The takeover comes more than two years after protesters forced the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and just weeks before the military was supposed to hand the leadership of the council that runs the country over to civilians.
Sudan’s military seized power Monday, dissolving the transitional government hours after troops arrested the prime minister. Thousands of people flooded the streets to protest the coup that threatens the country’s shaky progress toward democracy.
The leader of the coup, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council that had been established to guide the country to democracy.
Gen. al-Burhan announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security, but he promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over to an elected civilian government then.
Youths opposed to the coup barricaded streets as clashes broke out with troops.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, an economist and former senior United Nations official, was detained and taken to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup, the information ministry said.
The ministry, still loyal to Hamdok, urged resistance and said tens of thousands of people opposed to the takeover had taken to the streets and had faced gunfire near the military headquarters in Khartoum. Central bank employees announced a strike to reject the coup, the ministry said.
Troops had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and government figures, the ministry said, adding: “We raise our voices loudly to reject this coup attempt.”
Also detained was the news director of state TV, his family said.
The United States State Department said Washington does not have anything to share on Hamdok’s whereabouts and condition. A department spokesman said it was pausing $700 million in economic support for Sudan.
In Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, protesters barricaded streets and chanted in support of the civilian rule.
“Burhan cannot deceive us. This is a military coup,” said a young man who gave his name as Saleh.
‘Raise our voices’
Sudan has been ruled for most of its post-colonial history by military leaders who seized power in coups. It had become a pariah to the West and was on a U.S. terrorism list under al-Bashir, who hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.
In recent weeks a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, while cabinet ministers took part in protests against the prospect of military rule.
The country had been on edge since last month when a failed coup plot, blamed on al-Bashir supporters, unleashed recriminations between the military and civilians.
Sudan is also in an economic crisis. Helped by foreign aid, civilian officials have claimed credit for some tentative signs of stabilization after a sharp devaluation of the currency and the lifting of fuel subsidies.
Washington had tried to avert the collapse of the power-sharing agreement by sending a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman. The director of Hamdok’s office, Adam Hereika, was cited by Reuters as saying that the military had mounted the takeover despite “positive movements” towards an agreement after meetings with Feltman in recent days.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest.”
The military takeover will have lasting consequences on Sudan’s relations with the U.S. and it should reverse course immediately, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez said.
The military had been meant to pass on the leadership of the Sovereign Council to a civilian figure in the coming months. But transitional authorities had struggled to move forward on issues including whether to hand al-Bashir over to The Hague.
Al-Burhan said it was incumbent on the armed forces to act to halt “incitement to chaos and violence.”
The U.N., Arab League and African Union (AU) all expressed concern. Political leaders should be released and human rights respected, AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.
Britain called the coup an unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people. France called for the immediate release of Hamdok and other civilian leaders. Egypt called on all parties to exercise self-restraint.
Burhan’s “reckless decisions will increase the ferocity of the street’s resistance and unity after all illusions of partnership are removed,” it said on its Facebook page.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist coalition in the uprising against al-Bashir, called for a strike.
The main opposition Forces of Freedom and Change alliance called for civil disobedience and protests across the country.
Two main political parties, the Umma and the Sudanese Congress, condemned what they called a coup and campaign of arrests.
Hamdok was appointed as a technocratic prime minister in 2019 but struggled to sustain the transition amid splits between the military and civilians and the pressures of the economic crisis.