By Janet Sankale
The second successful military coup in Sudan in less than three years has been met with near-total condemnation worldwide.
And for the second time in as many years, the African Union (AU) has been quick to suspend the strife-torn nation from all its activities “until civilian rule is restored”.
The AU is just one of the powerful world authorities that have taken a dim view of the military’s seizure of power which has derailed the shaky transitional process that was supposed to lead to a new era of democracy in the country that has endured army rule for three decades.
Other powers that have expressed their displeasure at the developments in Sudan include the World Bank, which has also suspended aid to the country, and the United States, which put on hold $700 million in emergency assistance just hours after military officials arrested Sudan’s civilian government leaders and opened fire on protesters, endangering the country’s nascent transition to democracy.
Sudan’s military seized power on Monday, October 25, 2021, after days of protests as Sudanese citizens went to the streets to demand the return of civilian rule. The army officers dissolved the ruling Sovereign Council, arrested its civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and declared a state of emergency.
Hamdok was later released and was said to be under heavy military guard in his home. However, the other civilian leaders were still in detention.
The chairman of the Sudan Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, defended the military’s seizure of power, claiming it was aimed at averting civil war.
Thousands continued to flock to the streets of Khartoum despite the heavy presence of security forces who have killed several people. The people are bracing themselves for further violence as they plan more massive protests to demand the restoration of civilian rule.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres have called for the immediate return to civilian rule and the release of the detained officials.
In his statement of October 25, 2021, Blinken expressed grave concern about reports that security forces were using violence against protesters.
“We firmly reject the dissolution of the civilian-led transitional government and its associated institutions and call for their immediate restoration,” he said.
Guterres urged world powers to confront what he called a recent “epidemic of coups d’état”. However, his appeal was not taken up by the Security Council, which met at the UN headquarters in New York for consultations about Sudan, but took no action. The UN boss’s “epidemic of coups d’etats” was likely referring to recent military takeovers in Myanmar, Mali, and Guinea, and attempted coups in several other countries.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development said it was alarmed by the developments in Sudan and condemned any attempts to undermine the transitional government.
The European Union (EU), through High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, termed the actions of the military “a betrayal of the revolution, the transition, and the legitimate requests of the Sudanese people for peace, justice, and economic development”.
The EU pledged to continue supporting those working for a democratic Sudan.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for the immediate resumption of consultations between the civilian and military rulers “within the framework of the political declaration and the constitutional decree”, adding that dialogue and consensus were the only relevant path to saving the country and its democratic transition.
In June 2019, the AU suspended Sudan after pro-democracy protesters demanding civilian rule were gunned down outside the army headquarters in Khartoum. The membership was reinstated three months after Hamdok announced Sudan’s first cabinet since the overthrow of former President Omar Al Bashir in April of that year.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the military action was a threat to the Juba Peace Agreement and jeopardised important progress made towards democracy and respect for human rights.
“It would be disastrous if Sudan goes backwards after finally bringing an end to decades of repressive dictatorship. The country needs to move forward to consolidate democracy, a wish expressed countless times by the Sudanese people, including loudly and clearly on the streets last week and today,” she added.
The official said blanket internet shutdowns contravened international law, and urged the authorities to restore internet and mobile services as they are essential for seeking and receiving information.
The coup comes just weeks before the military was scheduled to hand leadership of the council, which runs the country, to civilians.
The US denied any knowledge of the putsch, which came just hours after its special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, met with military leaders and high-ranking Sudanese officials. “To be clear, we were not given any heads-up about this,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said. “Clearly an action like this is something that the United States would, and now does, oppose.”
He termed Feltman’s meetings with Sudanese officials as part of his regular trips to the region.
Al-Burhan, announced on TV on Monday that the military council would continue and complete the democratic transition until the country’s leadership is handed to an elected civilian government. He added that the constitution would be rewritten, and a legislative body of young men and women formed.
Thousands of women and men flooded the streets of the capital Khartoum to protest against the coup, which they accused of threatening the nation’s fragile democratic transition.
Power struggles have been going on in the Sovereign Council between its civilian and military members. Prime Minister Hamdok was said to have fallen foul of the military members after he refused to support the coup.
Former president Bashir was removed from office in April 2019, after nearly 30 years in power. Four months later, and after the military was accused of using excessive force against protesters, the military agreed to form a civilian-led transition council to run the country.
In September, 2021, forces loyal to Bashir tried to stage a coup. This served to widen divisions between the military and civilian members of the transnational government as they blamed each other for slow reforms, a worsening economic crisis, poverty, and corruption.