Sudan coup explained: The military has taken over in Sudan. Here’s what happened
The move has crushed hopes for a peaceful transition of power following the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
Sudan had been ruled by an uneasy alliance between the military and civilian groups since 2019. But on Monday, the military effectively took control, dissolving the power-sharing Sovereign Council and transitional government, and temporarily detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said that the agreement with civilian members of the country’s transitional sovereign council “became a conflict” over the past two years, “threatening peace and unity” in Sudan. Several articles of the constitution have been suspended and state governors removed, Burhan also said.
PM Hamdok and his wife, as well as multiple government ministers and officials, were detained on Monday, and later returned to their residence on Tuesday, according to a source with Sudan Prime Minister Office and a military source.
It was not clear whether Hamdok and his wife are able to move freely after they returned to their home, or whether other government ministers and officials are also let go or still detained.
However, key opposition leaders also were swept up Tuesday in a new wave of arrests, including the younger brother of Sudan’s foreign minister, pro-democracy sources told CNN.
Who is Burhan?
Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is behind the military takeover.
Burhan was supposed to relinquish control of the council to a civilian leader in the next few weeks. Instead, he dissolved the council, saying in a televised statement that he would hold elections in July 2023 and hand over to an “independent and fair representative government” then.
On Tuesday, Burhan said the military had presented the deposed civilian government with options to evade a political deadlock, but they were rejected.
How did the current troubles start?
When Bashir was ousted in a 2019 coup, ending his brutal three-decade-long rule, Sudan’s military leadership assumed control to oversee the transition of power, forming the Transitional Military Council.
But the council was strongly opposed by a pro-democracy movement which called instead for civilian rule. After a weeks-long standoff, the two sides agreed to form a Sovereign Council that would govern “for the next three years or a little longer.”
Under the deal struck in July 2019, the military council would be in charge of the country’s leadership for the first 21 months. A civilian administration would then rule the council over the following 18 months.
But it has proved to be a shaky alliance. The triumphant mood that swept the nation after Bashir’s removal has soured, with tensions between the two sides mounting as they fought to maintain control over the nation’s future.
Did the coup come as a surprise?
Not entirely. Adam Hireika, an aide to Hamdok, told CNN the premier was aware of the army’s plans and had been under pressure to dissolve the government.
Hireika said he visited Hamdok on Sunday evening where he discussed the current state of affairs. He said Hamdok had just met with Burhan.
On Monday, the Information Ministry said Hamdok had been under pressure to release a statement “in support of the takeover.” Instead, it said, he called on pro-democracy protestors take to the streets in peaceful protest.
Why is it happening?
Tensions had been rising after some politicians, including Hamdok, pushed for a full transition to civilian rule by November 17, in keeping with the original transitional agreement.
In the weeks since, military leaders have been demanding reforms to the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition and the replacement of the cabinet. Civilian leaders accused them of a power grab.
How has the international community reacted?
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres condemned the coup and called for the release of the prime minister and other officials, he said in a tweet Monday, adding that the UN would “continue to stand” with the people of Sudan.
At a press briefing, the White House said the Biden administration was “deeply alarmed” by events unfolding in Sudan, while the United Kingdom called the coup an “unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people.”
The European Union has “strongly condemned” the coup and stressed the “serious consequences” for the EU’s engagement with Sudan, including its financial support, unless the situation is reversed immediately.
Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq called for further action from the international community. Al-Sadiq said that she expects “genuine action” from the UN security council on Sudan’s military following the takeover. “Some of my colleagues were already in prison and we didn’t know about their whereabouts,” he said.
What does this mean for US aid?
The United States had high hopes for Sudan’s transition to democracy and, in recent weeks, has attempted to avert a potential military takeover.
The White House on Monday condemned the coup and paused $700 million in emergency assistance to Sudan intended to support the democratic transition — critical aid for a country grappling with a growing economic crisis.
What do the protesters want?
Thousands of protesters opposing the coup took to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, on Monday, some chanting: “We are walking holding worry in our hearts and worry sleeps in people’s chests.” They gathered in multiple locations.
The number of protesters killed in Sudan now stand at 8 with more than 140 injured since Monday protests started against a military takeover, three sources at the Ministry of Health and Sudan Central Doctors Committee, which is aligned with the civil component of the now-dissolved Sovereign Council, told CNN.
Videos on social media showed crowds of people making their way towards the military’s General Command. Some could be seen removing razor wire that had been placed across a road amid reports of street closures in several parts of the city.
Supporters of civilian rule have also announced a program of civil disobedience and a strike in response to the military takeover, the Ministry of Information said on Facebook.
Where does this leave the democratic transition?
The military takeover threatens to derail Sudan’s path to democracy, just as the country had begun to resurface after decades of autocratic rule, global isolation and crippling economic sanctions.
In just a few weeks, Sudanese people were poised to celebrate their first full civilian leadership in three decades. But now, the military has declared it will rule on its own, and it is unclear whether it will make good on its promise for a free election.
Burhan said Tuesday that the transitional period will still focus on creating a civilian government and claimed that the Sudanese military will not be involved in politics. “We only want to correct the path of the transitional phase,” he said.
Where is Omar al-Bashir?
The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague issued arrest warrants in 2009 and 2010 for Bashir on charges of genocide and war crimes related to Sudan’s military campaign in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.
CNN’s Ivana Kottasová and Eliza Mackintosh wrote from London. CNN’s Yassir Abdullah, Kareem Khadder, Hamdi Alkhshali, Kareem El Damanhoury, Mostafa Salem, Jennifer Deaton, Nima Elbagir, Kara Fox and Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting.