Coup in Sudan: causes and consequences


Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

A new round of internal political crisis in Sudan led to a military coup. On October 16, the situation escalated to the limit when thousands of soldiers and their supporters staged a sit-in at the presidential palace, provoking clashes between supporters of the army and civilian authorities amid a significant shortage of bread and fuel across the country.

Among the demonstrators were both the military themselves and their supporters from the rebel group of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SOD/M), whose leader Minni Arko Minnawi is also the current governor of Darfur, and the Movement for Justice and Equality (JEM), led by Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim.

Against this background, negotiations were held between the military and civilians on the dissolution or at least a significant change in the Cabinet of Ministers of Sudan.

The civil bloc in Sudan is represented by a coalition consisting of the Party for Freedom and Change (FFC), the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), resistance committees, trade unions and other civil society organizations.

On October 25, all entrances to Khartoum, the capital of the African state, were blocked, as well as strategic roads and bridges of the city. The military surrounded the airport, and major airlines stopped flights to the air harbor.

Against the background of how the city was blocked, supporters of the civil forces took to the streets, calling for "resisting the attempts of the military to usurp power in the country."

As a result, after the meeting of the head of the ruling Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, mass arrests began in Khartoum. The head of the government and his chief adviser were detained. Several ministers, members of the Sovereign Council who were civilians, as well as the Governor of the capital were arrested. According to the Institute of the Middle East (IBV), after some time, reports began to arrive that many leaders of political parties were arrested in Sudan.

Recall that the crisis in the country has been going on since 2019, when the Sovereign Council came to power after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir. According to the agreements reached between the representatives of the civilian bloc and the military, the Council was to govern Sudan for 39 months, and after that – to pass parliamentary elections.

However, after a peace agreement was reached with the rebels and the authorities from South Sudan in 2020, the elections were postponed as far as 2024. As a result, there is a situation in the country when there is simply no legislative authority and it will appear no earlier than in 3 years. That is, there will be no one to certify the most important documents, agreements and laws for the country.

Moreover, the constitutional declaration implied that General al-Burhan was to hand over the leadership of the Council to a civilian after 21 months, that is, back in May 2021.

The IBV emphasizes that the reason for the coup was the desire of Prime Minister Hamdok to carry out a radical reform of the armed forces, which would significantly weaken the positions of the military leadership and "actually put an end to any serious influence of the power bloc on the country's politics and economy with a clear prospect for its representatives to soon be arrested by the ICC in The Hague." Such prospects did not contribute in any way to the continuation of the joint rule of the military and civilians, effectively putting an end to the agreements of 2019.

Experts note that it is the fact that the military was "pushed to the wall" that explains why they took such a risky and unpopular step, which is likely to lead to negative consequences, including from the West.

The American analytical center IHS Global Insight, in turn, notes that the protests are most likely largely organized by the military and the leadership of the security service to demonstrate their growing support of the population, mainly in rural areas, in contrast to the stronghold of democracy in the capital.

Experts also emphasize the high organization of the protests, their planning and logistical support. For example, a Global Insight source in Khartoum confirmed local reports that buses were unloading passengers from other regions, including Eastern Sudan, at protest sites.

Another indicator of concerted efforts to put pressure on the civilian leadership is the ongoing blockade of roads and key infrastructure in Eastern Sudan, including Port Sudan and the Khartoum-Port Sudan highway, by influential tribes associated with the army leadership, in particular the head of the Sovereign Council, General Al-Burhan. The ongoing month-long blockade of Port Sudan has resulted in an estimated $83 million in losses for the already weakening Sudanese economy. At the same time, blocking the transport infrastructure may lead to an even greater shortage of key goods, including fuel, wheat and medicines.

The Americans also note that since the signing of the agreement on the Sovereign Council in 2019, the military has been actively trying to maintain power over civilian authorities and institutions during the transition period. At the same time, the possible departure from the post of head of the council of al-Burhan, most likely, will put him at risk of lawsuits from the civil government-led Committee for Empowerment, established in 2019.

The military is also fomenting popular protests to put pressure on the civilian leadership to transfer power to influential tribal groups in resource-rich strategic areas such as Darfur and Eastern Sudan in order to ensure their loyalty.

However, Global Insight believes that the military is unlikely to seek a direct coup. The United States and multilateral organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have agreed to restore relations with Sudan only when a Sovereign Military and civilian Council is formed, and most likely will not want to continue normalizing relations or provide financial support to Sudan in the face of a military coup.

In such a scenario, they are more likely to reinstate targeted sanctions and suspend critical access to debt relief and financial support initiatives.

At the same time, the United States is "deeply alarmed" by the events in Sudan. "We reject the actions of the military and call for the immediate release of the Prime Minister and others who have been placed under house arrest," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Karin Jean-Pierre.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated: "The United States strongly condemns the actions of the Sudanese armed forces," calling for the restoration of a civilian-led transitional Government. In turn , the representative of the US State Department , Ned Price , noted: "In light of these developments, the United States is suspending the provision of $700 million in emergency aid allocations from Sudan's economic support funds." He also added that American officials have not been able to contact Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, and added that the US views the army's actions as a "military takeover."

The IBV reports that according to a number of Western diplomats and other sources close to Hamdok, negotiations began between the two sides last week to resolve the current political crisis. Most likely, we are talking about an attempt to conclude a new power-sharing agreement.

"This may not be a direct dissolution of the government or serious changes to the constitutional declaration signed in August 2019, but a kind of broad reshuffle that may provide a larger percentage of the quota for the distribution of power to the rebels and supporters of the military," the sources say.

This confirms the version of Global Insight, according to which the military will not go for a direct seizure of power.

Cameron Hudson, a member of the Atlantic Council and a former American diplomat, notes that the Sudanese security forces will look for a way to avoid direct responsibility and try to find a compromise.

"The security services must have an exit strategy, they are cornered and afraid of what will happen to them if civilians eventually get their way. We also know that these leaders are not going to voluntarily go to the arms of the ICC or to the Kobar prison. They should feel that if they give up power, they will survive in the future Sudan; this will require compromises that may be unpopular," he said.

Undoubtedly, if the Sudanese military still decide to seize full power, this step will be perceived extremely negatively in Washington. Especially in the context of the past and failed intra-Sudanese negotiations with the direct participation of the United States, when on October 23, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with Hamdok, General al-Burhan and paramilitary commander Mohammed Hamdan Daglo.

"Feltman stressed that the United States supports a civil democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of the people of Sudan," the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said in a statement.

Recent events in this context emphasize that the military ignored everything the Americans were talking about. And in this case, if anyone supports the Sudanese security forces, it will be the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. What 's not thick…

As a result, Russian experts, as well as in the American Global Insight, come to the conclusion that today we are not talking about a classic military coup in Sudan. Rather, it is "removing a number of unacceptable military figures from the chessboard and replacing them with those who are ready to compromise with them."