Thursday, December 2, 2021

Sudanese Security Forces Arrested Three Leading Democratic Activists

Sudanese security forces arrested protesters in Khartoum on Wednesday, including three leading democracy activists, as the World Bank and African Union took steps to increase pressure on the leaders of Monday’s military coup.

Witnesses say security forces fired tear gas at the protesters and arrested them, removing barricades in the capital. Among those detained are activists from the Ummah Party, the largest political group in Sudan.

The activists, all critics of the military coup, have been identified as the leader of the Association of Sudanese Professionals, Ismail al-Taj, the leader of the Umma al-Sadiq al-Mahdi party, and the former media adviser to the Prime Minister, Khalid al-Silaik.

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Meanwhile, according to a statement from the African Union, the African Union has suspended Sudan’s participation in all activities of the organization until power is transferred to the civilian government.

The World Bank said in a statement that it “suspended” financial assistance to the country and “stopped processing any new transactions as we are closely monitoring and assessing the situation.”

Sudanese security forces deploy during a protest the day after military takeover of Khartoum, Sudan, October 26, 2021.

Many businesses in Sudan remain closed in response to calls for strikes, which some doctors and state oil workers say will join in support of the ousted government. The employees of the Central Bank also went on strike.

On Tuesday, Sudan’s military commander, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, defended the army’s overthrow of the country’s transitional government, saying a civil war must be avoided.

“The whole country is at an impasse due to political rivalry,” Burkhan said at a televised press conference in Khartoum. “The experience of the past two years has shown that the participation of political forces in the transition period is wrong and incites discord.”

Deposed Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and his wife, who were detained on Monday, were allowed to return home late Tuesday night but were “under close surveillance,” his office said in a statement.

The head of the Sudanese Armed Forces, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, speaks at a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, Sudan, October 26, 2021.

The head of the Sudanese Armed Forces, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, speaks at a news conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, Sudan, October 26, 2021.

Burkhan also admitted that “we have arrested ministers and politicians, but not all,” and said that some will face trial for allegedly instigating an uprising in the district’s military.

In a statement from the US Department of State, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken praised Hamdock’s release and spoke to him late Tuesday night. Blinken again called on the Sudanese military to release all civilian leaders, according to the statement.

UN Security Council

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council held a closed meeting to discuss the situation. The United States, along with councilors from the United Kingdom, Estonia, France, Ireland, and Norway, convened a meeting. Volker Perthes, UN Special Representative for Sudan, informed them from Khartoum.

Before the meeting, several councilors reiterated their government’s condemnation of the coup and the need to end violence against protesters.

“Two years ago, the people of Sudan risked their lives for democracy and they won’t have to do it again,” British Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters.

National emergency

Military commander Burkhan declared a national emergency on Monday and announced the end of the joint civil-military sovereign council that has ruled the country since August 2019, shortly after the ouster of longtime dictator President Omar al-Bashir.

He pledged that the military would hand over power to the civilian government in July 2023 after a general election.

It was quiet early Wednesday morning in downtown Khartoum, next to the Foreign Ministry and other government offices, according to journalist Mohamed Ali Fazari.

Democracy protesters blocked roads with impromptu barricades and set fires the day after the military seized power in a widely condemned rally in front of Mercy Care Hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, October 26, 2021.

Democracy protesters blocked roads with impromptu barricades and set fires the day after the military seized power in a widely condemned rally in front of Mercy Care Hospital in Khartoum, Sudan, October 26, 2021.

In an interview with Voice of America, he said that the relative calm in the center of Khartoum could be disturbed by a group of local committees planning a “march of millions” on Saturday.

“People are calling for a big demonstration, which they call the millionth march demonstration, on October 30, and there are also calls for civil disobedience,” Fazari said.

The Sudan Medical Committee said Monday that at least four people were killed and 80 injured when security forces opened fire on protesters protesting the coup. Despite the violence, new demonstrations took place on Tuesday.

Global response

UN Secretary General António Guterres, the African Union and the League of Arab States were among those alarmed and dismayed on Monday by the latest developments in Sudan, and they called on the country to stay on the path to civilian rule.

A joint statement released through the US, UK and Norway State Departments condemned the coup and called on Sudanese security forces to immediately release all people “illegally detained.”

“The actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution, the transition period and the legitimate pleas of the Sudanese people for peace, justice and economic development,” the statement said.

The US State Department said it was suspending $ 700 million in financial assistance to the country.

Sudanese demonstrators march and chant during a protest against a military coup in Atbara, Sudan on October 27, 2021, in this social media image.

Sudanese demonstrators march and chant during a protest against a military coup in Atbara, Sudan on October 27, 2021, in this social media image.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, Nureldin Satti, condemned the coup “which ended the transition to civil democracy in Sudan.”

“I am pleased to see that my colleagues in Brussels, Paris, Geneva and New York followed their example and condemned the military coup,” added Satti. “We will work with other colleagues in the diplomatic service and in the diaspora to counter a military coup in support of the heroic struggle of the Sudanese people to achieve the goals of the 19 December 2018 revolution.”

Hamdock, an economist and diplomat who worked at the UN, was named interim prime minister of the country in August 2019. The transition period received strong support from Western countries, including the United States, which removed Sudan from its state sponsorship list of terrorism.

But Hamdok faced fierce opposition from elements of the Sudanese military. On September 21, forces still loyal to al-Bashir used tanks to block the key bridge and attempted to seize power. The coup was suppressed and dozens of soldiers were arrested.

Thousands took to the streets last week to protest the prospect of a return to military rule.

“This country is ours, and we have a civil government,” the protesters chanted.

Michael Athit of VOA English to Africa South Sudan in Focus and UN Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some of the information in this report also came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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