Sudan: Leading general dissolves government in coup, PM held

25.10.2021

Sudan's top general on Monday dissolved the government and announced that the military will run the country after his forces arrested the acting prime minister and other officials.

Thousands of Sudanese protested in the streets against the coup.

The military takeover threatens to derail Sudan's long, rocky attempt to transition to democracy two years after protesters forced the ouster of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir. The move came just before the military was supposed to hand leadership of the country's joint military-civilian administration to civilians next month.

After the early morning arrests of government officials, thousands flooded the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman to protest. Footage shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.

Protesters could be heard chanting, "The people are stronger, stronger" and "Retreat is not an option!" as plumes of smoke filled the air. Videos on social media showed large crowds crossing bridges over the Nile to the centre of the capital.

At least 12 protesters were wounded in demonstrations, according to the Sudanese Doctors Committee, without giving details.

In the afternoon, the head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, went on national TV and announced that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created to run the country since al-Bashir's ouster.

He said quarrels among political factions prompted the military to intervene.

Burhan declared a state of emergency and said the military will appoint a technocratic government to lead the country to elections, set for July 2023. But he made clear the military will remain in charge, saying, "The Armed Forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country's leadership to a civilian, elected government."

The Information Ministry, still loyal to the dissolved government, called his speech an "announcement of a seizure of power by military coup."

The United States and the European Union expressed concern over Monday's developments. Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said Washington was "deeply alarmed" by the reports. Feltman met with Sudanese officials over the weekend in an effort to resolve the growing dispute between civilian and military leaders. EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he's following events with the "utmost concern".

The first reports about a possible military takeover began trickling out of Sudan before dawn on Monday. By mid-morning, the Information Ministry confirmed that the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, had been arrested and taken to an undisclosed location.

Several senior government figures were also detained, the ministry said in a Facebook post. It said their whereabouts were unknown.

Hamdok's office said in a statement on Facebook that he and his wife were detained early on Monday as part of what it described as a "complete coup".

Internet access was widely disrupted and the country's state news channel played patriotic traditional music. At one point, military forces stormed the offices of Sudan's state-run television in Omdurman and detained a number of workers, the Information Ministry said.

Tensions have been rising for weeks between Sudan's civilian and military leadership over Sudan's course and the pace of the transition to democracy. A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir in protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.

Germany condemned the reports, calling for an "immediate end" to the action. "The news of a new coup attempt in Sudan is troubling," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. "I call on everyone in Sudan responsible for security and order to continue Sudan's transition to democracy and to respect the will of the people."

The EU called for the release of Sudan's civilian leaders and insisted "violence and bloodshed must be avoided".  (AP/AFP)

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