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The Sudanese Army's attempts to renegotiate a deal with civil society is unlikely to succeed

A demonstration demanding the end of the military intervention and the transfer of administration to civilians in Khartoum, Sudan on 30 October 2021 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]
A demonstration demanding the end of the military intervention and the transfer of administration to civilians in Khartoum, Sudan on 30 October 2021 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]

Seventeen days after the Sudanese Army, led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, denied that it had staged a coup, the country is still no closer to restoring civilian rule and re-establishing democratic institutions. Whilst most of the international community and the Sudanese people fully expect Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to be reinstated, certain other members of the ousted administration may not return to power quite so easily.

Sources have revealed that at least three senior ministers appear to be facing provable accusations of involvement in taking bribes from a foreign country. Recorded meetings with a foreign intelligence agency are alleged to have taken place in the centre of Khartoum, and suggest that prominent senior officials in the civilian government were being sponsored to act against Sudan's interest.

The army has been able to use the evidence to add weight to its claim that it was obliged to intervene in the workings of the transitional government which was sworn in four months after the coup which removed President Omar Al-Bashir. The current uncertainty also suggests that Al-Burhan is looking to appoint officials from the ousted former president's administration to fill the power vacuum.

The extraordinary events surrounding the 25 October army takeover began in the press conference held by Al-Burhan in his role as head of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan. He mentioned casually that the prime minister had been detained and was being hosted in his presidential residence. Observers could only surmise that the army chief wanted the prime minister to continue but under an alternative set of circumstances.

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Despite a series of false reports which suggested that Hamdok would resume his prime ministerial role in running the country and the constitutional arrangements would be reinstated, sources now seem to believe that the prime minister may return to a front line political position as deputy president instead. There is also speculation that the prime minister may retain his position, but the constitutional arrangements may be altered substantially.

Other issues which were cited as a reason for the interruption of the transitional power included the public disagreement between the civilian government and the former armed militia groups who supported the army takeover. The Justice and Equality Movement from Darfur, for example, accused the Forces of Freedom and Change of marginalising it, and so it continues to support the army's prevarication.

It also seems likely that the consistent demands for the installation of a technocrat government continue to be shared by the army. Traditionally, the Sudanese have been schooled to believe that technocrat governments outside of political interests will be able to direct the affairs of government impartially. Such was the scenario in the seventies when a government led by the then army chief, Jaafar Nimeiry, was in power after seizing control of Sudan through a military coup.

Sudan's military seized power and arrested Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok

Sudan's military seized power and arrested Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

In the past few days, a delegation from the Arab League met with Al-Burhan, in a move that appears to benefit the army, which relies on Egypt and the Gulf states to strengthen its position. Although the Arab League has called for Sudanese parties to stick to the democratic transition, sources claim that the Arab governments will stress the need for a strong intelligence and security operation in Sudan. It is feared that the latter may override civilian demands for democratic rule.

Moreover, independent sources in the US appear to have persuaded Congress to impose sanctions on individuals in charge of the military industrial complex controlled by the Sudanese army. Although there has been no official announcement, it is believed that Congress and the US intelligence services will place financial and political pressure on the army.

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Whether or not this happens, it is clear that the civilian government's committee set up to dismantle the former regime's economic networks – known as Tamkeen – was set to break its grip on enormous wealth, although the financial ministry run by Jibril Ibrahim denied that any funds had been deposited. The committee has not yet reached the military's direct economic interests, but clearly have these in its sights.

Official statistics on the value of the army's assets are not on public record. However, agricultural companies such as Zadna and others that manufacture electrical and industrial commodities appear to be the focus of attempts by the civilian government to target and dismantle organisations affiliated to the army.

The Sudanese Army appears to be running out of options that would persuade the civilian government to accept a new deal to replace the previous constitutional arrangement. It seems unlikely that the Sudanese people will accept officials affiliated with the Bashir regime taking control. If that is accurate, then it suggests that the "coup" — "correcting the road to democracy," as Al-Burhan puts it — may well have failed.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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