Sudan’s military says it seized power to prevent ‘civil war’

Protesters demonstrate against takeover while Sudan’s army chief defends the military’s power grab.

Sudan's top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan holds a news conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum [Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

Sudan’s armed forces chief has defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had dissolved the government to avoid civil war, while protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the takeover after a day of deadly clashes.

Speaking at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Tuesday that the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces.

The military takeover on Monday brought a halt to Sudan’s transition to democracy, two years after a popular uprising toppled longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.

“The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” al-Burhan said, an apparent reference to demonstrations against the prospect of a coup.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was detained on Monday along with other members of his cabinet, had not been harmed and had been brought to al-Burhan’s own home, the general said.

“The prime minister was in his house. However, we were afraid that he’d be in danger so he has been placed with me in my home.”

Military sources late on Tuesday told Al Jazeera that Hamdok and his wife had been allowed to return to their home in Khartoum.

“It’s not clear how much freedom he has and if he will be allowed to speak to the media or make contact with anyone at all in the coming days,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum.

Al-Burhan had appeared on TV on Monday to announce the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, a body set up after al-Bashir’s overthrow to share power between the military and civilians and lead Sudan to free elections.

The Facebook page for the office of the prime minister, apparently still under the control of Hamdok loyalists, called for his release and that of other civilian leaders.

Hamdok remained “the executive authority recognised by the Sudanese people and the world”, the post said. It said there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.

Sudanese security forces are deployed during a protest a day after the military seized power in Khartoum, Sudan [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]

‘Al-Burhan digging himself deeper into a hole’

Sudanese ambassadors to 12 countries, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, China, and France, have rejected the military takeover, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

Ambassadors to Belgium and the European Union, Geneva and UN agencies, China, South Africa, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Sweden and Canada also signed on to the statement, which said the envoys backed popular resistance to the coup.

Western countries have denounced the coup, called for the detained Cabinet ministers to be freed and said they will cut off aid if the military does not restore power-sharing with civilians.

US President Joe Biden’s administration announced the suspension of $700m in emergency assistance to Sudan.

The German mission to the United Nations said on Twitter that it was suspending aid until further notice.

Alex De Waal of the World Peace foundation told Al Jazeera it’s an “extraordinary gamble” for the military to intervene.

“It would appear [al-Burhan] is just digging himself deeper into a hole,” Waal said.

“[Al-Burhan] is already facing a suspension of US assistance. One suspects that the debt relief that has been painstakingly negotiated by the civilian government will now be put on hold. One suspects the armed groups that have not signed peace agreements, which are the most powerful ones in Darfur … will not sign any agreement.”

Diplomats said on Tuesday that the UN Security Council is discussing a possible statement on Sudan.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday decried “an epidemic of coup d’etats” as Sudan is the latest in a series of military takeovers in Myanmar, Mali and Guinea and attempted coups in several other countries.

Shops shut, protests flare in capital

Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman across the Nile River were partly locked down on Tuesday with shops shut and plumes of smoke rising from where protesters burned tyres.

Calls for a general strike were played over mosque loudspeakers. Streets and bridges were blocked by soldiers or protester barricades.

A group of neighbourhood resistance committees in Khartoum announced a schedule of further barricades and protests leading to what it said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday.

Images on social media showed renewed street protests on Tuesday in the cities of Atbara, Dongola, Elobeid and Port Sudan. People chanted: “Don’t give your back to the army, the army won’t protect you.”

A health ministry official said seven people had been killed in clashes between protesters and the security forces on Monday.

People set up a barricade during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]

Al-Burhan has said the military’s action did not amount to a coup.

“We only wanted to correct the course to a transition,” he said. “We had promised the people of Sudan and the entire world. We will protect this transition.”

He said a new government would be formed that would contain no typical politicians.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies