Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/OZAN KOSE
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/AFP/OZAN KOSE

The AU suspended Sudan on Wednesday and the World Bank froze payouts to the North African state, two days after its government was toppled in a military coup.

Sudan’s AU membership will be restored once a civilian-led transitional authority has been restored, the Addis Ababa-based body said.

The World Bank, meanwhile, said it had halted disbursements in Sudan on Wednesday until civilian rule was restored. David Malpass, president of the World Bank, said in Washington: “We hope that peace and the integrity of the transition process will be restored, so that Sudan can restart its path of economic development.”

The putsch, led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, saw the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and a number of government ministers and political leaders. Hamdok has since been allowed to go back to his residence in the capital, Khartoum, while others who were detained were being held at unspecified locations. 

The EU’s foreign relations commissioner Josep Borrell said on Wednesday he had spoken with Hamdok by phone to express support “to return to civilian-led transition as only way forward”. 

Those who remain in detention include Ismael Al Taj, a legal expert and leading member of the Sudanese Professionals Association. Siddiq al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, the brother of  foreign minister Mariam al-Sadiqa and a member of the central committee of the Forces of Freedom and Change — an activist coalition that backed the civilian wing of the transitional government — was also apprehended.

Sudanese ambassadors based in several nations, including China, France, SA and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday condemned the coup and pledged allegiance to a popular movement that helped oust dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that state oil company workers and doctors said they were joining protests against the coup. Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Monday’s takeover and at least seven killed by security forces.

A group of neighbourhood committees in the capital Khartoum has announced plans for further protests leading to what it said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday.

The doctors’ unions were one of the earliest and key driving forces behind the 2019 uprising that brought down Bashir. Other striking groups, including central bank employees, could help bring the country’s economy to a standstill.

Speaking on Tuesday at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who he said were inciting “civil war”.

The military’s action did not amount to a coup, he said.

Serious risk

Events in Sudan — Africa’s third-largest country — mirror those in several other Arab states where the military tightened its grip after uprisings.

Willow Berridge, a Sudan expert at Newcastle University, said it would be difficult for Burhan and the army to suppress street mobilisation against the takeover because of the presence of resistance committees in many neighbourhoods.

“My greatest fear is that he will fall back even further on the only legitimacy he can depend on — violence. It is a very serious risk,” Berridge said.

Burhan has close ties to states that worked to roll back Islamist influence and contain the impact of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

While Western countries have denounced the takeover in Sudan — which has a history of military coups — those Arab countries have mainly called for all parties to show restraint.

“The Sudanese military misunderstand the will on the street quite to their detriment. I think they are badly advised by regional powers supportive on this and uneasy by the prospect of transition,” said Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group.

Burhan has also been at the forefront of Sudan’s steps to normalise relations with Israel. /With Reuters 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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