Sudan has been suspended from the African Union. While this decision comes as no shock for the country which in October 2021 experienced a military coup, the event has garnered attention all over the world with governments, China and Ethiopia urging dialogue amongst the sanctions and Egypt and The United Arab Emirates calling all parties to restore stability and security as well as prioritize the country’s interests. In a move that proves to be a blow for a country in such dire straits, the World Bank and the United States have also condemned the coup and proceeded to suspend aid to Sudan. What do these suspensions mean for the country?
On 25 October, security forces led by Commander-In-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, went on widespread arrests of anti-coup protesters and at least five senior government figures and took control of the government, deposing Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdock. Civilian groups, including the Forces of Freedom and Change, called for refusal to cooperate with the coup's organizers and protests ensued. The Prime Minister’s office refused to accept the coup demands stating that it was a crime insisting that Hamdock remains as prime minister. Three casualties have since been reported as security forces opened fire using live ammunition and teargas on demonstrators around Khartoum and Omdurman, injuring many more.
Al-Burhan’s reasoning for instigating the coup was outrightly rejected as he was responsible for the civilian-military agreement in Sudan. He stated that the coup would aid in avoiding ‘civil war.’
The AU has suspended Sudan on the premise that the takeover is an “‘unconstitutional’ seizer of power.”
Al-Burhan pledged in his speech on Tuesday, 26 October that the July 2023 elections will still go ahead as planned; however, the AU has insisted on maintaining the suspension until the civilian government is brought back into power. Critics are doubtful of Al-Burhan’s claims, highlighting how the coup happened before the leadership of the Sovereign Council was meant to be given to a civilian.
Following the AU’s decision, the World Bank subsequently took a stand and stopped aid to Sudan, and this move will not fare well for the country’s economy that is already in a vulnerable position.
“I am greatly concerned by recent events in Sudan, and I fear the dramatic impact this can have on the country’s social and economic recovery and development,” stated David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, in response to the recent events. This statement polarizes the economic progress Sudan was making before the destabilizing effects of the coup as President Malpass emphasized, in a meeting between him, Hamdock and al-Burhan held in Washington in September, how imperative it is for Sudan to maintain momentum in reforming their various sectors. He further reiterated that during the meeting with the Sudanese officials, he was informed of a thorough commitment from all parties to secure a better future for their citizens. The World Bank’s decision to halt disbursement to Sudan evokes a deep sense of worry.
The country has only had access to grants worth billions for the past seven months for the first time in 3 decades after years of authoritarian rule and disengagement from the international community. In this short period, the World Bank had contributed about $3 billion in support.
The United States responded by freezing $700 million in aid, demanding the release of leaders, and echoed the AU’s sentiments to restore the transitional government. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, stated that the United States was taken by surprise by the military takeover. Price mentioned that while nongovernmental aid agencies in Sudan will still receive support, the aid that is being withheld is the economic support funding previously committed to the transitional government and will only be re-released once civilian power is reinstated. They have not yet ruled out possible sanctions.
For a country in such a situation, Sudan has to move swiftly in repairing its affairs and restoring peace, stability, and order for its citizens. It will not be easy, especially in the wake of this many suspensions from great support systems. The road to recovery will be extended. However, the importance lies in prioritizing the future of the country at this present moment.