The Norwegian ambassador, a member of the Troika on Sudan, denounced an “intolerable” repression of anti-putsch in a country where, Therese Loken Gheziel told AFP, the world had “great hopes”, which were dashed by a coup d’état “which took us by surprise”.
For years, Britain, the United States and Norway had accompanied Sudan on its tortuous path to democracy. Ms. Gheziel herself arrived in the fall of 2020 as Khartoum was making peace with former rebels, ending bloody conflicts.
But the putsch led on October 25 by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, purges, hundreds of arrests and a crackdown that left some 40 people dead and hundreds wounded put a brutal halt to the transition, born of the overthrow in 2019 under street pressure of General Omar al-Bashir, after 30 years of dictatorship.
On Wednesday, immediately after cutting off all communications, security forces again fired on protesters, chasing them into hospitals and homes, according to doctors.
“Hindering access to hospitals (…) is intolerable and illegal, as well as cutting off communications and all these acts do not lead to any constructive dialogue,” said the diplomat, who told AFP that she had already pleaded with the generals against the “disproportionate use of force.
– Anger and frustration” –
General Burhane, for his part, will not budge: he swears that he acted and had most of the civilians arrested with whom he shared power since 2019, only to “correct the course of the revolution.”
For Ms. Gheziel, however, “a unilateral action was carried out by one of the partners of the transition, the military partner.
And for this, the Norwegian government “considers it a coup d’état.
A putsch, which was carried out smoothly on October 25 at dawn in a country where for weeks the crisis was rumbling.
The civilian bloc was still fracturing, hundreds of sit-in demonstrators were demanding “a military government” and General Burhane himself announced that he had foiled a coup at the end of September.
“We knew there were problems, but they could be discussed and resolved by the partners themselves,” says Gheziel.
Since the coup, she has met regularly with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, who is under house arrest, and General Burhane, who is also head of the Sovereignty Council, the highest of the interim institutions.
Both want, like other leaders, the ambassador assures, to “redraw the military-civilian partnership” — the keystone of the post-Bashir era — which for the demonstrators has quickly become “the partnership of blood” between civilian leaders unable to impose themselves, generals dreaming of being irremovable, and ex-rebels quick to align themselves with the army.
“In all our meetings, I hear anger and frustration on both sides,” says Ms. Gheziel.
– “Still hopeful” –
But if everyone wanted to reshuffle the deck, it was General Burhane who finally did — sending soldiers to arrest Mr. Hamdok, now under house arrest.
“We were taken by surprise because we had high hopes” for Sudan, which had just begun to bring down inflation soaring at nearly 400 percent, was returning to the fold by coming off the U.S. “terrorist” list and promising free elections in 2023, Gheziel says.
So much so that Oslo tripled its aid in 2020, to 27 million euros. Transfers have now been suspended, as have those from the United States and the World Bank, “because we first want a plan to get out of the crisis,” explains the diplomat.
A plan which, for Norway as for the American and European ambassadors in Khartoum, requires the return of Mr. Hamdok to his post.
But General Burhane seems determined to consolidate the new state of affairs. On November 11, he reappointed himself as head of the Sovereignty Council, from which he removed the remaining members who supported full civilian rule.
This move “complicates efforts to get the transition back on track,” the Troika insisted at the time.
“The international pressure continues,” said the Norwegian ambassador. “There is also strong pressure from within.
This is why “there is still hope” for the transition in Sudan, which has remained almost entirely inactive.