World Bank halts cash to Sudan in blow to coup leaders
Khartoum: The World Bank has halted the flow of cash for Sudan in response to this week’s military coup, while state oil company workers, doctors and pilots joined civilian groups taking to the streets in protest.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Monday’s takeover led by armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and several have been killed in clashes with security forces.
Burhan has since dismissed the joint civilian-military council set up to steer the country to democratic elections following the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising in April 2019.
Sudan’s head of the military, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.Credit:AP
He said he acted to stop the country slipping into civil war, but the World Bank decision to pause payments and stop processing new operations is a setback to his plans for one of Africa’s poorest countries.
After isolation from the international financing system across three decades of Bashir’s rule, Sudan achieved full re-engagement with the bank in March and gained access to $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) in financing.
“I am greatly concerned by recent events in Sudan, and I fear the dramatic impact this can have on the country’s social and economic recovery and development,” bank president David Malpass said in a statement from Washington.
Abdalla Hamdok, prime minister in the deposed transitional government, had touted World Bank re-engagement as a major accomplishment and was depending on the funding for several large development projects.
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters take to the streets to condemn a takeover by military officials in Khartoum, Sudan.Credit:AP
The government had instituted harsh economic reforms that succeeded in achieving rapid arrears clearance and debt relief and renewed financing from the World Bank and IMF.
An IMF spokeswoman said the fund was monitoring developments but it was “premature” to comment.
Hamdok, who was detained on Monday and has been under guard at his home since Wednesday, was in good health when visited by envoys from France, Germany, Norway, the UK, United States, European Union and United Nations, the UN mission in Sudan said on Twitter. The West has called for restoration of the council and the release of civilian leaders.
Hamdok says any retreat from the path to democracy threatens stability and development in Sudan and he warns against the use of violence against protesters, a source close to him said.
Late on Wednesday, Sudan state TV reported that Burhan had relieved six Sudanese ambassadors from their posts, apparently because they rejected the military takeover. The six were envoys to the United States, the European Union, China, Qatar, France and the head of mission to Geneva.
Scattered protests continue to take place in Khartoum and intensified on Wednesday across the capital, although no new bloodshed was reported. Neighbourhood committees announced plans for protests leading to what they said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday.
Workers at state oil company Sudapet said they were joining the civil disobedience campaign to back the stalled democratic transition and pilots from the national carrier Sudan Airways have gone on strike, as have those from Badr and Tarco Airlines.
Central Bank employees have also stopped work in a further setback for the functioning of the economy.
Doctors belonging to the Unified Doctors’ Office group of unions also said they were striking. The doctors were one of the driving forces behind the uprising that brought down Bashir.
In one Khartoum neighbourhood on Wednesday, soldiers and armed people in civilian clothes removed barricades erected by protesters. A few hundred metres away, youths rebuilt barricades minutes later.
“We want civilian rule. We won’t get tired,” one said.
In Bahri across the river witnesses said protesters were met with tear gas and heard gunshots.
In the north-eastern city of Atbara, protesters marched and chanted, “Down with the military regime”.
Sudan’s armed forces sacked Ibrahim Adlan, head of the county’s civil aviation authority, sector sources said.
Power-sharing between the military and civilians had been increasingly strained over several issues, including whether to send Bashir and others to the International Criminal Court, where they are wanted for alleged atrocities in Darfur. Military commanders now leading Sudan also served in Darfur.
At his first news conference since announcing the takeover, Burhan said on Tuesday the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who he said were inciting people against the armed forces.
UN Special Representative Volker Perthes met Burhan and told him the United Nations wanted to see a return to the transition process and the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Thursday.
Events Africa’s third-largest country mirror those in several other Arab states where the military has tightened its grip following uprisings.
Willow Berridge, a Sudan expert at Newcastle University, said it would be difficult for Burhan and the army to suppress street mobilisations against the takeover because of the presence of resistance committees in many neighbourhoods.
“My greatest fear is that he will fall back even further on the only legitimacy he can depend on – violence. It is a very serious risk,” Berridge said.
Burhan has close ties to states that worked to roll back Islamist influence and contain the impact of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
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