FILE PHOTO: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan holds news conference in May

Sudan coup leader says he’ll appoint new premier within week

CAIRO (AP) — The Sudanese general who seized power in a coup this week said the military he heads will appoint a technocrat prime minister to rule alongside it within days.

In an interview with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news agency published Friday, Abdel-Fattah Burhan said the new premier will form a cabinet that will share leadership of the country with the armed forces.

“We have a patriotic duty to lead the people and help them in the transition period until elections are held,” Burhan said in the interview. He said that as long as expected protests are peaceful, “security forces will not intervene.”

On Monday, Burhan dissolved the transitional government and detained Prime Minister Abddalla Hamdok, many government officials and political leaders in a coup condemned by the United States and the West. The military allowed Hamdok to return home under guard the following day after international pressure.

The generals have not yet produced a list of candidates for the premiership, Burhan said. The decision to appoint such a premier follows earlier calls by the generals for a nonpartisan technocrat cabinet.

The military takeover came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of Sudan’s transition to democracy. It threatened to derail that process, which has progressed in fits and starts since the overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.

Burhan has said military forces were compelled to take over because of quarrels between political parties that he claimed could lead to civil war. However, the coup also comes just weeks before Burhan would have had to hand over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, the ultimate decision-maker in Sudan, to a civilian, in a step that would reduce the military’s hold on the country.

The coup has elicited a storm of street protests demanding the restoration of a civilian government. At least nine people have been killed by security forces’ gunfire, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee and activists. At least 170 others were wounded, according to the U.N. Pro-democracy activist groups have called for “million-person” marches on Saturday to bring the coup to a halt.

“We have no objection to peaceful demonstrations. It is a guaranteed right,” Burhan told Sputnik. “As long as protests are peaceful, security forces will not intervene.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Sudan’s military forces to “show restraint” and refrain from actions that would claim more lives. Speaking to reporters in Rome on Friday on the eve of a G-20 summit, Guterres reiterated his “strong condemnation” of the coup and stressed the need to restore the transitional process to democratic rule in the east African country.

Burhan said earlier this week that he had installed himself as head of a military council that will rule Sudan until elections in July 2023.

Associated Press writer Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.