Uncertainty in Sudan as PM resigns: Crisis explained in 600 words

Abdalla Hamdok’s resignation marks the latest upheaval in the country’s fragile transition to democracy.

Sudanese protesters hold national flag and chant during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum, Sudan, on 25 October 2021 [Mohammed Abu Obaid/EPA-EFE]
Sudanese protesters hold the national flag and chant during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum on 25 October 202. Sudan's military launched a coup, arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, other senior ministers and civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council in early morning raids as thousands of people gathered to protest in the capital [Mohammed Abu Obaid/EPA-EFE]

Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s civilian prime minister who was deposed in an October military coup then restored to power more than a month ago, has stepped down.

His move on Sunday came as mass protests denouncing both the military’s power grab and its subsequent deal with Hamdok have gripped Sudan for weeks. Hours before his televised address, security forces killed three protesters, according to medics, pushing the number of people killed since the coup to 57.

Hamdok’s resignation marks the latest upheaval in the country’s fragile transition to democracy following the 2019 removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

Here is what you need to know.

What did Hamdok say?

In his speech, Hamdok said his mediation attempts with civilian and military officials “to achieve the necessary consensus to be able to deliver to our people the promise of peace, justice and no bloodshed” had failed.

The November deal that reinstated Hamdok had called for an independent technocratic cabinet under military oversight. But the agreement was rejected by the pro-democracy movement, which insists power be handed over to a fully civilian government.

Announcing his resignation, Hamdok said Sudan needed to engage in a new dialogue to agree on a “national charter” and “draw a roadmap” to complete the transition to civilian rule.

He also warned the political deadlock could become an existential crisis.

“I tried as much as I possibly could to prevent our country from sliding into a disaster. Now, our nation is going through a dangerous turning point that could threaten its survival unless it is urgently rectified,” he said.

Who is Hamdok?

Born in 1956, Hamdok previously worked in Sudan’s finance ministry and has decades-long experience as an economist and senior policy analyst specialising in development across Africa.

In 2019, Sudan’s main civilian coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change, saw Hamdok as the man to help the country transition to democracy under its power-sharing deal with the generals who overthrew al-Bashir in the wake of months-long mass protests.

What was his record?

As prime minister, Hamdok oversaw the severe financial crisis that led to the anti-Bashir protests and continued following his removal. Inflation soared to about 400 percent, as many struggled with poverty, shortages of medicines and power cuts.

But Hamdok successfully lobbied the United States to remove Sudan from its list of “state sponsors of terror” and convinced global financial institutions to provide debt relief and economic aid. In a September visit to the country, the World Bank chief said Sudan was making progress and called for patience as the country navigated its transition.

Hamdok’s government also signed a peace deal with rebel groups to end conflicts in various parts of Sudan and criminalised female genital mutilation.

However, military and civilian leaders overseeing the transition remained at odds, with tensions often flaring up.

What happened over the past 2 months?

On October 25, the military – led by General Abdul Fatah al-Burhan – placed Hamdok under house arrest and put members of his cabinet in prison. It said elections would be held in July 2023.

Amid widespread international condemnation of the coup, Hamdok was reinstated nearly a month later and signed a deal to form a government of technocrats that sidelined political groups.

Many Sudanese saw the move as a betrayal of their uprising and took to the streets nationwide, as speculation grew in recent weeks over Hamdok’s intention to resign amid the deadlock.

“His removal, as far as [protesters] are concerned, removes the last fig leaf that was covering this regime and what remains is a full-fledged military dictatorship,” Ahmed El Gaili, a Sudanese lawyer and legal commentator, told Al Jazeera.

The political crisis has been compounded by other factors, including an acute economic crisis and fresh violence in the restless Darfur region.

Source: Al Jazeera