Sudan Faces Coup Attempts and Economic Blockades

Sudan Faces Coup Attempts and Economic Blockades
Tensions in the capital and eastern Sudan have pitted the country's civilian politicians and military to near breaking point this past week as accusations and counteraccusations follow an alleged coup in Khartoum and ongoing protests in Eastern Sudan.

Early Tuesday morning, Sudan's military claimed to quash a military coup orchestrated by 21 officers and soldiers linked the Armoured Corps and the Airborne Forces, according to Ground Force Commander Lt-Gen Essam al-Din Karrar. It marks the fourth coup attempt since Sudan formed a transitional government comprising of civilian and military elements in August 2019. It is also the first time individuals have been arrested for partaking in the coup plot, according to the premier's advisor, Yasser Arman. "We have to admit that there is a civilian-military crisis in Sudan," Arman said on the international Arabic broadcaster, Al-Arabiya.

While the purported coup attempt ended without bloodshed, a war of words between the civilian and military wings of government ensued.

For the first time, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hinted that some of the individuals involved in the coup attempt were part of the current military -not solely those ousted from the former regime. "What happened today is a coup orchestrated by elements inside and outside the army and was preceded by a systematic incitement and high-level arrangement and coordination," Hamdok said on Tuesday in a speech aired on national television. Hamdok and the leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) pointed an accusing finger at Burhan saying he delayed crucial security sector reforms and refused to sack the Islamist elements within the military, according to news reports. They added that this inactivity has helped enable Islamists to carry out attempts to seize power, both in the past and today.

According to Jonas Horner, Senior Sudan Analyst at the think-tank, the International Crisis Group, the coup has also "allowed the civilian side of the government to claim that security forces are ineffectual and divided and that they must be consolidated and brought under civilian control."

Meanwhile, Sudan's military leadership was quick to accuse the civilian-staffed government of ignoring the Sudanese people's needs, suggesting that they had given coup-plotters an opportunity. Sovereign Council Head Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as 'Himmedti') repeatedly claimed the civilian politicians of seeking personal gains and ignoring the goals of the revolution in public appearances. "Politicians are the main cause behind coups because they have neglected the average citizen," Himmedti said via Sudan's news agency, "... and are more concerned fighting over how they can stay in power." During a military graduation ceremony in Omdurman, Burhan claimed it was the military who were defending the revolution and supporting transitional democracy. "Political parties have nothing to do apart from fighting for their posts and chairs, neglecting the suffering of our people, and focus only on attacking and criticizing the military," the sovereign council leader told army recruits on Wednesday.

The war of words became so harsh, civilian Sovereign Council member Mohamed el-Faki referred to Burhan and Himmedti's public statements as "the real coup" in Sudan during a recent interview on state television. In recent times, El-Faki said, the civilian and military components of Sudan's transitional government remain perpetually averse to one another. "Our meeting never reaches a political process or results," the sovereign council member said. "We were fine and agreed [on issues] in previous periods, but now there is an incompatibility between the two components -any meeting in which there are civilians with the military-no results are made."

Magdi El Gizouli, an academic at the Rift Valley Institute, says both sides of Sudan's government have used the coup to "assert their influence and undermine the other." Analysts believe the military may use the aborted coup, for instance, to prolong their leadership of the Sovereign Council, citing insecurity as an excuse. "And the argument will simply be that the country is facing a security crisis that requires them [the military] to remain in power," Gizouli said.

Horner agrees. "Whether or not the coup attempt was a genuine attempt by forces hostile to the transitional government to remove that government, the net result has been for Sudan's military to claim it is newly indispensable to the fragile transitional process," he told Ayin.

The date for the transition of the presidency of the Sovereign Council from the military to the civilian side is under debate, some claiming the transfer should take place in November while others suggest next July due to a constitutional amendment made by the Juba Peace Agreement. Either way, many supporters of the revolution fear the military leadership will renege on their legal obligation to cede power to civilian leadership. "The biggest threat currently facing the country is to make a new amendment to the constitutional document with the aim of extending the term of the military leadership of the Sovereign Council," Sharif Ali Al-Sharif, the head of the Sudanese Initiative for Human Rights, told Ayin.

Whether civilians will accept an extension of military leadership or even another military coup remains to be seen. Prime Minister Hamdok appears convinced Sudan's citizenry support a democratic transition. "There is no excuse for a coup from any side. If the citizens are dissatisfied, then they will also not accept a coup. This kind of talk is astonishing," the premier said in an interview with Al-Sudani newspaper. Hundreds of people took to the streets in Khartoum and other parts of the country -including El Gedaref and El Obeid, to denounce the attempted coup and support full civilian rule. Continue...  

James Koroma