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Prime minister, officials detained in apparent coup


Photograph of Sudan’s Prime Minster Abdalla Hamdok, during the unveiling of the first Cabinet since Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow in Khartoum’s capital on September 5, 2019,

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The Sudanese military arrested the acting prime minister as well as other high-ranking officials on Monday. They also disrupted the internet and closed down bridges in the capital.

To demonstrate against the military overthrow, Khartoum was flooded with thousands of protesters. Online footage showed protestors blocking roads and lighting tires while security forces applied tear gas to disperse.

On the streets, protestors could be heard singing, “The people, stronger, stronger,” and “Retreat, it is not an option!” The air was filled with smokey plumes.

Sudan’s military takeover would represent a significant setback. The country has been struggling with democracy transition since Omar al-Bashir, the long-serving ruler, was overthrown by protests two year ago.

These moves are less than one month after powerful Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan had been expected to give the presidency of the transitional council leadership to a civilian. The Sovereign Council is a military-civilian group that has governed Sudan since the fall of al-Bashir.

Monday’s developments were a source of concern for the United States and European Union.

In Khartoum on October 25, 2021, a Sudanese demonstrator draped in the national flag displays the victory sign alongside burning tires. This was to protest the Army of Members of Sudan’s Government’s overnight detentions.

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Jeffrey Feltman (the U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa) said Washington is “deeply alarmed by” the reports. Over the weekend, Feltman met Sudanese officials to try and resolve the conflict between military and civilian leaders. Joseph Borrell, EU chief of foreign affairs, tweeted that he is following the events with “the greatest concern.”

Reports of possible military overthrow began to leak out of Sudan Monday morning. Mid-morning, information ministry said that Abdalla Hmadok, the prime minister of Sudan, had been taken into custody. The ministry also confirmed that several senior officials from the government were detained in a post on Facebook. The ministry stated that their location was unknown.

Hamdok’s office stated in a Facebook post that Hamdok was detained with his wife early Monday morning as part of what it called a “complete coup.”

Other signs of a takeover included the widespread disruption in internet access, and the playback of patriotic traditional music by the country’s official news channel. According to the Information Ministry, at one time military forces invaded Omdurman’s offices of Sudan’s State-run Television and took several workers into custody.

After weeks of increasing tensions between military and civilian leaders in Sudan, Monday’s apparent overthrow was a result. After a failed attempt to overthrow al-Bashir, September’s coup attempted split the country. Both camps took to the streets in protests over recent days.

The generals reacted to the attempted September coup by threatening civilians in the transitional power structures and demanded the resignation of Hamdok’s government. Although the Sovereign Council makes the final decision, the Hamdok government manages Sudan’s daily affairs.

Burhan, the leader of the council, said in televised comments that the military will only hand power over to the government elected by Sudanese citizens. He suggested that he may not adhere to the agreed timeline, in which the council would be led for 21 months by a military leader, then followed for 18 months by a civilian. According to that plan, the transfer would take place in November with the civilian leader being chosen by the alliance of political parties and unions that led the rebellion against al-Bashir.

After years of being an international pariah, Sudan was slowly rising from its previous status. It was taken off the State Supporter of Terror List by the United States in 2020. This allowed for much-needed foreign loans and investments. The shock of many economic reforms required by international lenders has caused the economy to struggle.

Since 1956, when Sudan gained independence from Britain and Egypt, it has been subject to several coups. Al-Bashir was elected to the presidency in 1989 after a coup.

According to two government officials, five high-ranking figures were among those arrested Monday. They spoke under condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to give any information to the media.

The list includes Ibrahim al-Sheikh the Industry Minister, Hamza Baloul the Information Minister, Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman a member to Sovereign Council and Faisal Mohammed saleh, media adviser to Hamdok. According to his official Facebook page, Ayman Khalid was also taken into custody as governor of the region containing the capital.

Following the announcement of the arrests, two political parties and the main pro-democracy organization in the country issued appeals to the Sudanese for their solidarity.

The Communist Party, one of the parties involved in the protests, called for workers to strike as an act of civil disobedience following what it called a “full-scale military coup” by Burhan. According to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, at most 12 people were injured by demonstrations. However, they did not provide further information.