World Bank halts Sudan operations in blow to coup leaders, strike calls gain more support

by mcardinal


The World Bank halted disbursements for operations in Sudan on Wednesday in response to the military’s seizure of power from a transitional government, while state oil company workers, doctors and pilots joined civilian groups opposing the takeover.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Monday’s coup led by armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and several have been killed in clashes with security forces.

Burhan has dismissed the joint civilian-military council that was set up to steer the country to democratic elections following the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising in April 2019.

He claimed 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 $2 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,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement from Washington.

“We hope that peace and the integrity of the transition process will be restored, so that Sudan can restart its path of economic development and can take its rightful place in the international financial community,” he said.

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.

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.


Scattered protests took place in Khartoum on Wednesday although no new bloodshed was reported.

In one Khartoum neighborhood, a Reuters journalist saw soldiers and armed people in civilian clothes removing barricades erected by protesters. A few hundred meters away, youth were seen building barricades again minutes later.

“We want civilian rule. We won’t get tired,” one said.

In the northeastern city of Atbara, protesters marched and chanted “Down with the military regime”.

Neighborhood committees announced plans for further 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.

Pilots from national carrier Sudan Airways have gone on strike, their union said, as have pilots from local carriers 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 2019 uprising that brought down Bashir.

Power-sharing between the military and civilians had been increasingly strained over 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.

Speaking on Tuesday at his first news conference since announcing the takeover, Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who he said were inciting people against the armed forces.

Hamdok was detained on Monday but has since been released.

(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; additional reporting by El Tayeb Siddiq in Khartoum, Ebaid Ahmed in Atbara, Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo, Dawit Endeshaw in Addis Ababa and Tom Perry in Beirut, writing by Nadine Awadalla and Michael Georgy; editing by Angus MacSwan; edited for FISM News by Michael Cardinal)

Copyright 2021 Thomson/Reuters