Following weeks of rising tensions between civilian and military members of a state council attempting to guide Sudan to Democracy two years after the fall of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese military has decided to end Sudan's Democratic experiment - arresting the prime minister and a large number of senior cabinet members and pro-grovernment party leaders, and shutting off the Internet - with a coup, per reports from Reuters and the AP.
In response, thousands of Sudanese citizens have taken to the streets in Khartou and its twin city of Omdurman to protest the military's decision to seize power from a fragile government that had only just barely made the transition to civilian rule. The coup is hardly a surprise for the US and EU; a failed coup attempt last month infuriated progressive Sudanese who pushed for the overthrow of al-Bashir, while the country's more conservative Islamists support a military-led government.
Access to the Internet was "widely disrupted" during the coup, while the country’s state news channel started playing patriotic traditional music. Military forces even reportedly stormed the TV station's office in Omdurman and arrested a few employees.
This latest coup comes less than one month before the powerful Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan was expected to turn over leadership of the Sudan's Sovereign Council, a transitional committee including both military and civilian members that was supposed to steward the transition to democracy,
According to the AP, a military takeover "would be a major setback for Sudan, which has grappled with a stop-and-go transition to democracy since long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests two years ago."
Reports of a coup attempt emerged before dawn on Monday in Sudan. By mid-morning the country's information minister confirmed that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had been detained and moved to an undisclosed location. Several other senior officials were detained, and all of their whereabouts were unknown, according to a statement from the country's information ministry posted to Facebook.
Gen. Burhan hinted that he might not willingly turn over command of the state council last month during a TV interview:
Burhan, who leads the council, warned in televised comments last month that the military would hand over power only to a government elected by the Sudanese people. His comments suggested he might not stick to the previously agreed timetable, which called for the council to be led by a military figure for 21 months, followed by a civilian for the following 18 months. Under that plan, the handover was to take place sometime in November, with the new civilian leader to be chosen by an alliance of unions and political parties that led the uprising against al-Bashir.
The Sovereign Council was supposed to lead Sudan to elections by the end of 2023.
As tensions mounted, the Biden Admin's envoy to the region, Jeffrey Feltman, said he met with Sudanese officials over the weekend in an attempt to fix the growing rift between the civilians and the military.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by reports. Feltman met with Sudanese officials over the weekend in an effort to resolve the growing dispute between civilian and military leaders. EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he’s following events with the “utmost concern."
Ironically, this latest coup in the Middle East-North Africa region occurred right around the 10th anniversary of the 'Arab Spring', which saw nearly half a dozen governments in Sudan's region - including nearby Tunisia, Libya and Egype - overthrown during Democratic uprisings with decidedly mixed results.
While coups (or attempted coups) aren't uncommon in the developing world, Sudan's (now former) leader should probably count himself lucky: At least he's still alive, unlike some other former third-world leaders we could name.
Well, at least for now, anyway.