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

Two people have reportedly been killed after security forces opened fire on crowds of protesters.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.
General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.
Image: PA

Updated Oct 25th 2021, 5:25 PM

SUDAN’S MILITARY HAS seized power, dissolving the transitional government hours after troops arrested the acting prime minister and other officials.

Thousands of people flooded into the streets to protest against the coup that threatens the country’s shaky progress towards democracy.

Security forces opened fire on some of the crowds, and two protesters were killed, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, which said 80 people were wounded.

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

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

2.63317169 Thousands of pro-democracy protesters take to the streets to condemn a takeover by military officials in Khartoum, Sudan. Source: PA

Footage shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting fire to tyres 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.

In the televised address this afternoon, the head of the military, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan announced that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created four months after al-Bashir’s ousting to run the country.

He said quarrels among political factions prompted the military to intervene and that a new technocrat government would lead the country to elections.

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 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”.

2.63317760 Thousands of pro-democracy protesters take to the streets in Khartoum. Source: PA

The international community 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 was following events with the “utmost concern”.

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

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 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.

In other hallmarks of a takeover, 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.

The takeover comes after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan’s civilian and military leaders.

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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.

Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan had slowly emerged from years of international pariah status in which it existed under al-Bashir.

The country was removed from the United States’ state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly-needed international loans and investment.

But the country’s economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.

There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government.

9ac3fe0d-7939-4695-8f84-916096129a92 US special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman. Source: AP

Among those detained on Monday, in addition to Hamdok, were five senior government figures, according to sources.

Those detained included industry minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, information minister Hamza Baloul, and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, member of the country’s ruling transitional body, known as the Sovereign Council, as well as Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Hamdok.

Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.

After news of the arrests spread, the country’s main pro-democracy group and the Sudanese Communist Party issued separate appeals for the Sudanese people to take to the streets.

Separately, the Communist Party called on workers to go on strike in an act of mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by the Sovereign Council’s head General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.

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