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Sudan’s opposition coalition calls for civil disobedience as African Union urges talks

Sudanese protesters burn tires to block a road in the capital Khartoum to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of government, October 25, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan’s main opposition coalition has called for civil disobedience and protests across the country against the backdrop of the military’s dissolving of the transitional government in what was denounced as a “coup.”

The Sudanese Information Ministry said on Monday that the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance had demanded that the transitional military council step down and transfer power back to the civilian government.

The alliance also called for the release of all detained members of the Sudanese cabinet and the Sovereign Council, a ruling body that had shared power between the military and civilians until it was dissolved by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan earlier in the day, the ministry said on its Facebook account.

In a televised speech on Monday, Burhan declared a state of emergency and vowed to form what he called a competent government after unidentified military forces arrested a number of political leaders, including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.

Several members of the country’s civilian leadership were also taken into custody, among them Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, and media adviser to the prime minister, Faisal Mohammed Saleh.

Burhan announcement amounts to ‘military coup’

The information ministry also announced that Burhan had effectively staged a “military coup” after declaring a state of emergency and dissolving the government.

The ministry also said Hamdok had been detained and moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the takeover.

Burhan’s declaration and the arrests drew large crowds of demonstrators to the streets in the capital Khartoum and some of its neighborhoods, with security forces opening fire on protesters demonstrating against the military coup.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said three people had died of wounds after being shot by armed forces during protests against the takeover. The doctors union wrote on its Facebook page that at least 80 people were also injured.

African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat called for the “immediate resumption” of dialogue between Sudan’s military and civilians after the detention of senior figures in the transitional government.

“The Chairperson calls for the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and military within the framework of the political declaration and the constitutional decree,” Faki said in a statement posted on Twitter.

UN, EU call for immediate release of Sudan’s officials

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the immediate release of Sudan’s prime minister and all other officials after the military seized power.

“I condemn the ongoing military coup in Sudan. Prime Minister Hamdok & all other officials must be released immediately. There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition. The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan,” Guterres wrote on Twitter.

Moreover, the European Union censured Hamdok’s detention and other cabinet members, calling for their immediate release following the dissolution of the transitional government.

“We call on the security forces to immediately release those they have unlawfully detained,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement. Borrell said the right of peaceful protest has to be respected, underlining that violence and bloodshed must be avoided at all cost.

“The actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution, the transition, and the legitimate requests of the Sudanese people for peace, justice and economic development,” he added.

The EU foreign policy chief also said he was following events in Sudan with utmost concern. “Following with utmost concern ongoing events in #Sudan. The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Additionally, Borrell’s spokesperson Nabila Massrali said at a news conference in Brussels that “violence and bloodshed must be avoided at all cost.”

“The EU is very concerned about Sudan’s military forces reportedly prime minister Hamdok under house arrest and as well as detaining other members of the civilian leadership and we urge for their fast release. We have seen also the reports of cuts of telephone and internet in Sudan. We urgently call for unrestricted means of communication to reach those in need. Violence and bloodshed must be avoided at all cost,” Massrali told reporters.

“All stakeholders are expected to implement the different aspects of the constitutional declaration and the Juba Peace Agreement in good faith and with continued spirit of collaboration for the benefit of the Sudanese people,” she added, referring to a power-sharing agreement in October 2020 that ended a 17-year-old conflict in the country.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the military coup in Sudan and called for the immediate release of the Sudanese prime minister and civilian members of the government.

Sudan has been embroiled in a longstanding political crisis since the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, driven mostly by deteriorating economic woes. The transitional government has time and again pledged to fix the economy battered by decades of corruption, internal conflicts, and international sanctions. But support for the government has waned in recent months amid a tough package of economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including slashing of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound.

Anti-military sentiments have risen across Sudan over the past few months. On September 30, thousands of people rallied in Khartoum against the military rulers. They demanded the formation of new transitional authorities that would exclusively consist of civilians. The angry protesters chanted anti-junta slogans such as, “The army is Sudan’s army, not Burhan’s army.”

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