DECLARATOR: What does the reinstatement of the Prime Minister mean for Sudan?

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The reinstatement of the Sudanese prime minister after weeks of house arrest was the military’s biggest concession since the October 25 coup, but it leaves the country’s transition to democracy in crisis.

The military reached an agreement with Abdalla Hamdok on Sunday that would reinstate him as head of a new technocratic cabinet before the possible elections. But the deal has angered the pro-democracy movement in Sudan, which Hamdok accuses of using itself as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Most of the international community condemned the coup and called for a return to at least partial civil rule. The United States suspended aid to the cash-strapped country as it slowly emerges from decades of isolation under President Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in mass protests in 2019.

The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, an umbrella organization of Sudanese political parties and pro-democracy organizations, has rejected the agreement, stating that it will continue to work to end military rule.

But the military is wary of handing over power to civilians, which could result in top executives being prosecuted for decades of human rights abuses or generals loosening the generals’ grip on lucrative sectors of the economy.

Here’s a look at what happened and what’s next:

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WHY DID SUDAN’S MILITARY REINSTITUTE THE PRIME MINISTER?

The military had to do something.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan has come under increasing pressure since taking power on October 25th. Western, Arab and African nations have called for a return to civil rule, and the US has suspended $ 700 million in aid in harsh condemnation of the coup.

Protesters have flooded the streets in the largest demonstrations since al-Bashir’s three-decade reign in 2019, and security forces have killed more than 40 protesters since the coup.

The generals have portrayed the reinstatement of Hamdok as a step towards stabilizing the country ahead of the elections scheduled for July 2023, and the international community has cautiously welcomed the deal. Sudan’s pro-democracy movement angrily rejected the agreement as legitimation for the coup and vowed to continue to intensify mass protests.

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WILL THE REINSTRUCTION OF THE SUDAN PRIME MINISTER RETURN TO THE COUP?

No.

The military retains overall control, and by specifying a technocratic cabinet, the agreement further marginalizes Sudan’s political parties and the pro-democratic protest movement.

“I don’t think Hamdok’s government can function at all because it doesn’t get recognition on the streets,” said Jihad Mashamoun, a Sudanese researcher and political scientist.

The Sudanese professional association that led the protests against al-Bashir condemned the latest agreement as an attempt to legitimize the coup. Local resistance committees, which have played a key role in the recent protests, are calling for the military to give up politics entirely.

The military says there will be no return to the power-sharing government that existed before October 25 and was torn by internal rivalries. The coup came weeks before the military was about to hand over power to a civilian.

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WHAT DOES THE SUDANESE MILITARY WANT?

At least it wants to protect itself.

An elected government would likely seek prosecution of generals for human rights abuses, including those committed during al-Bashir’s scorched earth campaigns against rebels in Darfur – for which the International Criminal Court has charged him with genocide. You could also be charged with the killing of protesters in recent years.

The military also fear losing mining and other key economic sectors.

“Hamdok runs the risk of being the grocery store cashier who sells soap, matches and snacks while the drug dealers in the back room do the real business,” said Alex de Waal, Sudan expert at Tufts University. “The coup was staged to protect the kleptocrats from the purges, and the army clearly intends the new formula to be a return to money laundering with a more respectable face.”

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WHERE DOES THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY STAND IN SUDAN?

The coup was widely criticized internationally, but the generals have influential friends.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have maintained close relations with Burhan since the uprising against al-Bashir and see the generals as probably the best hope for a stable, friendly government in Khartoum.

The rich Gulf states see them as a bulwark against the influence of rivals such as Turkey and Qatar. Egypt hopes for support from Sudan in its long-standing dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of a massive dam on the Nile.

Israel is also seen as a potential ally of the generals who were the driving force behind normalizing relations with Sudan over the past year in exchange for being removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. Hamdok had expressed concerns in the run-up to the normalization agreement, which is part of the so-called “Abraham Agreement”, saying that a foreign policy change of this magnitude should only be signed by an elected government.

Israel’s news website Walla reported that an Israeli delegation met with Sudanese generals days after the coup. The Israeli government has not commented on the coup or its consequences.

“The US and its allies wanted partnership, but the people don’t want partnership at all, they want full civil rule,” said Mashamoun. “The international community must listen to people’s demands.”

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IS THERE HOPE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION IN SUDAN?

There seem to be two roads to democracy, both of which are burdened.

Hamdok can work with the generals to pave the way for elections and potentially use his position and international support to get the political transition back on track. But that probably means a return to the two-year tug of war that has bitterly both sides.

The pro-democracy movement has vowed to maintain street protests until the military turns power over to civilians. But the generals have much to lose, and a prolonged stalemate could spark greater unrest.

“The result could be democracy, but more likely a fragmentation of the state. So a compromise is needed, ”said de Waal. The compromise to restore Hamdok “is not very good, but there are opportunities to improve”.


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