Situation Report: Sudan’s military seizes power in coup

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Sudan’s military seized control of the county on October 25, drawing widespread condemnation from the international community and igniting domestic turmoil on the ground.  Sudan’s top military official, Gen. Abdel-Fetah Burhan, dissolved the country’s transitional government due to what he described as political infighting and inaction. Burhan declared a state of emergency, directing the arrest of civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Protestors immediately swept the streets of Sudan following the announcement, demonstrating against the coup that occurred just 2 weeks before Sudan’s Sovereign Council of civilian leaders was meant to acquire control of the country.

Security forces opened fire on protestors, injuring nearly 200 and killing at least 10 people so far. Despite this, demonstrators remain on the streets in Sudan, chanting slogans denouncing the coup and calling for a return to civilian rule. According to BBC, a group of demonstrators chanted “Civilian rule is the people’s choice.” The Associated Press reported that other protestors chanted “The people are stronger” and “Retreat is not an option!”

The international community has widely condemned Sudan’s military coup. The U.S., the United Kingdom, the European Union and the African Union have demanded the military release Sudan’s Prime Minister, along with other arrested political officials, from unknown locations.

The Biden administration suspended $700 million in aid to Sudan following the coup. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “We (the U.S.) firmly reject the dissolution of the civilian-led transitional government and its associated institutions and call for their immediate restoration.”

The coup came just 1 day after a senior U.S. envoy met with Sudanese leaders and emphasized America’s support for Sudan’s transition to democracy. The senior envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, warned the Sudanese military not to attempt to seize power or impede civilian rule during his visit. Mr. Feltman was still in Sudan when Burhan directed the military takeover mere hours later. In response to the coup, State Department Spokesman Ned Price stated “To be clear, we (the U.S.) were not given any heads up about this.” Clearly, the White House was caught off guard and this highlights the Sudanese military’s lack of fear concern over potential U.S. reprisals.

U.S.-Sudanese relations have been warming in the last two years following the 2019 ousting of former president Omar al-Bashir. Within the last year, the U.S. has removed Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism and allocated about $337 million to help fund Khartoum’s transitional government.

Russia and China have also expanded relations with the African country in recent years. In 2020, Beijing announced its plan to include northern Sudan in its One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI). Additionally, China remains a major arms supplier to Sudan. Ties between Moscow and Khartoum have also been on the rise. In 2020, the two countries agreed to build a Russian naval logic base in a key Red Sea port. This body of water is strategically significant as it links the Mediterranean to Asia. Moscow’s military footprint in Sudan has also expanded due to its growing weapons market in the country. In 2018, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $500 million.

Russia and China may seize America’s condemnation of Sudan and its suspension of monetary aid as an opportunity to exploit their own ties with the African country.

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