Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Late Sunday, Abdalla Hamdok appeared on state television to announce his resignation as Sudan’s prime minister.

The announcement comes just six weeks after the Western-backed civilian leader returned to office after his overthrow and house arrest in a military coup on October 25 – but it did not come as a surprise.

Reports citing sources close to Hamdok say he was fed up with the decision of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – the top military commander and leader of the coup – to restore the widely feared intelligence service, as well as his refusal to allow the prime minister to freely appoint members of his cabinet.

Hamdok was only reinstated as part of a controversial agreement that he signed with al-Burhan in November who also said elections would be held in July 2023. But while Western leaders who campaigned for Hamdok’s recovery quickly welcomed him back, the sprawling pro-democracy movement saw his return as a “fig leaf”Which legitimized the coup and ensured the dominance of the army.

With Hamdok now gone, analysts say the military may want to co-opt a new civilian face to get billions of dollars in much-needed foreign aid, which was suspended after the coup.

‘Soul Search’

Several unconfirmed reports say military leaders have already approached Ibrahim Elbadawi, a former finance minister who served under Hamdok in 2019, when Sudan began a democratic transition following the military removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in the aftermath. of mass protests. However, the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway, as well as the European Union, have warned the ruling army against unilaterally forcing a new prime minister, and are threatening to withhold financial assistance if “a broad range of civilian stakeholders” fails. involved in the process.

“I believe that Elbadawi is a man of integrity, and that he will never accept being an archer of an authority de facto controlled and directed by the military,” said Suliman Baldo, a Sudanese expert. at The Sentry, a policy said. investigation team that monitors corruption in Africa.

“The military needs to do some serious soul-searching now,” he added. “They can continue to kill Sudanese people in the streets with battlefield guns, or act responsibly by stepping back and allowing a transitional government led by civilians to take over.”

At least 57 protesters killed in mass rallies which has gripped Sudan since the coup and continued after the November 21 agreement between al-Burhan and Hamdok, according to medics.

Kholood Khair, the managing partner of Insight Strategy Partners, a think tank based in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, said she expected the army to escalate repression to provoke street violence. That way, she argued, the military could portray the pro-democracy movement as a bunch of young angry men who are a threat to national security.

“The army wants the streets to lose credibility, so that they can say that they are laying down a violent uprising. They could then [street] violence they want. “They can put a label of terrorism on it,” Khair said.

Fears of protracted standstill

The military is already trying to control the story by cracking down on the press. During mass protests on December 30, security forces raided television stations and assaulted journalists. It came just days after they were granted extensive powers and legal immunity.

However, protests showed no signs of slowing down, raising fears that a protracted standstill could plunge the country – which is already struggling with a serious financial crisis – into further conflict.

The worst case scenario could break security forces, warned Jihad Mashamoun, a Sudanese researcher and political analyst based in the UK. He stressed there was a real risk that junior army officers could try to overthrow al-Burhan and the rest of the old guard.

“Al-Burhan is always concerned about junior officers orchestrating a coup,” he said.

Despite the uncertainty and increasing violence, analysts say Sudanese political parties and Western powers need to wheel the army by standing together behind the demands of the street movement.

One way to do this is to support Sudan’s “resistance committees”, a decentralized network of neighborhood groups that spearhead the pro-democracy movement. The resistance committees plan to launch their political roadmap this month, which is intended to force political parties to accept the public’s demands, according to Khair.

“My feeling is that some of the [demands] “will be watered down because you have to get a large number of people to agree on it, and some of it will be stubborn because people are sick and tired of meeting the minimum,” she said. “But as a starting point I can imagine nothing better than this [road map] in terms of the reflection of the popular will. ”

Outside Sudan, meanwhile, some have called for Western countries to put more pressure on the military.

“My concern is that Washington is following this wait-and-see approach and not trying to shape events and outcomes,” said Cameron Hudson, a non-resident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council Africa Center, while appealed to U.S. officials to hold. consultations with the pro-democracy movement.

According to Hudson, the White House should also consider sanctioning Sudan’s military rulers, including the head of Military Intelligence, the head of the General Intelligence Service and the deputy commander of the Rapid Support Forces, now that Hamdok – a man who was previously in the middle . of American policy – was no longer in the picture. He stressed the threat of sanctions by US Senator Christopher Coons had previously forced the military to release Hamdok from house arrest and restore him as prime minister.

“As [Washington] says repeatedly … that human rights are part of their foreign policy outlook, so why are we debating whether or not to sanction the people who kill pro-democracy protesters on the streets? “Hudson said.

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