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Sudan coup: Envoys opposing coup dismiss Burhan decision to sack them

Six ambassadors dismissed by army general say they were appointed by prime minister and do not recognise move
Sudanese people protest against a military coup overthrowing the transition to civilian rule, on 27 October 2021 (AFP)

Six Sudanese ambassadors relieved from their posts on Wednesday by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese army, for backing protests against Monday's coup say they "do not recognise such a decision taken by an illegitimate authority".

The sackings include Sudan's ambassadors to the United States, the European Union, China, Qatar, France and the head of Sudan's mission to Geneva.

In a letter in response seen by Middle East Eye, written by Ambassador Ali Ibn Abi Talib Mahmoud, the permanent representative of Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the envoys point out that they "were appointed by the legitimate prime minister [Abdalla Hamdok]".

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Hamdok was placed under house arrest in the early hours of Monday morning and was allowed to return home under tight security on Tuesday. Several others members of the government remain detained.

"We hope that your esteemed government continues to recognise Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok as well as his cabinet as the only legitimate authority of the Republic of Sudan whom we represent," the envoys added.

The ambassadors had declared their embassies safe havens “for the Sudanese people” as a coordinated civil disobedience campaign continued across the country.

The envoys were among a group of 41 current and former Sudanese ambassadors and diplomats, in countries also including the UAE, Turkey and Canada and at home in Sudan, that had signed a letter addressed to “our heroic people” earlier on Wednesday.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the brutal military coup against your glorious revolution,” the statement read, adding that they declared their "complete alignment with your heroic resistance”.

Tear gas

Protests against the coup, which have seen at least nine people killed and more than 150 wounded at the hands of the military and the notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), were sparked after the army placed Hamdok under house arrest in the early hours of Monday morning.

Sudanese security forces on Wednesday made sweeping arrests of protesters as they sought to extinguish opposition to they coup, while the international community ramped up punitive measures as a deterrant to the coup plotters.

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The World Bank froze aid and the African Union suspended Sudan over Monday's power grab by the army.

Hundreds of  protesters were seen throwing rocks at security forces dismantling street barricades in Khartoum's eastern district of Burri, according to an AFP correspondent.

In the capital's north, security personnel fired tear gas and rubber bullets at dozens of protesters. "Police forces have removed all the barricades since Wednesday morning and arrested all the people who stood near them," said Hady Bashir, a protester. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a phone call with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi on Thursday, condemned Sudan's military takeover and the arrest of the country's civilian leaders.

Blinken said on Twitter that they also discussed how the United States can best support the Sudanese people's call for a return to a civilian-led transition to democracy.

Blinken discussed Washington's support for a civilian transition in accordance with the Sudanese Constitutional Declaration, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

'Tough job'

Speaking before Burhan's announcement, Abdelrahim Ahmed Khalil, Sudan’s ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, who was one of those later relieved of his duties, had told Middle East Eye: “If the situation doesn’t improve, I'll quit. I’ll quit and go back to my country and live like normal people... we are not going to serve another military dictatorship in Sudan.”

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The envoy, who has been a civil servant for over four decades, added that his fellow signatories, which started as a group of just four ambassadors, shared this conviction.

"Yes, I think that if the situation doesn't change they will sack us, or we will leave by ourselves," Usama Nuddallah, Sudan's ambassador to South Africa, had told MEE.

Sudan's ambassadors have "a tough job", Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told MEE.

"They are in the difficult position of sometimes having to explain why the military is doing what it is doing and explaining Sudanese politics to foreign audiences," he said.

"That can be a very fine line - so I think it's important that they put themselves on one side of that line now."