Sudan is left without a prime minister. Back is a military government that, according to experts, has all the power in a country that is more divided than in a long time.
Almost three years ago, Sudan celebrated a historic end to the country’s long-standing authoritarian regime. Now it seems that the African country is not just back to square one. When the mass protests broke out in December 2018, many had a hope for change. Now the situation is characterized by deep concern and fear of more violence.
The country’s formerly so powerful leader Omar al-Bashir is not back in power, but the repressive policy he pursued seems to be back in place.
It was on Sunday that Abdalla Hamdok announced in a TV speech that he is resigning as Prime Minister. His life has been anything but calm since soldiers stormed his home a little over two months ago. He was placed under house arrest, as were almost the entire government and leaders of the country’s civil democracy movement.
The coup immediately led to protesters again gathering in the streets, and although the military responded with brutal force, they did not give up.
Wanted to mediate
Barely a month later, the ministers were released and Hamdok reinstated as prime minister, but thousands of people refused to accept the 14-point agreement he had made with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
They believed the military was still in power. Some even branded Hamdok a traitor who allowed himself to be used by the military to legitimize the coup.
That Hamdok agreed to be reinstated is probably due to a hope that he could act as a mediator and get the democracy process back on track. But in the last six weeks, he has accomplished little. When he resigned on Sunday, he acknowledged that the situation seemed to be going from bad to worse.
– I have done my best to save the country from disaster, he said, warning that Sudan is about to cross a dangerous point that threatens the country’s existence.
According to Hamdok, the country is becoming more and more fragmented, which analysts agree with.
– The price is now very high. There is now an open confrontation between the security forces and the old system, except for Omar al-Bashir, and a movement on the streets without leaders based on the activism of young people, says Magdi al-Gizouli at the think tank Rift Valley Institute to the news agency AFP.
Hamdok’s resignation has left the military with all the power in the country. Protesters will gather in the streets again, and they will be exposed to more violence, he says.
Gizouli believes that those who signed the agreement in November hoped that it would end the protests and street fights, and that it would lead to a functioning transitional government that everyone could accept. But it did not happen.
Instead, Hamdok was paralyzed without the opportunity to do anything, neither politically nor administratively. He has not managed to form a new government, and in recent days local media have reported that he has not been in office either.
– Shows his true face
Sudanese analyst Kholood Khair wrote on Twitter that Hamdok’s departure shows the generals’ true face and makes the coup appear as it is: a return to the Islamic-military policy of Omar al-Bashir.
– Although Sudan’s future is uncertain, the clarity contributes to us seeing the coup for what it is, Khair says.
It was the country’s supreme general al-Burhan who was behind the coup and who introduced a state of emergency. Since August 2019, he has led the Transitional Council, which together with the civilian government was to bring the country to democratic elections in 2023.
When the general deposed Hamdok on October 25, it was just before he was to be replaced by a civilian leader. Since then, nearly 60 people have been killed and hundreds injured during demonstrations. There are fears that the military will continue to use weapons to quell the protests now that Hamdok has resigned.
Fragile and unusual process
Since Sudan became independent from Britain and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has been largely ruled by military regimes.
The process that has taken place since al-Bashir was forced to step down has been fragile and quite unusual in a country that for years has also been ravaged by various uprisings and conflicts.
Many of those who have gathered in the streets and demanded a new direction for the country have been young people. When the protests erupted, Sudan was hailed by the international community. The reward was both debt relief, aid and foreign investment.
But gradually there were reports of more and more quarrels and divisions within the Transitional Council. Military and civilian leaders pulled in different directions.
Announces new protests
The British Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, writes on Twitter that she is very sorry that the man who has “served Sudan and the people’s desire for a better future” has resigned.
Millions have used their vote since the 25/10 coup to demand civilian rule. Security forces and other political actors must now respect those demands, she writes.
Activists have called for more protests on Tuesday. They will again try to march towards the Presidential Palace in Khartoum.
Everyone can be searched
At the same time, the military leaders have given themselves extended powers to quell the protests. In December, General Burhan issued a decree allowing security forces to arrest people for violating the state of emergency he has imposed. In practice, this means that street protests are prohibited.
Soldiers and police have also been authorized to search any building or search any person.
John Prendergast from the think tank The Sentry believes that the outside world should react quickly.
“The longer the United States and the European Union wait to ensure that the actions of the military leaders have consequences, the more the regime will consolidate its economic and political power to the great detriment of the people of Sudan,” he said.