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Sudan: The African Union calls for all arrested leaders to be released

By Patrick Smith
Posted on Monday, 25 October 2021 11:27

Demonstrators protest against prospect of military rule in Khartoum, Sudan October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

The military’s seizure of power and arrest of top civilian leaders in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in the early hours of 25 October, sets up a trial of strength and ingenuity between the generals and the hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protestors, who took to the streets across the country last week.

This latest putsch in Khartoum, coming just days after crisis meetings between Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Washington’s envoy Jeffrey Feltman, is another repudiation of US influence and diplomacy in the region.

The US was the first to condemn the coup, with the EU and Britain likely to issue statements this morning.

Eyes on the African Union

Most critical today will be the response of the African Union, next door in Ethiopia.

After the organisation’s weak response to military takeovers in Mali, Chad and Guinea earlier this year, AU Chairman Faki Mahamat expressed “deep dismay” over the “current situation in Sudan” this morning, calling for the resumption of consultations between civilians and the military, strict respect for human rights and release of all arrested political leaders.

We call on the Sudanese people to protest using all peaceful means possible…”

There will be an emergency meeting of the AU’s Peace & Security Council today, at which Nigeria and South Africa are likely to take the strongest line.

Also, under pressure to make a statement, will be the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the main regional organisation in the Horn, which is currently chaired by Sudan. In the face of Ethiopia’s war in Tigray, IGAD has been sidelined over the past year.

Bad news for Ethiopia…

The coup in Sudan is bad news for Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed, as the military in Khartoum has been pushing for more aggressive action against Addis Ababa over the two countries’ territorial dispute.

Egypt will now have a government in Khartoum that will unambiguously side with Cairo in its dispute with Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile.

Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, believed by many Sudanese politicians and activists to have backed – if not encouraged – the coup, will initially keep a low profile.

It will test their ideological flexibility. Egypt and the Gulf monarchies seem to fear a transition to democracy in Sudan more than the machinations of their old political foes, the Muslim Brothers.

Long-time calls for a coup

Sudan’s Islamist political movements, linked to the outlawed National Congress Party and the Muslim Brothers (Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen), have been calling for a coup against civilians in the transitional government for several weeks. The attempted coup, on 25 October, will boost the Islamist parties and their fight against political, economic and judicial reform.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan are avowed enemies of the Ikhwan and affiliates, comprehensively repressing organisations in their own countries.

They are expected to send in envoys, as they did after the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019, to represent their interests in any subsequent negotiations.

One step forward, two steps back

At risk after the coup will be the international debt reduction deal, the IMF/World Bank accord and hundreds of millions of dollars of bilateral aid.

Instead, the junta will have to rely on financing from Gulf States whose treasuries have been depleted since their mega promises – only partially redeemed – to Khartoum, after the fall of Omer el-Bashir in April 2019.

Hamdok shows resistance

The prime minister’s office has released a statement, urging protestors to take to the streets to protect the recent gains in democratic rights.

“We call on the Sudanese people to protest using all peaceful means possible … to take back their revolution from the thieves.”

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