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Sudan’s FM refuses to negotiate with coup leaders, says country ‘under arrest’

Mariam al-Mahdi is among the few civilian leaders who were not arrested by military generals; at least 11 protesters killed by security forces

Sudanese anti-coup protesters wave the national flag as they gather in a street in the capital Khartoum, on October 30, 2021, to express their support for the country's democratic transition which a military takeover and deadly crackdown derailed. (AFP)
Sudanese anti-coup protesters wave the national flag as they gather in a street in the capital Khartoum, on October 30, 2021, to express their support for the country's democratic transition which a military takeover and deadly crackdown derailed. (AFP)

CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) — Sudan has been “under arrest” since a military coup earlier this week, Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi told AFP Saturday, adding she refuses to negotiate with the generals who led the power grab.

On Monday the military detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other top officials, dissolved the government, declared a nationwide state of emergency, and launched a deadly crackdown against peaceful protesters.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — Sudan’s de facto leader since the 2019 ouster of president Omar al-Bashir — led the takeover, saying it was meant to “rectify the course” of the post-Bashir transition.

“We are all under arrest under these conditions since we can no longer communicate with one another,” Mahdi told AFP in a phone interview.

“We have to rely on people coincidentally calling us from abroad and ask them to check on others [within Sudan] for us,” she said.

A leading figure of the Umma Party, Sudan’s largest, and the daughter of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the last democratically elected premier, ousted by Bashir in a 1989 coup, Mariam al-Mahdi is among the few civilian leaders who were not arrested by the military.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, a press conference in Moscow, Russia, on July 12, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Internet services have been largely blocked since the coup, and phone calls regularly disrupted.

Pro-democracy activists have also been rounded up since the military takeover, including Mahdi’s own brother, the Umma party’s deputy Sedeeq al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.

By Saturday, some 11 protesters had already been killed in a crackdown by the security forces during anti-coup demonstrations, according to medics.

‘Betrayal’

Local media reported in recent days that Burhan suggested that Hamdok form a new government following the military takeover.

“Prime Minister Hamdok is a patriot, an intellect, and a politician. He will never be part of this farce,” Mahdi said.

Sudanese anti-coup protesters attend a gathering in the capital Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, on October 30, 2021, to express their support for the country’s democratic transition which a military takeover and deadly crackdown derailed. (AFP)

Calling the coup “a betrayal,” she also would “never” negotiate with the military and would refuse to be part of a government wanted by them.

“I have not had any discussions with any of them and I never will,” she said.

Sudan had been led since August 2019 by a civilian-military ruling council which was supposed to oversee a full civilian rule.

The arrangement came under increasing strain prior to the coup, which analysts said aimed to maintain the army’s traditional control over the northeast African country.

Mahdi, who took office as foreign minister in February, said she had always “treated the military with respect.”

“But what they did on October 25 is a betrayal.”

Sudan’s head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

She slammed the crackdown on peaceful protests as an “irrational and irresponsible” act, and deplored the “spilling of blood.”

The outspoken foreign minister also called for the “release of all the political detainees.”

Sudanese ambassadors — including to China, the United States and Turkey, — have denounced the coup and called for a transition to civilian rule, prompting Burhan to sack several envoys.

Mahdi has praised the diplomats.

“I am proud of the ambassadors of Sudan… and every free ambassador who rejected the coup was a victory for the revolution,” she has said.

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