Biden criticizes Sudanese junta, death toll rises in anti-coup protests
- UN, US and others call for re-establishment of civilian-led regime
- Military coup has ended fragile transition since Bashir’s ouster
- Burhan says army is negotiating with PM Hamdok on new government
KHARTOUM / WASHINGTON, October 28 (Reuters) – The United States and the United Nations stepped up pressure on the new Sudanese military junta on Thursday as clashes between soldiers and anti-coup protesters left at least 11 dead.
After the 15-member UN Security Council called for the reestablishment of the civilian-led Sudanese government – overthrown on Monday – US President Joe Biden said his nation, like others, stood alongside the protesters.
“Together, our message to the Sudanese military authorities is overwhelming and clear: the Sudanese people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully and the civilian-led transitional government must be restored,” he said in a statement.
“The events of the past few days are a serious setback, but the United States will continue to stand by the Sudanese people and their nonviolent struggle,” said Biden, whose aid government has frozen.
As thousands took to the streets to oppose the takeover led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, witnesses said that live and rubber bullets were used against protesters in Bahri, across the river from the capital Khartoum, as the nightly protests resumed.
A committee of doctors, which monitors the violence, said a “martyr” died in the clashes while two others were injured and in critical condition. Previously, a 22-year-old man died of gunshot wounds, a medical source said.
That brought the total of deaths in four days to at least 11, according to medical sources.
On Thursday evening, Burhan said in a speech to groups that helped topple dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 that consultations were underway to select a prime minister, according to a video released by Al-Jazeera TV.
He said the military is negotiating with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok of the now dissolved transitional council to form the new government.
“Until that night, we sent him people and told him… complete the journey with us, until this meeting with you, we sent him people to negotiate with him and we still have hope”, a Burhan said.
“We told him that we cleaned the stage for you … he is free to form the government, we will not interfere in the formation of the government, whoever he brings, we will not interfere at all.”
The UN Security Council, as well as other foreign powers, have called for restraint, dialogue and the freedom of detainees.
The latest of several recent coups in Africa ended an unstable transitional set-up in Sudan destined to lead to elections in 2023. Power was shared between civilians and military after the fall of Bashir, which the army overthrew after a popular uprising two years ago. .
Officials from some ministries and government agencies challenged the new junta, refusing to resign or relinquish their functions.
They have declared a general strike, along with unions in sectors ranging from healthcare to aviation, although officials say they will continue to provide flour, gas and emergency medical care.
Khartoum’s main market, banks and gas stations were still closed on Thursday. Hospitals only offered emergency services. The small stores were open, with long queues for bread.
UN Special Representative in Sudan Volker Perthes has offered to facilitate dialogue between Burhan and ousted Prime Minister Hamdok.
The former prime minister, initially held at Burhan’s residence, was allowed to return home under guard on Tuesday. A source close to him said he remains committed to a civil democratic transition and the goals of the revolt that toppled Bashir.
A group of ministers from the overthrown government tried to reach Hamdok on Thursday but were turned away, Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said.
As authorities restrict internet and phone signals, protesters handed out leaflets calling for a “Millions March” on Saturday under the same slogan – “Go!” – demonstrations that brought down Bashir.
Sudan is in the throes of a deep economic crisis with record inflation and shortages of basic necessities. The improvement hinges on aid which Western donors say will end unless the coup is reversed.
More than half of the population lives in poverty and child malnutrition reaches 38%, according to the United Nations.
Burhan’s decision reaffirmed the dominant role of the military in Sudan since independence in 1956, after weeks of friction between the military and civilians over issues such as whether to hand Bashir and others to La Haye to face war crimes charges.
Burhan said he acted to prevent civil war and promised elections in July 2023.
Western envoys had warned Burhan that aid, including now frozen US aid of $ 700 million and $ 2 billion from the World Bank, would cease if he took power. Sources said he ignored the warnings under pressure from within the military and with the “green light” from Russia. Read more
State broadcaster Sudan TV said on Thursday that the civilian-appointed leaders of the national news agency SUNA and the national television and radio company had been replaced. The offices of Al-Democrati, a newspaper which recently criticized the military, were raided, the newspaper’s vice president said.
Biden said he admires the courage of the Sudanese.
“We strongly believe in Sudan’s economic potential and the promise of its future – if the military and those who oppose change do not hold back,” he said.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum, Doina Chiacu in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Nafisa Eltahir and Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo Writing by Tom Perry and Andrew Cawthorne Editing by Nick Macfie and Grant McCool
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