The Sudanese Conundrum
The situation in Sudan remains uncertain following the ousting of the long serving president, President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir by the military,on Thursday, and the mass protest which led to the weakening of al-Bashir’s administration still showing no sign of letting up.
The news of his removal came on April 11, 2019, where the former President was said to be under a house arrest. Later in that day, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, the defense minister and Vice President, announced Al-Bashir’s removal from power and his house arrest in a safe place.
His statement also heralded the beginning of another rule by the top brass of the Sudanese military which has been instrumental in the Sudanese politics for the past half a century. He announced the establishment of a transitional military council which will stay in power for two years and the declaration of a three month State of Emergency.
This is a surprise turn of events in Sudan,in which dismayed Sudanese youth have been calling for a regime change since December, 2018.
The unprecedented protests which led to the demise of Al-Bashir’s three-decade rule initially emanated from the frustration and anger that built up through timeover the escalation of prices of bread and fuel. Later on, the demands took a political angel following different political groups, workers’ associations and civil societies joining the protest and calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
For years, especially following the departure of South Sudan as an independent state, the economy of Sudan was deeply affected. More specifically, Sudan lost its significant revenue from oil and petroleum exports which exacerbated the downfall of Sudan’s economy.
Fearing the protests, Al-Bashir who took power via a coup-d’état back in 1989, promised to come up with new foreign investments to heal the current economic crises. In addition, the Central Bank of Sudan has also proposed plans to boost the country’s revenue by bringing in more hard currencies and printing more banknotes.
However, these promises couldnot save Al-Bashir from being ousted by his friends.
Unfortunately, many youth, just hours after the statement of his removal and establishment of a military council, expressed their dismay and said that this is not a change they were expecting.
Just, minutes after the statement by the military, Professional Association of Sudan which was instrumental during the protest against Al-Bashir’s government said it is against the takeover of power by the military.
“We assert that the people of Sudan will not accept anything less than a civil transitional authority composed of a patriotic group of experts who were not involved with the tyrannical regime,” read the statement.
The association also called for more protests and called for the military to hand-over power to the people of Sudan.
“We are not satisfied with the military because it is a coup over a coup and those who are now within the coup are the same old people,” an unnamed journalist based in Khartoum told The Reporter.
“Our demands are that the former regime should go in its entirety; and form a transitional government of civilians, not a military force; within a period not more than three months and less than a year. Second, the accountability of all those involved in the crimes of the former regime,” said the journalist who is also actively participating in the protest against the regime.
Following the military takeover, a number of state and non-state actors expressed their stands over the developments in Sudan.
The African Union (AU) opposed the military’s takeover and said that the move was not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people.Moreover, countries like Turkey and Egypt have also issued a statement and said that they are closely following the developments.
On the other hand, Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary of UK, openly opposed the military takeover and called for the establishment of a civilian leadership.“A military council ruling for two years is not the answer. We need to see a swift move to an inclusive, representative, civilian leadership,” said Hunt in his tweet.
As one of the closest allays to Sudan, Ethiopia, on the other hand,preferred to have a more ambiguous stand.
“Ethiopia expresses its confidence that the Sudanese will surmount this difficult moment. Ethiopia fully respects the sovereignty and political independence of Sudan and sincerely hopes that all Sudanese political stakeholders will find a peaceful solution to the problem,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Following the change of leadership in Sudan, many are expressing their concerns that there might be an internal division within the new leadership which will create more instability in the country.
“The situation is now such that the military is ultimately in control. However, there is evidence of division at the senior levels of the military,” Ann M Fitz-Gerald, Director of Security and Defense Management and Leadership, Cranfield University Defense Academy of the United Kingdom, told The Reporter via email.
“I don’t think Ibn Aouf will stay, as this would be regarded as too similar to Bashir’s rule,” she said.
However, she speculates that “the military will lead the various aspects of the ‘transition’ and it is likely that former retired generals - who still play an active advisory role in the Defense institutions and in Sudanese politics more generally, will become involved.”
According to Ann, given the fact that most of the civil society including Sudan Profession Association never had a strong voice in Sudan.“At the end of the day, the military is the only institution capable of enacting transformational change in the country.”
“Next is to continue our sit-in until the demands are met by pressure from the international community,” said a journalist who spoke to The Reporter.
After a while, the military, after receiving a heavy opposition from the public said that it has no willingness to stay in power.
In its first media briefing, the military council through General Omar Zainal Abidin,announced that,“The main objective of the military takeover was to preserve the security and safety of the country and to prevent any insecurity that leads the country to chaos and fragmentation.”
He also said that the council is willing to start a dialogue with political groups and agree on the establishment of a civilian government.
“Protests are likely to continue based on the desire for the population to see a political transition to civilian government vs military rule,” said Ann.
In related news, the military council has announced that they are not going to hand over Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC).