Almost a month later take power, Sudan’s military leadership on Sunday released civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and signed an agreement reinstating him in office as part of Sudan’s gradual transition to democracy.
Hamdok, who has been under house arrest since the end of last month, delivered a televised speech to the nation at the signing of an agreement between Hamdok’s civilian government and the military junta, led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to restore transitional government put in place after ousted former dictator Omar al-Bashir during 2019.
“The signing of this agreement opens the door wide enough to meet all the challenges of the transition period,” Hamdok said during the speech.
Hamdok also thanked “regional and global friends” who helped mediate the deal at his address; according to AP, The United States and the United Nations both played “crucial roles” in Hamdok’s re-entry.
Sunday’s agreement, according to Egyptian media Ahram online, calls for the formation of a new, technocratic transitional government and accession to a modified version of power-sharing agreements was not adopted until 2019 after the fall of al-Bashir, as well as the release of politicians arrested by the military government and a transparent investigation into the deaths that occurred during coup protests.
At least 40 protesters has been killed since the end of October, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Thursday that regime forces used sharp ammunition against peaceful protesters.
“Sudan is still a priority,” Hamdok said on Sunday after his release. “We will work to build a solid democratic system for Sudan.”
But as Joseph Siegle, Head of Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told Vox on Sunday, the full content and context of the deal – as well as what each side had to give up to achieve it – is still unknown.
“There is a lot of room for interpretation and misinterpretation,” Siegle said, including about the role the military will be expected to play in the restored transitional government.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the agreement and concerns about the role of the military in the future, pro-democracy protests continued on Sunday as Sudanese activists demanded responsibility for the coup. In Khartoum, the capital, thousands of people marched towards the presidential palace as Hamdok spoke, Bloomberg reporter Mohammad Alamin reported BBC: s Newshour Sunday.
The coalition group Forces for Freedom and Change, which was crucial to al-Bashir’s overthrow and which nominated Hamdok as Prime Minister 2019, has already refused to recognize the agreement.
“For us, they must be held accountable for the crimes they have committed,” Siddiq Abu-Fawwaz, a member of the media coalition told the JRC Newshour host Julian Marshall on Sunday. “Who is Hamdok to make an agreement on his own, and call it a national initiative? He is a man who was in prison and they negotiated with him in the house, with a gun to his head. “
Yet the US Embassy in Khartoum released a statement on Sunday, in cooperation with Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada, praises the release of Hamdok and expresses solidarity with the Sudanese people; The United Nations Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission Sudan as well tweeted a statement of cautious optimism.
“The fact that the junta has returned power to Hamdok is a positive development, but it remains to be seen what this will mean for actual civilian control over the military and government,” Naunihal Singh, a political scientist and author of Take power: The strategic logic of the military coups, told Vox via email.
“The question remains, will Prime Minister Hamdok have the ability to pursue his political goals indefinitely, or will he have had to accept borders as part of a pact that allowed him to return to nominal power,” Singh said.
How did Sudan get here?
In April 2019, a military coup ended Sudan’s dictator Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule, which was significant through press censorship, the imprisonment of political dissidents and the introduction of strict sharia law, all maintained by the regime’s security forces. Following al-Bashir’s arrest, the military worked with civilian parties to create a transition to democracy and civilian rule, which Vox’s Jen Kirby declared in October:
At the heart of this troubled marriage was a pact between the Military Transitional Council, led by al-Burhan, and the Forces of Freedom and Change, the coalition of civilian opposition groups, led by the now ousted Prime Minister Hamdok. The ultimate goal of the transitional government was to facilitate a fully (and eventually democratically elected) civilian-led government, with the military leaving governing powers.
It included a transitional agreement on the division of power between the military and civilian leadership, which was then amended by Juba’s peace agreement 2020, a act between the transitional government and several armed groups that specify the constitutional process and power-sharing arrangements, among other provisions for the future democratic government. Crucial to the current crisis, civilian leaders insisted on a possible government structure free from military influence; the memory of al-Bashir’s regime and its brutality was still fresh, and a military-led government could not be trusted.
Following the 2019 constitutional agreement and its revision from 2020, Siegle said, Sudan was the most stable it has been in recent history – surprisingly, insofar as the transitional government successfully negotiated a ceasefire between different warring groups, repaired alliances with its neighbors and the international community, and began to abolish its status as a pariah nation.
But that progress seemed fleeting when al-Burhan seized power on October 25, forcing Hamdok to house arrest, imprisoning other members of the civilian government, and using deadly force to crack down on the massive, widespread protests over the past month.
“It was rumored that the prime minister had been removed before the previous surrender to prevent him from threatening the military’s core interests, namely to avoid liability for human rights violations and to avoid the loss of unprofitable military-controlled economic enterprises,” Singh told Vox.
When you took power, The New York Times reported last month, dissolved al-Burhan Sudan’s national government and imposed a state of emergency, in addition to arresting Hamdok and a number of other civilian leaders.
The military also introduced an almost total disruption of communications, according to the Washington Post, which nevertheless failed to stifle rapid, well-organized pro-democracy protests that have been going on since the coup.
In response to the coup, which began shortly after Jeffrey Feltman, the US envoy to the Horn of Africa, left the country, USA froze quickly $ 700 million in aid to Sudan and also the African Union suspended Sudan’s membership in the body.
Since the coup, according to Siegle, the junta, led by al-Burhan, has been looking for a civilian leader to serve as galleon prime minister while the military retains actual control, and has even appointed some politicians from the al-Bashir government. Gene. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, which led brutal campaigns against opposition fighters in Darfur, to leadership positions – essentially trying to continue the regime that civilian groups had sacrificed so much to overthrow just two short years ago.
When the junta could not find a suitable legitimate galleon figure, Siegle theorizes, it was decided that Hamdok could return to his position and preside over a “technocratic” cabinet. What that means, however, is unclear: While protesters are calling for absolutely no military influence in the election of a cabinet, there have been no assurances that Hamdok will be free to elect his own ministers.
There are still many challenges ahead of Sudan’s democratic transition
At this point, experts told Vox on Sunday, it is not easy to see the way forward for Sudan’s newly formed democracy despite the re-establishment of a civilian prime minister.
According to Singh, “the democratic movement will be very cautious at this time and can protest and strike to ensure that their concerns remain on the agenda and are pursued. Conversely, military actors may also feel the need to signal and push back.” after abandoning power.
Already, as civilian protest leaders have made clear, there is some confidence in Hamdok’s return to office, and the demonstrations are likely to continue, as they did on Sunday.
Another complicating factor in Sudan after the coup, especially if the military retains significant control over the government, is the extent to which outside powers will be able to influence that government, Siegle said.
“[The coup] in fact, it has made Sudan vulnerable to outside influence because you have an irresponsible, unelected government, ”said Siegle, especially from nearby authoritarian governments such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
However, should the coup reverse and the democratic transition continue as previously planned, Sudan is set to hold an election in mid-2023 – the first in decades. In the meantime, the country’s leadership will have its work discontinued to build the foundation for free elections, which will take place in July 2023, and democratic rule, such as drafting a new constitution.
Protesters also demand greater accountability for actions during the coup and under the al-Bashir regime, and Siegle warns that strong civilian leadership in the future will be the key to ensuring a thorough and transparent calculation takes place.
“In every democratic transition, especially where you have long periods of authoritarian influence, and it has been institutionalized, you have a situation where, one, there are no experienced civilians to take over, and two, the institutions are authoritarian,” Siegle said. Under the best of circumstances, it is extremely challenging to build democratic institutions under these conditions.
According to Siegle, however, it is crucial that Sudan sticks to its current aspirations for a democratic transition, despite a potentially difficult path forward.
“The transition will be challenging, and there will be a learning curve, and there will be mistakes and other problems,” he told Vox. “It is often presented as ‘Yes, maybe we should not do this’ or ‘We should not go so fast’, but it becomes a kind of self-perpetuating argument.”