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Articles and ViewsSudan coup d’état: Destabilization and displacement might be in the offing
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Sudan coup d’état: Destabilization and displacement might be in the offing

11-29-2021, 00:38 AM
Tarig Misbah Yousif
<aTarig Misbah Yousif
Registered: 11-09-2014
Total Posts: 9

Sudan coup d’état: Destabilization and displacement might be in the offing

    11:38 PM November, 29 2021

    Sudanese Online
    Tarig Misbah Yousif-
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    This article highlights the probable domino effect of the military coup d’état which occurred in Sudan on 25 October 2021, dashing the hopes of young Sudanese revolutionaries in a viable democratic transition. The article focuses on the repercussions of the military takeover for the entire turbulent region of the Horn of Africa. I argue that if Sudan slides into anarchy, the world has to brace itself for forced migration and human displacement of gargantuan proportions. At present, there are more than five armed militias in Khartoum. Triggering intra-state armed conflicts in a vast country such as Sudan which has an abundance of natural resources and has too many neighbours is a recipe for a horrific protracted humanitarian crisis.


    In epic scenes, audacious young Sudanese revolutionaries took many by surprise when their five month-long peaceful protest paid off in forcing the 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. 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 precarious partnership to run the country during a transitional period leading up to a fair and free election. A Sovereignty Council was established and presided over by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and Dr. Abdella Hamdouk was appointed as Sudan’s civilian 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.

    Current economic and political landscape

    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.

    However, the 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 emphasized this economic challenge facing Sudan’s democratic transition:-

    ‘ 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 (ECFR, 2020) ‘.

    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. Despite the country’s economic woes, Hamdouk’s government had to pay $335 million in compensations to the American victims of terrorism in exchange of delisting Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism (SST).

    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’).

    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 both 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. Also, the eyes of the UAE which has food security problems are now well set on Sudan’s huge agricultural resources.

    It is no secret that the military 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. 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 used excessive force to suppress the protest.
    The position of the major international players vis-à-vis the coup is nebulous. Countries such as Russia, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia fall short of condemning the coup out rightly.
    By taking this leap in the dark, it does seem that General Burhan did not learn any lesson from the way his predecessor Bashir was toppled in 2019.

    The refugee crisis in Sudan
    Hosting an estimated two million refugees, Sudan is among the world’s top ten refugee receiving countries. Sudan is currently hosting refugees from South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Tigray war which flared up in the northern region of Ethiopia back in November 2020 has constituted a serious threat to the peace and security in the whole region of the Horn of Africa. Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million have fled their homes, and as usual it is women and children who are the true cost of this armed conflict. More than 50,000 Tigray refugees have currently been sheltered in Umrakoba, Tenedba and other parts of east Sudan.
    Just recently, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dramatically shifted the balance in their war against PM Abiy Ahmed’s federal government by retaking control of their capital city Mekele back in June 2021. The TPLF has since made a significant forward movement into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar, and threaten to proceed towards the capital city Addis Ababa as the two warring parties keep beating the drums of war.
    It goes without saying that destabilizing Sudan could make matters worse by generating displacement and an upsurge of refugee movement not only within the region but to Europe as well. East Sudan has been a hub for human trafficking for a decade and half. Volatile situations in the Horn of Africa are driving large numbers of people out of the region, and because of their vulnerability, many of them fall into the hands of traffickers and smugglers (Yousif, 2015).
    Over the last few years, east Sudan has captured the attention of the EU as a centre for smuggling African migrants into Europe via the Libyan Desert route. Human traffickers seem to operate with impunity in a region known for its open and extended borders with Eritrea and Ethiopia. Not only do human traffickers operate in Kassala State, they are also active through complex networks in border areas such as Galabat, Taiya and Konaina Albeer in the state of Gedaref in the eastern part of Sudan. Human rights violations, injustices, unequal distribution of wealth and lack of development in source countries such as Eritrea have pushed many people to Shagarab refugee camp in eastern Sudan. The modus operandi of traffickers is to smuggle young Eritreans to Shagarab. Those who wish to be smuggled out of Sudan have to pay more. Due to the stealthy nature of trade in people, accurate statistics on the numbers of victims remains an unattainable goal. Some reports estimated that between 2009 and 2013 as many as 30,000 people were victims of trafficking and torture in the Sinai Peninsula.
    Because Sudan is a member of the 2014 EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative (the Khartoum Process), the Sudanese government deployed its paramilitary unit -the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF), to chase human traffickers who used east Sudan for their criminal activities. It has to be pointed out that the RSF comprises members of the disreputable Janjaweed, a militia whose leaders are wanted by the ICC for war crimes and genocidal atrocities carried out in the restive region of Darfur. The RSF operates along Sudan's expansive frontier with Libya to prevent people from crossing. In doing so, the RSF frequently reports arresting hundreds of people trying to cross the border, sending them first to detention centres in the town of Dongola in northern Sudan and then back to Khartoum, where they face deportation. The leader of the RSF is one of the orchestrators of Sudan coup of October 2021.
    With the on-going escalation of the Tigray war in neighbouring Ethiopia, the Sudanese government has started preparing new camp sites in Qala’nahal area of east Sudan in anticipation of new waves of refugees.
    In conclusion, it can be said that Sudan coup of October 2021 which derails the democratic transformation in the country, increases the chances of ushering episodes of open-ended violence. Excessive force was used to supress anti-coup mass demonstrations. Forty one people were brutally shot dead and many more were wounded. Apparently, the deal which reinstated PM Hamdouk on 21/11/2021, has failed to soothe protestors who took to the street to express their outright rejection to the pact which was struck between the coup leaders and Hamdouk. While no one knows for certain what the future holds for Sudan, and unless the root causes of the volatile situation are tackled, the country might end up in a situation characterized by:-
    1/ Protracted generalized violence and street fighting. 2/ Gross and systematic human right violations. 3/ Catastrophic humanitarian crises.4/ Massive flows of refugees and internally displaced persons. 5/ A flourishing in trade of weapons and influxes of arms. 5/ A burgeoning of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants and asylum seekers 6/ A complete halt to the 2014 Horn of Africa-EU collaboration on migration which aims at nipping the problem of human trafficking in its bud.

    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 Sudanand#39;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]

    A better Africa-European Union (EU) migration management. Available at:
    Chandler, C. (2018). How far will the EU go to seal its borders؟. EUROZINE,. Retrieved from

    The Khartoum Process, primarily focused on addressing the challenges of migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, is an established regional ...
    Yousif, Tarig (2015). On the Cusp of a crisis: Human trafficking in eastern Sudan. Rights in Exile. Available at:


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