Sudan’s military seized power Monday, dissolving the transitional government hours after troops arrested the prime minister. Thousands of people flooded into the streets to protest the coup that threatens the country’s shaky progress toward democracy.
It comes two years after Omar al-Bashir was ousted by protesters and weeks before Omar al-Bashir had been forced out of office.
Many people flooded the streets in Khartoum (the capital) and Omdurman after the detention of Abdalla Hamdok, Prime Minister, and senior officials. The demonstrators blocked the streets, set fire to tires and used tear gas as a dispersal weapon.
As plumes of smoke filled the air, protesters could be heard chanting, “The people are stronger, stronger” and “Retreat is not an option!” Videos on social media showed large crowds crossing bridges over the Nile to the center of the capital, while the U.S. embassy warned troops were blocking off parts of the city.
The Sudanese Physicians Committee did not disclose details but said that at least twelve protesters had been injured in violent demonstrations.
In the afternoon, the head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced on national TV that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created soon after al-Bashir’s ouster to run the country.
Burhan claimed that the military intervened because of quarrels within political parties. Over the past weeks tensions have been increasing in Sudan as a country in Africa that is linked through language and culture with the Arab World.
General declared an emergency, and stated that the military would appoint technocratic leaders to take the country to the elections scheduled for July 2023. He made it clear that the military would remain in control.
“The Armed Forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” he said. He added that the country’s constitution would be rewritten and a legislative body would be formed with the participation of “young men and women who made this revolution.”
The Information Ministry, still loyal to the dissolved government, called his speech an “announcement of a seizure of power by military coup.”
EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he was following events with the “utmost concern.” The U.N. political mission to Sudan called the detentions of government officials “unacceptable.”
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by Monday’s developments.
Sudan is working to gradually remove the status of international pariah it was under autocrat al-Bashir. He remains behind bars. The country was removed from the United States’ state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed foreign loans and investment. But Sudan’s economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.
There have been fears that the military may be plotting a coup. In fact, there has actually been a failed attempt to overthrow al-Bashir in September. Tensions only increased as tensions grew, and the country began to fracture along its old lines. More conservative Islamists want a military government, while those protesting al-Bashir’s demise are being opposed. Recent demonstrations have seen both sides take to the streets.
Amid the standoff, the generals have called repeatedly for dissolving Hamdok’s transitional government — and Burhan, who leads the ruling Sovereign Council, said frequently that the military would only hand over power to an elected government, an indication that the generals might not stick to the plan to hand leadership of the body to a civilian sometime in November. The council is the ultimate decision maker, though the Hamdok’s government is tasked with running Sudan’s day-to-day affairs.
Feltman visited Sudanese officials this weekend as part of the efforts to end the crisis. He tried unsuccessfully to convince them to follow the plan he had agreed to, a military source said.
According to the official who spoke under anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to give media briefings, the arrests took place a few hours later.
In recent weeks, the military has been emboldened in its dispute with civilian leaders by the support of tribal protesters, who blocked the country’s main Red Sea port for weeks. Burhan, his deputy General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo and Burhan are the two most senior military officers. They also maintain close relationships with Egypt, as well as the rich Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Emirates.
First reports about a military takeover surfaced before dawn. Hours later, the Information Ministry confirmed that Hamdok had been taken into custody along with other high ranking government officials. Their whereabouts are unknown. Internet access was widely disrupted and the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music.
Hamdok’s office denounced the detentions on Facebook as a “complete coup.” It said his wife was also arrested.
Sudan has experienced other coups ever since its 1956 independence from Britain, Egypt and Egypt. Al-Bashir came to power in 1989 in one such takeover, which removed the country’s last elected government.
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Senior government and political figures were among the detained Monday, as was the information and business ministers and an adviser to Hamdok. The governor of the region that encompasses the capital is also included, said a military senior and another official. Because they are not allowed to reveal the information, both spoke under the condition of anonymity.
After news of the arrests spread, the country’s main pro-democracy group and two political parties issued appeals to the Sudanese to take to the streets.
The Communist Party called on workers to protest what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by Burhan.
All Sudanese politicians, including Hamdok, should be released by the African Union. “Dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition,” said Moussa Faki, the head of the AU commission.