AU suspends Sudan over coup as UN calls for release of detained civilian leaders

The African Union (AU) said on Wednesday it had suspended Sudan until civilian rule in the country is restored, saying it rejected the military takeover as an “unconstitutional” seizure of power.

The suspension is coming after the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, on Tuesday renewed his call for the immediate release of all those detained in the military coup in Sudan, as the Security Council meets behind closed doors in New York to discuss the crisis.

“I once again strongly condemn the forceful military takeover of power in Sudan,” Mr Guterres said while responding to a journalist’s question at a press conference at the UN Headquarters. “I urge, of course, all stakeholders to exercise maximum restraint, but the prime minister and other officials that were unlawfully detained must be released immediately.”

For the continent-wide bloc, it “strongly condemns the seizure of power” and was suspending Sudan from all AU activities “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led transitional authority”.

Sudanese General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Monday ordered the dissolution of the government and declared a state of emergency, sparking widespread international condemnation.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under military arrest, along with his ministers and civilian members of Sudan’s ruling council, sparking angry protests on the streets on Khartoum.

Hamdok was later released under close guard, but other ministers and civilian leaders remain in detention.

Security forces launched sweeping arrests of anti-coup protesters Wednesday, in a bid to end three days of demonstrations against the power grab.

A number of Western powers have called for an urgent meeting with Hamdok, saying they still recognise the prime minister and his cabinet as the constitutional leaders of Sudan.

The AU suspended Sudan in June 2019 after pro-democracy protesters demanding civilian rule were gunned down outside army headquarters in Khartoum.

Their membership was reinstated three months later after Hamdok announced the appointment of Sudan’s first cabinet since the ousting of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir.

Pro-democracy demonstrations continued in the country’s capital, Khartoum, one day after the army dissolved the transitional government and detained civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his cabinet.

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