A Sudanese government official said that he was quarantined for nearly a month after being arrested in a military coup that plunged the country into crisis
Faisal Saleh, an adviser to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, told the Associated Press that security forces took him from his home blindfolded in the early morning of October 25.
“We thought there would be a military coup,” said Saleh, who served as the Minister of Information from 2019 to earlier this year. “We just don’t know how or when it will happen.”
Saleh is one of dozens of government officials imprisoned since the country’s supreme general, Abdel-Fattah Burhan, launched a coup d’etat against the country’s interim civilian government. More than two years after the popular uprising forced the long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir to step down, it overturned the country’s plans for a democratic transition.
Saleh was released later on Monday after 29 days in detention, and immediately began to understand the events of the past month. He is still chasing and recovering from a chest infection he contracted while in prison.
It is not clear how many people are still detained, but posts by activists in recent days indicate that some prominent opposition figures have been released.
Earlier this month, a human rights lawyer representing many detainees estimated that at least 100 government members were arrested in the early days of the coup. The country’s prime minister, Hamdok, was placed under house arrest for several weeks and was only reinstated a few days ago.
Activists estimate that hundreds of protesters and activists have also disappeared in secret prisons. Saleh himself is not sure who else is being held, but he is still worried about their safety.
Many people were taken away from their homes on the morning of October 25 and have been kept in secret locations since then, unable to contact their family members or lawyers. The military leaders also cut off mobile and Internet communications across the country.
Saleh said that after his arrest, he was taken to a locked room from the outside with a bed, dressing table and toilet. He eats two meals a day and tells him to see a doctor if needed. He slowly concluded that he was being held in a military facility in the country’s capital, Khartoum.
But the person who arrested him clarified one thing: He was only allowed to contact the guards who brought him food. He suspects that his colleague is in the same building, but he has no way of knowing. He has not heard of the violence that occurred after the coup.
“I think it will be easier to be with other people,” said Saleh, who was also imprisoned by Bashir. “But this time I am alone. I don’t know what happened outside the room.”
According to the medical group, since the takeover, protesters flooded the streets in the largest demonstration since the end of Bashir’s three-year rule in 2019. Since the coup, security forces have killed more than 40 demonstrators.
Saleh is trying to familiarize himself with a new and frightening political landscape. He said he hopes to be able to sit down with his former boss soon. He also called for the release of all detainees, whether they are politicians or protesters.
“Only in this way can we study the next step,” he said.
On Sunday, the military reached an agreement with Hamdok to reinstate him as the head of the new technocratic cabinet before the final elections. But the agreement split the democratic movement in Sudan, many of whom accused Hamdok of making himself a fig leaf for continued military rule.
When Saleh’s account appeared, the country was slowly moving away from weeks of limited mobile and Internet access.
On Wednesday, Internet advocacy organization NetBlocks stated that social media and messaging platforms are fully operational in the country for the first time since the coup.