Sudan’s Burhan says army ousted government to avoid civil war

Protesters block a road during what the information ministry calls a military coup in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig

KHARTOUM, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Sudan’s armed forces chief defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war, while protesters took to the streets on Tuesday to demonstrate against the takeover after a day of deadly clashes.

The military takeover on Monday brought a halt to Sudan’s transition to democracy, two years after a popular uprising toppled long-ruling Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Speaking at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, General 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 coup.

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 in my home.”

Later on Tuesday, a source close to Hamdok said he and his wife were at their home and under tight security. Family sources said they were unable to reach Hamdok or his wife by phone.

Burhan had appeared on TV on Monday to announce the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, a body set up after Bashir’s overthrow to share power between the military and civilians and lead Sudan to free elections.

The Facebook page for the office of the prime minister, apparently still under the control of Hamdok loyalists, called for his release and that of other civilian leaders.

Another civilian leader, Siddig Alsadig Almahdi of the Umma Party, which had a representative on the Sovereign Council, was arrested at his home on Tuesday evening, family sources said.

Hamdok remains “the executive authority recognised by the Sudanese people and the world”, the Facebook post said, adding that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.

Sudanese ambassadors to 12 countries, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, China, and France, have rejected the military takeover, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

Ambassadors to Belgium and the European Union, Geneva and U.N. agencies, China, South Africa, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Sweden and Canada also signed on to the statement, which said the envoys backed popular resistance to the coup.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is looking at a full range of economic tools to respond to the military takeover and has been in close contact with Gulf countries, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. read more

Western countries have denounced the coup, called for the detained cabinet ministers to be freed and said they will cut off vital aid if the military does not restore power-sharing with civilians. The German mission to the United Nations said on Twitter that it was suspending aid until further notice.

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