Muawad Mustafa Rashid
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the presidential palace in Khartoum last Saturday calling for the military to seize power as Sudan grapples with the biggest political crisis in its two-year-old transition.
The military and civilian groups have been sharing power in the East African country in an uneasy alliance since the toppling of long-standing President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
But following a failed coup attempt in September attributed to forces loyal to Bashir, military leaders have been demanding reforms to the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition and the replacement of the cabinet.
Civilian leaders, however, have accused them of aiming for a power grab.
A military-aligned faction of the FFC, including armed groups that rebelled against Bashir, called for Saturday’s protests and held a short event in a nearby convention hall.
The protesters chanted “down with the hunger government” and called for General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the armed forces and Sudan’s joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, to initiate a coup and overthrow the government.
Unlike previous demonstrations, protesters were able to reach the gates of the presidential palace which are typically barricaded. There was little police presence at the protest.
The demonstrators, who were seen arriving in central Khartoum on dozens of buses, clashed with pro-civilian protesters.
Earlier, members of an unidentified armed group removed security barriers around government buildings and prevented the police and security forces from preparing for the march, Khartoum State governor Ayman Khalid said in a statement.
In a speech on Friday, civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok presented a roadmap out of the crisis and warned that failure to find a resolution would throw the country’s future “to the wind.” read more.
At the root of the crisis are there disputes on issues of justice, military restructuring, and the dismantling of the financial apparatus of Bashir’s regime, analysts say.
The Disappointment of the People
There was abounding hope at home and abroad when in 2018 Sudanese people rose against Omar Al Bashir, whose repressive rule had previously shoved the country into isolation.
After this great moment in the country’s history, there was optimism that a new order could enact reforms to make Sudan no longer a country centered on the agenda of a corrupt leader, but instead one with a government and wider state that serves the country in its entirety.
Two and a half years later, as economic hardship and political tensions compound, Prime Minister, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok has been compelled to unveil on Friday a road map to reduce mounting tensions between the civilian-led government, which he heads, and the military. Both are crucially important for creating a new and secure Sudan and both appear committed to doing so. But, as is so often the case with uprisings, adjusting to the aftermath is far from easy and in the heat of the moment, approaches can differ.
Dr. Hamdok was clear about the importance of boosting collaboration and trust between all those with a stake in the country’s future, saying that that “our message to all parties of the transitional period is that nations are never built by personal frictions or casual reflexes”.
He is right to stress the importance of this. Large pro-military crowds gathered on Saturday to protest the direction in which Dr. Hamdok’s government is attempting to take the country. Mere weeks ago, a small, pro-Bashir element within the Sudanese military attempted a coup. The threat posed by such power grabs to Dr. Hamdok’s efforts is very real: over the past seven decades, there have been almost two dozen coup attempts by the army, three of which were successful.
Escalation Amid the FFC Components:
The recent escalation amid the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) components has brought the country into a difficulty overcome the dilemma.
It is clear that the Sudanese people, who were jointly struggling to remove Al-Bashir’s dictatorship, are now in an unprecedented division after the deep disagreement that struck the political incubator. Each trend has its supporters and defenders by all possible means, even if those means are peaceful until this moment.
The Sudanese public remained coherent after December glorious revolution, and even after the differences struck the government’s partners (civilians and military), people stood in most cases with the civilian component in terms of categorical rejection of any intention to allow the military component to take over the reins of affairs in the country. But after the recent fragmentation that hit the FFC, the public is between the two trends, a matter that led to the biggest political crisis in the country after the change.
The situation now does not only threaten the transition but also threatens the stability of Sudan resulted from the escalation by all parties to the political dispute.
The tension that dominates the political arena puts the country in front of scenarios with unsafe consequences. If we exclude the military coup due to the lack of factors for its success, the most likely scenario is a civil coup backed by the military component and the appointment of a technocratic government.
The worst scenario is entering into a state of chaos that may lead to security chaos, forcing the army to intervene to preserve the country and then call for early elections.
It is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming hours, but for sure there will be a change within the political arena and the situation will not remain as it was before the 16th October protests.
The Last Hope:
There is no reason to give up, and Dr. Hamdok is right to stress that dialogue alone will break this cycle.
We believe that there is a chance for rational debate between civilians and the military if both sides can tolerate it.
It is high time for Dr. Hamdok, who is the most acceptable figure by the parties of the conflict, and before that, from his capacity as prime minister, to continue the dialogues he had started with the conflicting groups, instead of mobilizing the street from each party and attempting to impose options.
God Bless Sudan.