Sudan’s ousted ambassador to the US says resorting to ‘the gun’ doesn’t aid the revolution
Nureldin Satti was one of the country's top diplomats in Washington. Satti says he will "resist" the military's power grab. The World's Africa correspondent Halima Gikandi spoke with him about what's playing out in Sudan and what's next.
People protest in Khartoum, Sudan, two days after a military coup, Oct. 27, 2021. The coup threatens to halt Sudan's fitful transition to democracy, which began after the 2019 ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in a popular uprising. It came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of that process.
Sudan's military rulers are facing resistance from people in the streets and from Sudan's own diplomatic corps.
On Monday, the military seized control and dissolved the country's transitional government. More than 30 Sudanese diplomats responded with a statement condemning the coup.
On Thursday, the military said it has fired six of Sudan's ambassadors. One of them is Nureldin Satti, the country's top diplomat in Washington. Satti says he will "resist" the military's power grab. The World's Africa correspondent Halima Gikandi spoke with him about what's playing out in Sudan and what's next.
Halima Gikandi: How did you learn about what was happening back home and what went through your mind at that time?
Nureldin Satti: Well, I learned about it, to be very frank with you, through the media, to start with, at the early hours, and some friends started calling from all around the world at the early hours of Oct. 25. And of course, what went through my mind was extreme disappointment and distress for what has happened. Because frankly, I expected everything but this. After all that we have gone through throughout the years, the decades, and the agreements that we have concluded between the civilian and the military components of the government, we thought that we would be able to resolve our problems peacefully without resorting to the gun.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the general behind the military coup, says he's acting for the benefit of Sudan's revolution and that he will form a new government. You're resisting that. Why?
I am resisting that because he is not telling the truth. How can you act to the benefit of the revolution when you are using the gun to do that? The revolution, you know, one of the basic foundations of our thinking is that we are going to resolve our problems peacefully.
And the United States, the African Union, the European Union and many others have condemned this military takeover. You're a diplomat. What do you see as your role and what you can do given the situation at home?
Well, my role is to continue to support my people, the people of Sudan who have taken to the streets to resist this military coup and to continue my contacts here in the US in order to see what can be done about this and encourage the United States to put pressure on those who carried this coup in order to change course and to accept, to take things back to what they were before the coup.
And are there any specific actions you'd like to see right now from the Biden administration?
Well, more of what they are doing now. They are now putting pressure on Burhan and his people. They're contacting, they're building I'd say a kind of consensus with a number of countries from the West and elsewhere. And of course, when the time comes, they will have to apply more pressure by using some concrete, you know, measures and decisions that would be more forcefully, that would convince Gen. Burhan that it's not in his interest to continue on that course.
And the US has paused, as one of the means for putting pressure on the military, has paused $700 million worth of aid for Sudan. Do you support that decision?
In principle, of course, I would have hoped that the Sudanese received that money, but they have to receive it in proper conditions. If they received it in the current circumstances, my fear is that they are going to be squandered or used for other purposes. So, I suppose it's good that they are talking about a pause and they're not talking about, you know, repealing or going back on their promises.
And you were appointed last year at a time when Sudan and theUnited States were just beginning to thaw their relations. Are you worried about the impact that this military coup will have on the future of this relationship?
Yes, I'm extremely worried, extremely worried because we are already seeing, you know, some signs that we are going back to the situation that we were in before I came here and before the revolution actually. I came here because a revolution has taken place in Sudan. That's why I was appointed here. Now, I do not want us to go back to the situation that we were in before. Many decades, you know, a tug-of-war between Sudan, the United States, the international community. Sanctions, wars and violence. You know, that kind of thing. It is the people of Sudan who are suffering from that. So we need to do all that we can to prevent us from going in that direction.
I spoke with one man this week who was protesting in Khartoum,and he said that the army needs to give power back to the people. Protests are continuing and we've already seen them become deadly. We've seen reports of multiple deaths at the hands of armed forces. What's your message to Sudanese at this moment of fear and uncertainty?
My message is twofold. One to Burhan and his people to stop this aggression against the peaceful Sudanese people. It is aggression. They are shooting and using live ammunition in the streets of Khartoum and other cities. And you know, this is really a violation of human rights and they will be, of course, held accountable for that. There's no doubt about that. So I'm telling them to stop doing this, and you have to control your troops so that they do not commit those crimes. My second, of course, message is to our own people that they should keep pushing for change. There is no other course. And that is going to be a lot of sacrifices, many people are going to die, but at the end, you know, freedom. We shall be paying a very high price for freedom, and the Sudanese people have accepted to pay that price.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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