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DUBAI: The Sudanese army reinstated Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister of the country’s transitional civilian government on November 21 and pledged to release political prisoners after weeks of deadly unrest following the coup d ‘October.
However, the new power-sharing deal appears far from secure amid continued protests by Sudanese pro-democracy groups against the military’s involvement in the government.
After being under house arrest since October 25, Hamdok was reinstated after signing a 14-point deal with coup leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan in a ceremony broadcast on television on Sunday. of state.
“The signing of this agreement opens the door enough to meet all the challenges of the transition period,” Hamdok said at the ceremony.
âSudanese blood is precious. Let us stop the bloodshed and direct the energy of young people towards construction and development, âhe added, according to the Reuters news agency.
Now that he has returned to power, Hamdok will lead an independent technocratic cabinet until new elections are held before July 2023. However, it is not yet clear how much real power the civilian government will exercise under the supervision of the military.
Amani Al-Taweel, researcher and expert on Sudanese affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies in Cairo, believes that the effectiveness of the agreement will largely depend on public acceptance of its legitimacy.
“It is a question which depends on the extent to which the streets and the people accept the agreement that has been signed,” she told Arab News.
âIf accepted, we will reach a safe end to the transition period, and if not, the situation will become more complex and open to security threats. “
Many political groups have no faith in Hamdok’s professions of faith in the deal and accuse him of selling off the revolution.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the main actors in the uprising against former leader Omar Al-Bashir, strongly opposes the deal and claims that Hamdok has committed “political suicide”.
“This agreement concerns only its signatories and is an unfair attempt to confer legitimacy on the latest coup and the military council,” the group tweeted after the signing ceremony.
The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a group made up of several political parties and pro-democracy groups, has also opposed any new political partnership with the military and insists that the perpetrators must be translated into justice.
“We totally reject the treacherous agreement signed between Hamdok and Al-Burhan, which only concerns its signatories,” he said in a statement on Facebook. “The points of the enslavement agreement are far removed from the aspirations of our people and are just ink on paper.”
The Umma Party, Sudan’s largest political bloc, also issued a statement implying that it does not support the deal, AP reports.
Meanwhile, protesters gathered in the capital Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri, chanting âNo to military powerâ and demanding a total withdrawal of the government’s armed forces.
According to Zouhir Al-Shimale, research manager at Valent Projects, there are two likely scenarios, both of which depend on what Hamdok chooses to do next.
“In one, Hamdok will play a positive role in supporting the Sudanese revolution’s demands for democracy, justice and peace,” he told Arab News.
“In the other scenario, he will ostensibly support the demands of the street but, in reality, will legitimize and support the leaders of the October coup and act as their international political front.”
Hamdok, 65, has been the face of the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule since the 2019 overthrow of longtime Sudanese leader Al-Bashir.
The UK-trained economist, who was previously Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, had built a reputation as a champion of good governance and transparency.
Although he did not participate in the 2019 revolution, he was widely seen as the ideal candidate to help guide Sudan’s democratic transition.
His government inherited a country long stifled by US sanctions, ravaged by the economic crisis, suffering from commodity shortages and with a banking sector on the brink of collapse.
Since its independence was recognized in 1956, Sudan has been plagued by internal conflicts and political instability. The secession of South Sudan in 2011 caused multiple shocks to the economy following the loss of valuable oil revenues.
The resulting slowdown in growth and double-digit consumer price inflation sparked protests among a population that is growing at a rate of 2.42% per year.
Sanctions were lifted shortly after Hamdok joined a transitional government in August 2019, and Sudan was subsequently removed from the list of terrorist sponsor states by the US Treasury.
Since then, however, the country has been plagued by daunting socio-economic problems, made worse by the global pandemic.
Faced with these overlapping crises, army chief Al-Burhan announced a state of emergency on October 25, deposing Hamdok and arresting several members of the transitional government.
The international community condemned this decision and suspended the economic aid that Sudan badly needed. The World Bank froze aid and the African Union suspended the country’s membership.
In these circumstances, the November 21 agreement has been widely welcomed by the international community, which sees it as a first step towards putting Sudan’s fragile transition process back on track.
The US, Britain, Norway, EU, Canada and Switzerland have all welcomed Hamdok’s reinstatement and, in a joint statement, called for the release of the remaining political detainees. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry said the Kingdom supports everything that will bring peace and maintain security, stability and development in Sudan.
Some political observers believe the coup was simply a crass attempt by the Bashir-era old guard to regain power.
âSudan has reached this point due to a post-revolutionary political dilemma and the blockade of members of the Sudanese army, who are the remnants of the pro-Bashir regime and figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Rapid Response Forces, as well as some regional players, âAl-Shimale told Arab News.
âThey collectively undermined post-revolutionary progress, namely the civilian-led transitional government. “
The October coup sparked weeks of protests across Sudan, in which at least 41 people were killed, medical sources say. The November 21 accord sets out plans for a full investigation into the murders.
Al-Shimale believes the Sudanese people are divided over the deal because many of its clauses have not been made public. “The deal has already affected Hamdok’s image among Sudanese inside and outside the country,” he told Arab News.
âThey argue that the Prime Minister’s deal with the coup plotters is like a stab in the back to those who thought he was supporting the civil rights movement. However, others see his position as a political maneuver and not as a submission to Al-Burhan’s demands or a legitimation for his coup. “
Hamdok faces considerable challenges, in addition to the risk of damage to his reputation.
Before the coup, in order to secure international funding, his government implemented a number of austerity measures, including the removal of subsidies on gasoline and diesel, and the floating of the Sudanese pound. .
Many Sudanese think that the stages were too hard and too hasty. In mid-September, anti-government protesters responded by blocking the country’s main seaport, triggering nationwide wheat and fuel shortages.
Hamdok’s government has also been accused of failing to deliver timely justice to the families of those killed under Al-Bashir, including those who died in the 2018-19 protests, leaving it vulnerable to criticism.
“The situation facing Sudan after the last agreement is too complicated to predict,” Al-Shimale said. “Politically, Sudan has entered another era of uncertainty and it will take a long time for the new government to tackle the ongoing business.”
He added: “Local resistance coordination groups will continue to protest Hamdok’s partnership with the military, and political order will only be restored if Hamdok succeeds in creating a new political dynamic in which a Sudan ruled. by civilians – and not by soldiers – will be able to meet the demands of the revolution.