TBC Explainer: Why has the military taken over in Sudan?

Sudan has been in transition from an authoritarian government to a democracy from 2019
TBC Explainer: Why has the military taken over in Sudan?
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan has been the head of the Military Coup in SudanThe Bridge Chronicle

In a drastic turn of events, the North-African country of Sudan is under massive turmoil and unrest, as the Sudanese army has seized power of the country in a coup. The troops arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on 25th October 2021. Countless citizens have flooded the streets to protest the coup which has hindered the unstable progress of the country.

The coup was led by the head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who announced the dissolvement of the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body that is in charge of the country.

A Sudanese youth draped in the national flag stands by burning tyres during a protest in Sudan's capital Khartoum on October 26, 2021, to denounce a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule
A Sudanese youth draped in the national flag stands by burning tyres during a protest in Sudan's capital Khartoum on October 26, 2021, to denounce a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian ruleAFP

Let us try to take an in-depth look at the current situation of Sudan.


Background

Since 2019, Sudan has been transitioning from an authoritarian government as former President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after a 30-year rule. The Bashir government was ousted by the Military but the general public held large demonstrations for a democratic government. So in August 2019, an agreement was made between the Military and the civilian political groups to create a ruling body called Sovereign Council to lead the country until the elections in 2023. But even in this short period, both these groups have had many disagreements.

Tensions in the Sovereign Council

One of the major points of disagreement is based on the pursuit of justice over allegations of war crimes by the military and its allies in the conflict in Darfur from 2003. The International Criminal Court had summoned individuals like Bashir and other Sudanese suspects who are accused of heinous crimes like genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Civilian Cabinet had agreed to hand over the suspects but the Sovereign Council did not.

Another reason for the disagreements is based on the investigation about the killings of pro-democracy protesters on June 3, 2019, where military officials were suspected. The civilian groups have been exasperated by the delays in making the investigation's findings public.

Sudan's top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum on October 26, 2021.
Sudan's top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum on October 26, 2021. Ashraf SHAZLY / AFP

International reactions

Various countries and international organisations have expressed their concerns regarding the military coup in Sudan. Thousands of people have flooded the streets of Khartoum (capital) and its twin city of Omdurman to protest the coup.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the ongoing military coup in Sudan. Guterres has demanded the release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok immediately as he said, “There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition. The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan” on Twitter.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell expressed his concerns regarding the Sudan coup and has demanded all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process via Twitter. The EU also published a statement, calling out the Sudanese military’s actions as a betrayal of the revolution, the transition, and the legitimate requests of the Sudanese people for peace, justice and economic development.

The United States has suspended the $700 million aid for Sudan after the military coup. The United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, who had recently visited the Sudanese capital, expressed his concern about the coup. “The US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military take-over of the transitional government. This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable.” The US Embassy also expressed its concerns about the coup.

The African Union has also issued a statement, where AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has called for the release of all Sudanese officials immediately. saying "The Chairperson calls for the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and military...The Chairperson reaffirms that dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition."

What can happen next?

According to the head of the takeover Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the military was forced to go ahead with the coup to protect Sudan from a civil war. Burhan said, “The dangers we witnessed last week could have led the country into civil war,” in his second public appearance after the coup. In addition to the coup, Sudan has been hit with grave socio-economic crises as civilians are facing massive shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Inflation rates have risen to historic highs of more than 400% causing several protests.

 Sudanese protest against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021 in the al-Shajara district in southern Khartoum
Sudanese protest against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on October 25, 2021 in the al-Shajara district in southern Khartoum AFP

But the worst thing the Sudanese population fears is a repeat of the Khartoum Massacre. On June 3 2019, before the start of Sudan’s democratic transition, soldiers opened fire on protesters in Khartoum killing at least 87 people. The memories of those heinous crimes still haunt the citizens of Sudan.

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