Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 448, 28 October 2021

Sudan: Tensions flare-up as the military dissolves the civilian government
Mohammad Aseel Ummer

In the news
On 25 October, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s armed forces, in a televised broadcast announced that the civilian leadership of the transitional government has been dissolved due to political infighting which can lead to a civil war. Prior to the announcement, various news sources reported heavy deployment of security forces in the capital - Khartoum and key civilian leaders like Prime Minister Abdella Hamdock being detained from their residences.

Government supporters who had been demonstrating since last week as a response to a call for military coup took to the streets in Khartoum and other major cities demanding an immediate release of detained leaders and reinstating the civilian government back to power. The armed forces responded with live ammunition and military-grade weapons to disperse the protesters who gathered in front of important military and governmental establishments. By the second day, with a military enforced lockdown in the capital, seven individuals were recorded killed and nearly 140 wounded, with some in critical conditions as the military struggles to re-establish order.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the military take-over and called out for the immediate release of the civilian leaders, including the Prime Minister, in a statement. The EU Policy Chief Joseph Borell expressed strong contempt over the coup and said, “the actions of the Military represent betrayal of the revolution and the transition”. Chairperson of African Union Moussa Mahamat demanded the immediate release of the detained leaders and reminded that “dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and it’s democratic transition.” Sudan’s neighbors like Egypt and Ethiopia have expressed their concerns over the developments in Khartoum as any rise in tensions can ignite a spill-over causing regional instability.

On 26 October, White House Spokesperson Ned Price informed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a dialogue with Abdella Hamdock over telephone and re-stated his concern over the developments in Sudan.

Issues at large
First, the multiple attempts by the military to jeopardise the civilian leadership. With the civilian leadership being dissolved, the majority of the Sudanese population believe that the transition chalked out in 2019 has been entirely jeopardized. It is unlikely that the military would surrender its control and facilitate the elections expected to be held in 2023 as the military has previously made multiple attempts to monopolize governance in the past two years, which eventually strained the relations between the civilian and military leadership of the interim government.

Second, the rights violation amid the protests. The excessive and brutal force used by the military to control the protesters has raised international concerns as death tolls are expected to climb in the coming days. Human Rights Watch has already condemned the violence and stated, “the coup is a major blow to the Sudanese transition”. Various News agencies have also reported that there are internet and communication blackouts in the country, and some suggest that the military has taken complete control over State media.

Third, the deterioration of the economy. The plummeting economy is expected to take further blows in the coming days. The Eastern port of Sudan, a major shipping point that facilitates international trade is under a blockade enforced by local tribesmen. The restrictions are expected to be temporarily lifted, but analysts suggest that the instability lurking in the country can prevent foreign trade and with the chances of sanctions and the Biden Administration’s decision to suspend a financial assistance package worth 700 million USD, Sudanese economic future seems bleak.

In perspective
First, the tensions can escalate as the larger Sudanese population seems convinced that military administration cannot be the most promising option, and with the civilian leaders, except for Hamdock and his wife who were returned to their residence according to the military, while others being detained the ongoing protest will reach intensified extends causing further loss of life and damage to Sudan’s political landscape. On 27th, The Doctor’s Union has officially declared their active solidarity along with various other civilian organizations and are expected to participate in the ongoing protests.

Second, the international community is evidently concerned about the recent developments in Sudan and any further hinderance to the transition can place the country in a critical position. For instances, in December 2020, after 27 years US removed Sudan from the list of States which sponsored terrorism. Without a clear de-escalation of the current tensions, Sudan could be blacklisted or become a pariah state. 

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