Sudan Coup: Army Dissolves Government, Declares State of Emergency

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Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally, in Khartoum, 2019.
Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally, in Khartoum, 2019.Credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Sudan’s leading general declared a state of emergency Monday, hours after his forces arrested the acting prime minister and other senior government officials.

In a televised address, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan announced that he was dissolving the country’s ruling Sovereign Council, as well as the government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. He said quarrels among political factions prompted the military to intervene but he pledged to complete the country's democratic transition, saying a new technocrat government would lead Sudan to elections.

>> Sudan and Israel: Moving towards normalization, then a coup

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

Sudanese protesters burn tires in protest of overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan's government, Monday.Credit: AFP

The internet in the country was largely cut off and military forces closed bridges, according to the ministry’s Facebook page. It said the whereabouts of Hamdok were not immediately known. Meanwhile, the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile river. 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.

In response to the moves, thousands flooded the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman to protest the apparent military takeover. 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 center of the capital. At least 12 protesters were wounded in demonstrations, according to the Sudanese Doctors Committee, without giving details.

Monday's arrests come after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan’s civilian and military leaders. 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 former leader Omar al-Bashir in protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.

The Arab League has released a statement of “deep concern” about the apparent military coup in Sudan. The Secretary-General of the 22-member bloc, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, urged all parties on Monday to “fully abide” by a constitutional declaration signed in August 2019. 

The Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation expressed concern over the apparent coup. In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the organization said Monday that it urged Sudanese leaders to “abide by the constitutional document and what has been agreed upon during the transition period.”

U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said the United States was deeply alarmed by the developments. On the official Twitter of the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs, Feltman warned the takeover would contravene Sudan's Constitutional Declaration and puts at risk U.S. assistance to the country.

A U.S. envoy underlined Washington's support for a democratic transition to civilian rule in Sudan on Saturday during talks with the head of its ruling council and the prime minister, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tweeted that he was following events in the northeast African nation with the “utmost concern," while French President Emmanuel Macron called for the immediate release of the Sudanese prime minister and civilian members of the government. China meanwhile urged a dialogue between Sudanese factions. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Monday that China wanted all parties in Sudan “to resolve their differences through dialogue so as to maintain peace and stability of the country.” 

In January, an Israeli cabinet minister led an official delegation to Sudan for the first time to discuss moving forward on a U.S.-brokered deal in October to normalize relations. 

Sudan joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco last year in agreeing to move toward normal relations with Israel. This caused division in the country. The new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden has said it wants to build on those deals.

Sudan has been on edge since a failed coup plot last month unleashed bitter recriminations between military and civilian groups meant to be sharing power following the 2019 ouster of Bashir. Bashir was toppled after months of street protests. A political transition agreed after his ouster was meant to lead to elections by the end of 2023. 

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