Hamdok’s departure should prompt rethinking
The events leading up to the resignation of civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Sunday brought Sudan’s difficult democratic transition back to square one. This raises fundamental questions about what needs to be done differently to revive the faltering democracy project.
Hamdok had been prime minister in the military-civilian transitional government that took load Sudan in 2019 after a popular uprising and military coup toppled longtime President Omar al-Bashir. On October 25 last year, just before the army was due to hand over control of the transitional government to its civilian component, Hamdok and his civilian government were reversed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the military.
After public protests, international pressure and threats of sanctions, Hamdok – apparently reluctantly – returned to the post of prime minister on November 21 after receiving guarantees of autonomy and restraint from Burhan’s security forces.
But Burhan failed to keep his end of the bargain. Street protests continued by pro-democracy activists who accused Hamdok of betraying the revolution by accepting a flawed deal. Security forces have continued to arrest activists and use brutal violence to disperse protests, killing 15 people since Hamdok returned to government. He was also frustrated by the military’s rejection of his appointment as senior officials in government ministries, CNN noted.
Hamdok also cited as the reason for his resignation that he had failed to persuade the democratic opposition – implicitly the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) – to allow him to form a government of technocrats like he did. had agreed with Burhan. The FFC was the civilian component of the 2019 transitional government.
So where to go for the democratic revolution? The immediate task appears to be to replace Hamdok. As Maram Mahdi, research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies, points out, under the 2019 constitutional declaration, the FFC is again theoretically responsible for electing a new prime minister.
But after being excluded from the November 21 agreement, and weakened by internal fragmentation, the FFC is now out of the equation. Thus, “there is no roadmap for what will happen next and no credible, trustworthy actor to write one,” Mahdi explains.
Certain names, in particular that of the former Minister of Finance Ibrahim Elbadawi, were nevertheless proposed to replace Hamdok. But anyone with credibility on the streets seems unlikely to take the job for fear of being labeled a collaborator.
And as Hamdok’s brief six-week return to work demonstrated, it could turn out to be an impossible job. The Troika (United States, United Kingdom and Norway) and the European Union (EU) led the involvement of the international community in the transition. They promised continued financial support only if a new prime minister and a new government were appointed with “the involvement of a wide range of civilian stakeholders”.
But US-based research and advocacy group The Sentry suggests the concern to replace Hamdok is misguided. This argues that the October coup did not represent “a fundamental change in the dynamics of power in Khartoum” – because the military was in control anyway. Instead, he says the coup simply put “the distorted incentive structures of the security services in public view.”
The coup, in other words, simply underscored that the military’s priorities were not to lose their lucrative economic interests, nor to be held accountable for their human rights violations, before or during the transition. Sentry’s prescription is more aggressive international sanctions targeting military officials with commercial interests and those who have committed human rights violations.
John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry, said, “The longer the United States and the European Union wait to create consequences for the actions of military leaders, the more the regime consolidates its economic and political power, to the great detriment of the regime. the people of Sudan. The Sentry said it was essential to confront these dynamics to address the political crisis in Sudan and revitalize the transition to civilian rule.
But why would such sanctions work against Burhan and Co when they have failed for so many years to dislodge Bashir? Because, says The Sentry, the sanctions would focus on the identified business interests of individual military officers. And on individual atrocities.
Mahdi agrees that simply “plugging another prime minister (whether a civilian technocrat or an Islamist old guard) into this arrangement will lead to similar results.” Hamdok resigned because he couldn’t exercise his executive powers – and that would continue as long as the military kept control.
“The biggest mistake made by the international community was to encourage a return to the status quo before the coup. A shared transitional government will not work. This became evident when it was time for the military to cede control to civilians, ”Mahdi explains. She suggests that the Troika and the EU seriously consider different policy options to limit the role of the military in the governance of Sudan.
Nur-Eldin Babiki, a spokesman for the Sudanese Congress Party, believes Hamdok’s resignation tore the last shreds of the fig leaf of civilian respectability covering the military government. “Things are now clear,” he said. Recount the Sudan Tribune. “So it makes it easier to unify all political forces to bring down the army.”
The way forward can indeed now be just as clear. But it is also clearly a bloody road. Are there other less conflicting options? Beyond the Troika and the EU, regional actors that could have a leverage effect in Sudan such as Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf States, the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development? And could the military be offered incentives to back down?
The South African precedent of the 1990s of granting amnesty to servicemen and other apartheid officials who confessed to their crimes at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission comes to mind. Without it – and perhaps also without an agreement that white economic interests, in general, would not be affected – a resilient regime, backed by Africa’s most powerful military, likely would not have relinquished power. .
Shouldn’t the same logic be applied in Sudan where the army is unresponsive to sanctions, threats of justice and street demonstrations? And maybe politics opposition, had he understood the balance of power correctly, would have supported Hamdok’s return to government and still should.
The Sentinel’s director of investigations, JR Mailey, hesitates. “Some concessions to the military may be necessary or unavoidable. However, granting amnesty for the commission of atrocities is incompatible with international law. Developing a mechanism similar to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission model might be an objective, but the circumstances are very different.
“South Africa’s process only started after a radical change in the country’s political landscape. And this seismic shift came after a strong international campaign of divestment and boycott. Currently, the Sudanese army has no incentive to engage in such a process in good faith. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth trying. DM
Peter Fabricius, SSI consultant.
First published by The ISS today.