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[LISTEN] Behind the Attempted Coup in Sudan

Sep 22, 2021

Ebrahim Deen

Authorities in Sudan on Tuesday announced the thwarting of a coup attempt from what it called former Omar Al Bashir  loyalists. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok argued that, “For the first time, people involved in the attempt were arrested… They are being interviewed to discover their intentions and the truth behind this.” He further stated that the attempt was from both military and non-military personnel.

Sudan is emerging out of a period of isolation and dictatorship following 30 years of Al Bashir Rule. The country was removed from the US list of states alleged to be sponsoring ‘terrorism’ in 2020, largely in return for normalising ties with Israel and at the behest of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who paid retribution amounts to former US victims of so called militancy allegedly orchestrated from Sudan. Inflation remains rampant and the economy continues to remain sluggish. Further, there has been contestation within the country’s ruling sovereignty council, comprising military and civilian officials, on the path forward. The country has in the recent past alleged coups as an attempt to purge Al Bashir Loyalists and following perceived threats from within the council to Hamdok. Little arrests were subsequently orchestrated and the situation normalised within days. The former regime has often been used  as a boogieman to solve internal disputes, and deflect attention from the sluggish transition.

Denouncing so called ‘Islamist’ laws on apostasy and alcohol, such as what was enacted in 2020, and which have minimal on-the-ground impact, has been used to appeal to the international community and provide a veneer of transition. This attempt does seem to have been slightly different, with forces actually marching on the capital, and attempting to gain control of the public broadcaster. however it is uncertain whether these are from the former regime or from military contingents trying to gain further power in the sovereignty council.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Jonas Horner, senior Horn of Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group argued that the attempt was fable and that it may have been a precursor to judge public sentiment. “Certainly, I must say I would characterize the coup attempt as somewhat feeble. [The] coup attempt appears to have been undertaken by members of the armoured divisions from the Sudanese on forces, and there is some sense that that, perhaps they’re tied in with figures who are from the government of the former president, Omar al-Bashir.”

Horner further noted the relative ease in quelling the coup and laxity on the streets following it, alluding to the fact that public sentiment remains in favour of civilian rule and Abdallah Hamdok. He also argued that economic issues had been hampering the transition, stating that the regime needed to better highlight some of the economic gains made since Al Bashir’s ouster. “There were few to none reports of gunshots and shooting in the streets. For example, staff in the private sector institutions, businesses and  the ministries, everyone essentially went about their day, even after the coup. And so, there was very little impact on day-to-day life  in Sudan. Since Bashir was deposed, the economy has been essentially in free-fall with inflation spiralling quite badly” however he noted the stabilisation of inflation in recent months, combined with the debt relief packages concluded with the IMF and France, may allow Sudan’s economy to emerge, if provided the time.

Hamdok has had some successes, especially in concluding a debt relief agreement with France and the IMF on the country’s 60 billion in debt, much of which was interest rather than principal debt. Further, the US’s decision to remove the country from the list of states’ sponsoring terrorism, even though at the behest of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and in return for normalisation with Israel, will allow for more aid and investment, which is sorely required. Moreover, the administration has concluded peace agreements with most factions of the country’s rebel movements, providing them a seat in governance, even though this may have been an attempt by the military component of the sovereignty council to further dilute the power of its civilian component. Many Sudanese from the peripheries do, for the first time, feel recognised, and many are seeking a decentralisation in power, however caution needs to be exercised, especially since rebel leaders and not actual civilians from these areas have been provided seats in the governing Sovereignty Council, the international community does have to place more pressure on the government and tie conditions and consequences for their thus far largely unconditional support. Many in the sovereignty council, who are old regime holdovers such as Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (Hemedti), have used the transition to amass wealth and influence, and will likely not allow full civilian control.

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