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Unrest has engulfed Sudan following the military coup of October 25 Unrest has engulfed Sudan following the military coup of October 25  (AFP or licensors)

Sudanese Bishops express fear for Sudan after military coup

Sudan's military on Monday seized power from a transitional government, detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, several government officials and political leaders. The move has abruptly cut short the country’s path to democratic rule.

By Robin Gomes

In the aftermath of the military coup in Sudan, the bishops of Sudan and South Sudan have expressed dismay that the African nation has slipped back to dictatorship and deadly unrest.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on October 25 seized power from a transitional government, detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, as well as several government officials and political leaders. He dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council, the country’s collective head of state, that had been established to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling military autocrat Omar al-Bashir in the aftermath of the ‘Revolution’ or the 2018-19 popular uprising.

The military strongman announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to ensure safety and security, but he promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over power to an elected civilian government. Following international pressure, the military allowed Prime Minister Hamdok to return home under guard the following day. 

Sudanese bishops’ fears

"We are returning to a military era in Sudan, to war instead of peace," Bishop Yunan Tombe Trille of El Obeid, president of the Sudan and South Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference (SSSCBC), told the Vatican’s Fides news agency. Former ruler Al-Bashir himself came to power in a bloodless military coup on 30 June 1989.  His supporters have been clamouring for a return to military rule.

Bishop Trille believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the action of the armed forces, saying, “you could see them in the Palace of the Republic days before the coup.” “Their request to the ruling politician was clear: step aside and hand everything over to the military,” Bishop Trille said.

2023 elections a “farce”

Under military rule, the bishops of Sudan see a dismal future for Sudan. The president of the Sudanese bishops believes the military will seize total power and mock the world by holding elections in July 2023. It will be yet another farce, which will legitimize their power, as has happened with past governments. “People in all likelihood will continue to take to the streets, but in this situation, I predict there will be a lot of suffering," he said.

Call to respect life

Speaking to ACI Africa on Tuesday, Bishop Trille underscored the urgent need for the international community to put pressure on the military to show respect for human life. "We are hearing about the deaths of people who are expressing their feelings about the coup against civilian governments," he said, including protesters being fired upon by security forces. "The international community should put pressure on the junta to value the lives of its citizens,” he said. Security forces have killed at least 11 anti-coup protesters in confrontations that followed the coup. 

Bishop Trille also urged the international community "to help the military junta to respect and comply with the norms, to release the detained civilian ministers, and to dialogue with them to restore power to the civilian government."

Underscoring the social commitment of the bishops for the common good, Bishop Trille said, “The Church in Sudan has never remained silent under the cross of Christ, despite some of the changes that have taken place in Sudan; the attitude of the leaders towards the Church has never changed.”

Greed for power

Sudan remains in limbo, with the prospect of military rule and its repression, violence, and tyranny looming large over the country. The military general justified his coup by citing infighting and deadlock within the transitional government, whose popularity has waned as the country’s economic conditions have deteriorated.  

However, the real reason for the coup appears to lie elsewhere. Al-Burhan was to hand over his chairmanship of the Sovereignty Council as early as November, in a step that would reduce the military’s hold on the country. Clearly, al-Burhan is not ready to relinquish power.

Monday’s coup comes as a climax to tensions between conservative Islamists who want a military government and those who toppled al-Bashir, following a failed military coup attempt on September 21. Both camps have staged demonstrations ahead of the latest coup.

International pressure

The coup has drawn calls from the international community, including from the US and the West,  to restore the civilian-led transitional government and release those detained after the military takeover. The UN Security Council on Thursday expressed “solidarity” with the Sudanese people and affirmed its readiness “to support efforts to realize Sudan’s democratic transition” and the people's aspirations “for an inclusive, peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous future.”

On Thursday night, al-Burhan said in a speech to groups who helped remove dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 that consultations were underway to select a prime minister, according to a video aired by Al- Jazeera TV.  He said the army is negotiating with deposed prime minister Hamdok to form the new government.

Military’s reaction

However, the moves of the military strongman indicate his reluctance to relax his hold on power. A military official said on Thursday that Al-Burhan has fired at least six ambassadors, including the envoys to the United States, the European Union, and France, after they condemned the military's takeover of the country. The diplomats pledged their support for the deposed prime minister, Hamdok, and his government.  An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said on Wednesday that General al-Burhan also fired the Sudanese ambassadors to Qatar, China, and the United Nations mission in Geneva. The state-run Sudan TV also reported the dismissals.

29 October 2021, 14:10