African Union suspends Sudan over military takeover

The African Union has suspended Sudan’s participation in all activities until the restoration of the civilian-led authority, it said in a communique dated Tuesday.

The AU Peace and Security Council tweeted the decision on Wednesday, saying it would remain in place “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority,” as the deposed Sudanese government was known.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Monday’s takeover led by armed forces chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and several have been killed in clashes with security forces.

State oil company workers and doctors in Sudan said on Wednesday they were joining protests against the military coup, which has derailed the country’s planned transition to democracy.

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.

‘We want civilian rule’

In one Khartoum neighborhood on Wednesday, a Reuters journalist saw soldiers and armed people in civilian clothes removing barricades erected by protesters.

A few hundred metres away, youths came out to build barricades again minutes later. One of them said, “We want civilian rule. We won’t get tired.”

Burhan on Tuesday defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war.

He has dismissed the joint civilian-military council that had been set up to steer the country to democratic elections following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising in April 2019.

Who is Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan?

Sudan’s top army general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is seen at press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum on Oct. 26. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was little known in public life until taking part in the coup against veteran autocrat Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019, after a popular uprising against his rule. At the time, Burhan was Sudan’s third-most senior general and inspector general of the armed forces. A day after the coup, the defence minister stepped down amid protests and named Burhan head of a transitional military council.
  • In August 2019, his role as de facto head of state was affirmed when he became head of the Sovereign Council, a body comprising civilian and military leaders that was formed to oversee the transition toward elections. Burhan announced the dissolution of the Sovereign Council on Monday.
  • He was posted in Darfur in western Sudan during the conflict there in the 2000s. The transitional authorities Burhan led had pledged to co-operate with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has issued arrest warrants for Bashir for alleged atrocities in Darfur. But the pursuit of justice over Darfur was a point of tension between the army and civilians. 
  • As head of Sudan’s ground forces, Burhan oversaw Sudanese troops who were deployed in 2015 to fight as part of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war. He has close ties to senior Gulf military officials, as he was responsible for co-ordinating Sudan’s military involvement in that war.

— From Reuters 

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was returned to his home under tight security on Tuesday after being held at Burhan’s house.

Workers at state oil company Sudapet on Wednesday came out in support of the ousted government.

Doctors also said they would go on strike.

“As we promised and previously announced we would enter a general strike across Sudan in the event of a coup. We are keeping to our word and timing completely,” said the Unified Doctors’ Office, which is made up of different unions.

Civilian groups have accused the military of scheming for weeks to seize power.

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 people against the armed forces.

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

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