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Apparent military coup in Sudan places already fragile transition to democracy at risk

Cairo — Sudan’s information ministry says the country’s interim Prime Minister, Abdulla Hamdok, has been placed under house arrest as a military coup unfolds in the northeast African nation.

After he refused to be a part of the coup, a force from the army detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and took him to an unidentified location, the ministry said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

Earlier, the ministry said military forces had detained a number of senior Sudanese government figures, as the country’s main pro-democracy group called on people to take to the streets to counter the apparent coup.

The Reuters news agency cited sources as saying soldiers had arrested most cabinet members and many pro-government party leaders.

U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington is “deeply alarmed” over the reports of the military takeover, adding that it puts U.S. assistance “at risk.”

Feltman posted the initial U.S. position on State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs Twitter page:

The information ministry said the internet had been cut off and military forces closed bridges. The country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile River.

The Umma Party, the country’s largest political party, described the arrests as an attempted coup, and called on people to take to the streets in resistance. Earlier, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a group leading demands for a transition to democracy, issued a similar call.

A possible takeover by the military would be a major setback for Sudan, which has grappled with a transition to democracy since long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests more than two years ago.

Monday’s arrests come after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan’s civilian and military leaders.

People gather around as smoke and fire are seen on the streets of Kartoum, Sudan, amid reports of a coup
People gather around as smoke and fire are seen on the streets of Kartoum, Sudan, amid reports of a coup on October 25, 2021, in this still image from video obtained via social media. 

RASD SUDAN NETWORK via Reuters


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 al-Bashir. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.

Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan has slowly emerged from years of international pariah status under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the United States’ state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed international loans and investment. The country’s economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.

There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government.

Monday’s arrests followed meetings Feltman had with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve the dispute. Sudan’s state news website highlighted the meetings with military officials.

The Sudanese Communist Party called on workers to go on strike and for mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by the Sovereign Council’s head Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan.

NetBlocks, a group that tracks disruptions across the internet, said it had seen a “significant disruption” to both fixed-line and mobile internet connections across Sudan with multiple providers early Monday.

“Metrics corroborate user reports network disruptions appearing consistent with an internet shutdown,” the advocacy group said. “The disruption is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”

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