Sudan: ‘There is no room for General al-Burhan but to compromise’

By Eman El-Sherbiny
Posted on Tuesday, 2 November 2021 18:39

Sudanese nationals living in Lebanon chant slogans as they hold their national flag during a protest to condemn a military coup earlier this week, in front of the Sudanese embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The soldiers can’t kill us all was the brave claim of tens of thousand of protestors marching across Sudan's capital Khartoum and other cities on 30 October. That message didn’t reach some of the soldiers.

At least three civilians were shot dead that day by security forces in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city. That brings the death toll to at least 15 civilians since 25 October when General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the power-sharing government with civilians and ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several other officials. Hundreds more have been arbitrarily detained and beaten.

Burhan additionally detained government officials and announced a state of emergency triggering massive condemnation from the international community.

Two days before the coup, the US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey D. Feltman, visit Khartoum concerned about mounting tensions between the generals and civilians.

On Sunday, a day before the coup, Burhan argued that the cabinet should be dismissed and replaced with technocrats, “but gave no indication he was preparing to seize power”, reported The New York Times. With that reassurance Feltman flew out, but upon landing in Doha a few hours later, learned a coup was in fact underway in Sudan.

When the BBC asked Feltman whether he had been tricked by Sudan’s generals, he replied: “I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.” Despite Feltman’s diplomatic response, deceiving US envoys goes down badly in Washington.

The Sudanese people will use all peaceful means to protest the coup from mass strikes to disobedience and nationwide protests.

Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, Nureldin Satti said: “They lied to him…This is very serious, because when you lie to the US, you have to pay the consequences.” And in response, the US announced it was suspending $700m in economic aid to Sudan. 

Reaction to coup

Following the coup on 25 October, people took to the streets in large numbers to express their outrage at Burhan’s move. Sudan’s troops used live ammunition to intimidate and disperse protesters, killing 12 on that Monday alone, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.

The military had pitted itself against those Sudanese angered by the coup. Workers across the country joined a general strike, people built make-shift walls and cordoned off neighbourhoods to keep out the security forces.

Burhan and the junta are looking isolated.

There are essential differences between the two countries’ militaries and their political conditions.

Egypt’s government, which receives $1.3bn a year in military aid from the US, styles itself as a key western ally. Sisi, with minimal censure from the west, has cracked down ruthlessly on the Muslim Brotherhood detaining thousands of activists without trial, according to reports from Amnesty International. 

Many key figures, including senior army officers, around Burhan’s junta are supporters of the Ikhwan and want to return Sudan to Islamist rule, which the revolutionaries had shaken off in the revolution of April 2019.

Today the power of the revolutionaries with their national network of resistance committees and pro-democracy activists is driving opposition against Burhan’s junta. They have the street on their side.

There is no room for General al-Burhan but to compromise. The country is completely paralysed despite the repression and the blackout by cutting off communications…

“The Sudanese people will use all peaceful means to protest the coup from mass strikes to disobedience and nationwide protests,” says social activist Mosaab Ahmedy. He adds that they will block streets, push hashtags, and pressure the international community through protests abroad. “In short, every peaceful method to drive social change.”

Ahmedy says most people support Hamdok’s efforts as Prime Minister. “He fixed the dollar, removed ancient restrictions, opened Sudan to the world and freed it from economic and political sanctions.”

Ahmedy believes Hamdok’s character, his wide international appeal, history and qualifications make him the most worthy to lead the government.

Where can Burhan go now?

“There is no room for General al-Burhan but to compromise. The country is completely paralysed despite the repression and the blackout by cutting off communications,” says Sudanese independent journalist, Mohamed Mostafa. “Besides the insurrection and internal protests there is mounting Western pressure, with the United States putting pressure on the generals’ regional allies.”

It may seem to Burhan and the junta that they could use the protests orchestrated by politicians close to the military to destabilise Hamdok’s government.

According to Mostafa these parties do exist. “There are some small parties that have already allied themselves with the generals, such as the Umma Party, the wing led by Mubarak al-Fadil, in addition to some armed movements such as the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement, Minnawi’s wing.”

But they have not won mass support says Mostafa. “It has been proven that these armed parties and movements do not have real weight in the street like the traditional parties such as the National Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party led by Al-Mirghani.”

Like the junta, these pro-military forces are not gaining much traction with the people. With economic conditions deteriorating as the general strike continues and international bodies but foreign funding, Burhan and the junta are likely to lose still more support.

People chant slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

All this adds to the pressure on Burhan to seek a political deal and reinstate the power-sharing transitional government with Hamdok and his ministers.

How did we get here?

In 2019, following the fall of Omar al-Bashir’s autocratic regime of 30 years, a coalition of Sudanese representative parties and rebel groups was formed. The coalition, which is called the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), agreed to a power-sharing deal with the military making up the Sudan Sovereignty Council.

Burhan who was the commander in chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces, served as the chairman of the council. The council was set to last until the 2023 elections. But that transitional period was marred with tensions leading to wide demonstrations.

It is not known whether these tensions were behind Burhan’s claims that “racism and sectarianism” were the driving force behind the coup. He added in a speech that it was to correct the path of the 2019 revolution.

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