December 7, 2022

Jeffrey Feltman says there was no ‘hint’ about Sudan military takeover, calls for restoration of civilian government

Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui
Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui

The United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said on Tuesday that there was ‘no hint’ or ‘conversation’ that the Sudanese military was about to overthrow the civilian-led government or even arrest and detain Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok when he left Khartoum shortly before the coup took place on October 25.

However, hours later, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan made his move. He overthrew Prime Minister Hamdok, arrested and detained him and his wife, as well as several civilian ministers, and suspended several articles of the constitution. He later appeared on national television and announced that the election will take place in 2023 and power will be handed to a civilian government by then.

While Feltman condemned the coup in a tweet the day it began, the U.S. representative for the Horn of Africa had not taken questions from journalists until Tuesday. Speaking from Washington D.C., Feltman described the military takeover as “a betrayal” of the Sudanese people.

Abdalla Hamdok

“Ambassador Feltman, New York Times reported that you were given assurances that seemed to head off a military takeover, but hours later, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan made his move, he overthrew prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, arrested him and his wife and several civilian ministers and suspended several articles of the constitution,” Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba began his question.

“It’s now been 9 days since all that happened and nine days since you condemned the takeover in a tweet, and several days since President Biden himself called for the restoration of the civilian government which has not happened. My question is, again, were you given specific assurances that the takeover will not take place or did you lie? Did you endorse it and later issued statements condemning it? What did you know? And is there anything the United States is doing beyond condemnation to reinstate Hamdok? Why have we not seen visa bans? sanctions?”

General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan on February 6, 2020 [Twitter]

Ambassador Feltman said there was no hint or conversation about the takeover that later occurred on October 25.

He said it was, however, ‘clear’ that the transition in Sudan was ‘encountering’ some problems and that the civilian and military leaders were ‘eyeing’ each other with distrust.

He said he did not discuss or envision the type of military takeover or ‘betrayal’ that later took place.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the July Jobs report, Friday, August 6, 2021, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

Feltman said he believes the Sudanese military were “meeting with us in bad faith” and would not characterized what occurred as a lie.

The New York Times had reported that “in a frantic series of meetings in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum” shortly before the coup, “Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. envoy to the Horn of Africa, sought to narrow the differences between the army chief, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, who had been sharing power since the 2019 ouster of the longtime autocrat Omar Hassan al-Bashir. At a final meeting late Sunday afternoon, General al-Burhan argued that Sudan’s cabinet should be dismissed and replaced with technocrats, but gave no indication he was preparing to seize power.With that reassurance, the American diplomat wrapped things up and caught a flight to Qatar where, on landing, his phone lit up: A coup was underway in Sudan.

Ambassador Feltman again called on Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to restore a civilian-led government and release all those who have been detained.

Sudanese protesters wave national flags as they rally on 60th Street in the capital, Khartoum, to denounce the detention of civilian government members overnight. [AFP]
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