The shocking news of the attempted assassination of Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok is an indication of the political turmoil that threatens to derail the democratic aspirations of the country. No immediate claims of responsibility have come forward, although the finger of blame points at agents of the former National Congress ruling party. This method of terrorism is the first ever incident in Sudan’s 64-year history of independence. However, far from uniting the public against the perpetrators of violence, some Sudanese view the incident as a badly orchestrated hoax.
Comments on social media platforms about the lack of injuries, the reports that the prime minister was still inside his home at the time of the explosion and a tweet issued by his wife Mona Hamdok, with great alacrity, just minutes after the incident have cast doubt on the official version of events. She framed the attempted assassination as an attack against the democratic reforms taking place after the removal of the former President Omar Al-Bashir in April last year. “If Hamdok dies…one thousand Hamdoks will come…because he is just one person in a huge and sustainable national salvation system,” warned the first lady.
However, independent Sudanese journalist, Mekki Elmograbi, said: “To some extent, the official media channels have overused claims that the old regime are hard at work to disrupt the new democratic process. Many see this incident as an excuse and propaganda exercise designed to cover the government’s poor performance and although there clearly was an explosion, the public are divided about who was ultimately responsible.”
A source close to the former ruling party, but who refused to reveal his identity, said: “This so-called assassination attempt is no more than a conspiratorial public relations exercise organised by the prime minister and his close aides.”
The incident comes amid spiralling hyperinflation, major shortages in staple foods and fuel and the government’s insistence that the ‘deep state’ operated by the former regime is still controlling the country. Last month, the government foiled a plot by terrorists who were planning to launch attacks against members of the government. In light of a number of arrests, sceptics view the latest incident as a move by the government to foreshadow its conspiracy. Such is the dissatisfaction among some members of the public that the mounting criticism against the transitional government has led to government supporters openly expressing dissatisfaction at the inability to redress the economic crisis.
Monday’s attack calls into question the level of security provided to protect the prime minister. This has led to a furious row between the civilian and military elements of the government. Lengthy meetings yesterday aimed to put new procedures in place to ensure such an incident could never happen again. Days before the crisis, the Deputy President, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, was appointed head of the governmental economic committee tasked with the job of relieving bread and fuel queues and reversing the hyper-inflationary economic conditions. Dagalo, who has a personal fortune estimated to be billions of dollars, is reported to have injected $170,000 into the Bank of Sudan to stabilise the currency. It is expected that he will use his wealth, influence and military resources to reduce the cost of staple foods and prevent the smuggling of subsidised goods across Sudan’s borders into neighbouring states.
According to analysts, his appointment is politically dangerous for the civilian Freedom and Change movement which has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the economy.
“If Dagalo succeeds in improving the economic situation, there will be renewed calls for the civilian government to step aside and the military to take complete control. After all the important workings of government: security, peace and now the economy are being controlled by the military,” political commentator, Yasir Abdullah Ali, explained.
The beleaguered prime minister is battling to overcome international sanctions imposed on Sudan in the hope of paving the way for investment and prosperity. Last week the Bank of Sudan released a letter from the Office of Sanction Policy Implementation in the United States confirming it had removed the restrictions that prevent Sudan’s international trading. The published document appeared to acknowledge that Sudan had approached the office of sanctions following difficulties to do business with the Chinese. However, whilst the letter did not confirm the Sudan’s trading difficulties had been resolved, it reiterated claims that sanctions imposed in the 1990s by the US administration had been lifted in October 2017.
The confirmation of the removal of sanctions may or may not remove Sudan’s current difficulty in trading but it is unlikely to alleviate Sudan’s harsh economic conditions in the short term. The Transitional Government continues to view the lifting of sanctions as a panacea to its economic problems. So firm is that conviction, the President of the Transitional government Abdul-Fattah Al-Burhan overturned years of hostile relations with Israel in the desperate hope the Zionist state would intervene to persuade the US administration to remove Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
Monday’s bombing reiterates the shaky political and economic conditions fuelling mistrust and growing discontent; it threatens to damage Sudan’s chances of democratic change. Political and economic instability are never good incentives for foreign investment and fears remain that this latest incident will damage the prospects of major international financial institutions giving the green light to investors to do business with Sudan.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.