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Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, ousted in a military coup on October 25, was reinstated on Sunday by the same military junta that had dismissed him a month earlier. A return to power which once again places Sudan in uncertainty and arouses the anger of the streets. A new demonstration is scheduled for Thursday in Khartoum.
Behind the anti-Covid masks, we can guess the smiles of Generals Abdel Fattah al-Bourhane and Mohammed Hamdan, initialing the 14-point agreement providing in particular for the reinstatement of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in his functions, Sunday, November 21, in Khartoum. The two instigators of the coup d’état have indeed achieved a masterstroke. By noting the return of the Prime Minister whom they themselves had driven out on October 25 and by releasing political prisoners, they broke the deadlock they had entered into and made sure to rule the country in under- hand.
“It must be said that the soldiers did not necessarily think of the consequences and the consequences they were going to give to their putsch. They did not know what to do. For them, this is a very good outcome,” assures France 24 Roland Marchal, researcher at Sciences Po’s Center for International Studies, specialist in the Horn of Africa. This partnership between civilians and soldiers also and above all allows Sudan to foresee the return of support from the international community, which had firmly condemned the putsch.
As the former prime minister appears in public for the first time after a month of house arrest, his smile seems more strained at the signing of the agreement in the hall of the presidential palace in Khartoum. He even briefly passed out when shaking hands with his new partners. It must be said that Abdallah Hamdok is now perceived by the majority of Sudanese as a traitor of the “revolution” of 2019 who made a pact with the devil. But did he really have the choice to refuse, he who was under house arrest? One thing is certain, the one who led the country’s transition to reach democratic elections in the 2023 deadline, “now has very limited leeway because he no longer has a free hand to continue the democratic transition” , abounds the French researcher. “He appears to everyone as a hostage of the military.”
In his defense, Abdallah Hamdok pleads for the appeasement of the country. In a short speech following the signing of the agreement, he justified his return with the aim of “putting an end to the bloodshed in Sudan first and foremost” and keeping the country’s economy afloat in order to resume negotiations with international financial institutions. “This agreement opens the door wide to the resolution of all the challenges of the transition,” he said. But this return is far from appeasing the spirits. Twelve ministers out of 17 from the bloc claiming only civilian power resigned on Monday, rejecting the strategy of dialogue with the army adopted by Abdallah Hamdok. And the street, which a few days ago demanded his release, is now burning his portrait. Thousands of pro-civilian protesters called for a rally on Thursday in the streets of Khartoum to keep pressure on the new military-civilian authorities. On social networks, activists want to make this Thursday a “martyrs day”, in memory of the severely repressed demonstrations which have left 41 dead and hundreds injured since October 25.
The agreement reached, which presents many gray areas, is indeed cause for concern for civilians. The document provides in particular that the new Sovereignty Council be appointed by General Bourhane and made up of soldiers, former rebel leaders and civilians close to the junta. In return, the agreement makes no mention of a possible transfer of the presidency to a civilian. Nor does the text go back on the general’s decision to purge the administrations of civilians. The Association of Sudanese Professionals, spearhead of the anti-Bashir revolt which actively participated in its downfall, from Sunday considered that the agreement between General Burhane and Abdallah Hamdok signed the latter’s “political suicide”.
Abdallah Hamdok, “politically charred”
Anxious to keep face, Abdallah Hamdok on Wednesday ordered the “immediate” end of dismissals and announced the “re-examination” of all the appointments announced during his detention in the wake of the October 25 military coup. Not sure that these announcements are enough to reassure a public opinion which has become very suspicious. “By declaring at first that all the leaders of the civil society imprisoned after the coup d’état had been released, while many of them remain in the jails, he was politically charred in the eyes of all “, observes Roland Marchal. His recent calls for the release of all prisoners are now ringing in the air.
In the days and weeks to come, “the violence could continue”, believes Roland Marchal. “The arrests are likely to concern all members of the political arena who have openly criticized the military. And more particularly the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC)”, the alliance which also worked to overthrow Omar el -Bashir in 2019. In the agreement signed on Sunday, the FFC were also banned from the text even though they were the signatories of the transition agreement concluded in 2019 and had proposed the name of Abdallah Hamdok as successor to Omar al-Bashir.
In this very volatile context where the possibility of a “new coup d’état threatens the country on a daily basis”, according to Kholood Khair, specialist in Sudan for Insight Strategy Partners at AFP, the international community has adopted in recent days a position wait-and-see. Currently, “international partnerships are frozen,” says Roland Marchal. “The great powers are now hoping to see signs of democracy emanating from the new power.” The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, who spoke with General Burahne and Abdallah Hamdok on Monday, however called for more “progress” before resuming financial aid to the country, which was also suspended after the Rebellion. “In view of the regional context, foreign powers have no interest in letting Sudan down in a region already in the throes of chaos, particularly from neighboring Ethiopia.”