NAIROBI, Kenya — The military coup in Sudan that sidetracked the country’s path toward democratic rule was predictable and not unexpected, said the president of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Bishop Yunan Andali of El Obeid, Sudan, told Catholic News Service hours after the coup began Oct. 25 that he believed recent events indicated it would only be a matter of time before the government takeover by the military.
“We are back to zero where we started. I am not surprised or shocked. I was prepared to be disappointed,” Andali said, citing his experience in the country and highlighting the period in which the military had ruled Sudan for more than 60 years until a popular uprising in 2019 overthrew longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan has experienced weeks of mounting tension between the military and the civilian component of the government. Disagreements flared over the timeline for transition to democracy.
Soon after military forces arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials in the transitional government and took them to a military camp outside Khartoum, the capital, demonstrators took to the streets to protest the takeover.
At least four people were killed and more than 80 wounded when security forces fired on protesters in Khartoum, the Sudan Doctors’ Committee reported.
“Already there are confrontations, and we are not sure what will happen next, although they are making a lot of promises,” Andali said in calling for the protection of civilians.
The bishop observed that after the ouster of al-Bashir, the military had agreed only to incorporate civilians in government to calm the international community, which was increasingly calling for democracy and freedom in the country.
“They were to allow full democracy next month, but now we have a coup,” the bishop said. “I didn’t believe in the civilian-military partnership in a transitional government.”
Andali said he expected Christians to feel the impact of the coup more than other parts of the nation because they were often ignored and treated with disrespect in the primarily Islamic nation.
Also in jeopardy, according to the bishop, is an attempt to reclaim church properties that were seized during al-Bashir’s reign.
In 2019, the transitional government indicated a willingness to return the properties to churches while acknowledging that Christians had been mistreated under the previous regime. The change in stance prompted rising hope for a change among Christians.
“I don’t think this will happen. They do not believe we exist. They say we are infidels,” Andali said.
At the same time, he highlighted that there were communities where Christians and Muslims lived side-by-side, peacefully carrying out daily activities. However, Andali lamented that such cooperation was never acknowledged by the government.