The United States on Monday halted aid to Sudan after the country’s military staged a coup and detained civilian leaders, The New York Times reports.
The State Department said it froze $700 million in direct aid to the country’s government and demanded the leaders be released and restored to their positions.
State Department spokesman Ned Price acknowleged that the country has faced difficulty transitioning to free elections and full civilian rule after the ouster of longtime former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. But he said the US would hold accountable “those who may be responsible for derailing Sudan’s path to democracy.”
Price warned the country’s military to “refrain from any violence against protesters, including the use of live ammunition” after reports that soldiers fired on protesters, killing three and wounding more than 80.
“Potentially, of course, our entire relationship with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated in light of what has transpired unless Sudan is returned to the transitional path,” Price said.
Price said that the coup was a surprise for the US after special envoy Jeffrey Feltman traveled to the country as recently as Sunday.
Price said US officials have been unable to reach Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after he was taken into military custody and don’t know where he is.
Price said that the aid would only be restored if the military releases all detainees and refrains from firing on protesters.
All “are tremendously important” to “any relationship we might have going forward,” he said.
Top general seizes power:
Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who had shared power with Hamdok before leading the coup, told reporters that Hamdok is being held at the general’s residence. He claimed that he was taken into custody for his own safety and that the military seized power to avoid a “civil war.”
But the coup came just weeks before he was supposed to give up his power to a civilian leader, putting the country under full civilian leadership for the first time in over three decades.
Protests have broken out in at least 15 cities, where many stores and businesses have been shuttered.