Democracy in Sudan
Sudan has seen another wave of street protests since October 25, 2021, when the military removed interim civilian prime minister Abdullah Hamdok and seized power. The Sudanese Central Committee of Physicians (CCSD) reported that more than 54 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured by security forces so far. The sexual assaults that took place during the December 19 street protests in the capital Khartoum further escalated the protests. More than a dozen activists were reportedly raped during the protests, some even having suffered gang rapes.
The situation is tense as the protest escalates and political and military leaders are divided. On December 25, massive crowds attended protests across the country. The popular mass movement of the Sudanese people wants to see the end of military rule and its domination. However, the Sudanese army wants to keep its domination at all costs and is ready to do anything to stop the transition to democracy and civilian rule. The military regime uses all the repressive measures at its disposal to crush the revolutionary spirit and the resistance of the people. But the repressive measures have so far failed to appease the revolutionary aspirations of the people.
Although Prime Minister Hamdok was reinstated and senior military and civilian leaders signed a power-sharing agreement in November, street protests continue to pressure military leaders to hand over full powers. to civilian leaders and cease their interference in politics.
Many see the reinstatement of Prime Minister Hamdok as an attempt by the Sudanese military regime to hide behind a civilian face and continue to pull the strings. Prime Minister Hamdok was effectively under house arrest for weeks before being reinstated in his post under the November deal, which promised elections in July 2023. People see this new power-sharing deal as a continued acceptance of military dominance and power. The pro-democracy movement sees this agreement as a betrayal of the ideals of democracy and civilian rule. They also accuse Prime Minister Hamdok of betraying the movement and of collaborating with the military establishment. They can see the reluctance of the military to cede power. This is why the demonstrators continue to take to the streets to keep up the pressure. They are not ready to call off the street protests until the military concedes the powers acquired in the October 25 coup.
Hopes for a peaceful and smooth transition to democracy and full civilian rule in Sudan appear to have been dashed. The October 25 military coup raised doubts about the intentions and commitment of military leaders to complete the transition to democracy and to hold transparent, free and fair general elections, as promised by the military. The coup has deepened the already existing mistrust between political leaders and the military establishment on the one hand and between the protest movement and political leaders on the other.
Sudan is bitterly divided. The gap has grown between those who want to maintain the status quo and those who want to complete the transition from a military-dominated regime to a democratic one. The protest movement expressing the popular desire and aspirations of the working masses has become disillusioned and frustrated by the slowness of the transition. The vast majority of the population want to see an end to poverty, rising inflation, unemployment, rampant corruption and repression. They want to see a decisive break with past economic policies.
Many people feel that the civilian leaders of the transitional government are not listening to their demands and instead are following the dictates of the IMF and implementing a neoliberal agenda. On IMF terms, the government liberalizes the economy and cuts food and other subsidies. The military leadership underestimated the will, courage and revolutionary spirit of the protest movement to confront the powerful army to defend the gains of the revolutionary movement since the ousting of longtime authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
Mass protests forced senior military officials to step down under pressure and restore Prime Minister Hamdok to end the protests. The military hoped that this would be enough to satisfy the angry protesters. Muzan Alneel, Sudanese writer and co-founder of the Innovation, Science and Technology Think-Tank for People-Centered Development in Sudan, brilliantly summed up the mindset of large sections of Sudanese society towards the ‘November power-sharing agreement in article’ Why the Burhan-Hamdok agreement will not stabilize Sudan ‘published by Aljazeera on December 20, 2021: reiterate their rejection of the army’s insistence on staying in power .
âThe demonstration was part of a series of protest actions organized regularly since October 25, when the Transitional Military Council (TMC) carried out a coup against the civilian government. They persisted even after the army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, reached an agreement with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on November 21 to reinstate him and task him with forming a new “technocratic cabinet”. Indeed, this arrangement allows the military to continue to interfere in government affairs.
âThe Sudanese people see in this agreement the same flaws that undermined the 2019 Constitutional Declaration, which was signed between the Sudanese army and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the umbrella coalition of civil forces that led the uprising against al-Bashir. . The problem with the 2019 accord is that – just like the current accord – it allowed military leaders to actively undermine the transition to civilian rule … Unfortunately, major players within the international community are committing the mistake to support this new al- Burhan-Hamdok Accord. What they need to understand is that this deal will derail Sudan’s democratic transition just as the one in 2019 did. “
The writer is a freelance journalist.