KHARTOUM (Reuters) --
Sudan’s top general defended the army’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war, while protesters returned to the streets on Tuesday to demonstrate against the takeover after a day of deadly clashes.
Speaking at his first news conference since he announced Monday’s takeover, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces.
“The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” he said, an apparent reference to demonstrations against the prospect of a military takeover.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was arrested on Monday along with other members of his cabinet, had not been harmed and had been brought to Burhan’s own home, the general said: “The prime minister was in his house. However, we were afraid that he’d be in danger so he has been placed with me at my home.”
Burhan had appeared on TV on Monday to announce the dissolution of the Sovereign Council, a body set up to share power between the military and civilians.
The Facebook page for the office of the prime minister, apparently still under the control of Hamdok’s loyalists, called for Hamdok’s release and that of the other civilian leaders.
Hamdok remains “the executive authority recognized by the Sudanese people and the world”, it said. It added that there was no alternative other than protests, strikes and civil disobedience.
Images on social media showed renewed street protests on Tuesday in the cities of Atbara, Dongola, Elobeid and Port Sudan. People chanted “Don’t give your back to the army, the army won’t protect you.”
Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman across the Nile were partly locked down, with shops shut and plumes of smoke rising from where protesters were burning tires. Calls for a general strike were played over mosque loudspeakers. Streets and bridges were blocked by soldiers or protester barricades.
An official at the health ministry said seven people had been killed in clashes between protesters and the security forces on Monday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Tuesday for Hamdok’s immediate release.
On Monday soldiers detained Hamdok, his ministers and civilian members of Sudan’s ruling council, who have been heading a transition to full civilian rule following the 2019 overthrow of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.
Guterres said “geopolitical divides” were preventing the Security Council from taking strong measures as countries around the world grapple with the pandemic and social and economic problems.