Sudanese take to streets in defiance of military coup

Published October 27, 2021
Soldiers watch as Sudanese take to the streets a day after the military seized power. — AP
Soldiers watch as Sudanese take to the streets a day after the military seized power. — AP

KHARTOUM: Calls mounted on Tuesday for the release of Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the day after a coup led by the country’s top general who insisted the premier was in “good health”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded Hamdok “be released immediately”, as the Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sudan, adding to a chorus of condemnation by the US and European powers of the military’s power grab.

The coup comes just over two years into a delicate power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians after the army’s ouster amid enormous street protests in April 2019 of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Angry citizens stood their ground on barricaded streets where tyres burned, chanting “No to military rule”, the day after four people were reportedly shot dead by security forces.

The coup has raised fears for Hamdok’s fate, but top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Tuesday the premier was “at my home... in good health” and would be able to return to his own home “when the crisis is over”.

His comments, in which he acknowledged some politicians had been arrested, suggested Hamdok was not among those in custody but, shortly after, the Information Ministry relayed a statement from the prime minister’s office demanding his immediate release.

The statement appealed for the “liberation of everyone” arrested on Monday, including Hamdok’s wife, several ministers and civilian members of the country’s power-sharing council.

Burhan’s declaration of a state of emergency and dissolution of the government provoked an immediate international backlash.

The United States, a key backer of Sudan’s transition, strongly condemned the military’s actions and suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

Sudan risks “going back into a period of being shunned by the rest of the world” and losing badly needed financial aid, said Alex de Waal, a veteran expert on Sudan who is executive director of the World Peace Foundation.

Hamdok’s government earlier this year unlocked international financial assistance, after it was frozen for years under Bashir.

Sudan’s ambassadors to Belgium, France and Switzerland on Tuesday declared their diplomatic missions as “embassies of the Sudanese people and their revolution”, according to the Information Ministry.

Despite the previous day’s deadly violence, protesters remained on the streets of Khartoum overnight and into Tuesday. Shops around the capital were shuttered following calls for a campaign of civil disobedience.

“We will only leave when the civilian government is restored,” said 32-year-old demonstrator Hisham al-Amin. Sudan’s civil aviation authority said Tuesday all flights have been suspended until October 30.

It was the latest coup in one of the world’s most underdeveloped countries, which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956. Analysts said the generals are trying to maintain their historic control.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern over the reported use of live ammunition against protesters.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2021

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