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Sudan still mired in crisis a year since latest coup

KHARTOUM: One year after a military coup derailed Sudan’s transition, the country remains mired in deepening political and economic turmoil that observers say poses threats of even greater instability.
The northeast African nation’s latest coup took place on October 25, 2021, when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan removed a key civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), from its role as the head of a transition to full civilian rule.
The short-lived transition, which followed the ouster in 2019 of president Omar al-Bashir, was fragile and overshadowed by deepening political divisions and a chronic economic crisis inherited from Bashir’s three decades in power.
“The primary target of the coup was achieved, which is to grant the military institution a veto power over politics in Sudan,” said Sudanese analyst Magdi el-Gizouli of the Rift Valley Institute.
“But the move has greatly harmed the country.”
Burhan initially billed his coup as a move “to rectify the course of the transition”, but instead the situation worsened.
Near weekly anti-coup protests have been countered by force that has killed at least 117 people, pro-democracy medics say.
And a broader security breakdown nationwide has left hundreds dead in bouts of ethnic violence.
Western governments have suspended crucial aid, and economic hardship means millions face “acute food insecurity” and children forced to abandon schooling.
Government employees, traders and civil servants have all staged strikes against the worsening living conditions.
This month, Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim called on the World Bank to resume aid urgently, saying Sudan’s “poorest citizens” were being harmed.
Sudan still has no prime minister since the January resignation of Abdalla Hamdok, who was ousted in last October’s coup before being reinstated weeks later.
No political initiative aimed at rescuing the country has made significant headway.
In July, Burhan pledged to step aside and make way for factions to agree on a civilian government, but civilian leaders dismissed this as a “ruse”.
The military has since urged civilians to agree on a government, but divisions among civilian groups have deepened.
Some groups say talks should be held with the military, while others insist on “No partnership, no negotiation, no legitimacy”.
Analyst el-Gizouli says that how to solve the country’s problems is hardly ever raised.
“All the discussion in politics is around who gets to govern,” he said.
“But no one says anything about what they will do in government or how they will solve the economic crisis.”
In August, Burhan’s deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo admitted the 2021 coup had failed to foster change.
“There are real fears about the country’s stability… it has become too fragile,” said civilian Mohamed El-Fekki, a member of the FFC ousted in the coup.
“It’s true that disputes among civilians have helped prolong the coup,” he said. “But part of these disputes are manufactured by the military.”
Meanwhile, many Sudanese fear a return to public life by Bashir-era loyalists.
Since the coup, authorities have dissolved a committee tasked with dismantling Bashir’s regime which had seized their assets and funds.
Several committee members have been accused of misappropriating funds, allegations they consistently deny.
“Our work within the committee was making strides,” said Fekki, who also formerly headed the committee.
“All our gains were lost due to this uncalculated risk (the coup).”
Progress in implementing a landmark but costly peace deal with insurgent groups has also stalled, according to Mohamed Zakaraia of the military-aligned Justice and Equality Movement, a former rebel group.
And Burhan’s pledge of elections next year is now seen as far-fetched.
“There won’t be elections before a deal is struck,” said el-Gizouli.
One recent proposal for a transitional constitution developed by the Sudanese Bar Association has earned widespread attention.
It calls for full civilian rule, and has been publicly welcomed by both the FFC and powerful paramilitary commander Dagalo.
On Monday, FFC leader and ex-minister Khaled Omar Youssef said the military has agreed to the proposal “as the basis for a deal”.
“It’s a positive indicator,” he told reporters. “But there remains a question mark around the transfer of power to civilians.”
Pro-democracy activists insist there can be no transition unless the coup leaders are removed.
“The putschists in power have no intention to negotiate or partner with anyone,” said Hossam Ali, a member of an informal group known as a “resistance committee” that organises anti-coup protests.
“We have the patience and determination to bring it to an end,” he said.
El-Gizouli believes that the military wants to continue “to oversee the political process”.
“That was the main target of the coup,” he said. “It has yet to surrender this veto power.”
Ahead of planned protests marking the anniversary, the United Nations urged Sudan’s authorities on Friday to ensure protests can take place “and to ensure that security forces refrain from the use of force”.
“People’s expression of longstanding grievances must be facilitated rather than suppressed,” UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said.

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