White House calls for ‘immediate release’ of Sudan prime minister Abdalla Hamdok

At least seven other civilian government leaders are reportedly in detention, and military leaders have also restricted access to the internet and imposed a state of emergency in Sudan.

The White House has commented for the first time on the military takeover in Sudan on Monday that led to the arrest and detention of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, wife Muna Abdallah, and several civilian ministers, including the minister of information.

At least seven other civilian government leaders are reportedly in detention, and military leaders have also restricted access to the internet and imposed a state of emergency in Sudan.

Speaking with reporters on Air Force One, White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US is ‘deeply alarmed’ by the reports of a military coup in Sudan.

“We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister,” she said. 

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing on Friday, July 30, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott) 
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing on Friday, July 30, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott)

The United States Embassy in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, on Monday, urged American citizens in Sudan “to be aware of their surroundings and shelter in place, which includes not traveling to the U.S. Embassy or the international airports in Khartoum and Port Said.”

The Embassy said reports indicate that “armed forces are blocking certain areas in and around Khartoum,” adding that the Internet in Khartoum is non-functional.

The Embassy said in a series of tweets that it “is gravely concerned by reports that the armed forces have taken action against Sudan’s civilian government, and condemns actions that are undermining Sudan’s democratic transition.” The embassy added that “Sudanese Armed Forces have announced they are in control of the government,” while demonstrations have been reported in Khartoum and around the country.”

“There are unverified reports of violence against protesters. Flights are not leaving the country,” the Embassy reported.

It added, “The U.S. Embassy has received reports that armed forces are blocking certain areas in and around Khartoum. Internet in Khartoum is non-functional. The Embassy is advising American citizens to shelter in place and remain aware of their surroundings.

Abdalla Hamdok 
Abdalla Hamdok

“We call on all actors who are disrupting Sudan’s transition to stand down, and allow the civilian-led transitional government to continue its important work to achieve the goals of the revolution.”

The United States said on Monday that it was ‘deeply alarmed’ over the military coup in Sudan, describing the takeover as ‘unacceptable’.

The United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, condemned the coup in a tweet on Monday morning.

“The US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military take-over of the transitional government. This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable,” he twitted. “As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance.”

In a statement, Amnesty International called on the Sudanese military leaders to “immediately and unconditionally release Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all others who were arbitrarily detained this morning.”

“The arbitrary detentions and human rights violations today run counter to Sudan’s ambitions for a future where the human rights of all are respected and amount to a betrayal of the hopes and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people.  Political differences must be resolved with recourse to human rights, not through high-handed and abusive military means,” said Deprose Muchena, Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“We call on the military leaders, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to adhere to Sudan’s human rights obligations. This includes ensuring protection of the right to life and ensuring that the peaceful protesters now massing in response to today’s events can demonstrate unhindered and unharmed. We also call on the authorities restore full access to the internet, to facilitate freedom of information, association and peaceful assembly.”

Sudan’s military on Monday declared a state of emergency, dissolved the power-sharing government after arresting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, wife Muna Abdallah, and several civilian ministers, including the minister of information.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken recognizes Dulles Operation Allies Welcome staff, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 13, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ 
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken recognizes Dulles Operation Allies Welcome staff, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 13, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/

In a televised address on Monday, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s armed forces, said an “independent and fair representative government” would assume power until an election is held in 2023.

Burhan added that several articles of the constitution were suspended while state governors were removed.

It was not clear where Prime Minister Hamdok and his wife were at the time of writing this report. Sudan’s Ministry of Information said on Facebook earlier on Monday that Hamdok had been placed under house arrest by “military forces.”

Social media posts and broadcast images showed that Hamdok home in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, was surrounded by the military.

Sundan’s Information ministry later said multiple government ministers arrested, including those who witnessed those arrest.

The Ministry of Information added that those arrested by the military included civilian ministers of Sudan’s transitional government and members of Sudan’s sovereign council. The Minister of Information was one of the senior officials arrested.

The Ministry added that military forces also stormed Sudan’s state broadcaster in the city of Omdurman and detained several workers.

The Prime Minister was said to have released a message from his house arrest, urging the Sudanese people to adhere to peaceful means of protest and occupy the streets to defend their revolution, according to the Ministry of Information, adding that Hamdok was under pressure to release a statement in support of the coup.

Last month, Hamdok survived a coup attempt and the United States condemned it and vowed to protect democracy in the northern African country.

The coup comes shortly after the military arrested several civilian officials, including the prime minister’s media adviser. Others who were arrested included Sudan’s ruling sovereign council member.

Sudan has been unstable since the former leader Oma al-Bashir was toppled after months of street protests in 2019.

Following his removal, a political transition agreed to lead to elections by the end of 2023.

Last month, the United States condemned “the failed attempt by rogue military and civilian actors to seize power from Sudan’s Civilian Led Transitional Government (CLTG).”

“The United States continues to support the CLTG in its pursuit of a democratic transition for Sudan. We urge the CLTG to hold all those involved accountable through a fair legal process,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on September 22. “Anti-democratic actions such as those of September 21 in Khartoum undermine the call of the Sudanese people for freedom and justice and place international support for Sudan, including the bilateral relationship with the United States, at risk.”

Price added that the United States also condemns “any external interference that seeks to sow disinformation and undermine the will of Sudan’s people.”

“Along with a wide range of other international actors, the United States is mobilizing substantial assistance to help Sudan achieve the country’s economic and security goals,” Price said. “We will advance this support as Sudan makes continued progress in its ongoing transition, including the establishment of a legislative assembly, reform of the security sector under civilian leadership, and justice and accountability for past human rights abuses.” 

USAID Administrator Samantha Power also condemned the failed coup attempt in Sudan, asserting that “these actions sought to undermine the will of the Sudanese people, who made extraordinary sacrifices during the 2019 revolution to end the country’s brutal dictatorship and who continue working for a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous future shared by all Sudanese.”

President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks on the passing of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Tuesday, August 10, 2021, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks on the passing of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Tuesday, August 10, 2021, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

“We stand with the people of Sudan and the CLTG, and strongly oppose any attempts to disrupt Sudan’s transitional process,” Power wrote.

“During my recent visit to Sudan, I saw this hopeful, yet fragile, transition to democracy up close. I met with government leaders, student activists, refugees, and journalists who spoke about the progress that had been won after decades of oppression, as well as the urgent need to accelerate the pace of change on many fronts,” she said. “Like so many others, I am deeply inspired by their dedication to achieving a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful future benefiting all Sudanese. The United States remains committed – alongside allies in the region and around the world – to supporting the continuation of Sudan’s historic transition toward democracy, and to working with actors across Sudan to advance critically needed progress on economic, judicial, governance, human rights, and security reforms.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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