Sudan: Another Step Backward on the Road to Democratic Transition

Prime Minister Hamdok resigned Monday night after failing to quell street protests against the coup plotters or form the agreed government of technocrats.

The resignation of Abdullah Hamdok as Sudan’s prime minister, after six weeks of trying to bring the military and civilian opposition together, has plunged the transition into uncertainty and left the country in a dangerous stalemate, analysts and political players agree. Hamdok, who was deposed last October 25 by a military coup and restored a month later after signing an agreement with the head of the army, Abdelfatah al Burhan, resigned on Monday night after failing to quell the protests in the streets against the coup leaders and to form the agreed government of technocrats.

With his departure, Sudan is regressing to the day after the uprising with which Al Burhan broke the transitional pact to share power during the process towards democratic elections with the alliance of political parties and civil associations that staged the protests that led to the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

Al Burhan, president of the highest power body of the transition process, met Monday with senior military commanders and assigned the mission of protecting “the democratic transition to free and fair elections” to the Armed Forces, while urging the “cohesion of the Sudanese people” and to put aside “narrow partisan interests” for the good of the country. The military leader stressed the need to “form an independent government” and “work to fulfill the tasks of the transitional period, which is to achieve peace, extend security, address the problems of people’s lives and hold elections,” according to a statement from the Armed Forces spokesman’s office.

However, the UN special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, warned in a statement that the prime minister’s resignation risks “further derailing the progress made” since the end of the Al Bashir dictatorship.

Perthes once again called for unity at this delicate moment in the country and noted that “the lack of trust among Sudanese actors must be overcome through meaningful and inclusive dialogue” which the UN “stands ready to facilitate.”

Violent repression

However, such a dialogue has not been possible in the six weeks since Hamdok’s reinstatement. Not only has it been impossible for him to form the government of technocrats envisaged in his agreement with the military, but there have been repeated demonstrations against the military called by the forces expelled from the institutions, who were the ones who proposed his nomination for the post in 2019 and now considered him a traitor.

These protests have been harshly repressed by the security forces, despite Hamdok’s appeals to respect the right to peaceful demonstration, and have led to the death of 57 protesters since the coup, 15 of them since the return of the prime minister on November 21, according to a balance sheet of the opposition Doctors Committee.

In addition, the military has raided hospitals to arrest wounded protesters, beaten journalists, assaulted media outlets and raped several women during one of the days of protest, according to the Sudanese Ministry of Social Development.

“Serious repercussions”

Al Wazig al Berir, secretary general of the Al Umma party, the main opposition party and a member of the civilian coalition that was excluded from the transitional power bodies after the uprising, said in statements that the former prime minister’s decision “will have political and constitutional repercussions” and “further complicate” the situation in the country.

Al Berir blamed the current situation on the military for having tried to “impose its influence on the decisions of the Sudanese people” and indicated that the “only way out available is a serious and real dialogue of all parties to establish a road map and reach a political consensus”. He also made clear his rejection to the military appointing Hamdok’s replacement to form the new government.

Political analyst and professor of Political Science at Dos Nilos University Mohamed Abdelazim warned of the “serious repercussions” that the departure of the prime minister will have, both politically and economically. The analyst predicted that the military will likely respond with more violence to curb the protest movement and appoint a civilian prime minister to form a government without popular support, which will lead to further instability and insecurity in the country.

This in turn would have a negative impact on the economic situation in Sudan, which is mired in a chronic crisis that triggered the protests against Al Bashir, causing a flight of capital and worsening the already precarious living conditions of the Sudanese.

Article first published in El Confidencial
Edited by the PIA Global
Translation by Internationalist 360°