New clashes rock Sudan’s capital; UN urges restoration of civilian government

Security Council unanimously approves statement voicing ‘serious concern’ over military takeover, calls for all sides ‘to engage in dialogue without preconditions’

Sudanese youths confront security forces amidst tear gas fired by them to disperse protesters in the capital Khartoum, on October 27, 2021, amid ongoing demonstrations against a military takeover that has sparked widespread international condemnation. (AFP)
Sudanese youths confront security forces amidst tear gas fired by them to disperse protesters in the capital Khartoum, on October 27, 2021, amid ongoing demonstrations against a military takeover that has sparked widespread international condemnation. (AFP)

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudanese security forces fired tear gas Thursday to disperse protesters furious over a military coup that derailed a fragile transition to democracy and sparked an international outcry.

While street violence rocked Khartoum for a fourth day, the United Nations Security Council called on Sudan’s new military rulers to restore the civilian-led government they toppled on Monday.

The council in an unanimously passed statement expressed “serious concern” about the army power grab in the poverty-stricken Northeast African nation and urged all sides “to engage in dialogue without preconditions.”

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — Sudan’s de facto leader since the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir after huge youth-led protests — on Monday dissolved the country’s fragile government.

While the civilian leader, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has been under effective house arrest, the capital has been rocked by days of unrest and is bracing for major demonstrations on Saturday.

Roads have been blocked by barricades of rocks, debris and burning car tires that have sent black smoke billowing into the sky, while most shops have been shuttered in a campaign of civil disobedience.

Sudanese security forces keep watch as they protect a military hospital and government offices during protests against a military coup overthrowing the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021, in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman. (AFP)

“We do not want military power, we want a free democratic life in this country,” said one protester, who asked not to be named.

Grip on country

At least seven protesters were reported dead by local morgues on Monday, and an unspecified number of corpses have been delivered since, say health officials.

The latest street clashes on Thursday rocked the restive eastern Khartoum district of Burri, AFP reporters said.

The coup was the latest to have hit the country which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956.

The World Bank and the United States have frozen aid and denounced the army’s power grab, while the African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership over what it termed an “unconstitutional” takeover.

The US, European Union, Britain, Norway and other nations in a joint statement stressed their continued recognition of the “prime minister and his cabinet as the constitutional leaders of the transitional government.”

Sudan’s top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan holds a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, on October 26, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

Sudan had been ruled since August 2019 by a joint civilian-military council, alongside Hamdok’s administration, as part of a transition to full civilian rule.

Recent years saw the country — formerly blacklisted by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism — make strides toward rejoining the international community, with hopes of boosting aid and investment.

But analysts had said the civilians’ role receded before the coup, which the experts view as the generals’ way of maintaining their long-held grip on the country.

Tear gas, rubber bullets

Recalling the mass protests of 2019, Sudan’s pro-democracy movements have called for “million-strong protests” on Saturday, further heightening tensions.

One protester on Thursday described the cat-and-mouse game with security forces, saying that they “have been trying since yesterday morning to remove all our barricades, firing tear gas and rubber bullets.”

“But we go and rebuild them as soon as they leave,” added the activist, Hatem Ahmed, from Khartoum. “We will only remove the barricades when the civilian government is back.”

Sudanese protesters burn tires to block a road in 60th Street in the capital Khartoum, to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan’s government, on October 25, 2021. (AFP)

Burhan, a senior general during Bashir’s three-decade-long hardline rule, has sacked six Sudanese ambassadors — including to the US, EU, China and France — who have been critical of his actions.

Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi — whose father was the prime minister ousted by Bashir’s 1989 coup — is one of the few civilian leaders not in detention and has become a leading voice of criticism.

On Thursday, she praised the 30 diplomats who have opposed the takeover, saying that “every free ambassador who opposes the coup is a victory for the revolution.”

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