Sudan has descended into a political crisis after its military disbanded the provisional power-sharing government and installed itself in power. A state of emergency was declared on October 25 and protesters took to the streets to denounce the coup d’état.
The military’s move crushes hopes of a peaceful transition to democracy for Sudan after it managed to rid itself of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, who ruled as a dictator for nearly 30 years.
What happened in Sudan?
Since the departure of Bashir in 2019, Sudan was ruled by a joint governing council of civilian and military leaders in the power-sharing Sovereign Council. Government positions were held by the members of the transitional government.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the top military leader in the country and the leader of the Sovereign Council, announced on October 25 that the Sovereign Council along with the transitional government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was detained by the military along with several other high-ranking civilian leaders, had been dissolved.
A state of emergency was declared and several provisions of the Constitution were suspended, and provincial governors removed from their posts. Protesters marched on streets and internet services were suspended in many parts of the country. The national news channel played only patriotic music and did not broadcast any news. The airport in Khartoum was also shut down and international flights were suspended
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While al-Burhan has said the military would ensure that elections are held in 2023 and that he would hand over power to an "independent and fair representative government," many are sceptical of the claims and fear of military interference.
Several senior government officials have been arrested, AP reported. Arrested individuals include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, member of the Sovereign Council, and Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Prime Minister Hamdok.
Who is Abdel Fattah al-Burhan?
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was the Sudanese Army’s inspector general and its third-most senior general before Bashir was ousted in 2019. While virtually unknown in public life, he rose to prominence after he became the leader of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and then the Sovereign Council.
His time in leading the Sudanese Army in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen helped him strengthen ties with Gulf leaders in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
Why did Burhan dissolve the current government?
Tensions between the civilian and military leaders in the Sovereign Council had been increasing since the ouster of Bashir in 2019. When the military had initially removed the former president from power, protesters from pro-democracy movements had called for a fully democratic government. The two sides eventually negotiated to rule through a transition government and the Sovereign Council for the next three years.
Under the deal, the military would be governing Sudan for the first 21 months, after which civilian leaders would be in charge of the Sovereign Council for the next 18 months.
The 21 months of military rule would have been up on November 17, and PM Hamdok, along with several other civilian leaders, had been calling on the military to complete the full transition to civilian rule by then. This had led to a tense standoff between the two factions.
Last month’s failed coup attempt by Bashir loyalists in the army only increased the tension between the two sides. The military demanded reforms of the ruling coalition and the replacement of the transitional cabinet, while the civilian government accused the military of an attempted power grab.
Other points of tension include the handing over of Bashir and other Sudanese suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigating claims of war crimes by the military and its allies in the conflict in Darfur. Claims of the military killing hundreds of protestors under Bashir’s orders and raping hundreds of women to threaten protesters had emerged from Sudan.
While the transitional government had agreed to hand over the suspects to the ICC, the military leaders has so far not agreed to it. Oversight of the military and restructuring of the armed forces have also been grounds of contention.
When Burhan took over the country, he had said seeking agreement from the civilian leaders in the Sovereign Council "became a conflict" and was "threatening peace and unity" in Sudan.
The international community has criticised the actions of the Sudanese military, with several parties asking the military to stand down. France, the US, Germany, the UK, the Arab League, the African Union and the UN have all criticised or expressed concern over the situation in the African country.
“France condemns in the strongest terms the attempted coup d’état,” French President Emmanuel Macron stated over Twitter.
The US embassy to Sudan also asked that "all actors who are disrupting Sudan’s transition to stand down, and allow the civilian-led transitional government to continue its important work to achieve the goals of the revolution” on Twitter.
"I call on everyone in Sudan responsible for security and order to continue Sudan's transition to democracy and to respect the will of the people. The attempted overthrow must come to an immediate end," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.
The African Union Peace and Security (PSC) Council suspended the participation of the Republic of Sudan in all African Union activities until the transitional civilian government is re-established as well.
India has assured support to Sudan in its “journey towards peace, development.”
“India, as a long-standing partner, will continue to support Juba and Khartoum in their journey towards peace and development,” A. Amarnath, Counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission to the mission said on October 27.
Amarnath was speaking at the UNSC briefing on UNISFA and Sudan, reported news agency ANI.
China, without criticising the coup, called for calm and stability in the region where it has significant strategic and financial investments. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China wanted Sudanese parties “to resolve their differences through dialogue so as to maintain peace and stability of the country.”
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)