Oct. 26 (UPI) — The Sudanese military seized control of the country early Monday and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other government officials in an apparent coup.
“This is a new Sudan,” military chief Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burnhan said in a news conference, The New York Times reported. “We call on everybody to come together to develop an build the country.”
In taking the helm of Sudan, the military imposed a state of emergency as protesters took to the streets, resulting in violence, and dissolved the governing Transitional Sovereignty Council, which Hamdok led.
The coup was conducted as the country teetered toward founding a democracy following decades under the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, who was disposed of in April of 2019.
As prime minister, Hamdok was to lead the country for 39 months until elections were to be held.
Thousands on Monday poured into the streets of the capital Khartoum in opposition of the coup, resulting in the joint military forces opening fire with live ammunition, the ministry said.
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, one of the main groups that form the pro-democracy Sudanese Professionals Association, said three people had been shot and killed by the military. Some 80 people were also injured.
“The methods of dictatorships are one and their fate is inevitable,” it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the pausing of $700 million in emergency support for the country after U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman warned earlier in the day that U.S. aid will be at risk if changes are made to the transitional government.
The money, Blinken said, was in support of the country’s democratic transition.
“The United States strongly condemns the actions of the Sudanese military forces. We firmly reject the dissolution of the civilian-led transitional government and its associated institutions and call for their immediate restoration,” the United States’ top diplomat said in a statement. “The arrest of Prime Minister Hamdok and other civilian leaders is unacceptable.”
Hamdok’s arrest was announced early Monday by the Ministry of Culture and Information, which said in a Facebook post that he was detained by joint military forces inside his home from where he told the public in a statement to take to the streets in opposition.
After refusing to endorse the coup, the military arrested Hamdok and moved him to an unknown location, the ministry said.
Later Monday, the ministry said he and several ministers were taken to an unknown location and that any actions of the military lack authority.
“The Transitional Government … is still the legitimate transitional authority in the country, the ministry said in a statement.
Bridges were closed by military forces and Internet service was severed.
NetBlocks confirmed Internet interruption in the country, showing connectivity was “severely disrupted.” The Internet usage monitor first said connectivity dropped 34% of ordinary levels, but the cuts were more severe starting from 4:30 a.m. and ongoing.
“The disruption is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the group,” it said.
The apparent coup occurred a month after government officials said they had thwarted a military plot to seize control of the country and 30 months after the dethroning of al-Bashir, who oversaw the country since 1993.
Protests followed al-Bashir’s ousting against military rule and in support of the creation of a civilian government. Hamdok and the transitional council, which consists of six civilians and five military officers, were sworn in on August that same year.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which was the main pro-democracy organization behind the protests, had called on the public via Facebook on Monday to take to the streets “and completely occupy them.”
An hour or so later, the group, which is comprised of professionals, doctors and trade unions, ordered people to block all roads with barricades and conduct a general strike of civil disobedience.
“We will not be ruled by the military and militias,” it said. “Revolution is a people’s revolution. Power and wealth are all for the people.”
Several unions, including the Joint Chamber of Civilian Governance, the Executive Committee of the Sudanese Pilots Union and the Sudanese Animal Wealth and Animal Production Specialists, have declared their resistance to the coup.
“Apostasy is impossible,” the pilot’s union said. “And the streets don’t betray.”
The professionals association posted photos to its Facebook page of crowds forming in the streets of the capital Khartoum with the pilot’s union posting a video of people marching.
“The people of Sudan are back in the street to protect their democratic transition. Will the world stand shoulder to shoulder with them?” asked Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, in a tweet.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reaffirmed the governmental body’s commitment to the people of Sudan.
“I condemn the ongoing military coup in Sudan,” he tweeted. “There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition.”
U.N. Night Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that she “strongly” condemns the coup and “utterly” deplores the arrests of civil leaders.
The Internet shutdown, she said, contravened international law and must be restored.
“It would be disastrous if Sudan goes backwards after finally bringing an end to decades of repressive dictatorship,” she said. “The country needs to move forward to consolidate democracy, a wish expressed countless times by the Sudanese people, including loudly and clearly on the streets last week and today.”
In Europe, EU foreign affairs head Josep Borrell said he was following the situation “with utmost concern.”
“The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transitions process,” he tweeted.