- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A key State Department official told a House hearing Tuesday it was imperative for Sudan’s military leadership to transition to civilian-led government and to allow peaceful democratic protests, saying that U.S. economic sanctions and other pressure remain an option as the crisis unfolds.

“We’re looking at all options, including sanctions down the line should there be any kind of repeat of violence,” Makila James, deputy assistant secretary for East Africa, told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa Tuesday, in one of the first congressional hearings on the violent political standoff in Khartoum.

Things have been deeply unsettled in the oil-rich African nation since longtime authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in the face of massive popular protests in early April. But the army-dominated Transitional Military Council has resisted demands for a quick shift to civilian rule and has resorted to violence to put down continuing pro-democracy demonstrations.

Talks between the two sides have broken down following a brutal June 3 incident, when security forces stormed a protest sit-in on June 3, killing dozens. The Trump administration has faced growing pressure to weigh in on the conflict.

“We also want to convey a very strong message to the TMC that they must allow peaceful protests,” Ms. James said. “If there is any repeat of the violence and assault on June 3, there will be consequences. … People have a right to protest.”

For the past 21 days, Sudan has been without internet access, prompting concern that a bigger crackdown was in the works.

“Internet access, we believe, must be reinstated, and I urge those behind this to unblock internet access,” subcommittee Chairwoman Karen Bass, California Democrat, said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Prohibiting access does not mean citizens will stop exercising their civil rights.”

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