Sudan’s demonstrations: Is reaching an agreement out of reach?

Sudan’s demonstrations: Is reaching an agreement out of reach?
Sudan’s demonstrations: Is reaching an agreement out of reach?
  • Magdy Abdel Hadi
  • North Africa Analyst

October 22, 2021, 02:55 GMT

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Protesters in Khartoum demand the army to take control of the country again

If there is what can be said that it is “excessive democracy”, we would use it to understand the events of the political drama taking place on the Sudanese stage since the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir 2019.

With many groups eager to secure a role in Sudan’s future, reaching consensus has once again become very difficult.

After the army ousted al-Bashir as the culmination of weeks of mass demonstrations, the Forces for Freedom and Change coalition articulated one goal for the protesters in two words: “Only fall.”

These two words are the Sudanese version of a slogan often repeated by revolutionaries during the Arab Spring: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

The word “bass” – which in classical Arabic corresponds to the word “only” – clarifies the limits of what the Sudanese agreed on; Those who wanted to overthrow the Bashir regime after ruling the country for nearly three decades.

There was no unanimous agreement among the Sudanese about what followed the overthrow of Al-Bashir, and this was clearly demonstrated in the light of what happened during the past two years.

The army and the Freedom and Change Alliance had agreed to share power, establishing a Sovereignty Council that is scheduled to remain ruler of Sudan for another year, before transitioning to civilian rule after holding elections.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change witnessed divisions that resulted in the split of a new faction with a new official political statement recently announced.

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Queues were seen in front of bakeries in light of the shortage of wheat due to the closure of the main port in eastern Sudan

There are between 80 to 100 political parties in Sudan, separated by more differences than the intentions of rapprochement, let alone union, can estimate.

Furthermore, there are other civil political groups that oppose the power-sharing agreement. Not to mention the former ruling National Congress Party, whose cadres still remain – according to what many believe – in state institutions, especially the army and security services.

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A few weeks ago, there were demonstrations against the government, and they were calling for purely civilian rule

The civilian Prime Minister of the interim government in Sudan, Abdullah Hamdok, made a televised speech last Friday, calling for unity and an end to the polarization between the various political parties, which poses a serious threat to the transition to democracy.

The political divisions that Sudan is witnessing now refer us to a description made by the historian Richard Coquet in his book on the political class in post-independence Sudan.

Coquette believes that the political infighting that Sudan witnessed had a price, which was the self-destruction of democracy. In other words, the tendency to divide is the Achilles heel of Sudanese politics.

Several factors, including time, and the failure again to reach a compromise and build consensus, helped pave the way for the army to covet a bigger role and the coup under the pretext of saving the country from the chaos caused by differing politicians.

Adding to the concerns, Hamdok, who survived 19 months before an assassination attempt, revealed that divisions are not confined to the civilian camp, but also exist within the army.

Over the past few months, signs of these divisions emerged, which led to demonstrations that began last Saturday and saw calls for the army to expel the Civil Administration and unilaterally lead the transitional period.

It is increasingly believed that the army is looking for excuses to procrastinate in fulfilling its obligations as the date for handing over power to a civilian leadership approaches.

Hence the suspicion that the army was behind much of the recent unrest in Sudan and the attempted coup, and the closure of the main port in the east of the country – in a way that prompted some – including cartoonists – to say that the revolution is about to be stolen.

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And the frequent appearance of prominent figures from the military expressing their public criticism of civilian politicians, while emphasizing their unwillingness to seize power – and that the only goal is the stability and prosperity of Sudan. This is what the army always declares.

Among the most prominent voices in the army, the voice of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemedti,” the deputy head of the Sovereign Council, appears.

Dagalo emerged as the leader of the notorious Janjaweed militia accused of atrocities in the Darfur region of 2003.

The Janjaweed are currently taking a new name, the Rapid Support Forces, and the relationship of these forces with the regular forces of the Sudanese army is still a matter of dispute.

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Hemedti recently hinted that the army might also resort to demonstrations

Last week, Facebook deleted more than 700 accounts linked to the Rapid Support Forces, suspected of spreading false news about Sudan.

In front of a crowd recently, Hemedti accused politicians of greed for “chairs” or power – unlike soldiers like him who only care about the people and the country.

Hemedti warned that if politicians were threatening to stage demonstrations in the streets, the army had its “own street”.

Following Hemedti’s wave, demonstrators in support of the army came out last week, calling for a new government and demanding that the army lead the transitional period.

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Thousands flock to Khartoum to demonstrate

But the picture nonetheless is complicated; Not all of those who went out in the demonstrations last Saturday were in support of the military rule.

Also, there are angry at the defection of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which excluded other groups from participating in the transition process.

These factors have fueled speculation that there is a rush to positions and vested interests.

Some believe that the army leaders in Sudan are following their counterparts in Egypt, when they took advantage of popular discontent over the course of things after the Egyptian revolution and found their way back to power, thwarting the democratic transition process.

Thursday’s demonstrations in Sudan may result in dangerous confrontations that may spiral out of control and threaten the power-sharing agreement concluded in 2019, which prevented Sudan from slipping into a quagmire of protracted conflict.

 
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