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Sudan coup 2021: Five strange moments from Burhan's speech

Army leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan delivered a televised speech riddled with bizarre claims a day after dissolving the government
Sudan's top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan holds a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum on 26 October 2021 (AFP)

Sudan's military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan delivered a bizarre speech on Tuesday, a day after the army arrested the country's prime minister and dissolved the government in what has been largely denounced as a coup

Fashioning his staple green beret and military uniform, the general defended his decision to declare a state of emergency and dissolve Sudan’s cabinet in a nearly one-hour-long televised address. 

But many of his statements have raised eyebrows amongst those who have been watching events unfold in Sudan.

'This is not a coup,' says coup leader 

Burhan, the leader of the army who on Monday dissolved the government and the Sovereign Council in charge of the country's transition to democracy since 2019, denied in his speech that the operation carried out by the military constituted a coup. 

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Instead, he chose to describe the move as an attempt to "rectify the path" to democratic transition by taking matters into the armed forces' own hands.

Civilian leadership in Sudan - as well as swathes of the international community - have strongly denounced the move as a coup.

Army forces raided television and radio headquarters and shut down the internet in Sudan, a textbook approach for a putsch - while Burhan vowed that the internet would be restored “in phases”. 

Premier not kidnapped, but 'at my home'

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and five ministers and civilian members of the country’s ruling council were disappeared in the early hours of Monday. But according to Burhan, there is nothing concerning about that. 

"Yes, we arrested ministers and politicians, but not all," he said in the news conference in Khartoum, claiming that all detained officials would have access to due process.

Burhan went on to say that Hamdok was "at my home" and “in good health”, adding that the arrest of a sitting prime minister in the middle of the night was “for his own good”.

It remained unclear whether Hamdok was indeed being held in the general's home. Although the premier's statement from detention on Monday, calling the moves by the military a "complete coup d'etat", cast doubts that Burhan was hosting the politician over for tea.

The international community has, meanwhile, called for Hamdok's immediate release.

An army takeover against 'racism'

Burhan insisted that the coup had to be done to avoid a civil war ignited by a "racist and sectarian" political class, arguing that the seizure of state powers was meant to fulfil the people's demands and revive the 2019 revolution that toppled longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

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Burhan stressed that telephone and internet networks were shut across the country due to worries about "misinformation and racist behaviour online”.

While the military has sought in recent weeks to ratchet up animosity against the civilian leadership among rebel groups across the country, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets since Monday to denounce the coup, chanting one of the slogans of the 2019 uprising: “Freedom, peace and justice.”

Patchy internet access has also meant that footage of violent repression against demonstrators - which is reported to have killed several people - has come out of the country in fits and starts.

It's not political 

Despite dissolving the country's political bodies, Burhan said that the decision to seize power was "a national duty, not an agenda". 

He vouched that by Wednesday, a new, technocratic governmental structure would be in place to replace the Sovereign Council and that the military would lead the country until elections set for July 2023 - a year later than initially scheduled.

However, recent history casts doubts on Burhan's willingness to follow a timeline.

Under a 2019 power-sharing agreement with the civilian leadership, Burhan was supposed to serve as head of state for 21 months before handing over the seat to a civilian representative. The military leader was due to pass the baton in May, but instead held on to the position.

Coup seeks atypical politicians

Eager to prove his magnanimity, Burhan said he was open to civilian rule - as long as those leaders wanted to collaborate with the military and were not "typical" politicians. 

He vowed that the new legislature would include young people from the revolution and would respect democratic principles.

“The armed forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” Burhan said.

It remains to be seen whether members of Sudan's popular pro-democracy movement will decide to join forces with the military. But for now, it certainly does not look like any are buying it.

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