Sudan's U.S. Ambassador Predicts Coup Resistance as Protests Erupt

Sudan's ambassador to the U.S. has told Newsweek he expects popular resistance to the apparent coup attempt being carried out by the military in the northeast African nation.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several top government officials have been detained by the country's joint military forces, according to the country's information ministry.

Speaking from Washington, D.C., Nureldin Satti told Newsweek that he is "following events back home with a lot of anxiety."

"Arrests of ministers and senior officials [are] confirmed and we are concerned about the whereabouts of Prime Minister Hamdok who has been taken by the army to an unknown location," the ambassador said.

He added: "The situation is pretty critical and the people will never accept this coup."

Newsweek spoke with the ambassador as protests erupted in the nation's capital Khartoum.

The Associated Press reported crowds of demonstrators blocking roads with burning tires and chanting slogans including "the people are stronger, stronger" and "retreat is not an option."

As well as Hamdok, others reportedly arrested include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, Hamdok's media advisor Faisal Mohammed Saleh, and Khartoum state Governor Ayman Khalid.

The country's internet is being throttled, according to global internet monitor NetBlocks, and military forces have reportedly closed bridges and roads in Khartoum. The state news channel is broadcasting traditional patriotic music and images of the Nile river, the Associated Press reported.

The whereabouts of the prime minister and other detained officials is currently unknown. The country's information ministry said that Hamdok was placed under house arrest on Monday, and was moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to endorse the military seizure of power.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan—who currently leads the power-sharing Sovereign Council body—announced the dissolution of the Sudanese government on Monday, Sky News Arabia reported on Twitter. Al Jazeera also reported this.

Newsweek has contacted the Sovereign Council to request comment.

Sudan's leading pro-democracy political group, the Sudanese Professionals' Association, has called in civilians to take to the streets to protest the apparent coup attempt.

"We urge the masses to go out on the streets and occupy them, close all roads with barricades, stage a general labour strike, and not to cooperate with the putschists and use civil disobedience to confront them," the group said in a statement posted to Facebook.

Videos on social media from Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman showed protesters thronging the streets. Security forces have been firing tear gas to try and disperse demonstrators.

The military leadership has been at odds with Hamdok since he took office as part of a transitional government that succeeded dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown after months of mass protests.

The military opposed the popular movement. Its troops killed at least 250 demonstrators during the demonstrations against al-Bashir in 2019, according to figures from the protest-linked Sudan Doctors Central Committee. More than 100 people were killed during a peaceful sit-in protest at the military headquarters in Khartoum in June 2019.

Since al-Bashir was deposed, the country has been ruled in a fragile power sharing agreement via the Sovereign Council, made up of both civilian and military officials. This was supposed to give way to a full multi-party democracy in November 2022.

The military has been resisting the democratic transition. The Sovereign Council is currently headed by Burhan, though was due to pass to a civilian leader in the coming months.

Sudan's military thwarted an attempted coup in September, which it blamed on Bashir loyalists opposed to the democratic transition. Twenty-one officers and a number of soldiers were detained related to the plot, Reuters reported.

U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said he was "deeply alarmed" by Monday's coup reports. Feltman visited Sudan earlier this month to stress President Joe Biden's continued support for the planned democratic transition, and was reportedly due to travel to the country again this week.

Sudan protests of military coup against government
Sudanese protesters burn tyres to block a road in the capital Khartoum, to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan's government, on October 25, 2021. -/AFP via Getty Images

Update 10/25/21, 6:24 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include details of a reported statement from General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.