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Articles and ViewsSudan’s fledgling democratic transition is dealt a heavy blow by a military coup d’état
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Sudan’s fledgling democratic transition is dealt a heavy blow by a military coup d’état

10-27-2021, 08:10 PM
Tarig Misbah Yousif
<aTarig Misbah Yousif
Registered: 11-09-2014
Total Posts: 9

Sudan’s fledgling democratic transition is dealt a heavy blow by a military coup d’état

    07:10 PM October, 27 2021

    Sudanese Online
    Tarig Misbah Yousif-
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    By Tarig Misbah Yousif

    Historical background

    In epic scenes, audacious young Sudanese revolutionaries took many by surprise when their five month-long peaceful protest paid off as they forced the ruthless long-time dictator Omar Bashir to leave office on 11 April 2019. It did not come without a cost as many youngsters were brutally shot dead by security forces loyal to Bashir who ruled Sudan with the iron fist for thirty years. Following the formation of a transitional military council, euphoric revolutionaries chanted the slogans of their revolution (Freedom, Peace, Equality) in their peaceful sit-in protest in front of the General Command of Sudan's military and unambiguously demanded the formation of a civilian-led transitional government.
    Much to the chagrin of the elated and awe-inspiring Sudanese youngsters, on June 3, 2019 and at a dawn raid, the sit-in protest was dispersed in an unparalleled fashion of brutality. More than three hundred protestors were killed, with bodies tied up to heavy stones and dumped in the River Nile. The military council admitted it dispersed the Khartoum sit-in protest and announced its decision to sever all ties with both the Association of Professionals (the civilian body which spearheaded the peaceful protest) and the Forces of Freedom and Change. Nevertheless, the transitional military council was forced to back down following the million-people march of June, 30th 2019 which was planned by a wide coalition of political parties and civil society organizations. The Military Council and the FFC engaged in a partnership to run the country during a transitional period leading up to a fair and free election. Pending the formation of a legislative council, a draft constitutional declaration was agreed upon by the two sides. Comprising 11 members, a sovereignty council was also set up. The Sovereignty Council was presided over by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, with Abdella Hamdouk as Sudan’s prime minister.
    In the aftermath of the Peace Deal which was signed between the transitional government and some of the Darfur struggle movements in the capital city of the State of South Sudan (Juba), a new government was formed in August 20121 with some portfolios given to the signatories of the Juba agreement.

    The economic conundrum

    As a matter of fact, the gigantic kleptocracy which prevailed during the reign of the deposed dictator Bashir, left the country’s economy in shambles. In order to fix Sudan’s chronic economic problems, PM Hamdouk decided to seek external help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as the government agreed to fully implement the IMF painful economic austerity measures. The harsh austerity measures which include the removal of the government subsidies, the deregulation of the economy and the floating of the national currency have inflicted incredible suffering on the Sudanese people.

    The views of a number of patriotic and prominent Sudanese economists, who called for focusing on utilizing Sudan’s huge domestic resources, have been ignored by Mr. Hamdouk. The nationalistic approach of addressing Sudan’s economic woes emanates from the fact that:-
    1/ Sudan’s gold exports could have been well-managed and controlled by the government and the proceeds be used to support the country’s infrastructure, particularly the agricultural sector. But, it does seem that the government lacks the will and the courage to crack down on the smuggling of gold. The culture of corruption which dominated the era of the deposed dictator Bashir seems to inculcate even after the December revolution. Smuggling of gold continues with the knowledge and ‘facilitation’ of some influential and prominent figures within the military wing of the interim government. According to some reports the UAE has become a smuggling hub for the trafficked Sudanese gold. A report by an EU think tank pointed out the challenges facing the democratic transition in Sudan in the quote below:-

    ‘ The transition will only succeed if the government stabilises the economy and civilians work hard to tilt the balance of power away from the military and towards themselves. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia appear to be positioning a paramilitary leader known as Hemedti as Sudan’s next ruler, but the military is fiercely hostile towards him.
    (ECFR, 2020)’

    2/ An expansion in the production of Sesame could have also helped rectifying the balance of trade through increasing the exports of this vitally important cash crop which is in high demand in the international markets.
    3/ The money robbed by the kleptocrats of the defunct regime, could have made a huge difference to the collapsing Sudanese economy. Unconfirmed reports indicate that enormous sums of the stolen money have been stealthily hidden abroad but no serious endeavours were made by the incumbent government to track and recover the pilfered money.
    As expected, the first minister of finance in the post-Bashir era Ibrahim Albadawai turned to the Bretton Wood institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) in an attempt to rescue the collapsing economy. Mr Albadawai is a former employee of the World Bank and a vehement exponent of the Neoliberal economic policies and its savage free market-oriented approach as stated in the 1989 Washington Consensus. Less developed countries in economic crisis such as Sudan can get financial help if they deregulate their economy and fully implement the IMF prescription, mainly the free floating of the national currency and the removal of government subsidies from food, fuel, health, education ….etc. Fuel prices hiked as a result of removing the government subsidies, and the Sudanese farmers are the hardest hit as many of them are forced to abandon their farms. Ironically, the Neoliberal ideologues of this ‘extreme’ version of capitalism, advocate for government subsidies in their own capitalist countries. For instance, farmers in Ireland and other EU countries get government subsidies on a regular basis.
    Currently, skyrocketing inflation (the second highest in the world after Venezuela), a sharp decline of the Gross Domestic Product, a soaring unemployment rate and a ‘failing’ national currency are the main characteristic features of the Sudanese economy.

    However, Mr Albadawai opened a Pandora’s box when he increased the wages of the Sudanese teachers. Other professional Sudanese trade unions have already called for strikes demanding wage augmentation too. The rate of inflation continues to rise as a consequence of the perpetuation of the defunct regime’s deficit financing (printing of money by the central bank).

    General remarks

    No progress was made in areas such as the establishment of the legislative council which was postponed many times due to the deep divisions among the partners.
    It became evident that the FFC and the military wing were at loggerheads heads.
    Just recently, tension has heightened due to the closure of Sudan’s main Asphalt road, the Port Sudan road of east Sudan by a tribal leader. The road blockade strangled Sudan as the country relies on the vital Port Sudan road when it comes to the supply of essential commodities.

    Events of recent weeks cast further doubts on the rickety democratic transformation in Sudan which is now at a cross roads and hang in the balance. An attempted military coup was foiled on 21/09/2021, raising fears that the military establishment still poses a real threat to the fledgling democratic transition. Ravaged by cronyism and other malpractices, deep divisions among the members of the FFC exacerbated, leading to a split which ended in forming a breakaway FFC2. The FFC2 comprises two of the Darfur struggle movements, in addition to some controversial groups and personalities associated with the defunct regime. It has to be pointed that the FFC2 got the support of the military wing, in particular the chairperson Burhan and his deputy Himitei (the leader of the notorious paramilitary, ‘the Janjaweed’). The FFC2 called for the dissolution of the cabinet and forming a broad-based government.
    Chanting "civilian is the choice of people", on October 21, millions of Sudanese took to the streets of the capital city Khartoum and in other Sudanese cities and towns as well. They called for an immediate civilian rule. Organised by the Resistance Committees, the massive multimillion-people marches came a few days after pro-military groups staged a sit-in near the Republican Palace in Khartoum calling for the military to take over and dissolve the Hamduk civilian-led government.

    Needless to say, the immersion and the meddling of outsiders such as the United Arab Emirates UAE, and Egypt in the affairs of Sudan can hinder rather than help the transition to democracy. None of the mentioned countries is a democracy and they are of no use to Sudan as they have no democratic legacy to share with Sudan. The UAE in particular has a vested interest in derailing the democratic transformation in Sudan because they want to maintain their relations with their stalwart allies, Burhan and Himetie. Himetie’s Rapid Deployment Forces are now doing the dying in Yemen where the UAE and the KSA are bogged down in a war that inflicted unspeakable suffering on the innocent Yemenis. The eyes of the UAE which has food security problems are now well set on Sudan’s huge agricultural resources.
    Egypt is striving to secure the support of Sudan in its battle of the Renaissance Dam which Ethiopia is about to finish unilaterally.


    The ‘new forces’ of the youngsters who ousted the dictator Bashir made it crystal clear that the Sudanese people should cease deceiving themselves. They saw Hamdouk’s modest achievements, his leniency and his lethargic approach as tantamount to betraying the martyrs who paid the ultimate price by sacrificing their precious lives for the sake of a real change in Sudan. Young revolutionaries did not see serious efforts when it comes to the dismantling of the structures of the defunct regime and the speeding up of the trials of its leaders. It is no secret that the military wing wields the real power in Sudan, controls the economy through their numerous private companies and they protect the interests of the defunct regime. Apparently, the Achilles’ heel of the Sudanese December revolution was the absence of an inspiring charismatic leadership. The Empowerment Elimination, Anti-Corruption, and Funds Recovery Committee which was established with the purpose of purging the Sudanese civil service from the elements of the defunct regime, is lacklustre and in many cases its decisions were overturned and never implemented. Unsurprisingly, an atmosphere of pessimism prevailed as a lot of Sudanese expressed their fear that a return to the military rule might be in the offing.

    And exactly as anticipated, a military takeover occurred on 25/10/2021. In a televised statement, Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan, the leader of the military coup declared a state of emergency, arrested ministers and put the civilian prime minister under house arrest. It is too early to speculate what shape is the political landscape going to take as the result of these dramatic events. Revolutionaries poured spontaneously into the streets of major cities to express their fierce opposition to the coup. Using live ammunitions, the Janjaweed and the military are using excessive force to suppress the protest which is gaining momentum by the day. More than ten people are reported to have died and many more were injured.
    The position of the major international players is nebulous. Countries such as Russia, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia fall short of condemning the coup out rightly.

    What can be said with certainty, and despite the internet shut down, the revolutionaries are adamant to reverse the course of history by proceeding with the very same impressive peaceful model of protest until they compel the military junta to go back to their barracks and restore freedom and democracy. Some more ingenious and nifty methods of peaceful protest are expected to be employed by the young Sudanese revolutionaries who are determined, resolute, unwavering and steadfast in their struggle against the Janjaweed and their reign of terror. It has to be emphasized that when the young revolutionaries surprised the world by their resounding victory over the former dictator Omar Albashir back in April 2019, they got no support from the international community. By taking this leap in the dark, it does seem that General Burhan did not learn any lesson from the way his predecessor was toppled

    Time and again, younger generations of Sudan who aspire for a real change, a better future and more dignified life, are now ready to open their chests for bullets and sacrifice their lives for the sake of freedom, peace, equality and democracy.

    Tarig Misbah Yousif

    Tarig Misbah Yousif (PHD) is a freelance researcher in the field of forced migration and human displacement. He worked for many years as aid worker in refugee camps in Sudan's eastern region. He has been living in Ireland since 1996. He was part of the team charged with the implementation of the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project in County Carlow back in 2019.
    He is reachable at: [email protected]


    Jean-Baptiste Gallopin (2020). Bad company: How dark money threatens Sudan’s transition, ECFR

    Yousif, Tarig Misbah (2011). The Triumph of People Power. Available at:

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