politics

Sudan military coup draws thousands to the streets in protest

Sudan military coup draws thousands to the streets in protest

Thousands of Sudanese pro-democracy protesters streamed into the streets of the capital on Monday to reject a military coup of the transitional government that has ruled the country since the ouster of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir. In a statement broadcast on state television, Sudan’s most senior military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, declared a state of emergency across the strategic nation on the Horn of Africa and announced the dissolution of the transitional government, which included both civilian and military officials. He said a new caretaker government would soon be appointed to lead the country to elections, without providing a timetable. The statement followed reports earlier Monday from the Sudanese Information Ministry and several government officials that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, his wife and other civilian leaders had been detained by the military. The ministry said Mr. Hamdok and the others were taken to an undisclosed location after the prime minister declined to endorse what it said was a military coup. “We call on the Sudanese people to go out and demonstrate and use all the peaceful means to recover their revolution from any kidnapper, the ministry said. Across Khartoum, the capital, protesters erected roadblocks, burned tires and shouted slogans rejecting a return to military rule. Several labor unions called on their members to walk off the job in a show of civil disobedience. Soldiers, police and members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, meanwhile, patrolled bridges and key intersections in the capital. On its verified Facebook page, the information ministry said soldiers fired live bullets at protesters that had gathered around the military headquarters in Khartoum. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, one of the groups that participated in the monthslong popular uprising that preceded Mr. Bashir’s 2019 ouster, said at least 12 people had been injured in clashes between protesters and the military. Private television and radio stations were taken off air, while internet monitoring group NetBlocks reported that fixed-line and mobile connections across Sudan had been disrupted. The U.S. and the European Union, which have sustained Sudan’s post-Bashir transition both financially and politically, said they were alarmed by reports of a military takeover. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, called for the immediate release of the detained government officials. “The actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution, the transition, and the legitimate requests of the Sudanese people for peace, justice and economic development, he said. Tensions between civilian and military leaders have been building for several weeks and Mr. Hamdok warned earlier this month that Sudan’s transition to democracy was under threat. Under the 2019 power-sharing deal, Sudan was to hold its first elections in 2023 following more than three decades of military rule. Last week, tens of thousands of Sudanese demonstrated in Khartoum and other key cities, demanding that the military hand over control of the country to civilian leaders. Days earlier, a smaller crowd of protesters jumped barricades protecting the presidential palace in Khartoum in what they said was a show of support for a military takeover. The backdrop to the rising tensions is a spiraling economic crisis in the country of 45 million people. Annual consumer-price inflation has been near 400% for much of the year and the government has warned of shortages of essential goods, including wheat, fuel and basic medicines. In Khartoum, long lines in front of bakeries and groceries stores have once again become a common sight, which for many Sudanese brought back memories of the sharp increases to the price of bread that sparked the protests against Mr. Bashir in late 2018. The U.S. and other Western nations have sent millions of dollars of support to Sudan, hoping to build into a nexus of stability in a turbulent region. Almost exactly a year ago, the Trump administration brokered an agreement between Sudan and Israel to normalize relations, a key step for the removal of U.S. sanctions imposed on Khartoum in the 1990s for harboring al Qaeda’s then leader, Osama bin Laden, and aiding terrorist groups. Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund announced a massive debt-relief deal for Sudan under which more than $50 billion of the country’s external debts would be wiped out over the next three years. But the debt relief came tied to a stringent program of economic overhauls—including the removal of state subsidies and the floating of Sudan’s currency—that boosted opposition to Mr. Hamdok’s government. Cameron Hudson, a former chief of staff for the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan who is now with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, said one important reason for the country’s economic difficulties was the military’s continued control of key revenue-generating sectors, including gold mining, agriculture and construction. “The international assistance has helped slow the economic decline but it has not been enough to turn the economy around, he said. In recent weeks, Sudan’s economic problems have been exacerbated by a blockade of the Port of Sudan, the country’s biggest harbor on the Red Sea, where members of the Beja tribes, who make up around 10% of Sudan’s population, have cut off key access roads. They accuse the government of economic neglect and marginalization, and have insisted they won’t end the blockade to the ports until their demands are met. Download.

politics 2021-10-26 Livemint