The Supreme Military Council, headed by General Abdal-Fattah Burhan, declared a state of emergency in Sudan on October 25, 2021, dissolved the civilian government of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and temporarily arrested its members.
The coup ended a period of military-civilian rule created by an agreement between the military and civilian opposition parties in June 2019, after the military overthrew dictator Umar Bashir in April 2019 and ended his 30-year reign.
The objective of the transition period was to create the preconditions and the institutional basis for the free and democratic elections scheduled for 2023.
Khartoum against the provinces. A divided company?
The army carried out a coup after tensions in the country rose for more than a month. From September 21, part of the army unsuccessfully attempted a coup. This was followed by demonstrations by thousands demanding that the army overthrow the interim government led by Prime Minister Hamdok.
Even more throngs of demonstrators later expressed their support for the civilian government and protested against the army’s efforts to seize power. And the protests continued after the military coup.
People from all walks of life took part in protests in the capital, Khartoum, and around Omdurman. However, Khartoum is also a sort of social bubble throughout Sudan, describes Middle East correspondent for Czech radio Štěpán Macháček, who has followed both military coups and events in Sudan there and since. neighboring Cairo:
“In Khartoum, there are political parties, civic movements, people who behave in a civic way and have an individual civic approach to what is happening in the country. There is a much more traditional tribal arrangement in the provinces , and these individual tribes have different loyalties than, say, the more educated, modern, contemplative people of Khartoum.”
In Khartoum, people have an individual civic approach to what is happening in the country. There is a more traditional tribal arrangement in the provinces.
The head of the military council, Abdal-Fattah Burhan, calculated this – knowing that he did not have the support of Khartoum, he made agreements with certain tribal leaders, he secured their loyalty. He was not successful everywhere, but a number of provincial and tribal leaders clearly supported him.
The October 25 military coup itself was preceded by a blockade of Sudan’s main port, Port Sudan. Access was blocked by the Beja tribes, whose leaders demanded, among other things, the resignation of Prime Minister Hamdok.
The port is Sudan’s main line with the rest of the world, with more than 90% of international trade passing through it, including staple foods, the imports of which are partly dependent on the country. The military did not intervene against the blockade, and the Beiges ended it themselves shortly after the coup, claiming that the military had partially complied with their demands.
Security forces, on the other hand, started persecuting and arresting people sympathetic to the opposition – critical journalists, uncomfortable people, which did not happen after the overthrow of Umar Bashir . But the couplings are aware that they do not enjoy wide support. They therefore back down in part, proposing to the political parties to agree and nominate a candidate for the post of Prime Minister, who will then be appointed by the military council. However, the civil parties already reject such cooperation.
Most Khartoum residents continue to protest the October coup, rapporteur Machacek said: “They were relatively poor students and artisans, owners of small businesses, but also professionals who have a university degree and work for various multinational corporations or technical and engineering companies. . »
Protesters in the capital are building barricades, blocking traffic and at least trying to complicate the functioning of the military regime. It is also used by political parties with a civic vocation, which no longer trust the army and do not want to cooperate with it, and, on the contrary, try to throw sticks at its feet so that the population can turn against her.
Sudanese authorities used to shut down mobile networks, so protest groups met in the same places and at the same time.
According to Štěpán Macháček, the demonstrators have a particular discipline:
“They knew that at five o’clock in the afternoon, protesters were meeting in certain places. They were packing their things at work, leaving and being there at five o’clock. They told me that this system of protests had been going on for the start of protests against Umar Bashir in late 2018. Sudanese authorities were shutting down mobile networks so it was impossible to negotiate, so protest groups were meeting in the same places and at the same time.”
This system persisted during the fall protests, when authorities again shut down the internet and mobile networks.
Economy and society against the backdrop of two military coups
The 2018 revolution and the protests and military coup in the fall of 2021 were based on the deteriorating economic situation. Poverty, poor access to education, lack of medicine, food, fuel and other raw materials have led to protests against the regime of dictator Umar Bashir. However, two years after its overthrow by the military, they have not been sufficient to launch economic reforms, nor for their effects to improve the economic situation.
However, the protesters were encouraged by the fact that they succeeded in imposing some changes compared to the dictatorship of Umar Bashir. “We have really gained a lot with the revolution, socially for sure. But we have not yet reached our goals politically,” said one of the protesters in Khartoum in December 2019.
The most significant change concerns women’s rights, Macháček points out: “Under Umar Bashir, there were laws that stipulated how to wear clothes, they weren’t allowed to walk in pants, they wore jeans. They must not be in the company of a man who was not their legal husband or close relative, they must not travel without the consent of a male legal representative, such as a husband or father. These laws fell during a transition period when Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok led the Military Council along with the civilian government. »
International context: the coup is unlikely to change their focus on the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia
Under Umar Bashir, Sudan was strongly anti-Western. After the revolution and the coup of 2019, the factual generals realized that for economic reasons it was necessary to establish relations with countries with which there would be more realistic economic cooperation and prospects for improvement economy, says journalist Macháček:
“The putschists are probably looking to the model of Saudi Arabia, for example, where there’s a very authoritarian leadership, but that gets on well with the West.”
The coup is probably looking up in the model of Saudi Arabia, where there is a very authoritarian leadership, but it gets on well with the West.
Some generals have very close ties to the United Arab Emirates, others to Egypt. The relationship with Israel has fundamentally changed. Under Umar Bashir, it was one of Sudan’s main enemies; today, on the contrary, Sudan is one of the few Arab countries to have established diplomatic relations with Israel, explains Macháček:
“It was a clear deal. The United States, led by Donald Trump, offered Sudan that if it has diplomatic relations with Israel, it will remove Sudan from the list of countries that support terrorism and provide it with a financial support.
The deal has already been pre-negotiated under joint military-civilian governments, but those who support such a move are more of a coup. Even if they remain in power, the country cannot be expected to change this foreign orientation.
Western countries protested the coup and international institutions suspended financial support, including economic loans, until the country had a civilian government again. In contrast, neighboring Egypt, for example, did not criticize the coup.
“Although not officially confirmed, it is believed that the Egyptian secret service played an important role in this regard and tried to make the developments in Sudan similar to those in Egypt. army comes to government and a democratic government does not emerge in Sudan. This would jeopardize the current system in Egypt, where opponents of the regime of Abdal-Fattah Sisi could take inspiration from the fact that the Sudanese have succeeded and that they could succeed,” adds Štěpán Macháček, why the Egyptian government welcomes the current developments in Sudan.
Listen to the entire Za obzorem broadcast, curated by Zdeněk Novák.