Back to pre-coup order ‘Unrealistic’
Khartoum – Sudan’s pro-army minister says time is running out for the country’s ousted prime minister to agree to a position in an army-led government after top generals seized power last month.
Meanwhile, security forces opened fire on thousands of anti-coup protesters in the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city, Omdurman, killing at least 15 people, according to doctors. Wednesday’s death toll was the highest daily death toll since the October 25 coup.
The crackdown on protesters came as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is in Africa to bolster so far unsuccessful US diplomatic efforts to resolve the deepening conflicts in Ethiopia and Sudan.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is currently under house arrest in the capital, Khartoum. He was arrested along with more than 100 other government officials during the coup. Many have been kept in undisclosed locations.
“The country can’t wait forever, so if it doesn’t take the job, someone else will definitely take it,” Jibril Ibrahim, the ousted government’s finance minister, told The Associated Press late Tuesday.
Speaking from his office in Khartoum, Ibrahim said that calls by some pro-democracy groups and the United States and its Western allies to restore the transitional government before the coup were “unrealistic.” He said that negotiations focused on persuading Hamdok to lead a government of technocrats that manages day-to-day affairs.
Ibrahim, 66, is a rebel leader who joined the government earlier this year after the transitional administration reached a peace deal with a rebel coalition, ending years of civil war. He was one of those who led the protests against Hamdok and others in Khartoum before the top generals began their coup.
He spoke to the Associated Press ahead of Wednesday’s rallies in Khartoum and other cities across the country against the military’s takeover. The authorities closed the bridges linking Khartoum and its city, Omdurman, and tightened security measures across the capital. Activists said that security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at anti-coup protesters in at least one location in Khartoum.
The Sudan Doctors Committee said most of the killings took place in the Bahri area of Khartoum. She added that dozens of others were injured, as the security forces used what the committee called “brutal repression” against the protest marches.
A Sudanese police spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.
The top US diplomat for Africa, Molly V, condemned the violence against the protesters and called for “the respect and protection of human rights in Sudan”.
Magdy Mohamed Othman, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Sudan, said the developments show that the military has taken its “power grab” to a new level. He added that security forces used “extreme levels of brutality” against protesters – including attacking health care facilities.
According to the doctors’ committee, Wednesday’s deaths bring the death toll since the October 25 coup to at least 39 dead and hundreds injured in the protests since October 25.
An advocacy group said Sudan was suffering from a near-total communications blackout amid Wednesday’s protests. NetBlocks said on Twitter that internet access remains largely disrupted across the country since the coup, despite a court ruling to restore services.
The Sudanese army seized power on October 25, dissolving the transitional government and arresting dozens of officials and politicians. The power grab upended the planned fragile transition to democratic rule, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the ouster of Sultan Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government.
The coup sparked international criticism and massive protests in the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country over the past three weeks.
The United States responded to the coup by suspending $700 million in direct financial aid. The World Bank has also suspended payments for its operations in Sudan, whose economy has been hit by years of mismanagement and sanctions. It was also hit when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 after decades of war, taking with it more than half of public revenue and 95% of oil exports.
Ibrahim, who holds a doctorate in economics from Japan’s Meiji University, urged the international community to influence the new government’s policies, regardless of those who lead them. He said it doesn’t matter who the next prime minister is. “If the policies are good, Sudan should receive financial support,” he said.
Meanwhile, rifts began to emerge among members of the broader pro-democracy movement. The main protest groups insisted that the army hand over power entirely to civilians.
Other political parties and groups demanded a return to the power-sharing agreement that established the ousted transitional government in late 2019, as well as the full handover of civilians to lead the transition to democracy.
But Ibrahim rejected such demands. He said the situation has changed since the coup – an apparent reference to the military’s tightening grip on power.
“It’s unrealistic to say, ‘We either move to October 23 or 24 or we won’t talk to you,'” he said. “There is a new reality, and we need to look into it.”
Major General Abdel Fattah Burhan reappointed himself as head of the newly formed Sovereignty Council, in a move that angered protesters and frustrated the United States and its Western allies.
On Tuesday, the American diplomat met Hamdok, Al-Burhan and others, as part of the ongoing mediation efforts to reach a compromise between civilians and the generals.
Al-Burhan said that Sudan’s leaders are ready to enter into a dialogue with all political forces without conditions. He also said the military had already begun releasing political prisoners who did not face criminal charges.
Ibrahim said the detainees, including Hamdok, would be released “very soon.”
“I don’t expect these people to be in detention for long,” he said.
Narrated by Magdy from Cairo.
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