Bipartisan, Bicameral Group of 92 Lawmakers Urge U.S. Support For Civilian-Led Transitional Government in Sudan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a bipartisan, bicameral group of 92 lawmakers led by Representative James McGovern (D-MA) and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Todd Young (R-IN), along with Representatives Ann Wagner (R-MO), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ), sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin expressing deep concern about the current situation in Sudan and urging support for a rapid transfer of power to a civilian-led transitional government.

Their letter comes as Sudanese organizers continue their nation-wide pro-democracy protests against a Transitional Military Council which many say creates the appearance of change while maintaining many of the elements and structures of the old regime.

“The Sudanese people are demanding real democratic reforms – not a reshuffling of players or a new regime that mirrors the oppression and injustice felt under Omar al-Bashir,” said Representative McGovern. “This is a crucial time for the people of Sudan. The United States must make clear that international credibility and partnership will only come through credible civilian leadership. We urge Secretaries Pompeo and Mnuchin to use the full weight of American diplomacy to encourage a rapid and peaceful transfer of power to a civilian-led government in Sudan.”

“People everywhere need to have the right to self-determination,” said Senator Merkley. “After enduring a devastating civil war followed by over two decades of a brutal regime that has been internationally indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Sudanese people took to the streets to voice their demand for a fair government that represents them. Now it’s time for the United States to support their call for real democratic change and accountability, and ensure that is handed over to a civilian-led government without delay.”

“The ongoing political turmoil in Sudan demands our attention. We must stand with the Sudanese people who are striving to bring democracy to their land. I am encouraged by their resolve and want to see a swift transition away from military leadership and to a true democratic, civilian-led government,” said Senator Young.

“A civilian-led government is critical to a free society where democratic reforms can foster a more prosperous and safe nation for its citizens. This is a pivotal moment for the Sudanese people and they need our support as they work to implement a true democracy that works for the people,” said Representative Wagner.

“This is a critical moment for the Sudanese people and also one for the United States, as it is imperative we support Sudanese citizen’s demands for real democratic change. I will continue to support the people of Sudan in their demand for a peaceful and democratic Sudan led by its people and fully expect the United States will as well,” said Representative Bass.

“Sudan is at a crossroads, and the U.S. needs to be a leader in ensuring a peaceful transition of power to a civilian-led government. I am deeply concerned about the current situation in the country. We cannot settle for a mere change that maintains the same governing structures and corrupt and repressive practices of the former al-Bashir regime. I call for a civilian-led government focused on helping the country toward a future of democracy, freedom, and respect for universally-recognized human rights,” said Representative Smith.

The full text of the letter is copied below:

May 16, 2019


The Honorable Mike Pompeo                                                 Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of State                                                                   Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of State                                                        U.S. Department of the Treasury

2201 “C” Street NW                                                               1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20520                                                          Washington, DC 20220


Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin,

            We write to express our deep concern about the current situation in Sudan and our support for a rapid transfer of power to a civilian-led transitional government committed to laying the foundations for democracy in the country. This is a critical moment for Sudan, one that came about because the Sudanese people took to the streets to demand it.  It is also critical for the United States to support Sudanese citizen’s demands for real democratic change.

We welcome the April 18th statement by the State Department supporting “a transition to a peaceful and democratic Sudan led by civilians who represent the diversity of Sudanese society,” and expressing support for the “will of the Sudanese people” for “a transitional government that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law.”  We appreciate the efforts of the Africa Bureau to update congressional offices about the changing situation in Sudan. We also acknowledge the African Union’s condemnation of the military takeover as a coup d’état and its demand that the military “step aside and hand over power to a transitional civilian-led political authority, in accordance with the will of the people” by June 30th.  We also welcome U.S. efforts to bring together like-minded nations and donors to emphasize international support for a civilian-led transition.

The military leadership who have taken power are attempting to create the appearance of change, but elements and structures of the old regime remain. The Transitional Military Council (TMC) does not meet the aspirations so clearly articulated by months of peaceful pro-democracy protests that demanded an inclusive, civilian-led democratic change. A government dominated by the military is not the goal of the Sudanese people and the longer the protestors’ demands remain unfulfilled, there is increased probability of conflict like the violence against protestors, deaths and injuries that occurred this week.

We support your decision to continue Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) and to suspend Phase II discussions.  Congress also has a role to play in law regarding changes to Sudan’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism. We encourage close consultation with and the consent of Congress should the Administration seek to alter the SST designation or provide further economic relief to Sudan, actions which at the current moment would be inappropriate and premature. We understand that rapidly changing events on the ground might require a corresponding change in U.S. policy and we are ready to work as equal partners in decisions that advance civilian democratic governance, respect for human rights, including religious freedom, and rule of law.

The United States must send a clear message that the path to international credibility and American partnership will only come through credible civilian leadership. We encourage you to use all mechanisms and leverage to facilitate, as quickly as possible, an inclusive civilian-led transition to democratic governance.  The United States should make clear to foreign governments that have expressed support for the TMC that a civilian transition that reflects the will of the Sudanese people is non-negotiable. 

In this regard, we are dismayed by the announcement from the Governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that they intend to provide Sudan with $3 billion in budget support and aid.  We urge you to use all appropriate diplomatic and political channels to discourage such a transfer of funds. If funds are disbursed, this will likely encourage the TMC to delay a civilian-led transition.

The Sudanese people will rightly determine matters of justice regarding the crimes of the previous regime, given the millions of people who suffered and perished under its deliberate and repressive actions.  It is important for you, Mr. Secretaries, to emphasize that former President Bashir and other officials and military officers of his regime are internationally indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide. It is an urgent matter of international law that they face trial and judgement on these charges.

There are additional actions that we strongly encourage you to take in your respective capacities as Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury:

  • When a civilian-led transitional council is established – one supported by the pro-democracy movement and the Sudanese people – it is vital that the United States press for unimpeded access by international humanitarian aid agencies so that they may finally deliver, without interference or conditions, emergency relief to populations in conflict areas such as South Kordofan, Blue Nile and northern Darfur. We understand this is also a current priority for the U.S. and other aid donors, but unobstructed delivery of humanitarian aid to these regions is likely to remain stalled until inclusive civilian rule is established.
  • To support and increase the capacity of civilian leadership and civil society, the United States should provide transitional civilian authorities and entities with technical and capacity-building assistance.
  • The United States, in consultation with Congress, should signal its willingness to engage with and support international financial institutions in aiding Sudan once civilian-led transitional authorities are in place and functioning.
  • The State Department should not issue visas to any Sudanese official to travel to the United States until credible civilian-led government is in place and functioning independently.  Nor should any Sudanese or TMC official be issued a visa who has been internationally indicted, or who might be subject to justice in Sudan for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.
  • Treasury, in consultation with the State Department and relevant congressional committees, should continue to use the sanctions authorities provided under the Global Magnitsky program to target key Sudanese individuals, officials, entities and networks.
  • Recognizing Sudan’s extensive corruption, money-laundering operations and theft of state resources, it is critical for the United State to provide leadership on preventing funds from being moved out of the country during this period when the former Bashir regime is being pushed aside but current regime structures remain in place. The Treasury Department should issue public advisories to banks and other financial institutions regarding the risk of such capital flight and other high-risk transactions from Sudan, such as the gold trade.  This would be an action like the one taken by Treasury in 2014 related to Ukraine. It is also critical that the Treasury Department continue to track and respond aggressively to similar transfers of funds that occurred prior to Bashir’s downfall.

            Thank you for your attention to these urgent concerns and recommendations.  We look forward to working together and developing a new policy framework consistent with American values and the aspirations of the Sudanese people.