Sudan’s armed forces chief and coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan defended the military’s actions saying that they seized power to prevent ‘civil war’ in the country.
“The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” al-Burhan told a news conference.
World powers universally condemned the coup, in a rare agreement between the UN, Washington, Moscow, Brussels, and Beijing, the US, and other world powers.
The military takeover on Monday brought a halt to Sudan’s transition to democracy, two years after a popular uprising toppled long-ruling Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s announcement in a televised address came after armed forces detained figures of the government in charge of leading the transition to democracy since the April 2019 ouster of President Omar al-Bashir.
Burhan said, “To rectify the revolution’s course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide… dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet,” SaharaReporters wrote.
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 26, 2021
Soldiers fired live rounds at protesters who took to the streets to protest the power grab, his statement, came as clashes erupted in the capital, Khartoum. The violence was mostly centered outside the army headquarters in the capital, hours after soldiers seized Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, his cabinet ministers, and civilian members of Sudan’s ruling council.
Sudan’s Prime Minister arrested in a military coup as violent street protests erupt pic.twitter.com/eesrTI6X6H
— The Sun (@TheSun) October 25, 2021
The U.S. embassy in Khartoum then expressed its own concerns as it became apparent that Burhan had placed himself in charge.
In an excerpt from Newsweek:
The embassy said in a statement, “The U.S. embassy is gravely concerned by reports that the armed forces have taken action against Sudan’s civilian government, and condemns actions that are undermining Sudan’s democratic transition, We call on all actors who are disrupting Sudan’s transition to stand down, and allow the civilian-led transitional government to continue its important work to achieve the goals of the revolution.”
However, China is one country that has managed to maintain amicable relations throughout various periods of political leadership in Sudan. On Monday, Beijing also expressed concern toward the latest events and issued assurances that its embassy in Khartoum was functioning as usual.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that, “China is following the latest developments in Sudan, and calls on relevant parties in Sudan to resolve differences through dialogue and maintain national peace and stability, at present, the Chinese embassy is operating normally.”
While China has also been a major arms supplier to Sudan, it is Russia that provides the vast majority of Sudan’s weapons imports.
Moscow has expanded its footprint in Africa in recent years, and Sudan has been a focus of Russian projects, especially in the security realm. Russia and Sudan agreed last December on the establishment of a Russian naval logistic base off the African nation’s Red Sea coast, but as of last month the two sides were still in talks on the matter.
Members of Russia’s Wagner, a private military company, have also been spotted operating in Sudan. This deployment is one of several that led the U.S. to roll out sanctions last year against Russian businessman Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who is alleged by the U.S. Treasury Department to have funded a Wagner-led attempt to suppress protests against Bashir.
For its part, Russia has accused the U.S. of interfering in Sudanese affairs, including in its support of the country’s division and the 2019 coup. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated these grievances in a statement last week, and on Monday the Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to the latest events.
The ministry fell short of explicitly supporting Burhan’s moves, but said such actions appeared to be rooted in the shortcomings of the transitional government.
The statement said, “We proceed from the fact that such a development of events in Sudan has become evidence of an acute systemic crisis that has engulfed all areas of the country’s political and economic life, This is a natural result of a failed policy that has been pursued over the past two years. The despair and plight of the vast majority of the population were virtually ignored by the transitional authorities and their foreign patrons and advisers.”
“Large-scale foreign interference in the internal affairs of the republic in practice led to the loss of confidence in the transitional authorities by Sudanese citizens, which repeatedly resulted in numerous protests and provoked general instability in the country, including the actual isolation of a number of its regions.” The ministry said.
The central African nation of Sudan, lying south of Egypt, has been struggling to reform itself into a representative government following the civil war that saw the secession of South Sudan in 2017 and the 2019 revolution against Omar al-Bashir, who had led the nation as a dictator since his own coup-de-tat in 1989. Bashir who transformed the nation into a state sponsor of terrorism that welcomed Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s and cultivated relationships with radical Islamist fundamentalists like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Hamas, was overthrown by the military and replaced with “Transitional Sovereign Council” led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.
Differences of opinion on working with Western nations versus Russian or Chinese interests as well as whether or not to hand former leader Omar al-Bashir to the World Court to stand trial for war crimes had stymied the formation of a new government for two years.
According to reports as of this writing Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has been allowed to return to his home, but the Military under General al-Burhan remains in control of the country. However, reports are fragmentary due to the internet connectivity, already limited in the impoverished, war-torn nation, being cut off by the military.
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