October 26, 2021
By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s top general defended the army’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war, while protesters returned to the streets on Tuesday to demonstrate against the takeover after a day of deadly clashes.
Speaking at his first news conference since he announced Monday’s takeover, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces.
“The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” he said, an apparent reference to demonstrations against the prospect of a military takeover.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was arrested on Monday along with other members of his cabinet, had not been harmed and had been brought to Burhan’s own home, the general said: “The prime minister was in his house. However, we were afraid that he’d be in danger so he has been placed with me at my home.”
Burhan had appeared on TV on Monday to announce the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, a body set up to share power between the military and civilians.
The Facebook page for the office of the prime minister, apparently still under the control of Hamdok’s loyalists, called for Hamdok’s release and that of the other civilian leaders.
Hamdok remains “the executive authority recognised by the Sudanese people and the world”, it said. It added that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.
‘CORRECT THE COURSE’
Images on social media showed renewed street protests on Tuesday in the cities of Atbara, Dongola, Elobeid and Port Sudan. People chanted “Don’t give your back to the army, the army won’t protect you.”
Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman across the Nile were partly locked down, with shops shut and plumes of smoke rising from where protesters were burning tyres. Calls for a general strike were played over mosque loudspeakers. Streets and bridges were blocked by soldiers or protester barricades.
The military takeover brought a halt to Sudan’s transition to democracy, two years after a popular uprising toppled long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
An official at the health ministry said seven people had been killed in clashes between protesters and the security forces on Monday.
Burhan said the military’s action did not amount to a coup, as the army had been trying to rectify the path of the political transition.
“We only wanted to correct the course to a transition. We had promised the people of Sudan and the entire world. We will protect this transition,” said Burhan. He said a new government would be formed which would not contain any typical politicians.
Western countries have denounced the coup, called for the detained cabinet ministers to be freed and said they will cut off aid if the military does not restore power sharing with civilians.
Sudan, for decades a pariah under Bashir, has depended on Western aid to pull through an economic crisis in the two years since Bashir was toppled.
Banks and cash machines were shut on Tuesday, and mobile phone apps widely used for money transfers could not be accessed.
“We are paying the price for this crisis,” a man in his 50s looking for medicine at one of the pharmacies where stocks have been running low said angrily.
“We can’t work, we can’t find bread, there are no services, no money.”
In the western city of El Geneina, resident Adam Haroun said there was complete civil disobedience, with schools, stores and gas stations closed.
(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Nafisa Eltahir and Nayera AbdallahWriting by Michael GeorgyEditing by Peter Graff)