Sudan’s military seized power on Monday, dissolving the transitional government hours after soldiers arrested the caretaker prime minister and other officials. Thousands took to the streets to protest the coup, which threatens the country’s unsteady progress towards democracy.
The takeover took place more than two years after protesters forced them be fired The longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and the military were expected to hand over the leadership of the council that assigns the African country to civilians just weeks ago.
Following the early morning arrests of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and other officials, thousands took to the streets of the capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman. footage Shared online, protesters were shown blocking roads and setting tires on fire as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
As plumes of smoke filled the air, protesters could be heard shouting, “People are strong, strong” and “Back up is not an option!” Videos on social media showed large crowds crossing bridges over the Nile in the center of the capital.
At least 12 protesters were injured in the demonstrations, according to the Sudanese Doctors’ Committee, which did not provide details.
In the afternoon, the army chief, General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, announced on national television that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body run after al-Bashir’s ouster. was built months later. Country.
Burhan said the tussle between political factions prompted the army to intervene. Tensions have been rising for weeks between civilian and military leaders over Sudan’s course and the pace of the transition to democracy.
The general declared a state of emergency and said the military would appoint a technical government to lead the country in elections scheduled for July 2023. But he made it clear that the army would remain in charge.
“The armed forces will continue to accomplish democratic transformation until the country’s leadership is handed over to a civilian, elected government,” he said. He said 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, which is still loyal to the dissolved government, called his speech a “declaration of the seizure of power by a military coup”.
The international community expressed concern over Monday’s developments.
US special envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was “deeply concerned” by the reports. Feltman met with Sudanese officials over the weekend in an effort to resolve a growing dispute between civilian and military leaders.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tweeted that he was following the events with “extreme concern”.
The UN political mission in Sudan called the detention of government officials “unacceptable”.
The first reports about a possible military takeover began pouring out of Sudan before dawn on Monday. The Information Ministry later confirmed that Hamdok and several senior government figures had been arrested and that their whereabouts were unknown.
Hamdok’s office condemned the detention on Facebook, calling it a “complete coup”. He said his wife has also been arrested.
Internet access was widely disrupted and the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music. The information ministry said that at one point, military forces stormed the offices of Sudan’s state television in Omdurman and detained several activists.
There have been concerns for some time that the military might try to take over, and there was in fact a failed coup attempt in September. Tensions only grew from there, as the country fragmented along old lines, with more conservative Islamists wanting a military government that would stand up against those who toppled al-Bashir in protest. In recent days, both the camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.
Following the September coup attempt, the generals attacked civilian members of the transitional power structure and called for the dissolution of Hamdok’s government. The Sovereign Council is the final decision-maker, although the Hamdok government is tasked with running the day-to-day affairs of Sudan.
Burhan, who leads the council, warned in televised comments last month that the military would hand power only to a government elected by the Sudanese people.
His comments suggested he could not stick to a previously agreed timetable, which called for a council headed by a military man for 21 months, followed by a civilian for the next 18 months. is done. Under that plan, the handover was to take place sometime in November, with the new civilian leader to be chosen by a coalition of unions and political parties that had led the rebellion against al-Bashir.
Since al-Bashir was ousted from power, Sudan has gradually worked to rid itself of the international pariah status held under autocracy. The country was removed from the US pro-state terrorist list in 2020, opening the door to badly needed foreign loans and investment. But the country’s economy is grappling with the shock of several economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.
Sudan has faced other coups since gaining independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in 1989 in a similar takeover that removed the country’s last elected government.
Senior government figures and political leaders were among those detained on Monday, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to share information with the media.
These include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, Cabinet Affairs Minister Khalid Omar, and Mohamed al-Fiqi Suleiman, a member of the Sovereign Council, as well as Hamdok’s media adviser Faisal Mohamed Saleh. According to the official Facebook page of his office, the capital’s state governor Ayman Khalid was also arrested.
As news of the arrest spread, the country’s main pro-democracy group and two political parties called on Sudanese people to take to the streets.
One of the factions, the Communist Party, called on workers to go on strike after what Burhan described as a “complete military coup”.
The African Union (AU) has called for the release of all Sudanese political leaders, including Hamdok. “Dialogue and consensus are the only relevant paths to save the country and its democratic transformation,” said AU commission chief Moussa Faki.