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Sudan's military chief says government ousted to avoid civil war

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Sudan's top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 26, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's military leader has denied that the army's seizure of power constitutes a coup, saying the transitional government was overthrown to avoid a civil war in the African country.

In his first press conference since Monday's military takeover, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan attempted to ease public concerns on Tuesday by reiterating the pledge of transition to civilian rule and said he had ousted the government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to avoid a civil war.

"The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into a civil war," Burhan said, referring to mass demonstrations attended by the Sudanese cabinet ministers in protest at the prospect of a military takeover.

"We only wanted to correct the course to a transition. We had promised the people of Sudan and the entire world. We will protect this transition," the army chief said, adding that a new government would be formed that would not comprise any typical politicians.

In a televised speech on Monday, Burhan declared a state of emergency and vowed to form what he called a competent government, after military forces arrested a number of political leaders, including Hamdok, and took the premier to an unknown place.

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.

Sudan general says Hamdok is 'at my home'

In the presser, Burhan accused Sudanese politicians of incitement against the country's armed forces, saying Hamdok had not been harmed and had been brought to his house for protection.

"The prime minister was in his house. However, we were afraid that he'd be in danger so he has been placed with me at my home," the general said, adding that the ousted prime minister was in good health and would return home when the crisis is over.

Burhan also vowed to scrap a state of emergency as soon as the institutions are back in operation.

The military takeover on Monday halted Sudan's transition to a democratic government two years after the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir.

The Sudanese Information Ministry announced that Burhan had effectively staged a "military coup" after declaring the 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 arrest drew large crowds of demonstrators to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, and some of its neighborhoods, with security forces opening fire on the protesters. Sources linked to Sudan's Health Ministry said seven people had been killed and scores of others injured in clashes between the protesters and security forces on Monday.

Images on social media showed new street protests on Tuesday in the cities of Atbara, Dongola, Elobeid, and Port Sudan, with people chanting, "Don't give your support to the army, the army won't protect you."

The Sudanese government on Tuesday called for the immediate release of Hamdok after the country's army chief said the civilian leader was staying with him. Hamdok's office also made a similar plea and said on its Facebook page that the prime minister remained "the executive authority recognized by the Sudanese people and the world."

The office added that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes, and civil disobedience.

Sudan has been embroiled in a longstanding political crisis since the ouster of Bashir in 2019, driven mostly by deteriorating economic problems. The transitional government had pledged to fix the economy, battered by decades of corruption, internal conflicts, and international sanctions.


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