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Tightening grip on power, Sudanese general taps himself to head governing body

Post-coup transitional council includes former parliamentarian Abou al-Qassem Bortoum, a prominent supporter of normalization with Israel

Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, on October 26, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)
Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum, on October 26, 2021. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan’s top general re-appointed himself as head of the army-run interim governing body on Thursday, a sign that he is tightening his grip on the country, two weeks after he led a coup against civilian leaders.

The announcement came more than two weeks after General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, detained the civilian leadership, and declared a nationwide state of emergency.

It also comes just two days ahead of planned mass protests against the October 25 coup.

“The commander-in-chief of the armed forces issued a constitutional decree to form the Transitional Sovereignty Council,” Burhan said in a statement.

The eleven-member Sovereign Council was first formed in summer 2019 after the military signed a power-sharing deal with pro-democracy forces following the ouster of then-president Omar al-Bashir.

Under Thursday’s decree, Burhan, who has chaired the council since it was formed, keeps the post.

Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, leader of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, remains his deputy. The council also retains Shamsaldine al-Kabashi, Yasser Atta, and Ibrahim Gaber, all senior military figures.

Sudanese businessman Abu al-Qassem Bortoum speaks during an inter-faith event to promote religious tolerance in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, on February 6, 2021. (Ebrahim Hamid/AFP)

Civilian figures include former parliamentarian Abou al-Qassem Bortoum, a supporter of Sudan’s normalization with Israel.

A Sufi, Salma Abdelgaber, Youssef Gad Karim from North Kordofan state, Abdelbaqi al-Zubair representing Khartoum state and Rajaa Nicola, a Copt, were also named as members.

Ex-rebel leaders Malik Agar, Alhady Idris and Altaher Hagar, who signed a 2020 peace deal with the government, also secured seats.

The development comes even as the military has pledged to hand over power to civilian authorities. Since the October 25 coup, more than 100 government officials and political leaders have been detained, along with a large number of protesters and activists.

Since the takeover, at least 14 anti-coup protesters have been killed due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations.

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)

The coup has been condemned by the UN, the United States and the European Union which have been urging the generals to restore a military-civilian transitional government. Mediation efforts are ongoing to resolve the crisis.

On Wednesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that UN Special Representative for Sudan Volker Perthes met the previous day with Burhan.

In the talks, the special representative urged for “a return to the transitional partnership” and appealed on the military “to exercise restraint and to take de-escalation measures, including freeing all those people who have been detained and the prime minister who remains under house detention,” said Dujarric.

Dujarric also said the UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke with the ousted premier, Hamdok, earlier in the week.

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