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Sudan: Schisms begin to show over a week into military coup

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Tuesday, 2 November 2021 19:24

Sudanese protest the recent military seizure of power
Protesters carry a banner and shout slogans as they march against the Sudanese military's recent seizure of power and ousting of the civilian government, in Khartoum, Sudan October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin

Chaos reigns in Sudan as schisms within the military threaten its hold on power, coupled with the massive demonstration on 30 October against the military coup, whereby three protesters were killed and at least 100 wounded.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan declared a state of emergency on 25 October, dissolving the government and arresting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several civilian ministers. The Sovereign Council was in charge of Sudan’s transition towards civilian rule after the 2019 overthrow of the autocratic president Omar al-Bashir.

In response, tens of thousands of civilians took to the streets of Khartoum and other major cities to protest the military takeover.

We are all under arrest under these conditions since we can no longer communicate with one another.

Initially, Burhan told the press Hamdok was staying with the general for his protection and even offered him his job back. Burhan also released several officials including Ibrahim Ghandour, who was previously detained for using foreign intelligence resources to undermine the government.

Ghandour, the former foreign minister, upon his release by the junta said he wanted “the whole nation to start a process of national reconciliation”.

But on Monday 1 November, Burhan ordered the rearrest of Ghandour and several others, backtracking on his message of political peace, and leaving commentators stumped.

Former foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi told AFP last week, that “we are all under arrest under these conditions since we can no longer communicate with one another”.

The world is watching and the Sudanese people have made it clear they will not accept a military attempt to sideline their hard-fought democratic transition.

Hamdok continues to reject the junta’s demands for his restoration of power. Meanwhile, Burhan’s overseas allies, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have remained relatively subdued after Washington and the UN demanded a full restoration of government under Hamdok.

The US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday 2 November in an attempt to defuse the crisis, alongside the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel.

In a statement to urge the military to restore the government, Feltman said: “To the freedom-loving Sudanese and to those who would seek to rob them of their democratic ambitions, I say: ‘The world is watching and the Sudanese people have made it clear they will not accept a military attempt to sideline their hard-fought democratic transition.”

Meanwhile, Burhan’s “partner in coup”, General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo, deputy chairman of the Sovereignty Council and commander of the SAF’s main military rival, the RSF, has been relatively silent. There have been rumours that in conversations with French diplomats, Hemeti has stated he is against the coup, suggesting more in-fighting.

Hemeti/Burhan rift?

If Hemeti and Burhan are not presenting a united front, the schism between the two’s military forces, the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, will create issues for the coup-leaders. It also appears that the military is not representing a united front to support the coup. Reports suggest that junior leaders are unhappy with Burhan’s leadership, and are refusing to follow instructions and defend the coup.

The position of the UAE and Egypt are pivotal to ensuring Sudan can consolidate its government…

The military has long had a troubled history within its ranks after Omar al-Bashir’s coup purged the military of secular officers, and these tensions remain as officers push back against the Islamist control of the military from players like Burhan. However, Burhan’s move to fire the Chief Justice has allowed the overthrowers to dodge responsibility for their actions.

The economy has been paralysed by the coup, enraging the population against the military. The US has paused $700m in debt relief and aid in an attempt to quell the violence. The region has also been hit by a severe cash shortage, as most banks and cash machines remain closed after a nationwide strike by bankers.

To truly move forward, a credible civil government and a professionalised military are needed to ensure stability for the region. The position of the UAE and Egypt are pivotal to ensuring Sudan can consolidate its government, which UN special representative for Sudan, Volker Perthes, says is possible “within the next couple of days”.

“Many of the interlocutors we are speaking with in Khartoum, but also internationally and regionally, are expressing a strong desire that we move forward quickly to get out of the crisis and return to the steps of normalcy, to the steps of political transition, as we viewed it before 25 October, on the basis of the Constitutional Declaration,” he said.

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