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Sudan Post-Military Coup

July 16, 2019

Sudan Post-Military Coup

Background of Protests

Sudan has been rocked by continuous and sustained protests starting in December 2018. Protests started in reaction to President Bashir’s decision of imposing austerity measures in order to prevent economic collapse. The measures entailed severe cuts to bread and fuel subsidies, sparking demonstrations that eventually reached the capital, Khartoum. As the tide of the demonstrations could not be stemmed, protesters’ demands grew more radical and calls for ouster of Bashir’s 30-year repressive rule grew louder.

While protests endured, Bashir declared a state of emergency in late February in a bid to regain control of the country. Yet, the protests organized by professional unions, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and students proceeded apace. As these demonstrations reached their climax, Bashir’s rule became difficult to sustain. After 30 years in power marred by corruption, civilian unrest and lack of freedoms, he was eventually ousted by the military on April 6th. A Transitional Military Council (TMC) led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan assumed power for a 2-year transitional government promising to give power to a civilian rule in 2021. However, many protesters saw the military’s hold on power as the continuation of authoritarianism, by Bashir’s former confidants and supporters in the military. Protesters’ fear of authoritarianism increased especially in light TMC’s refusal to cede power, and the fact that many of the coup leaders were close to Bashir.

 

Increasing Tensions between the TMC and protesters

Protests in Sudan did not ebb away quickly despite the heavy-handedness of military leaders who assumed power. The military’s announcement in May that Bashir would be charged for killing protesters was not enough to calm them down. In June, protests reached another climax, as demonstrators persisted in demanding the release of political prisoners and the establishment of an accountable government. On June 3rd, when the military attacked an opposition protest camp, scores of protesters were reportedly killed. The death toll was estimated to be higher than 100 as bodies of many of the slain protesters were recovered from the Nile. Many of the deaths occurred as the police and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shot at protesters; more than 300 people were reported to be injured according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD). A BBC investigation established clear links between the June 3 massacre and the military government in power. Amidst the outrage following the massacre and the possibility of further unrest, Sudan’s ruling military council swiftly announced on June 4ththat elections would be hold in 9 months to calm the population.

 

July Power-sharing agreement

On July 4th, Sudan’s ruling transitional military council and a coalition of opposition forces along with protest groups reached a power-sharing agreement that envisages free elections. Based on the preliminary deal, Sudan will be under the control of a joint sovereign council with power shifting between military and civilian leaders for a period of three years.

The deal stipulates that the authority will be led by a military leader for 21 months while a civilian leader is expected to take over afterwards for 18 months; after that period, free elections are supposed to be held. The sovereign council is supposed to include five civilians representing the protest movement and five military leaders whereas an 11thseat will be allocated to a civilian chosen by both parties. Both parties have also agreed to launch a “national independent investigation” into the killings of protesters since the ouster of Bashir on April 11. Other details of the deal are still being discussed, with increasing suspicion that the military is gaining from stalling the process.

Bashir’s ouster shifted Sudan’s alliances as well. Turkish military presence in Sudan is no longer welcomed, and the same goes for Qatari officials. Sudan is closer now to UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, both of which have pledged financial and diplomatic support. Sudan, and Khartoum in particular, remain a high risk environment where a clear path to civilian rule, stability and the rule of law is not evident yet.

 

Vahid Yucesoy for iStrategic