Sudan’s army has dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency in what amounts to a military coup after months of tension between the civilian and military wings of the transitional ruling body.
The military takeover, which prompted people to take to the streets of the capital Khartoum in protest, was announced on television on Monday by General Abdel Fattah Burhan, chair of the sovereign council that had been overseeing the transitional government.
He said the armed forces had taken control but would appoint a technocratic government as well as a constitutional court and a legislative council. The military would prepare the country for elections in July 2023, he said.
Hours earlier, the culture and information ministry said in a Facebook post that the armed forces were holding Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other political figures. It said in a later post that Burhan “announced the seizure of power in a military coup”.
The transitional government came into power in 2019 after months of civilian protests against the 30-year regime of Omar al-Bashir. Although protesters and civilian officials referred to the toppling of Bashir as a “revolution”, it was the military that ultimately brought his regime to an end.
In recent months, the loose coalition of forces that helped topple Bashir has fractured as economic hardship bites, with inflation running at nearly 200 per cent.
Nabil Adib, a prominent human rights lawyer in Khartoum, said there had been a breakdown in relations between the military and civilians. “There are divisions and differences of opinion and internal problems,” he said, referring to splits within the broad coalition of civilian forces, many over the direction of economic policy.
A statement from Hamdok’s office posted by the culture and information ministry on its Facebook page, which managed to circumvent an internet blockade, said the prime minister was “kidnapped” and called on the “Sudanese people to come out and demonstrate using all peaceful means possible . . . to take back their revolution from these thieves”.
“Military forces fired live bullets at demonstrators who rejected the military coup,” said the ministry, which is loyal to Hamdok, after protesters flocked to the streets of Khartoum. At least 12 people have been injured in clashes, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee trade union.
The military takeover, which happened in the early hours of Monday not long after US special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman left Khartoum, was condemned by the international community.
In a statement on Monday, the US government said it was “deeply alarmed” by the development, which would contravene “the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable. As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk US assistance.”
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, called for the “immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and the military” and urged the release of all “arrested political leaders”. French president Emmanuel Macron said “France condemns the attempted coup in Sudan in the strongest terms”, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell demanded that both sides “put back on track the transition process”.
The culture and information ministry said on Monday that internet services had been cut off from mobile phone networks and bridges were closed by military forces. NetBlocks, which monitors internet shutdowns globally, confirmed the disruption to services.
Mo Ibrahim, a prominent British-Sudanese businessman, said the military had been gearing up for a coup for weeks, using the “veneer of protests” and economic chaos as cover for its actions. “It is a very very sad development, but this is not over,” he said, referring to what he called the aspiration of millions of ordinary Sudanese for a democratic government.
The government had undertaken a series of economic reforms designed to revive the near-bankrupt economy, including removing costly fuel subsidies and moving to a more realistic exchange rate. But the resulting hardship added to popular discontent.
Sudanese businesspeople said the government had failed to deal with a blockade of the main road from Port Sudan for the past five weeks, adding to the already desperate economic situation.