Several Western countries have expressed grave concern over the decision by Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to appoint a new ruling body weeks after he led a military coup that derailed the country’s fragile transition towards democracy.
Al-Burhan on Thursday issued a decree for the creation of a 14-member Sovereign Council, with himself at the head, and was sworn in late on Thursday. The commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, was sworn in as the council’s deputy head, a position he retained from the previous council.
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The new ruling body includes three senior military figures who were part of the previous council, five civilians and three former rebels who signed the Juba peace agreement with the former transitional government aimed at ending decades-old internal conflicts. The latter three have yet to be sworn in.
“This unilateral actions by the military undermines its commitment to uphold the agreed transitional framework,” read a statement published on Friday by Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and Switzerland. “We strongly urge against further escalatory steps,” it added.
Statement by the Troika, the European Union and Switzerland pic.twitter.com/sAsYvYpypa
— US Embassy Khartoum (@USEmbassyKRT) November 12, 2021
Representatives of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the umbrella alliance which spearheaded protests that led to the removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019, were dropped from the council.
Images circulating on social media late on Thursday showed anti-coup demonstrators in several districts of the capital Khartoum burning tiers and blocking roads rejecting the new council. Protests continued on Friday. Sudanese activist Jalelah Ahmed, speaking to Al Jazeera from Washington, DC, condemned the reappointment of Dagalo.
“We unequivocally reject this idea that Dagalo could ever be more than the militia leader that he was in Darfur under the Bashir regime,” she said.
The previous Sovereign Council had been set up in 2019 in the wake of a popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir. The body was a power-sharing agreement between members of the military and civilians with the goal of transitioning the country towards democratic elections in 2023.
But in a power grab on October 25, the army dissolved the council and the transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdellah Hamdok, while it imposed a six-month state of emergency across the country. More than 100 government officials and political leaders, along with protesters and activists have been arrested since, including Hamdok who is currently under house arrest.
The power grab was swiftly condemned by the international community, including the United Nations, the US and Gulf countries calling for the restoration of a civilian-led government.
National and international efforts have since been under way to resolve the crisis, while pro-democracy protesters have staged mass demonstrations denouncing the coup. Since then, at least 14 people have been killed in a crackdown by security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations. Al-Burhan has denied that the army was responsible for the deaths.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, al-Burhan said he was committed to handing over power to a civilian government, promising not to participate in any government that comes after the transitional period.
Despite the police crackdown, an ongoing internet shutdown and the partial disruption of phone lines, people are using flyers and graffiti urging more people to participate in anti-coup demonstrations. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a leading protest movement, has promised to continue protesting until a civilian government is established.
“There are calls for more protests against the military’s takeover,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum. “On Saturday that is when they want to come up in mass and show the military, not just in the capital but across the country, that people are rejecting the military and want a return to the democratic process that was interrupted on October 25,” she added.
Sudan’s Khartoum state announced on Friday that it will be closing all but three bridges at midnight ahead of planned demonstrations, according to state TV.