UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Sudan Coup - 2021

Sudan’s military seized power from a transitional government 25 October 2021 and killed at least three people and wounded 80 as street protests broke out against the takeover. The coup came just weeks before General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was supposed to hand over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, to a civilian. Thousands of protesters poured into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman following the early morning arrests of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials by security forces in the country. The UAE and Saudi Arabia had close relations with TMC and maintained ties to the military side of the ‘Sovereign Council’ which overthrew the civilian government.

Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government (CLTG), installed in August 2019, was led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who heads the Council of Ministers. There is also a Sovereign Council led by Abdel Fatah al-Burhan, who is one of the five military members, as well as six civilians. The Transitional Legislative Council had not been formed as of year’s end. Under the constitutional declaration signed in August 2019, general elections were scheduled for 2022, but following the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement on October 3, they were postponed to 2024. Under the civilian-led transitional government, responsibility for internal security resides with the Ministry of Interior, which oversees police agencies as well as the Ministry of Defense and the General Intelligence Service. More than two years after Sudan's historic power-sharing deal between military and civilian politicians was inked, by late 2021 the role of civilian leaders is still receding while the army remains dominant. The legislative assembly had yet to materialise, and splits have deepened within the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the main civilian alliance which led the anti-Bashir protests.

Support for Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's transitional government of technocrats waned, in large part due to economic reforms that have taken a heavy toll on many Sudanese households. And delays in delivering justice to the families of those killed under Bashir, and even during the 2019 protests following his ouster, have left the government open to further criticism.

"Foot-dragging by the military on key aspects of the transition... has stunted progress," said Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group. “Internal divisions and a dearth of capacity have hurt the civilians' ability to keep the transition ticking over," he added. The 2019 accord initially outlined a three-year transition, but that period was reset when Sudan signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups in October 2020. The military and civilian camps only work "in sync sporadically", Horner said.

Forming the transitional legislative council "would be key to initiating oversight over the military. But both security forces and older political parties, concerned about a dilution of their current powers, had blocked this crucial reform. The re-orientation of Sudan's foreign policy since Bashir was outlined by the military. It also translated into closer ties with the US. The military had also been key to agreeing to peace deals with rebel groups. The military also dominates lucrative companies specialising in everything from agriculture to infrastructure projects.

Civilian leaders and former rebel factions have been pushing for reforms that include integrating paramilitaries and armed groups into the armed forces. But the 2019 power-sharing accord failed to specify who would be overseeing the security reforms. The involvement of civilians in any military affairs remains a highly sensitive issue. The transitional deal demands that civilians ultimately exercise oversight of the military. But there had been no sign of military will to step away from their dominant role in the country.

The civilian-led transitional government continued its investigation into security force abuses that occurred throughout the 2019 revolution, including the violent dispersal of a peaceful sit-in in June 2019 in Khartoum, and the beating and sexual assault of others. As of early 2021, the investigative committee had not publicly submitted its findings. The Ministry of Justice also began investigations and trials for members of the deposed regime for alleged human rights abuses. The prime minister stated more than 35 committees were actively conducting investigations.

Sudanese authorities said they had foiled an attempted coup on 18 September 2021, accusing plotters loyal to ousted president Omar al-Bashir of a failed bid to derail the revolution that removed him from power in 2019 and ushered in a transition to democracy. A group of rogue officers reportedly tried to capture an army headquarters and a state radio building near the country’s capital. More than 20 rebellious officers seized the headquarters of the armored corps of the Sudanese Army, but were later arrested, while the HQ was being besieged. The coup leaders wanted to arrest the members of the Sovereignty Council and the country’s Military Council. Local media said 40 officers of various ranks, including the coup’s chief leader, were arrested. Elements of the military establishment still aligned with deposed President Omar Bashir, an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), it would make sense for the UAE and Saudi Arabia to have pushed to completely put down any attempt at the Brotherhood getting another foothold in the country.

In early October, anti-government protesters in Sudan’s East began a blockade of Port Sudan, which sparked fears of the country running out of fuel, wheat and essential medicines. As the Transitional Government struggled with a deepening economic crisis, as well as the blockade of the Red Sea Ports, strategically vital to military powers seeking to exploit the area, unrest began in Khartoum, with pro-military demonstrators demanding an end to the civilian element of the government.

The Sudanese capital Khartoum saw thousands-strong protests, with activists vying for differing paths for their nation taking to the streets. Some backed the transitional government, which was installed in 2019 with the task to reform Sudan’s political system and pave the way to a general election sometime in 2023. Others wanted a return to a direct military rule. And most were unhappy with the deteriorating state of affairs in Sudan. On 21 October 2021, one of the biggest pro-government rallies this year was held in Khartoum on the anniversary of the 1964 October Revolution. The revolution was a culmination of mass protests that, similarly to the events two years ago, ended a period of military rule and ushered in a short period of civilian leadership in Sudan. The number of people who showed up for the rally was reportedly in the hundreds of thousands, with some cabinet members participating.

On 25 October 2021 the leader of the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council that had been set up to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago. Al-Burhan, who is also the head of the power-sharing governing council, declared a state of emergency across the country, saying the armed forces needed to ensure safety but promising to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over to an elected civilian government then.

Prime Minister of Sudan’s Transitional Government, Abdalla Hamdok, was detained after refusing to issue a statement supporting the military’s announced ‘State of Emergency.’ Hamdok, an economist and former senior UN official who was appointed as a technocratic prime minister in 2019, was moved to an undisclosed location. Thousands of Sudanese who oppose the takeover took to the streets and faced gunfire near the military headquarters in Khartoum. In Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, protesters barricaded streets and chanted in support of civilian rule.

Sudan’s armed forces chief said the military will continue the process towards democracy and elections in July 2023. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war. Al-Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces. The army general said that by the end of the week justice bodies and the legislative council will be formed. The latter will be composed of young people not affiliated with any party. In a television statement, al-Burhan pledged that Sudan will be led by a technocratic government. “The affairs of the country will be run by an independent technocrat government where people of Sudan from all walks of life will be represented,” the general said.

According to the general, the distrust between the partners in the transition government began after the signing of the Juba peace agreement in October 2020 that was meant to end conflicts between the transitional government and other political forces in the country. Burhan stressed that the prime minister's last initiative had been "stolen" and that military issues had been discussed instead. The general said that the Sudanese armed forces felt they were the targets of hostility over the previous week.

Sudan’s Beja tribe announced that it would end its blockade of Port Sudan, which has seen the country’s fuel, medicines and wheat supplies pushed to the limit. The tribe expressed support for a military takeover staged earlier in the day. The tribe had been blocking roads around Port Sudan and forced Red Sea ports to close, after criticizing a lack of power within Sudan’s new political settlement and poor economic conditions.

Khartoum University professors declared a civil disobedience protest and had called on others, in all professional and service institutions, to do the same and resist the coup. All workers in federal and state ministries as well as civil service institutions had joined the strike, demanding that power be handed back to the civilian government. Thousands took to the streets, making their anger known over the coup while blockading roads and clashing with troops, who reportedly fired some live rounds.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said 26 October 2021 that the Biden administration was coordinating its response to the military takeover in Sudan with other countries in the region. “We’ve been in close contact with regional leaders, including in the Gulf, to make sure that we’re closely coordinating and sending a clear message to the military in Sudan that they should first and foremost cease any violence against innocent civilians, so that they should release those who have been detained and they should get back on a democratic path,” Sullivan said.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok returned home on 26 October 2021, a day after he was detained as the army seized power in a coup that has claimed at least seven lives. The release of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and his wife followed international condemnation of the coup and calls for the military to release all the government officials who were detained when Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan seized power.

On 17 November 2021 Security forces opened fire on thousands of anti-coup protesters in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman, killing at least 15 people, according to doctors. This was the highest daily death toll since the October 25 coup, which saw the military seize power, dissolving the transitional government and arresting dozens of officials and politicians. Security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at anti-coup protesters in at least one location in Khartoum, according to activists. The Sudan Doctors Committee said most of the killings took place in Khartoum Bahri.

After weeks of negotiations, on 21 November 2021 Sudan's military leaders accepted a deal to reinstate Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister. Hamdok, who was removed from power on 25 October 2021, would return to lead an technocratic government for a "transitional period" until elections can be held. It was not immediately clear how much power will the civilian government truly have. The politician said he accepted the deal to avoid further bloodshed. The move comes after the military violently clamped down on anti-coup protests. "Sudanese blood is precious, let us stop the bloodshed and direct the youth's energy into building and development," Hamdok said. The country's top military leader, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, thanked Hamdok for his service and said the prime minister "was patient with us until we reached this moment." The 14-point deal also includes a pledge from the military that all political detainees would be released. At least 40 people had been killed in the past month since the military took control of the country and crackdown on protesters.

The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) civilian coalition, which had been sharing power with the military, said it did not recognise any agreement with the armed forces. “We affirm our clear and previously announced position: no negotiation and no partnership and no legitimacy for the putschists,” the FFC said in a statement. Those who carried out and backed the coup should face justice, it said, calling on people to turn out for the latest round of anti-military protests. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) also rejected the political deal. “The treacherous agreement signed today between Hamdok and al-Burhan is totally rejected, and concerns only its parties,” the pro-democracy group said in a statement.

Sudan’s ruling general, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, promised 01 January 2022 to hold “free and transparent elections” in July 2023 as the death toll from anti-military protests increased to 53. Burhan said in his speech that he was committed to “building all the institutions of transitional government and holding free, fair, and transparent elections at their scheduled time,” which is July 2023.

Sudan’s coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said 04 July 2022 the army will make way for a civilian government, will withdraw from ongoing political talks and allow political and revolutionary groups to form a transitional government. The general’s statements on Monday follow after a deadly week for Sudan’s pro-democracy movement as large-scale protests demanding an end to military rule continued in the Khartoum area. Nine people have been killed and at least 629 injured by a security forces crackdown on the demonstrations, according to the Sudan’s Doctors Committee, which has tracked protest casualties.

“The armed forces will not stand in the way” of democratic transition, al-Burhan said in a televised address, affirming the military’s commitment to working towards “elections in which the Sudanese people choose who will govern them”. The ruling sovereign council, led by al-Burhan and consisting of military and civilian members, will be dissolved after the formation of the new government, he said.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 04-07-2022 18:26:07 ZULU