Sudan’s army seizes power and opens fire on protesters, killing seven

Sudanese armed forces opened fire on protesters during a military coup yesterday, killing seven and jeopardising hopes of the east African state embracing human rights reforms.

n top of the death toll, at least 80 people were injured, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, after the army shot at crowds who had gathered to protest against Abdalla Hamdok, the prime minister, being placed under house arrest.

General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, head of the army, later announced that he had disbanded the government and declared a state of emergency.

Thousands took to the streets to condemn the coup, blocking streets and setting fire to tyres, as the army shut down the internet and telephone lines.

The US responded to the coup by urging the immediate restoration of a civilian government and suspending $700m of aid, a move that will likely further devastate Sudan’s crippled economy.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest.”

Central bank employees said they went on an immediate strike in rejection of the coup.

The military takeover comes two years after a revolution which ousted the autocratic leader, Omar al-Bashir, and began the process for democratic elections in 2023.

The army had also been due to hand over the leadership of a powerful council that controls the country to civilians in the coming weeks.

Under Mr Hamdok, who formed a transitional government following the 2019 revolution, Sudan had promised to end flogging, child marriage, apostasy laws and female genital mutilation as it sought to improve relations with the West and return to the international fold.

Sudan also signed a normalisation treaty with Israel last year and was removed from the US blacklist of state-sponsors of terrorism, opening
the door to international aid funding.

But last night, all the progress made since 2019 risked being reversed as critics of the coup’s leaders said they feared a return to oppressive military rule.

“I am really worried about the situation, which is very fluid now. Burhan has taken an irreversible step,” said Mohamed Osman, a Sudanese businessman and fellow at the African Leadership Institute. “The arrest of Hamdok is totally unacceptable and Burhan, who is leading this phase, is extremely unpopular – most of us believe he is responsible for the June 3 massacre,” he added, referring to the 2019 Khartoum massacre in which at least 100 protesters were killed by the army.

Samahir Elmubarak, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professional Association, said the protests would continue.

“Our theme of non-violence has been the fuel of our sustainability, we will continue to non-violently resist this coup. We have not been protesting and voting for the past three years to end up with another military rule,” she said.

Protesters in Khartoum and Omdurman chanted: “The people are stronger, stronger” and “Retreat is not an option.”

Meanwhile, the Sudanese national broadcaster, which was reportedly stormed by the army, replaced its news programme with patriotic music and images of the River Nile.

General Burhan has insisted that Sudan will still hold democratic elections in 2023, but said the country’s constitution would be rewritten.

“The armed forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” he said.

Yesterday’s takeover follows a failed coup attempt last month and weeks of tensions between the Sudanese military and civilian leaders as to how the country should be governed.

In a statement released from house arrest, Mr Hamdok called on protesters to peacefully resist the coup.

The UN’s mission in Sudan said the coup was “unacceptable” and urged the army to release Sudanese officials and members of civil society who have been arrested.

“We will defend democracy until the end,” said one protester, 21-year-old Iman Ahmed.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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