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Sudanese protest into night after general ousts government

By AFP
Sudan Sudanese protest against a military coup  in the al-Shajara district in southern Khartoum.  By - (AFP)
OCT 26, 2021 LISTEN
Sudanese protest against a military coup in the al-Shajara district in southern Khartoum. By - (AFP)

Crowds protested into the night in Sudan Monday to denounce a military coup, with chaos engulfing the capital Khartoum after soldiers opened fire on demonstrators and reportedly killed three people.

Sudan's top general declared a state of emergency and dissolved the government -- one of several similar takeovers in Africa this year -- sparking swift condemnation from the US, which suspended aid and urged that civilian government be restored.

The UN demanded the prime minister's "immediate release" and diplomats in New York told AFP the Security Council was expected to meet to discuss the crisis on Tuesday.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's announcement came after the armed forces detained the civilian leaders who have been heading the transition to full civilian rule following the April 2019 overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Sudanese General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has dissolved the government and the ruling sovereign council.  By - (Sudan TV/AFP) Sudanese General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has dissolved the government and the ruling sovereign council. By - (Sudan TV/AFP)

"To rectify the revolution's course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide... dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet," said Burhan.

Clashes erupted in the capital Khartoum after his speech, with the information ministry saying that soldiers had "fired live bullets on protesters rejecting the military coup outside the army headquarters".

Three protesters were killed and about 80 people wounded when soldiers opened fire, according to the independent Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.

Internet cut

"Civilian rule is the people's choice," chanted the demonstrators, who waved flags and used tyres to create burning barricades.

Sudanese in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman protest the coup.  By - (AFP) Sudanese in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman protest the coup. By - (AFP)

The violence outside the army headquarters came after soldiers detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, ministers in his government and civilian members of the ruling council, the information ministry said.

Internet services were cut across the country and roads into Khartoum shut, before soldiers stormed the headquarters of the state broadcaster in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, the ministry said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement the detention of the civilian leaders was "unlawful" and condemned "the ongoing military coup d'etat".

Key economic indicators for Sudan..  By Jonathan WALTER (AFP) Key economic indicators for Sudan.. By Jonathan WALTER (AFP)

The European Union, African Union and Arab League also expressed concern, while the United States, which has been a key supporter of Sudan's transition, said it had suspended $700 million in aid.

"The civilian-led transitional government should be immediately restored," said State Department spokesman Ned Price, adding that the US had not been able to contact the detained prime minister.

'Existential moment'

A 2019 power-sharing deal saw Sudan ruled by a Sovereign Council of civilian and military representatives tasked with overseeing a transition to a full civilian government.

Sudanese security forces keep watch during protests against the military coup.  By - (AFP) Sudanese security forces keep watch during protests against the military coup. By - (AFP)

But in recent weeks the cracks in the leadership had grown wide.

Hamdok had previously described splits in the transitional government as the "worst and most dangerous crisis" facing the transition.

Jonas Horner from the International Crisis Group think tank called it an "existential moment for both sides".

"This kind of intervention... really puts autocracy back on the menu," he said.

Sudanese protesters burn tyres to block a road in the 60th Street area of the capital Khartoum, to denounce detentions by the army of members of Sudan's government.  By - (AFP) Sudanese protesters burn tyres to block a road in the 60th Street area of the capital Khartoum, to denounce detentions by the army of members of Sudan's government. By - (AFP)

Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades, is in jail in Khartoum following a conviction for corruption.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of genocide over the civil war in Darfur.

But UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned Sudan risked returning to oppression.

"It would be disastrous if Sudan goes backwards after finally bringing an end to decades of repressive dictatorship," Bachelet said.

'Give our lives'

In recent days, two factions of the movement that spearheaded demonstrations against Bashir have protested on opposite sides of the debate -- one group calling for military rule, the other for a full handover of power.

Sudanese carry a man injured during clashes as part of protests against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021 in the capital Khartoum.  By - (AFP) Sudanese carry a man injured during clashes as part of protests against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021 in the capital Khartoum. By - (AFP)

Tensions have long simmered within the movement, known as Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), but divisions ratcheted up after what the government said was a failed coup on September 21 this year.

One FFC leader warned of a "creeping coup" on the weekend at a news conference in Khartoum that was attacked by a mob.

On Monday, the mainstream FFC appealed for nationwide "civil disobedience".

Protesters were seen marching through the streets of Khartoum carrying the Sudanese flag.

"We will not accept military rule, and we are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan," said one demonstrator, Haitham Mohamed.

"We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back," Sawsan Bashir, another protester, told AFP.

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