Analysis: Under fire, Sudan’s Hamdok battles to save the political transition.
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was restored after a coup, must now do a political juggling act if he is to realize his objective of assembling a cabinet and establishing a civilian footing in his country’s tumultuous journey away from authoritarianism.
To save the process – and his image – the soft-spoken economist must prove his independence from a military leadership that placed him under house arrest and jailed several of his former cabinet members for many weeks before agreeing to release him last month.
Failure might lead to even more unrest in Sudan, where the suspension of foreign economic help threatens financial ruin at a time when over a third of the population need humanitarian assistance. Rekindled violence threatens to destabilize places such as the eastern border with Ethiopia and Darfur, where scores of people have been murdered this week and displacement has increased this year. more info
Hamdok’s agreement with military chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on November 21 enraged a major protest movement that has fought for democracy since the 2019 toppling of previous Islamist President Omar al-Bashir, while also alienating political forces that had been sharing power with the army.
“The Burhan-Hamdok pact legitimizes the coup, and it will not stand,” stated Khalid Omer Yousif, cabinet affairs minister until his detention in October.
“We urge Hamdok, who committed a serious error, to return to the side of the revolution and the people.”
While local mediators attempt to create a new path for a reformed transition, the protest movement has attacked the military on the streets with the motto “No collaboration, no discussion, no compromise.”
Though high-profile political prisoners have been freed, campaigners claim that others are still being imprisoned outside the capital Khartoum.
At a gathering on Monday in Bahri, Khartoum’s twin city north of the Blue Nile, numerous individuals stated they had nothing personal against Hamdok but would march until the military left control, regardless of what happened to the economy.
“For a time, we thought of Hamdok as one of us,” Asjad Omer, a 31-year-old accountant, said. “As soon as he sided with the military, any deal became meaningless to us.”
A big convoy of riot police armed with sticks crossed the river into Bahri in the direction of the protestors around dusk.
Hamdok has issued orders freezing or reversing appointments made by Bashir-era veterans between the coup and his return, but it is uncertain how much authority reformists may reclaim in the state apparatus.
Some top officials recruited before the transition are hesitant to return, while others have yet to decide, adding to the uncertainty in ministries that were vacated after the takeover.
Hamdok is supposed to appoint technocrats to a new cabinet.
While the civilian alliance that arose from the rebellion against Bashir is barred from participating, former rebel factions linked with the army are generally likely to maintain positions earned under a 2020 peace agreement.
Jibril Ibrahim, who became finance minister after his Justice and Equality Movement signed the accord, had declared support for the military before to the coup and has continued to function from the ministry since then.
The military has created a new governing Sovereign Council, and a 2019 deal to take over leadership of the transition from military to civilians ahead of elections in 2023 has been scrapped.
“He (Hamdok) has placed himself in a very tricky and extremely restricting scenario,” said Kholood Khair of Khartoum-based think tank Insight Strategy Partners. “What he urgently needs is a working cabinet that people can rally around.”
Although Hamdok could not be contacted for comment, sources close to him have said that if his arrangement with the military fails to get political support, he would resign. more info
Burhan has said that economic changes would not be repealed, and a probe into protest deaths has started, according to Reuters. more info
However, the coup has halted development plans intended at bringing Sudan out of a protracted economic crisis and rescuing public services and infrastructure.
Most basic health care centers are closed, and damaged pipes discharge sewage water over potholed roadways in several districts of Khartoum.
Diplomats said Hamdok, who is known for seeking agreement via extensive meetings, had limited time to regain public support and demonstrate that he was not merely doing the bidding of the military with a history of conducting coups.
Even if you get back on track, how can anybody believe that this won’t happen again? One of them stated