Government Split Poses New Threat to Sudan Democratic Transition
Sudan’s democratic transition faced a new threat as former rebels split with their one-time civilian allies and called for a new government amid protests in the country’s east.
The step by the Sudanese Revolutionary Front and other former rebel groups removes a key pillar of support from embattled civilians in the interim government who are increasingly at odds with the military officials with whom they’re sharing power. The feud risks derailing Sudan’s path to democracy after years of Islamist dictatorship, one of the few political bright spots in a region marred by conflict and autocracy.
“This government has failed to achieve the goals of the revolution,” Al-Toum Hajo, deputy chairman of the SRF, an umbrella organization of insurgent groups that once fought in the country’s south and Darfur region, said Monday at a press briefing.
The rebel leaders that include Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim called for the government to be dissolved and replaced by “real technocrats” who could lead, Hajo said. The military figure who heads Sudan’s quasi-presidential Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also suggested at an army event Monday that the government be replaced.
Tensions have flared in recent weeks between the military and civilian factions of Sudan’s government, which was forged after the 2019 toppling of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and is meant to lead the country to free elections in around 2023. An alleged coup attempt by rogue officers last month has fed suspicions the military is loathe to surrender political power.
More turbulence threatens Sudan’s economic revival. A pariah in the West under Bashir, the country has recently secured International Monetary Fund funding and a pledge by the Paris Club of creditors to rework $23.5 billion of its debt while starting to tame surging inflation.
The rebels withdrew their support from the Forces of Freedom and Change, an activist coalition that led anti-Bashir protests and later selected civilian members for the transitional government. Senior members of that civilian component said the insurgents’ decision was instigated by the military in an attempt to discredit the government and sow chaos.
Rebel representative Hajo said they didn’t “represent the army, the deep state, the former regime or anyone else, but we are telling the truth that the civilian government has failed.”
Civilian officials also said that an ongoing blockade of Port Sudan by protesters belonging to the Beja tribe in the east of the country was the result of military influence. The Beja tribe, which has sought a greater voice in Sudan’s transitional government, has blocked roads leading to the main Red Sea port and caused flour shortages that have led to queues outside bakeries in the capital, Khartoum.
“The Beja question and the eastern Sudan question is being used to overthrow the civilian state,” Yasser Arman, a political adviser to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said in an interview in Khartoum. “There is an attempt to obstruct and to put pressure on the government. There is an attempt to force a new direction and to give more power to the military at the expense of the civilians.”
Supplies of fuel and flour in Khartoum may only last another two weeks before running out, he said.
The man guiding the protest movement in eastern Sudan is Sayed Tirik, a tribal leader of the Beja and former member of Bashir’s National Congress Party.
Military officials have denied any involvement in the Port Sudan protests, but insist that demonstrators’ complaints about parts of a peace deal the government is trying to enact with rebels and opposition movements are legitimate.
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