“Coup d’etat in Sudan. They just arrested the prime minister. I am safe and secure. Khartoum it is isolated. Communications are missing. The evolution of the day is expected ”: this is the telegraphic message posted on social media, Monday morning, by Franco Eco, Italian music composer and record producer, who came to the capital of the African country to participate in the Sama International Music Festival, one of the most important on the continent, organized with the support of world-class cultural institutions, including British Council, Goethe Institute, French institute, but also the Spanish Agency for Cooperation and the Italian Embassy. Eco is in Sudan with his show Dante Concert, a journey on the musical suggestions of Divine Comedy. Now he is stuck in the hotel and awaits news of his repatriation. The awakening, he says, was “traumatic”. “I was woken up by my travel agent who informed me of the coup d’état”.
The first reaction?
I immediately wrote a message on Facebook to reassure friends and relatives. And I did just in time because, since the news had not yet been disclosed to the media, shortly after they have communications blocked.
Why was he still in Sudan?
Emanuele and Asia, the actors of my show, had returned to Italy on Sunday evening. I, curious about explore the desert and take the opportunity to deepen a search for ethnomusicology, perhaps gathering the traditions of the Bedouins, I had decided to stop for a few days to enjoy a short vacation.
And instead, on Monday morning, stuck in the hotel, I found myself to play with the other guest artists of the festival, Senegalese, Ugandans, Ethiopians, French, Germans, Lebanese, all together to exorcise fear, while outside shots and screams could be heard.
What news do you get?
Not good for the moment. The resistance committees and the democratic forces, for Thursday 28, have called one protest march (the million) for the release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other civilian officials. More serious unrest is expected, I think there will still be a while to wait before returning to Italy.
What does the Italian embassy say?
I am constantly in contact with them and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have never abandoned me, but they still cannot give me certainty about my return to Italy. Among other things, in my group, I am the only Italian, but there are other Europeans to be repatriated. The situation is developing, at the moment the airport is closed and it is already a great thing that we have reactivated the internet communication, albeit slow and intermittently.
What air do you breathe in the streets?
The impression is that yet another civil war has broken out. The streets are manned, there are many checkpoints. In fact, even before the coup, the roads near government agencies were blocked. This epilogue was predictable: about a month ago, there was another failed coup attempt, organized by sections of the army loyal to the former regime.
So when he left for Sudan did you know what he was up against?
When I was called by the embassy to come here in Sudan, I knew very well the risks I was facing, but I started anyway, moved by the desire to spread culture. To confirm that I made the right choice were the guys who, on Saturday and Sunday, attended my show and my masterclass and, even if they didn’t know Dante and the Divine Comedy, have remained bewitched. I saw in them a great desire to confront themselves culturally and to emancipate themselves. We had begun to engage in a speech on diplomacy and cultural cooperation; it is absurd how, in just a few hours, everything fell apart.
Do you hope to be able to resume this idea of collaboration?
Of course, I am also very busy on the front of cultural diplomacy, covering the role of ambassador of Italian cinema, in the past years, I have been to Kiev, The Angeles, Manila. What happened gave me further confirmation of the need to spread culture in certain parts of the world. I would say that it is the greatest tool of diplomacy and we Italians, who have a great cultural heritage, should learn to use it even more, especially to help emancipate these peoples.
So will you go back to Sudan?
I have no doubt. Also because this was not my first time in Africa: I held the position of councilor Cultural Attaché in the diplomatic corps of the embassy of Benin, on that occasion I was in the savannah. Now, in the Sudanese capital, I thought I was safe and yet life always surprises us.
With the hope that you can return to Italy as soon as possible, what will you take with you?
I will certainly bring with me the vivid enthusiasm of these guys who organized and participated in the Sama Festival. Now, however, I can’t wait to go back to Italy. I feel like a hostage of this government. It’s like you’re experiencing some kind of lockdown. Outside the hotel, however, there is no virus, but the shooting.
In the image above: Franco Eco during the masterclass, a few hours before the coup d’état.