ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The top U.S. diplomat for Africa pushed Friday for Sudan to carry out an “independent and credible” investigation into a June 3 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that left scores dead.
Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy described the attack on a long-running sit-in near the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, as “just devastating.”
Medical organizations linked to the protesters put the toll at least 118, while the military-led transitional government has acknowledged that at least 60 were killed when security forces cleared the square.
“We believe very strongly there has to be an independent, credible investigation to figure out what exactly happened, why it happened, who gave the orders, how many victims there were,” Nagy told journalists in Ethiopia after a trip to Sudan.
The Transitional Military Council acknowledged late Thursday that it had given the order for the sit-in to be cleared and admitted that some excesses had taken place. It said a number of officers had been arrested.
The council said it was carrying out its own investigation and would announce the results Saturday, rejecting an international role. Shams Eddin Kabashi, council spokesman, said it would hold accountable those responsible, regardless of their rank.
Nagy, however, said that “when governments investigate themselves, there tends to be a lot of skepticism” and that an independent investigation was important because of the “whole concept of impunity.”
“We have seen other countries where the military enjoy impunity and literally get away with murder, and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
He declined to specify what further measures the United States might take and said the main U.S. focus is to support the mediation between the protesters and the military council by representatives from the African Union and neighboring Ethiopia.
He said the distrust between the two sides since the bloody crackdown has stymied direct talks.
The deposing of dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir on April 11 after three decades of rule was widely viewed with hope around the world, and Nagy said the possibility that this strategically located country of 40 million could sink into chaos has caused concern among neighboring nations.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have in particular been supportive of Sudan, offering billions of dollars in aid — and spurring fears among Sudanese protesters that they were seeking only stability for Sudan, rather than the creation of a democratic government.
Nagy said that in discussions with allies and neighbors, everyone was committed to the goal of a civilian-led government with the support of the Sudanese people.
The leader of the military council, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, asked why the world was so concerned about events in Sudan, said Nagy, who replied that the popular uprising in the longtime dictatorship had captured the world’s imagination.
“Until June 3, everybody was so optimistic, events were moving forward in such a favorable direction after 35 years of tragedy in Sudan, and without any expectation on June 3, the world changed,” he said.
“There were women raped, there were break-ins, pillaging, beatings, [it was] terrible,” said Nagy, who also spoke with some of the victims, including an American citizen.