The situation in Sudan has become so dynamic over the past few weeks. The rift between the military and civilian sections of Sudan’s transitional administration has grown tremendously since the failed coup attempts at the end of September. Now that it has been over a month since the botched coup attempt that saw the two sides exchange blames, the military led by Lt Gen Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan conducted a coup on Monday. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his cabinet were detained. The military also dissolved the transitional government and declared a state of emergency. With the three years of transitional period almost over, the military seems reluctant to accept full transition into civilian rule by November 17, 2021.
Al-Burhan denied staging a coup and described the actions of the military as one meant to rescue the country from its failing path to democracy. He said the nation was being dragged into civil war by forces that seek to abandon democratic transition. With the military convinced that the current crop of civilian leaders led by Abdalla Hamdok were not doing enough to lead the march to democracy, Al-Burhan pledged to form a new civilian government and hold elections in 2023.
The military reportedly sought to persuade Hamdok to dismiss his cabinet so that they could have more power in government. Reuters quoted Adam Hereika, Hamdok’s chief of staff as saying: “They were insistent on changing the government and having the government follow their orders.” Hereika stated that Hamdok refused to dissolve the government without a political process.
The detention of high government officials and the dissolution of government by the military invoked global condemnation against the Sudanese military. The United States and the European Union were vocal leaders of the global condemnation. They asked for the immediate release of Hamdok and the reinstating of civilian rule in the country.
A New York based Horn of Africa political analyst who spoke to The Reporter on the basis of anonymity for work related reasons indicated that some in international diplomatic circles believe that the move was advised by the Egyptians. The early 20th century rulers of Sudan are believed to have consulted Al-Burhan to pursue the path of power against his civilian compatriot just like Abudul Fattah El-Sisi did with President Mohammed Morsi. Under such a scheme, Al-Burhan would lead the country to national elections and he would use the time gap to convince major international actors of his credentials as a leader in El-Sisi’s mould.
However, things have not gone according to plan for Al-Burhan and the military in general as important allies have not backed the move. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the countries with staunch support to the military. However, these countries have chosen not to align themselves with the internationally frown up on group. Saudi Arabia opposed the hostile takeover and the Arab league also condemned the action.
The coup was staged just after the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, left Sudan following deliberations with the two sides. Reuters quoted a diplomat close to the matter as saying that Feltman “put Burhan under big pressure not to do anything against the cabinet, to de-escalate.” The military, however, shrugged off US warnings to detain Hamdok. The US was obviously not impressed with that. The Reporter’s UN source in New York thinks that the fallout of the Sudanese military with the US has held back the three Arab countries from openly expressing their support as they are considered to be major US allies.
The US backed the change in Sudan and openly showed its support through political and financial moves. Politically, it delisted Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list. It also pledged financial support to the government. The disrespect exhibited by the Sudanese military in their treatment of Feltman has thus angered the Americans, explains The Reporter’s source in the UN. They immediately reacted by cutting USD 700 million in financial support; however, additional measures to apply pressure are expected.
After enduring embarrassment yet another time in an international system that has come to challenge it more, the Biden administration is said to have geared up to set the record straight with the Sudanese military. Therefore, it was not surprising to see that the United State was among the first countries to call for a UN Security Council emergency closed-door meeting on the coup in Sudan.
When the meeting convened on Tuesday, most members of the Security Council boldly denounced the developments in Sudan and called the military’s action a coup. The Western powers coordinated their efforts to have a statement prepared by the United Kingdom adopted as a UN statement. However, Russia ran short of calling the detention of Sudanese government officials and the dissolution of government as a coup. It asserted that the issue is a matter of Sudanese internal affairs. Therefore, the Tuesday meeting ended without adopting the statement the Western powers eagerly sought.
There are claims that the Sudanese military found Russian blessing ahead of the coup. Reuters reported: “Ahead of the coup, the military sought and obtained a “green light” from Moscow in an effort to protect themselves from any sanctions imposed through the United Nations Security Council, two official Sudanese sources said.”
A common decision by the UNSC, including Russia, was expected despite Russia blocking the move on Thursday as well. However, it all worked in the end for those who wanted the decision adopted as Russia finally accepted the decision on Thursday evening. The UN Security Council President Martin Kimani (Kenya) issued a press statement on Sudan on October 28, 2021. The statement reads: “The members of the Security Council called upon Sudan’s military authorities to restore the civilian-led transitional government on the basis of the Constitutional Document and other foundational documents of the transition.”
The analyst at the UN explains that the African Union Peace and Security Council’s (AUPSC) decision to suspend Sudan’s participation from all AU activities until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority might be behind Russia’s acceptance of a common stand against the military. The AU’s suspension of Sudan, the source indicated, leaves Russia in an uncomfortable situation as insisting on supporting the military would be going against the regional body.
With difficult conditions for major international powers to back the military, the international pressure against the Sudanese military is expected to mount. Nationally, the Sudanese people have been demonstrating against the military takeover of the government all over the country. The week saw numerous demonstrations across the country on a daily basis. The demonstrations have not abated even after Hamdok was released on Tuesday. A huge demonstration is also called for Sunday.
The political analyst at the UN stated that the coup was not well thought out as the results are coming to show. The mechanisms put in place to handle international and local pressures have faltered, resulting in immense pressure against the military. Instead of seamlessly dissolving the government and strengthening the military’s grip on government, the source analyzes, the coup has piled pressure on the military to accept a fully civilian government in the near future.
Regarding the development’s potential impacts on Ethiopia, the analyst pointed out that the Sudanese military could use further military incursions into Ethiopia as a diversion. The analyst explained that there could be efforts by the military to rally the people around a major national issue with hopes of diverting the ongoing problem or suppressing the amplitude of the coup. Therefore, underscored the analyst, the Ethiopian government needs to stay vigilant to such moves and ensure Ethiopia’s territorial integrity.
According to the analyst, one positive undertone for Ethiopia out of this is that there is a negative sentiment about Egypt on the streets of Sudan. The Sudanese people feel like the coup and the chaos was orchestrated by the Egyptians who sided with the military and not with the people. Ethiopia might benefit out of that.