(Bloomberg) -- Sudan’s military tightened its grip on state institutions and arrested hundreds of opponents, dampening hopes the African nation’s democratic transition can be put back on track after last month’s coup.
Despite international outcry over the putsch, military chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has pressed ahead in overseeing a shakeup at government-owned media and the central bank. Meanwhile, Sudan’s attorney general and the leaders of a committee probing illicit financial gains made during the three-decade reign of ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir have all been removed.
Two weeks after al-Burhan overthrew the civilian wing of a power-sharing government and vowed to save Sudan from dangerous divisions, opponents say the army is chipping away at the gains of the 2019 uprising that promised to make the country a democratic beacon in the Horn of Africa.
“It is not a new regime,” said Sara Abdelgalil, an advocate working at Governance Programming Overseas, an organization promoting Sudan’s planned path to democracy. “This is a counter-revolution.”
Condemnation from the West for the coup was swift, with the U.S. and World Bank suspending aid and France warning it endangers a deal involving billions of dollars in debt relief seen as crucial to Sudan’s recovery. Attempts by the United Nations and Western and African countries to broker a deal between Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the army that would reinstate some form of joint civilian-military administration are stalling.
With a near-complete blackout on mobile internet coverage entering its third week, the military has widened its war on dissent. At least 14 protesters have been killed since the coup, according to a doctors’ committee.
A list from a self-styled resistance committee that organizes demonstrations shows at least 104 arrests nationwide to date, including protest leaders and members of political parties. A further 87 people were arrested at a sit-in by teachers in the capital, Khartoum, on Sunday.
Ali Agab, a U.K.-based Sudanese human-rights lawyer, said he was aware of hundreds of arrests and efforts to appoint people with close links to Bashir’s regime in senior posts.
Among the prominent changes were last week’s removal of the central bank’s deputy governor and the naming of new heads seen as close to the military at national broadcaster Sudan TV and news agency SUNA, according to people familiar with the developments. They asked not to be identified as they’re not authorized to speak to the media. Al-Burhan also dissolved the boards of state-owned companies and agricultural programs.
International mediators have made little recent headway. One proposal suggests the military-imposed state of emergency continues until a new Sovereign Council and cabinet are approved, the release of all political detainees and that heads of executive bodies, cabinet ministers, governors and undersecretaries be appointed by Hamdok, according to the people.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist group that helped drive the anti-Bashir uprising, has rejected initiatives that “seek a new settlement” between the military and civilians, saying it would “reproduce and worsen” the crisis. It’s calling for protests until a full civilian government is allowed to lead.
“It’s a complete military coup,” said Amir Suliman, legal program director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. First there was the “dismissal of the Sovereign Council, then the cabinet, now it reached civil servants.”
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