Sudan Coup Sees Military Commanders Detain Civilian Leaders, Declare Full Power

Tuesday, October 26th 2021, 6:08 am
By: CBS News

Cairo — Sudan's interim Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok and many of the country's other civilian leaders were detained on Monday as a military coup unfolded in the northeast African nation. The country's information ministry said Hamdok and the others were detained after he refused to take part in the coup by military commanders, with whom he and other politicians had shared power for just over two years as part of a transition to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule. 

The military head of the shared army-civilian transitional Sovereign Council, which had governed Sudan since August 2019 under a power-sharing agreement, took to the airwaves of the country's national broadcaster later on Monday to confirm that the military had seized control. 

General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan said in the televised remarks that the Sovereign Council had been dissolved along with the country's civilian cabinet, and he declared a nationwide state of emergency. 

It was unclear how much support the commanders might have among Sudan's people, but there were early signs of unrest on the streets. A Sudanese doctors association said at least 12 protesters were injured with gunshot wounds after crossing a barbed wire barrier on the road leading to the army's headquarters in Khartoum. 

Al-Burhan said a new government of technocrats would be put in place to take over the political transition until elections in 2023. The army general put all these measures under the umbrella of "rectifying the course of the revolution." 

Earlier, the information ministry said military forces had detained a number of senior Sudanese government figures as the country's main pro-democracy group called on people to take to the streets to counter the apparent coup. The call was heeded, and civilians set up road blocks with burning tires in the capital city of Khartoum to protest the detention of the political leaders by the military. 

The full military takeover is a major setback for Sudan, which has grappled with a transition to democracy since long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests more than two years ago. Sudan has been run for several years by a civilian-military transitional government.

The Reuters news agency cited sources as saying soldiers had arrested most cabinet members and many pro-government party leaders.

U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was "deeply alarmed" over the reports of the military takeover, adding that it puts U.S. assistance "at risk." Feltman's reaction, the first from the Biden administration, was posted on the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs Twitter page.

Later Monday the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said it was "gravely concerned" by the events and called on "all actors who are disrupting Sudan's transition to stand down, and allow the civilian-led transitional government to continue its important work to achieve the goals of the revolution." 

In a subsequent tweet the embassy urged U.S. nationals in Khartoum "to shelter in place and remain aware of their surroundings."

Sudan's information ministry said the internet had been cut off and military forces had closed key bridges. The country's state-run news channel played patriotic traditional music and showed scenes of the Nile River before Gen. al-Burhan appeared to give his remarks.

Monday's arrests cam after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan's civilian and military leaders.

A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more-conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.

Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan has slowly emerged from years of international pariah status under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the United States' state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed international loans and investment. The country's economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.

In addition to the remark from Feltman and the U.S., the United Nations and the Arab League also voiced "deep concern" over the military's apparent bid to wrest full control from the transitional council in Sudan on Monday.

There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country's last elected government.

Monday's arrests of Hamdok and the cabinet members followed meetings Feltman had with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve the dispute. Sudan's state news website highlighted the meetings with military officials.

The Sudanese Communist Party called on workers to go on strike and for mass civil disobedience after what it described as a "full military coup" orchestrated by the Sovereign Council's head al-Burhan.

CBS News' Khaled Wassef in London contributed to this report.

First published on October 25, 2021 / 3:00 AM

© 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.