Sudan’s military took control on Monday, dissolving the transitional government just hours after the prime minister was detained by troops. Thousands of people took to the streets to condemn the coup, which threatens the country’s fragile democratic development.
The coup comes only weeks before the military was meant to hand over control of the country’s ruling council to civilians, more than two years after demonstrators forced the downfall of longtime despot Omar al-Bashir.
Thousands rushed into the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other key officials were arrested early in the morning. Security personnel fired tear gas to disperse them as they blocked roadways and set fire to tires.
Protesters could be heard yelling “The people are stronger, stronger” and “Retreat is not an option!” as plumes of smoke filled the air. Large groups were seen crossing bridges across the Nile to the capital’s heart in videos posted on social media, as the US embassy said military were sealing off portions of the city.
According to the Sudanese Doctors Committee, at least 12 protestors were injured during demonstrations, however no specifics were provided.
General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the leader of the military, said on national television in the afternoon that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a combined military-civilian council formed shortly after al-overthrow Bashir’s to manage the country.
Political squabbles, according to Burhan, drove the military to interfere. Tensions have been mounting for weeks over the path and pace of Sudan’s democratic transition, a country in Africa tied to the Arab world by language and culture.
The general announced martial law and stated that the military will establish a technocratic administration to manage the country till elections in July 2023. However, he made it plain that the military will continue to be in command.
He stated, “The Armed Forces will continue to complete the democratic transition until the country’s leadership is handed over to a civilian, elected administration.” He went on to say that the country’s constitution will be updated and that a legislative body would be created with the help of the “young men and women who led this revolution.”
His speech was dubbed a “announcement of a takeover of power by military coup” by the Information Ministry, which remained loyal to the defunct administration.
EU foreign policy head Joseph Borrell tweeted that he was “very concerned” about the situation. The detentions of government officials were deemed “inappropriate” by the United Nations political mission in Sudan.
The United States’ special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said Monday’s events had “seriously worried” Washington.
Sudan has attempted to gradually cleanse itself of the worldwide pariah position it enjoyed under al-Bashir, who remains in prison. In 2020, the nation was removed from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, allowing it to access much needed foreign financing and investment. Sudan’s economy, on the other hand, has failed to cope with the shock of a series of economic changes demanded by foreign financial institutions.
There have been suspicions in recent weeks that the military is organizing a coup, and a failed coup attempt occurred in September. Tensions only escalated from there, as the country splintered along ancient fault lines, with more orthodox Islamists who desire a military administration arrayed against those who overthrew al-Bashir in rallies. Both factions have turned to the streets in recent days in protests.
During the standoff, the generals have repeatedly called for the dissolution of Hamdok’s transitional government — and Burhan, the head of the ruling Sovereign Council, has repeatedly stated that the military will only hand over power to an elected government, implying that the generals may abandon their plan to hand the body’s leadership to a civilian in November. Though the Hamdok’s government is responsible with handling Sudan’s day-to-day affairs, the council is the ultimate decision-maker.
Feltman visited with Sudanese authorities over the weekend as part of his attempts to settle the problem, and tried unsuccessfully during his visit to persuade the generals to keep to the agreed-upon plan, according to a senior military officer.
According to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief the media, the arrests began a few hours later.
The military has been encouraged in its conflict with civilian officials in recent weeks by tribal demonstrators’ backing, who have shut the country’s key Red Sea port for weeks. Burhan and his deputy Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the two most senior military officers, have strong links to Egypt as well as the affluent Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The initial allegations of a probable military takeover surfaced before morning, and the Information Ministry verified them hours later, stating Hamdok and many top government officials had been arrested and their locations were unknown. The country’s state news station played patriotic traditional music, while Internet connectivity was largely obstructed.
On Facebook, Hamdok’s office called the detentions a “total coup.” His wife was also detained, according to the report.
Sudan has been the victim of several coups since its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir ascended to power in 1989 following a coup that ousted the country’s last elected administration.
According to the senior military officer and another official, prominent government figures and political leaders were held on Monday, including the information and industry ministries, a media adviser to Hamdok, and the governor of the state that encompasses the capital. Because they were not allowed to discuss the material with the media, both talked on the condition of anonymity.
The country’s biggest pro-democracy organisation and two political parties issued appealing to Sudanese to go to the streets after word of the arrests circulated.
Workers were urged to oppose what the Communist Party claimed as a “complete military coup” staged by Burhan.
The African Union has demanded that all Sudanese political leaders, including Hamdok, be released. “The only appropriate way to rescue the nation and its democratic transition is dialogue and consensus,” said Moussa Faki, the AU commission’s president.