Sudan Coup Leaders Shrug Off Global Pressure in Wave of Arrests
(Bloomberg) -- Sudan’s army launched a new wave of arrests of opponents to Monday’s coup, activists said, shrugging off African Union and World Bank suspensions and pressure from the U.S. as it looked to consolidate control.
Cities countrywide were rocked by protests, strikes and civil disobedience on Wednesday, as Sudanese challenged the military’s seizure of power, a step that’s thrown the North African nation’s democratic transition into chaos two years after long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted. At least 12 people have been killed and 150 injured in the unrest, doctors say.
Detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, whose case was raised by the United Nations, was allowed to return home late Tuesday under guard, but security forces have wasted little time in seizing other deposed members of his cabinet.
More than 40 activists, journalists and government officials have been arrested since Monday, with a spate in the past 24 hours, according to Mohammed Yousif, a member of the Sudanese Professionals Association, a pro-democracy group. “People who spoke about the army before on Facebook, Twitter or the television are targeted,” he said.
Army spokesmen didn’t respond to attempts to seek comment.
The African Union on Wednesday suspended Sudan’s membership, a step it commonly takes after coups, while the World Bank said it was pausing disbursements, likely affecting $2 billion in support pledged this year. The U.S., which halted $700 million in aid Monday, has said it’s weighing other tools for pressuring the army to resume the democratic transition.
A group dubbed the Friends of Sudan, which includes the UN, European Union, U.S. and many European countries, said late Wednesday they “strongly condemn the ongoing military takeover” and called for the release of all detained.
Those arrested on Wednesday included Health Minister Omer al-Najeeb and Water Minister Yasser Abbas, according to three people with knowledge of the events. The ministers were returning from Port Sudan, where they’d been trying to negotiate an end to a trade blockade by opponents of the now-deposed civilian government that caused fuel and food shortages nationwide.
Attempts to contact al-Najeeb’s office were unsuccessful.
The SPA group said Hamdok’s media adviser, Faisal Mohamed Salih, was also arrested Tuesday, while the Sudanese Journalists Network reported at least five media workers have been detained this week. “Now the radio and state television are run by military officers and this is another big violation in itself,” said Khalid Ahmed, a member of the network.
Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, denied he staged a coup and said the army acted to save a nation pushed to the brink of civil war by political groups intent on derailing its democratic transition. He’s pledged to form a new government. Sudan had been ruled by civilian and military figures in an uneasy power-sharing administration since 2019.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Hamdok’s foreign minister, Mariam al-Mahdi, about what the U.S. can do to support a civilian-led transition to democracy, according to a statement. Al-Mahdi’s brother, a prominent member of the Forces of Freedom and Change activist coalition, has also been detained.
The head of the UN mission in Sudan and the ambassadors of France, Germany, Norway and the U.K. met Hamdok at his residence, the UN said late Wednesday. “We continue to call for full restoration of his liberty,” it said.
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