Sudan: One year on from coup, what will break the military deadlock?

By Mourad R. Kamel
Posted on Thursday, 3 November 2022 15:35

Sudanese demonstrators attend rally to demand the return to civilian rule nearly a year after a military coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, Oct.25, 2022. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

To mark the first anniversary of Sudan's military takeover, which ended a power-sharing agreement between the military and the civilians, tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets in what was described as “the largest demonstrations since mass marches in January”.  But the military deadlock remains intact. Can it be broken?

Last week marked one year since the Sudanese people woke up to the news that the army had taken over the country and arrested key members of the civilian-led government, including its Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.

Top generals behind the coup, including Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo ‘Hemeti’, have not yet appointed a prime minister but have brought back Islamists and remnants of Omar al-Bashir’s regime, the long-time autocrat overthrown in 2019.

The generals, who claim they will give up power when a government is in place, are engaged in negotiations with the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition that had been sharing power before the coup. But many protesters reject the talks.

Coherence and alignment needed

“The difficulty is that the current state of negotiation is such that you have three or four generals on the pro-coup side and three or four political leaders from the pro-democracy side.

You can immediately see that such a broad-based pro-democracy movement being represented by three or four people from political party backgrounds is not necessarily representative.

“There isn’t that much engagement between these political leaders and the street and resistance, communities, and people without political affiliations,” says Kholood Khair, the founding director of Confluence Advisory, a think-and-do-tank based in Khartoum. 

Pro-democratic forces on the ground also need to coordinate themselves and align their efforts “more effectively and cohesively” says Nada Wanni, a researcher on Conflict, Peace and Governance.

Despite risks, the protests go on

“A year after, the coup has not fully cemented its grasp over the country to actually ‘govern’, or to get most Sudanese to reconcile with the political and socio-economic status quo it has created on the ground. It is simply ruling by force over a dysfunctional political and economic system of their own doing,” Wanni tells The Africa Report. 

Since last year’s putsch, pro-democracy protesters have continued to demonstrate despite the regime’s repressive tactics.

A year after, the coup has not fully cemented its grasp over the country to actually govern.”

When demonstrators gathered last week, authorities blocked internet access nationwide and used heavy tear gas and stun grenades to derail protests.

One person was killed in Omdurman after being run over by a truck belonging to security forces, says the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, adding that this was the 119th person to be killed in protests in the last 12 months.

“Unfortunately in Sudan, we have been used to the fact that young people get killed in protests. Many of the young people who participated in the 2019 revolution are either looking to leave Sudan or have completely given up on politics. The ones participating in protests are even younger than us,” Khaled*, a 24-year-old Sudanese student, tells The Africa Report.

“The economic situation is drastic and people are suffering daily. Politics has become the least of their concerns.”

Last year’s military coup was met with a cut from billions in foreign assistance. Prices soared and taxes were increased across all services spurring strikes while the currency tumbled, weakening the already feeble economy.

Beneficial chaos?

The persisting political stalemate may work to the benefit of the army, says Khair.

“I think it’s not outside of the realm of reason to assume that one of the things that Burhan and Hemeti learned from previous mediation efforts is that they can be part of the mediation processes that go nowhere,” she said.

“And those processes allow them to buy time to consolidate, realign and forge alliances to strengthen their position.”

Hamdan Daglo – Burhan’s deputy, Senior General, and currently number two – had warned the US and the EU that they may face a refugee crisis if the new government was not supported.

There are currently no sanctions imposed on Sudan by the international community apart from the billions in aid cut.

Sudan attended the recent IMF and World Bank meetings in October with a warning to its international creditors that any restrictions imposed after the 2021 coup would undermine progress on economic reforms.

Sanctions?

The US Congress has brought up the idea of sanctioning military leaders involved in the 25 October coup, such as Daglo, but it never came to fruition.

Commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Dagalo, has long been linked to war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur province by Human rights groups.

While the US and Europe support ongoing negotiations between the military and the FFC, the one effective tool may be for the west to continue to pressure the pro-coup camp to reinstate the democratic process, says Wanni.

“The international community needs to maintain pressure for a restoration of the democratic transition and, more importantly, to better understand the depth of the actual demands of the Sudanese people for a full civilian democratic rule,” she adds.

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