The African Union (AU) on Wednesday suspended troubled Sudan after the military forcibly took power and dissolved the transitional government.
The decision, announced by the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), means that Sudan will no longer be allowed into AU sessions or vote on crucial matters until it restores a civilian transitional government.
“The AUPSC decides to suspend the participation of the Republic of Sudan in all AU activities until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority,” a communique said after the 15-member Council met via video link on Tuesday and condemned the coup.
The Council, whose leadership is rotational, is usually a standing organ that is supposed to prevent, manage or resolve conflicts on the continent. This month, Mozambique is the chair and was expected to send a delegation to Khartoum by the weekend to discuss political transition with the military chiefs.
Sudan’s military ruler, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on Monday morning took power, arrested members of the transitional government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and imposed a state of emergency, including shutting down the internet.
He reappeared in public on Tuesday promising to set a government “free of politics” and freed Dr Hamdok, who had been detained with his wife. He rejected the description of his decision as a coup, saying he had acted to safeguard the transition.
Suspending Sudan is routine, though: The AU’s policy requires total disregard to “unconstitutional changes” in government and usually suspends members until they agree to return to civilian rule.
The Council said AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat should “take necessary measures and intensify his engagement with the leaders of the Transitional Government and the Sovereign Council in order to facilitate the resumption of dialogue towards a successful transition in the Sudan”.
That, the Council indicated, includes dispatching a team to Khartoum. The AU decision came even as activists across the continent criticised the coup, calling on the continental body to crack the whip.
In an open letter, more than 70 entities and individuals said Sudan’s junta had violated basic rights by denying them a chance to take part in the transition as well as suffering a communication blockade.
“These actions violate the AU Shared Values and specific provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance regarding unconstitutional changes of government,” they said in an open letter on Wednesday.
“We note that the military takeover has negative consequences for Sudan’s transition into a democracy, a journey that had a major turning point in 2019 when civilians got rid of dictator Omar Hassan Al-Bashir through a peoples’ revolution.”
The junta also closed down the main airports and restricted the movement of people.
“These limitations on the rights and freedoms of the Sudanese people as well as other nationalities present in Sudan is in stark violation of both the Sudanese Constitution as well as African and International Human rights norms,” they said under their banner, “African citizens and its diaspora”.
They demanded that all of Dr Hamdok’s ministers arrested on Monday be released, people be allowed to picket and the military return power to civilians.