the protests, it would impact their future relations with Khartoum.

"We are appalled by reports of deaths and serious injury to those exercising their legitimate right to protest. The government of Sudan’s actions and decisions over the coming weeks will have an impact on the engagement of our governments and others in the coming months and years," said the statement, which was also signed by Canada.

Official figures given by the Interior Ministry indicate that 816 people have been arrested across the country and 19 killed, but the opposition coalition says over 40 people have been killed.

The US lifted economic sanctions against Khartoum in September 2017; the UK had pledged to help Sudan write off a $53.35-billion debt, provided that Khartoum promoted dialogue and instituted democratic reforms that ensured political freedoms.

All this could go down the drain given that the US retains Sudan on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Last November, the US and Sudan launched the second phase of a process aiming at normalising bilateral ties and Sudan’s removal from the list of countries supporting terrorism.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which focuses on leadership and governance in Africa, said 70 percent of the budget in Sudan is spent on security, armed forces and militia, so it is no wonder that the country’s economy is falling.

“To buy food — even bread — has become difficult. The message is clear that the government has been rejected by the people. This is everywhere, in all the towns in Sudan, people are coming out and saying enough is enough,” said Dr Ibrahim, founder and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, who also has roots in Sudan.

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