Unidentified gunmen arrested several Sudanese leaders early Monday at their homes, a government source told AFP, after weeks of tension between the military and civilian transitional authorities in the East African country.
The internet was cut off throughout the country, AFP journalists noted, while demonstrators gathered in the streets to protest against the arrests, setting fire to tires.
The events come just two days after a Sudanese faction calling for a transfer of power to civilian rule warned of a “creeping coup” at a press conference that a crowd of unidentified people sought to prevent.
Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles since the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Since August 2019, the country has been ruled by a civilian-military administration charged with overseeing the transition to an all-civilian regime.
The main civilian bloc — the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) — which led the anti-Bashir protests in 2019, has split into two opposing factions.
“The current crisis is artificial — and is taking the form of a creeping coup,” FFC leader Yasser Arman said at a press conference in the capital Khartoum on Saturday.
“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, and in the reform of the transitional institutions, but without order or imposition,” Arman added.
Tensions between the two sides have long existed, but the divisions were exacerbated after the failed coup on September 21. Last week, tens of thousands of Sudanese marched in several cities to support the full transfer of power to civilians, and to counter a rival multi-day sit-in outside the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, which demanded a return to “military rule.”
Mr. Hamdok has previously described the divisions within the transitional government as the “most serious and dangerous crisis” facing the transition.
On Saturday, Mr. Hamdok denied rumors that he had agreed to a cabinet reshuffle, calling them “not accurate. The prime minister also “stressed that he did not monopolize the right to decide the fate of the transitional institutions.
Also on Saturday, U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met jointly with Hamdok, the chairman of Sudan’s governing body, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
“Mr. Feltman emphasized U.S. support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of the Sudanese people,” the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said.
Analysts say recent mass demonstrations show strong support for a civilian-led democracy, but street protests may have little impact on powerful factions pushing for a return to military rule.