Tough options for Hamdok as civilians protest new agreement

Saturday November 27 2021
Sudanese anti-coup protesters

Sudanese anti-coup protesters attend a demonstration in the ‘Street 40’ of the capital’s twin city of Omdurman on November 25, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


The transition of Sudan to civilian rule following the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 is now threatened by emerging differences within the civilian wing that had led the revolution.

Reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is currently facing isolation from the members of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), after he struck a deal with the military wing.

Now the FFC are accusing him of being compromised by the coup plotters led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on October 25, which disrupted the transitional leadership.

The FFC members — Sudanese Professionals Association, the Sudanese Congress Party, Sudanese Communist Party, National Umma Party, Unionist Alliance, SLM led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, and Resistance Committees — have all rejected the agreement.

Twelve Cabinet ministers have resigned, in protest of the political deal struck on November 21. Magdi Ahmed Mofadal, chair of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Council of Ministers, said that the country is facing the most complex transition since Independence in 1965.

“However, all stakeholders are working hard to ensure that the country gets out of the crisis and returns to the path of democratic transition,” said Mr Mofadal.


The agreement, struck after shuttle diplomacy by diplomats in the region, reinstated Mr Hamdok as the Prime Minister, and released all the political detainees who had been put under detention following the coup.

Diminished powers

According to Jonas Horner, International Crisis Group's deputy project director in the Horn of Africa and senior analyst on Sudan, the FFC has been diminished by the new agreement, which barely mentions them, and the appointment of the new Sovereign Council, the executive body re-formed on November 11.

Mr Horner said that the actions by the military are illegal, as the FFC's role is codified in the 2019 constitutional declaration signed by both the military and the FFC, which governs the transitional period.

“By forcing signature of a deal that essentially works to address their key political interests, the military has dramatically strengthened its control of Sudan's transition. It is imperative that the FFC speedily regroup to form a more solid and cohesive bloc so that they can provide political opposition to the military's grab for control of the transition,” he said. Prime Minister Hamdok spent the better part of this week defending his decision to resume a working relationship with the military junta that toppled him a month ago.

However, the old problem of taming violence in the country soon followed his plans to reconstitute the government.

On Thursday, an armed attack on the Jebel Moon area in Darfur in south-western Sudan caused hundreds of deaths, destroyed property including heads of cattle, and houses were torched in 14 villages.

Residents of 46 villages were displaced, raising fresh concern of a humanitarian crisis.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) accused the Rapid Support Forces and other security agencies affiliated with the Military Council of being responsible for the attacks in the area.

The Association said the militias and forces aimed to control the mountainous region, which is rich in mineral resources and fertile lands, and take advantage of the military importance of its location.

The SPA assembly condemned what it described as brutal crimes and the militias who committed them, and called for monitoring and prosecution of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Trouble in Darfur

Darfur, Sudan’s most troubled region has a history of military-sponsored violence. During Omar al-Bashir’s reign, renegade forces known as the Janjaweed. sponsored by his administration, killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Sudanese in the area. Some estimates say the forces may have killed at least 300,000 people. The Janjaweed is said to have morphed into the Rapid Support Forces, maintaining their brutality.

Former president Omar al-Bashir and his lieutenants at the time are facing a case at the International Criminal Court, where the military is reportedly reluctant to surrender him.

Prime Minister Hamdok though had earlier expressed willingness to hand him over.

This week, he rejected allegations that he agreed to rejoin the government under duress. He said it would be easy to quit but he had returned because he felt that he had something to offer to Sudanese people.

“People have the right to reject or drop the political agreement, but the agreement helps get the country out of the crisis," Prime Minister Hamdok said, commenting on a wave of protests on Sudan’s streets.

“Our main concern is to achieve democratic transition and civilian rule. If there is someone who has a better solution for the benefit of the Sudanese people, they are welcome,” he said.

When he was toppled and his Cabinet detained, civilian components of the coalition government protested. When he returned, they accused him of signing an agreement under pressure.

In the wave of the current protests, the prime minister’s work is more urgent because it could undercut his efforts to stabilise the country through the Juba Agreement with armed groups signed in February.

Some of those groups rejected his return under the military junta’s leadership of the Transitional Sovereign Council.

Although the intensity of the main fighting had subsided in the region for years, people in Darfur still have weapons and violence erupts from time to time due to disputes between farmers and herders.

Last month, fighting broke out when the army commander Gen Al-Burhan, announced his decision to dissolve the institutions of civil governance, which resulted in a wave of popular protests that are ongoing.

Military coup

On October 25, Gen Al-Burhan overthrew the transitional government and arrested its civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Hamdok, who remained for weeks under house arrest, before being released on Sunday after signing a political agreement that did not satisfy everyone in the country.

Since the overthrow of former leader al-Bashir, Sudan has been seeking to achieve peace in the troubled Darfur region, including the tribal clashes that erupted immediately after the withdrawal of the United Nations peacekeeping mission at the end of last year.

However, the executive secretary of Igad, Workneh Gebeyehu, has welcomed the agreement by the military to reinstate Prime Minister Hamdok, restore civilian rule, and for the release of political leaders detained in October.

“I hope the agreement will lead to the formation of an inclusive government and express the readiness of Igad to work with the new government in the implementation of this Agreement and in their effort to serve the people and build a new democratic Sudan that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all sectors of its society,” he said on the sidelines of the Igad Infrastructure conference in Nairobi.