What's In Blue

Posted Tue 26 Oct 2021

Sudan: Closed Consultations on the Recent Coup*

This afternoon (26 October), Security Council members will convene for closed consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan. The consultations were requested by the UK (the penholder on Sudan), Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the US. The “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), as well as Mexico, expressed support for the meeting. Special Representative for Sudan and head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes is expected to brief. A press statement is a possible outcome.

Yesterday (25 October), the Chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burha, announced a military coup d’état in the capital Khartoum. He declared a nationwide state of emergency and the suspension of key provisions of the Constitutional Document, stating that the military will oversee Sudan’s transition until elections, to be held in July 2023. The military detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife and reportedly took them to an unknown location. Government officials, including ministers and civilian members of the Sovereign Council, were also arrested. It has been reported that the military closed bridges in Khartoum; took control of the airport, state television, and radio; and restricted the Internet, among other measures. In response, protests have erupted in several cities, including in Khartoum. At the time of writing, at least seven people were reported to have died and some 140 others injured after soldiers opened fire on demonstrators.

The coup preceded the expected transfer of the chairing of the Sovereign Council from the military to the civilian government in November, as agreed in the Constitutional Document. It followed an unsuccessful attempted coup on 21 September by loyalists of ousted former President Omar Al Bashir, which the Security Council condemned in a press statement (SC/14643). Tensions between and within the military and civilian components of the transitional government have been increasing for several months, as noted in the Secretary-General’s most recent report, which covers 2 May to 20 August (S/2021/766). In response, on 22 June, Hamdok launched a national initiative entitled “The National Crisis and Issues of the Transition – The Way Forward”. The Secretary-General’s report notes “growing popular frustration over the country’s political and economic challenges” and significant humanitarian needs—including due to intercommunal conflict and localised armed clashes in Darfur, South Kordofan, West Kordofan and Port Sudan. It further refers to the Ethiopian refugee crisis in eastern parts of the country, high food prices and deepening inflation that has increased food insecurity.

The coup has been met with international opprobrium. The Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the coup on 25 October. The AU Peace and Security Council is convening for an emergency session on the situation today and is expected to adopt a communiqué. The US suspended $700 million in emergency assistance to Sudan.

On 25 October, Perthes held a press conference from Khartoum, saying the situation “is still fluid”. He called on the military to release all those unlawfully detained and for all stakeholders to return to dialogue to restore constitutional order and not to put the political transition at risk. UNITAMS stands ready to further support the country on its path to peace and political transition, he added.

Security Council members are expected to return tomorrow (27 October) from a visiting mission to Mali and Niger. (This was the Council’s first visiting mission since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.) At this afternoon’s meeting, Council members are likely to condemn the coup and express their concern that it jeopardises Sudan’s security, stability, political transition and development. They may emphasise that it threatens the Juba Peace Agreement and the progress made towards democracy in Sudan. Members are also expected to call for the release of Hamdok and others detained by the military. Members may be interested in hearing further details about the situation, as well as what UNITAMS can do to help address the crisis.

*Post-script: On 28 October, Council members issued a press statement (SC/14678) following the 26 October consultations on Sudan. They expressed “serious concern about the military takeover in Sudan on 25 October” and called upon Sudan’s military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional government.  Among other things, Council members called upon all parties to refrain from violence and emphasised the importance of “full respect for human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression”.