Late Sunday, Abdalla Hamdok appeared on state television to announce his resignation as Prime Minister of the Sudan.
The announcement came just six weeks after the Western-backed civilian leader returned following his overthrow and house arrest in a military coup on October 25 – but it didn’t was a surprise.
Reports citing sources close to Hamdok say he was fed up with the decision of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – the top military commander and coup leader – to restore the widely feared intelligence service, as well as for its refusal to allow the Prime Minister to freely appoint the members of his cabinet.
Hamdok had only been reinstated as part of a controversial deal he signed with al-Burhan in November that also called for elections to be held in July 2023. saw his return as a ‘fig leaf’ which legitimized the coup and ensured the domination of the army.
With Hamdok now gone, analysts say the military may seek to co-opt a new civilian face to scavenge billions of dollars in much-needed foreign aid, which was suspended after the coup.
Several unconfirmed reports indicate that military leaders have already approached Ibrahim Elbadawi, a former finance minister who served under Hamdok in 2019 as Sudan embarked on a democratic transition following the military impeachment of longtime leader Omar al- Bashir following mass protests. However, the United States, United Kingdom and Norway, as well as the European Union, have warned the ruling military against the unilateral imposition of a new prime minister, threatening to withhold financial aid. if “a wide range of civilian actors” were not involved in dealing with it.
“I believe that Elbadawi is a man of integrity, and that he will never agree to be the figurehead of an authority which is de facto controlled and directed by the military,” said Suliman Baldo, an expert on Sudan with The Sentry, a political-investigative team tracking down corruption in Africa.
“The military must now do some serious soul-searching,” he added. “They can continue to kill Sudanese in the streets with guns on the battlefield, or act responsibly by stepping back and allowing a civilian-led transitional government to take over. “
At least 57 protesters have been killed in mass rallies that have gripped Sudan since the coup and continued after the Nov. 21 agreement between al-Burhan and Hamdok, doctors say.
Kholood Khair, the managing partner of Insight Strategy Partners, a think tank based in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, said she expected the military to step up the crackdown to provoke violence on the streets. . In this way, she argued, the military could present the pro-democracy movement as a bunch of angry young men who pose a threat to national security.
“The army wants the streets to lose their credibility, so they can say they are quelling a violent insurgency. They could then call the [street] violence as they want. They could put a terrorist label on it, ”Khair said.
Fears of a prolonged stalemate
The military is already trying to control the narrative by cracking down on the press. During the mass protests on December 30, security forces raided television stations and assaulted journalists. This happened just days after they were given extended powers and legal immunity.
However, the protests showed no signs of abating, raising fears that a prolonged standoff could plunge the country – already struggling with a severe financial crisis – into yet another conflict.
In the worst case, the security forces could break down, warned Jihad Mashamoun, a Sudanese researcher and political analyst based in the United Kingdom. He stressed that there was a real risk that junior army officers would try to topple al-Burhan and the rest of the Old Guard.
“Al-Burhan is still worried that junior officers are orchestrating a coup,” he said.
Despite the uncertainty and the rise in violence, analysts believe that Sudanese political parties and Western powers should corner the army by rallying to the demands of the street movement.
One way to do this is to support Sudan’s “resistance committees”, a decentralized network of neighborhood groups that spearheads the pro-democracy movement. The resistance committees plan to unveil their political roadmap this month, which aims to push political parties to adopt the public’s demands, according to Khair.
“I have the impression that some of the [demands] will be watered down because you have to get approval from a lot of people, and some of them will be tough because people are fed up with just the bare minimum, ”she said. “But as a starting point, I can’t imagine better than this [road map] in terms of a reflection of the popular will.
Outside of Sudan, some have called on Western countries to exert more pressure on the military.
“What concerns me is that Washington is taking this wait-and-see approach and not trying to shape events and outcomes,” said Cameron Hudson, a non-resident senior researcher at the Atlantic Council Africa Center, as he called US officials to hold consultations with the pro-democracy movement.
According to Hudson, the White House should also consider sanctioning Sudanese military leaders, including the chief of military intelligence, the head of the general intelligence service and the deputy commander of the rapid support forces, now that Hamdok – a man formerly at the center of American policy – was no longer in the picture. He pointed out that the threat of sanctions from US Senator Christopher Coons had previously forced the military to release Hamdok from house arrest and restore him as prime minister.
“Yes [Washington] repeatedly said… that human rights are part of their foreign policy perspective, so why are we having a debate about whether or not they should sanction those who murder pro-democracy protesters on the streets? Said Hudson.