Sudan military rulers fire rebel diplomats as they struggle to gain international recognition

General Abdelfattah al-Burhan is facing increasing defiance from government loyalists

Ahmed Aboudouh
Thursday 28 October 2021 19:32
<p>Sudanese people queue for bread outside a bakery in the capital Khartoum </p>

Sudanese people queue for bread outside a bakery in the capital Khartoum

Sudan’s military leader has dismissed six of the country’s envoys abroad, including those in the US, the EU, France and China, after they publicly challenged this week’s army coup.

According to the military official, the order issued by General Abdelfattah al-Burhan also included Sudan’s ambassadors to Qatar and the UN mission in Geneva.

The diplomats announced their support for the transitional government under prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was detained on Monday alongside many of his ministers and several other political leaders.

On Wednesday, Mr Hamdok was allowed to return to his home after significant international pressure from the US and other western countries.

The government was formed in 2019 after intense negotiations between the leaders of the uprising that ousted long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir and the military. It was tasked with running the country’s day-to-day affairs, and another higher body, known as the Sovereign Council, acted as the head of state, with General Burhan at its helm.

Many observers feared that the coup would put an end to the transition to democracy, which once enjoyed the backing of western powers and international donors.

Reports said on Thursday that the US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffery Feltman, had warned Sudan’s military leaders only a day before the coup against taking any measures against their civilian partners. But instead of heeding his advice, they waited for his departure and immediately intiated the coup.

On Wednesday, the World Bank halted disbursements for operations in Sudan in response to the military’s seizure of power, after the African Union suspended Sudan’s membership. These measures marked an increase in international pressure following the US’s lifting of longstanding economic sanctions as a result of the political consensus in the post-Bashir era.

Observers suggest that despite its being a symbolic gesture, the ambassadors’ rebellion could further embarrass Gen Burhan and the military rulers, who seem desperate for international recognition.

Ali bin Yahia, Sudan’s envoy in Geneva, was defiant after his dismissal.

“I will spare no effort to reverse the situation, explain facts, and resist the blackout imposed by coup officials on what is happening in my beloved country,” he said in video comments posted online.

Nureldin Satti, the Sudanese envoy to the US, said on Tuesday that he was working with Sudanese diplomats in Brussels, Paris, Geneva and New York to “resist the military coup in support of the heroic struggle of the Sudanese people”, referring to their efforts to achieve the aims of the uprising against Mr al-Bashir.

Earlier this week, a group of more than 30 Sudanese diplomats, both inside and outside Sudan, condemned the military’s takeover in a joint statement, saying that the ambassadors in Belgium, Switzerland and France had pledged their continued allegiance to the Hamdok government.

The Ministry of Culture and Information, still loyal to Mr Hamdok, said in a Facebook post that the ambassador to South Africa was also part of this group.

The foreign ministry said on Thursday that the dismissed ambassadors “are the sole legitimate representatives of Sudan,” and that Burhan’s decisions are not legal.

These statements are mostly intended to show the world the strength of feeling against the coup, according to western officials, but they also give a glimmer of hope to activists pushing back against the military power-grab at home.

Video footage on social media showed most shops, except for groceries and bakeries, closed on Thursday after activists and NGOs called for a national strike to take place in protest against the coup.

Additional reporting by agencies

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