Blinken demands Sudan allow peaceful protests after deadly day

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday condemned the killing a day earlier of Sudanese protesters in the bloodiest violence since last month’s coup, urging the military to allow peaceful demonstrations.

“The military must respect the rights of civilians to assemble peacefully and express their views,” Blinken told a news conference in the Nigerian capital Abuja, saying he was “deeply concerned” by Wednesday’s bloodshed in which 15 people died.

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“We continue to support the demand of the Sudanese people for the restoration of the civilian-led transition,” Blinken said, including the reinstatement of prime minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Despite the violence, US officials have voiced guarded hope about finding a way out of the crisis.

Molly Phee, the top US diplomat for Africa, travelled earlier this week to Sudan where she met military ruler Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as well as Hamdok.

“Everybody, it seems to me, wants to find a way back, which is not the feeling I think you would get from the outside,” said a senior official on Blinken’s plane.

“There is a lot of room for finding a way forward,” the official told reporters.

The official said that both Burhan and Hamdok acknowledged shortcomings in Sudan’s democratic transition, which began in 2019 when the military ousted longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in the face of massive youth protests.

After Burhan’s power grab on October 25, the United States swiftly suspended $700 million in economic assistance meant to ease the democratic transition.

The US official acknowledged that economic pressure had limits with the military, which is firmly entrenched, but said that all sides were proud of their work together at the start of the transition.

“More important was talking to them about what their legacy would be -- that they had both played a positive role in 2019. Did they really want to become the bad guy in this scenario?” the official said.

Read more: Fourteen killed in Sudan anti-coup protest crackdown: Toll

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