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Sudan security tightening grip as international pressure bites

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Anti-coup protesters clash with security forces in Khartoum. AFP

Sudan security tightening grip as international pressure bites

Sudanese security forces on October 27 made sweeping arrests of protesters as they sought to extinguish opposition to this week’s military coup, while the international community ramped up punitive measures.

The World Bank froze aid and the African Union (AU) suspended Sudan over October 25’s power grab by the army, just over two years into what is meant to be a transition to civilian rule after the April 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Hundreds of protesters were seen throwing rocks at security forces dismantling street barricades in Khartoum’s eastern district of Burri, according to an AFP correspondent.

In the capital’s north, security personnel fired tear gas and rubber bullets at dozens of protesters.

“Police forces have removed all the barricades since Wednesday [October 27] morning and arrested all the people who stood near them,” said Hady Bashir, a protester.

Late on October 27, the information ministry – still loyal to the deposed government – said security forces were tightening their control of the capital.

“Neighbourhoods and streets have been blockaded by armoured vehicles and men carrying rifles,” it said in a statement, alleging also that “women were dragged” to the ground.

“All security on the streets now look like the Bashir-era forces,” lamented one protester, Hanaa Hassan.

Top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s dissolution of the government and declaration of a state of emergency on October 25 has provoked strong reactions far beyond the country’s borders.

On October 27, the AU called the coup “unconstitutional” and suspended the country’s membership of the bloc.

The World Bank later put its aid on hold, in a major blow to a country that only recently unlocked funds from the lender and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after decades under sanctions during Bashir’s rule.

The US has also paused $700 million in funding and the EU has threatened to follow suit.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on October 27 he spoke with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and reiterated support for a civilian-led transition.

Hamdok was detained by the military in sweeping arrests of civilian leaders on October 25, but was allowed home on October 26 as major donors demanded his release.

But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on October 27 that the prime minister was “not free” and confined to his residence, after Volker Perthes, the UN’s Special Representative for Sudan, met with both Hamdok and Burhan.

Other ministers and civilian leaders remain under full military arrest.

A joint statement by the US, EU, UK and other nations emphasised their continued recognition of the “prime minister and his cabinet as the constitutional leaders of the transitional government”.

The UN Security Council, however, struggled on October 27 to agree a joint statement on Sudan’s crisis. Russia opposed a strong condemnation of the military’s power grab, according to diplomats.

Russia’s deputy representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said negotiations were continuing, and described the matter as “very delicate”.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Khartoum called for “consensus between political forces” in a meeting with Burhan October 27 over the “current political situation”, according to a statement by the Sudanese armed forces.

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