Sudan’s top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said he is keeping toppled Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at his own house.
He told a news conference in Khartoum on Tuesday that Hamdok was safe, in good health and kept away “for his own safety”. He added that the politician would be released “today or tomorrow”.
The whereabouts of Hamdok, who had headed a transitional government with al-Burhan since August 2019, were initially unclear after the military detained Hamdok and some civilian leaders on Monday.
“The prime minister was in his house. However, we were afraid that he’d be in danger so he has been placed with me at my home,” the general said, in his second public appearance since seizing power.
Al-Burhan said the military was forced to step in to resolve a growing political crisis that he alleged could have led to civil war.
But the coup came less than a month before al-Burhan was supposed to hand the leadership of the Sovereign Council that runs the country to a civilian – a step that would have decreased the military’s hold on power.
“The whole country was deadlocked due to political rivalries,” he told the televised news conference.
“The experience during the past two years has proven that the participation of political forces in the transitional period is flawed and stirs up strife.”
Of the slew of senior government officials detained in Monday’s coup, some tried to incite a rebellion within the armed forces, al-Burhan alleged, saying they would face trial. Others who are found “innocent” would be freed, he said.
But shortly after al-Burhan spoke, Hamdok’s office issued a statement, voicing concerns about the safety of the prime minister and other detained officials. It did not say where the politician was being held.
The statement accused the military leaders of acting in concert with Islamists, who have argued for a military government, and other politicians linked to al-Bashir’s National Congress Party, which was dissolved in 2019.
The Facebook page for the office of the prime minister, apparently still under the control of Hamdok’s loyalists, called for Hamdok’s release and that of the other civilian leaders.
Hamdok remained “the executive authority recognised by the Sudanese people and the world”, it said. It added that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.
‘Epidemic of coups d’etat’
Western governments and the UN have condemned the coup and called for the release of Hamdok and other senior officials. US President Joe Biden’s administration announced the suspension of $700m in emergency assistance to Sudan.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “geopolitical divides” were preventing the Security Council from taking strong measures as countries around the world grapple with the pandemic and social and economic problems.
“These factors are creating an environment in which some military leaders feel that they have total impunity, they can do whatever they want because nothing will happen to them,” Guterres said.
“My appeal is for especially the big powers to come together for the unity of the Security Council in order to make sure that there is effective deterrence in relation with this epidemic of coups d’etat,” he said.
Mariam al-Mahdi, the foreign minister in the government that the military dissolved, was defiant Tuesday, declaring that she and other members of Hamdok’s administration remained the legitimate authority in Sudan.
“We are still in our positions. We reject such coup and such unconstitutional measures,” she told The Associated Press over the phone from her home in the capital of Khartoum. “We will continue our peaceful disobedience and resistance.”
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.
A statement from the information ministry on Tuesday appealed for “liberation of everyone” arrested on Monday with Hamdok. This included his wife, several of his ministers, and civilian members of the council that was in charge of the country’s transition to full civilian rule.
Meanwhile, Khartoum’s airport said on its Facebook page that Sudan’s civil aviation authority suspended all flights to and from Khartoum international airport until October 30.
Hours after the arrests on Monday, thousands of Sudanese took to the streets in Khartoum and other cities to protest amid reports of clashes and gunfire.
At least four people were killed and more than 80 wounded when security forces opened fire on protesters, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee.
Soldiers were stationed on the streets of Khartoum and restricted civilians’ movements, as protesters opposed to the military takeover carried the national flag and burned tyres across the city.
The takeover came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and the pace of Sudan’s transition to democracy.
It threatened to derail that process, which has progressed in fits and starts since the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.
The country and the world are now braced to see if more violence will unfold in the nation, which saw a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2019.
A bigger test of how the military will respond to the resistance could come Saturday when protesters plan a mass march to demand a return to civilian rule.