Horn of Africa. The soldiers seize the Sudan

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In a Facebook post, the Association of Sudanese Professionals, the country’s main pro-democracy political group, warned early Monday: the army was preparing to take power. The group urged citizens to take to the streets. “The revolution is a revolution of the people”, declared this organization made up of doctors, engineers and lawyers. “Power and wealth belong to the people. No to a military coup. Just two hours later, soldiers stormed into the homes of the main civilian figures of the Sovereignty Council – the highest transitional authority set up not without difficulty after the fall of Omar Al Bashir’s regime.

Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was initially held at home with his wife, the coup plotters hoping to get him to sign a declaration of allegiance to the ongoing coup. But the head of government refused. He was then taken to an unknown destination. The soldiers also took over the premises of the national television. A classic in this kind of situation. At midday, General Abdel Fattah Al Burhane, until then at the head of the sovereignty council, appeared there. Constantly repeating that he still wanted “a transition to a civil state and free elections in 2023”, after thirty years of dictatorship by Omar Al Bachir, dismissed in 2019, he nevertheless relieved all the leaders of their functions. The government is dissolved, as well as the sovereignty council, the prefects and ministers are dismissed, and a state of emergency is declared throughout the country.

From division to coup

During this time and shortly before all communication – Internet and telephone alike – was cut off, the Sudanese Communist Party (PCS) called on “all active forces and those supporting full civil authority to declare a political strike and civil disobedience until may this coup d’etat be defeated ”. For its part, the Prime Minister’s office urged “the Sudanese population to protest by all possible peaceful means”. What met the popular will. It was already beginning to be expressed in the streets of the capital Khartoum and Omdurman, the country’s second largest city, as well as in the states of Al-Jazirah and North Kordofan. The few images transmitted show residents blocking the streets with stones and gatherings of thousands of people facing the troops, who did not hesitate to shoot without knowing the results. The Khartoum University Teachers Union decreed civil disobedience. Doctors are on strike, except for emergencies, and have withdrawn from military hospitals.

It is to say if the army will not have it easy, the Sudanese having measured their own strength by ousting the dictator Al Bashir. The situation, foreseeable, is no less tense. A coup had already failed in September. On Monday, the United States’ special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said Washington was “deeply alarmed by reports of a military takeover of the transitional government.” This coup d’état comes at a time when the main civilian players in the revolution were divided, especially in the face of poor economic performance. For several weeks, rallies in support of the military had been organized and counter-demonstrations, on the contrary, demanded an acceleration of the transition and the organization of elections. General Al Burhane was to hand over the management of affairs to the prime minister, which would have meant full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades. Unacceptable for men in fatigues. The coup was immediately condemned, both by the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations. But the geopolitical position of Sudan, at the junction of the Blue Nile and the White Nile, at the edge of the Red Sea and having relations with Saudi Arabia as well as with Egypt, Turkey and China, allows military to position themselves as essential interlocutors and to lead the country with a committee in their boots.

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