How U.S. Efforts to Guide Sudan to Democracy Ended in War

“Today, a great people of Sudan are in charge,” Mr. Trump said. “New democracy is taking root.”

Mr. Feltman and other former and current U.S. officials say supporting democracy should still be the cornerstone of American policy in Sudan, given the aspirations expressed in protests that led to the ouster in 2019 of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the dictator of 30 years. Congressional leaders are now calling for Mr. Biden and the United Nations to appoint special envoys to Sudan.

The setbacks in Sudan follow other democratic disappointments in northern Africa, including a military counterrevolution in neighboring Egypt a decade ago; nearly 10 years of political anarchy in Libya, another neighbor of Sudan, after its dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was overthrown; and a recent return to one-man authoritarian rule in Tunisia after a decade as the only country to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring with a democratic government.

Mr. al-Bashir’s downfall four years ago led to joyous displays from Sudanese who hoped that democracy might take root their country despite its failures elsewhere in the region. After several months of junta rule, Sudan’s military and civilian leaders signed a power-sharing agreement that created a transitional government headed by Mr. Hamdok, an economist. The plan envisioned elections after three years.

However, a council formed to help manage the transition was “a bit of a fig leaf,” since it had more military than civilian members, Susan D. Page, a former U.S. ambassador to South Sudan and a professor at the University of Michigan, said in a post on her school’s website. Important civilian voices were excluded, a problem that would persist into negotiations this year.

After the military coup in October 2021, the United States froze $700 million in direct assistance to Sudan’s government and suspended debt relief, while the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund froze $6 billion in immediate assistance and plans to forgive $50 billion of debt. Other governments and institutions, including the African Development Bank, took similar steps.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman at the time, said that “our entire relationship” with Sudan’s government might be re-evaluated unless the military restored the transitional government.

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