Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Sudan’s military takes power in coup, arrests prime minister

Published:Monday | October 25, 2021 | 9:48 AM
In this frame taken from video, the head of the military, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced in a televised address, that he was dissolving the country's ruling Sovereign Council, as well as the government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in Khartoum, Sudan, Monday, October 25, 2021. Burhan said the military will run the country until elections in 2023. His announcement came hours after his forces arrested the acting prime minister and other senior government officials. (Sudan TV via AP)

CAIRO (AP) — 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.

The takeover comes more than two years after protesters forced the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and just weeks before the military was supposed to hand the leadership of the council that runs the country over to civilians.

After the early morning arrests of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials, thousands poured into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman.

They blocked streets and set fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.

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 centre of the capital, while the US embassy warned troops were blocking off parts of the city.

At least 12 protesters were wounded in demonstrations, according to the Sudanese Doctors Committee, which did not give details.

In the afternoon, the head of the military, General 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 said quarrels among political factions prompted the military to intervene.

Tensions have been rising for weeks over the course and the pace of the transition to democracy in Sudan, a nation in Africa linked by language and culture to the Arab world.

The general 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.

“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 UN political mission to Sudan called the detentions of government officials “unacceptable.”

Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by Monday's developments.

Since al-Bashir, who remains in prison, was forced from power, Sudan has worked to slowly rid itself the international pariah status it held under the autocrat.

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.

In recent weeks, there have been concerns that the military might be planning a take over, and in fact there was a failed coup attempt in September.

Tensions only rose from there, as the country fractured along old lines, with more conservative Islamists who want a military government pitted against those who toppled al-Bashir in protests.

In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.