Calls mount for Sudan coup leaders to free PM

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Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. (Ebrahim Hamid, AFP)
Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. (Ebrahim Hamid, AFP)
  •  Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, several ministers and civilian members of the country's power-sharing council were arrested by unknown men on Monday.
  • General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said Hamdok would be able to return to his own home "when the crisis is over".
  • Burhan declared a state of emergency and dissolution of the government.

Calls mounted Tuesday for the release of Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the day after a coup led by the country's top general who insisted the premier was in "good health".

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded Hamdok "be released immediately", as the Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sudan, adding to a chorus of condemnation by the US and European powers of the military's power grab.

The coup comes just over two years into a delicate power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians after the army's ouster amid enormous street protests in April 2019 of long time autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Angry citizens stood their ground on barricaded streets where tyres burned, chanting "No to military rule", the day after four people were reportedly shot dead by security forces.

The coup has raised fears for Hamdok's fate, but top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said Tuesday the premier was "at my home... in good health" and would be able to return to his own home "when the crisis is over".

READ | Sudanese leaders arrested in dawn raid, internet cut, group denounces 'coup'

His comments, in which he acknowledged some politicians had been arrested, suggested Hamdok was not among those in custody but, shortly after, the Information Ministry relayed a statement from the prime minister's office demanding his immediate release.

The statement appealed for the "liberation of everyone" arrested on Monday, including Hamdok's wife, several ministers and civilian members of the country's power-sharing council.

- Backlash -

Burhan's declaration of a state of emergency and dissolution of the government provoked an immediate international backlash.

The United States, a key backer of Sudan's transition, strongly condemned the military's actions and suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

Sudan risks "going back into a period of being shunned by the rest of the world" and losing badly needed financial aid, said Alex de Waal, a veteran expert on Sudan who is executive director of the World Peace Foundation.

Hamdok's government earlier this year unlocked international financial assistance, after it was frozen for years under Bashir.

Sudan's ambassadors to Belgium, France and Switzerland on Tuesday declared their diplomatic missions as "embassies of the Sudanese people and their revolution", according to the Information Ministry.

Despite the previous day's deadly violence, protesters remained on the streets of Khartoum overnight and into Tuesday.

Shops around the capital were shuttered following calls for a campaign of civil disobedience.

"We will only leave when the civilian government is restored," said 32-year-old demonstrator Hisham al-Amin.

Sudan's civil aviation authority said Tuesday all flights have been suspended until 30 October.

It was the latest coup in one of the world's most underdeveloped countries, which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956.

Analysts said the generals are trying to maintain their historic control.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern over the reported use of live ammunition against protesters.

A troika of countries previously involved in mediating Sudanese conflicts - the US, UK and Norway - said "the actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution".

The European Union, African Union and Arab League also expressed concern.

- Divisions -

Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades, is in jail in Khartoum following a corruption conviction.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide over the civil war in Darfur.

The 2019 power-sharing deal after his fall saw Sudan ruled by a Sovereign Council of civilian and military representatives tasked with overseeing a transition to a full civilian government.

In recent weeks, the cracks in the leadership had grown wide.

In recent weeks, the civilian movement that spearheaded demonstrations against Bashir split in two, with the splinter group siding with the military.

Tensions had long simmered within that movement, known as the Forces for Freedom and Change, but divisions ratcheted up after what the government said was a failed coup on 21 September this year.

Burhan had dismissed as "slander" suggestions that the army was involved in that manoeuvre.

The mainstream FFC appealed on Monday for a nationwide campaign of "civil disobedience".

Analysts have expressed concern that resistance to the coup could be brutally repressed.

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