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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Sudan’s Captured Prime Minister Returns Home

According to a statement released by his office, Sudan’s ousted prime minister and his wife were permitted to return home on Tuesday, a day after they were held after the military took control in a coup.

Following worldwide criticism of the coup and requests for the military to free all government officials jailed when Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan took control on Monday, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and his wife were released.

Other government officials remained under detention, according to Hamdok’s office, with their whereabouts unknown. According to a military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief the media, the ousted prime minister and his wife were under “strong protection” at their house in Khartoum’s posh Kafouri area. They were not allowed to leave or make phone calls, according to the official.

Burhan had indicated earlier in the day that Hamdok had been kept for his own protection and that he would be freed. However, as mass protests against the putsch intensified, he warned that additional members of the overthrown administration may face justice.

The military seized control, which was severely condemned across the world. Pro-democracy activists used improvised barricades and burning tires to block roadways in the city on Tuesday. According to physicians, troops opened fire on crowds the day before, killing four protestors.

Burhan claimed the military was forced to intervene to address a rising political crisis in his second public appearance since becoming office.

“There were people talking about discriminating against others, and it was leading this country into a civil war that would rip this country apart, tearing its cohesiveness, fiber, and civilization apart.” These hazards were right in front of our eyes,” Burhan said at a televised press conference.

However, the coup occurred less than a month before Burhan was set to hand over control of the country’s Sovereign Council to a civilian, a move that would have weakened the military’s grip on power.

“Political rivalry have paralyzed the whole country,” Burhan added. “The experience of the last two years has demonstrated that political engagement in the transitional phase is faulty and causes unrest.”

The general stated that Hamdok had been detained at Burhan’s residence and was in good health. Burhan, however, said that some of the many other top government officials held Monday sought to encourage an insurrection inside the military forces, and that they would face justice. Others who are proven to be “innocent” would be released, he said.

The coup came after weeks of rising tensions between military and civilian officials over the direction and speed of Sudan’s democratic transition. It threatened to disrupt the process, which had been moving in stops and turns since longtime tyrant Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a popular rebellion two years ago.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres encouraged international powers to band together to combat a recent “epidemic of coups d’état” during an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday. However, during the closed-door talks on Sudan, a country in Africa tied to the Arab world by language and culture, the United Nations’ most powerful body took no action.

Hamdok’s office has expressed concerns about his and the other arrested officials’ safety. The agency accused military officers of working with Islamists who advocated for a military government and other politicians associated to the now-defunct National Congress Party, which ruled Sudan during al-Islamist-backed Bashir’s regime.

The administration of US President Joe Biden announced the suspension of $700 million in humanitarian funding to Sudan on Tuesday, and said it was considering sending tougher messages to the generals.

“They should first and foremost stop any violence against innocent citizens,” said Jake Sullivan, the administration’s national security advisor. “They should also free individuals who have been jailed and go back on a democratic road.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke with Hamdok on Tuesday, the first time the US has had a high-level communication with Sudan since the coup and the suspension of US funding. According to a State Department statement, Blinken hailed Hamdok’s release and stressed that the US supports a civilian-led transition to democracy in Sudan.

The disbanded government’s foreign minister, Mariam al-Mahdi, announced Tuesday that she and other members of Hamdok’s administration were still the rightful authorities in Sudan.

“We haven’t changed our stance. We condemn such a coup and such unlawful measures,” she said over the phone from her home in Khartoum to The Associated Press. “We will continue to protest and disobey in a nonviolent manner.”

Sudanese ambassadors in Belgium, Switzerland, and France have defected, according to the Ministry of Culture and Information, which remains loyal to the overthrown administration.

The Sudanese envoy to the United States, Nureldin Satti, said he was working with those diplomats to “fight the military coup in favor of the courageous battle of the Sudanese people” to fulfill the uprising’s goals against al-Bashir. He did not say if he had deserted as well.

Meanwhile, Al-Mahdi talked with the wife of one of the imprisoned officials, Minister of Cabinet Affairs Khalid Omar, who said her husband was insulted and tortured during his detention.

She said that military soldiers “removed Khalid barefoot, wearing only his nightclothes.”

Sudanese poured into the streets of Khartoum and other towns in protest within hours after the arrests. According to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, security forces opened fire, killing at least four individuals and injuring over 80 others. Forces fired live gunfire at protestors, according to Human Rights Watch.

In 2019, Sudan experienced a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, and there were worries that it may happen again. On Saturday, when demonstrators organize a huge march to demand a restoration to civilian authority, the military’s response to the resistance will be put to the test.

People should go on strike and act in civil disobedience, according to the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a network of unions that was behind the revolt against al-Bashir. Separately, the country’s major rebel organization, the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement–North, blasted the coup and urged for people to go to the streets.

A faction called the Justice and Equality Movement blamed the overthrown government for the military coup, demonstrating the divides among Sudanese civilian leaders. According to the report, a small group of officials monopolized decision-making and refused to participate in discourse.

The group, led by Finance Minister Gibreil Ibrahim, is the first to publicly express support for the military, but it also called for the military to terminate the state of emergency, free the detainees, and create a civilian administration to handle day-to-day operations. The group took part in a pro-military sit-in in Khartoum earlier this month.

Another pro-military organization that separated from the anti-al-Bashir protest movement applauded the coup, claiming it would put an end to a sit-in it had planned outside the presidential palace earlier this month to support the generals.

Sudan’s future has been signaled in a variety of ways by the military. Burhan vowed to progressively restore internet and communications services that had been affected by the coup attempt. However, the Civil Aviation Authority said that all flights to and from Khartoum’s airport will be suspended until October 30.

Burhan now leads a military council that will control Sudan until elections in July 2023, according to him.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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