On the 25th of October, the military in Sudan usurped power from the civilian government, elbowing it out to become the sole leaders of the Sudanese transitional government. This ruckus pops up at a time when the twenty-one month military control was supposed to expire on the 1st of November in accordance to rule 10 of the political agreement establishing this political pact.
The international community has been eagerly anticipating a flawless transition of power to the civilian government which was supposed to lead for the rest of the eighteen months until the 2023 plebiscite. All this was halted by the detainment of Prime Minister Hamdok and his fellow civilian compatriots in a bloody takeover mooted by the army under General Abdel Fattah Al-Barhun.
In a statement, responding to international criticism, the military excused the illegality of their action as a means towards containing a possible civil war. Prior to the violent takeover, the military was alleged to have sponsored the sit-in protest that took place at the Presidential Palace in a bid to vilify the civilian leadership. Claims that the protesting masses were bussed into Khartoum gained traction when placards bearing praise for the General and motions for military takeover were noted amongst the thousands that sat-in at the presidential residency. Given the negative consequential effect of the coup, there lies to be more at stake for the military than the pro-peace image that it has invested so much to portray. It is prudent that we analyse the bona fides of their excuse.
Protecting Sudan from a potential civil war
The incessant protests by supporters of both camps had undoubtedly mapped way for potential civil unrest. The protests themselves proved ample testimony of things falling apart in this political condominium. The input of both camps into these protests has been a matter of public secret. The relationship between the military and the civilians in the Sovereignty Council proved to be a relationship of convenience right from the onset. Of concern however, is the violent nature of the takeover at the face of glaring upshots such as imposition of sanctions, severance of debt relief and deletion from the regional bloc.
All these have been the swift actions that the international community has taken in defiance of the military takeover as an unconstitutional machination meant to undermine democratic processes and the rule of law. Egypt, which has been perceived as a possible sympathizer of the military leadership has queried the military actions though the extent of its stance is yet to be observed. Analysts of African politics have criticized the army for placing their personal interests ahead of the hard-earned civilian freedom from the shackles of authoritarianism. It seems there is more at stake for the military prompting them to act in the manner they deed. Let us look into the perceived interests that the military wing bears.
Real risk of prosecution under civilian Chairmanship
The military leaders comprising General Burhun and his compatriot, Dagalo, leader of the Rapid Support Forces have been long implicated for gross abuse of human rights and war crimes. A spirited effort to bring them before the International Criminal Court to face these allegations has been made by the civilian leadership prior to the political agreement. Even during the transitional government, calls for the military leaders to face the judicial music have been increasing. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is on the international radar for leading a military junta that caused mayhem in the Khartoum massacre of June 2019.
He is also believed to be in a state of uneasy to the extent that, only a military government would shield him from the international model of criminal law. As it stands, the Rapid Support Forces has continuously facilitated the violent military takeover and in some instances, collaborated with the Sudanese Armed Forces to thwart pro-civilian uprisings. On the other hand, the military leadership was understood to be petrified of the civilian ascendancy to chairmanship of the Council since, at the center of their agenda was sending the military back to the barracks and instilling a proper State with functional institutions of justice.
Private military business cartels and commercial interests
The Sudanese army has been in the realm of power for quite a number of decades. This facilitated primitive accumulation of wealth and illicit financial flows directly benefitting the army generals. One of the causes why the civilian government failed to maintain the social base was its lack of state resources and control of the same. The military has been commanding a vast share of the national budget and have been enjoying tax incentives, reports prominent analyst for African politics, Alex de Waal. The army is also accused of flouting contract procedures and bargaining highly at the detriment of the suffering populace of Sudan. Conveying power to the civilian leadership on the 1st of November proved to be a setup that the army has always been against. Further, the limelight that the civilians would gain in the build up to the 2023 election is something that the army captains were willing to frustrate in order to ring-fence their influence and consolidate their ‘looted’ fortunes. As of the 27th of October, the troops had shot live bullets at protesting civilians, killing 10 of them while, over 150 were left injured owing to the ruthless crackdown.
Dissolving the civilian government and shutting down internet
The dissolution of the civilian government has been widely viewed as a consolidation of power and a relentless effort to defy the regional call for the reinstatement of Hamdok and his team. Barhun’s actions have left bare his intentions of being the leader of Sudan whether by hook or crook. The shutting down of internet has become infamous in similar situations as a move by autocratic leaders or regimes to silence all forms of dissent from civilians. The modus operandi that the Sudanese army has taken is feared to be a leaf taken from the Egyptian book that saw the propping to power of Abdul Fattah al-Sis. Thus, fears that the revolution is being captured are all over for everyone to apprehend.
What now? The bad news
The bad news about this fracas is the possible implosion of the state of Sudan due to episodic uprisings of the general masses. The civilians have proven to be determined to ensure that the gun does not unitarily lead the politics of the day. The people have sworn to die for their revolution. At the other angle, the military leadership has proven to be more concerned about their own power than the welfare of the people and the stability that was being enjoyed by the country. With the U.S.A slashing an excess of USD$700 million of aid to Sudan as a punitive measure for lack of constitutionalism on the part of the military, it is the general Sudanese that stands to suffer. This implies also that, the Darfur crisis will be left unattended for now as the ‘new’ military leadership takes steps to protect the gains of its coup. Most of all, the suspension from the African Union also creates a tighter room for development prospects since, what was being perceived as the toddler steps towards a better Sudan for all has been undermined my militaristic manoeuvers.