The Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC), General Abdel Fatah Abderhaman Al-Burhan staged a military coup in the early hours on Monday morning October 25, 2021, ending the transition government between the Temporary Military Council (TMC) and Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) established in 2019 followed the removal of former President Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir. The head of the TSC announced to the public full military control of power and promised to lead the country to a democratic election in 2023. In his announcement that afternoon on Sudan National Television, General Burhan declared a curfew in the whole country. He affirmed the dissolution of the TSC, dismantled the Prime Minister’s Ministerial Council government, and evicted its members. Furthermore, he disbanded FFC and arrested some of its members. The general also freed the governors and exempted ministerial agents. He partially banned sections of the “Draft Constitutional Declaration” document of 2019. Despite these actions, General al-Burhan stated that he abides by the Draft Constitutional Declaration and complies with its regulations. The General also suspended the Empowerment Removal Committee until verification of its past work is done. He delegated Director Generals to assume responsibilities and run the government institutions until farther notice. General al-Burhan justified his actions to ‘to prevent a civil war”.
Prominent government ministers and senior officials, including Prime Minister Hamdok, were arrested, and taken to an unknown location after they failed to make declarations supporting the coup. General al-Burhan later indicated that PM Hamdok was staying at “his home.” Among those politicians and official arrested by a mixed force of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Force/Janjaweed militias were: 1) Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, 2) A member and spokesperson of the TSC, Mohamed al-Faky Suleiman, 3) Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Khalid Omer Yusuf, 4) Minister of Culture and Information, Hamza Baloula, 5) Minister of Industry and Trade, Ibrahim al-Sheik, 6) Media Advisor to Prime Minister, Faisal Mohamed Salih, 7) Governor of Khartoum, Ayman Nimer, 8) Chairman of Empowerment Removal Committee, Wajdi Salih, 9) Chairman of Sudanese Arab Ba’ath Party, Ali al-Rih al-Sanhouri, 10) Advisor to Prime Minister, Yasser Said Arman, 11) Chairman Sudanese Professional Association, Mohamed Naji Asam, 12) Arwa Sidiq, 13) Minister of Communication and Digital Transformation, Hashem Hassabelrasoul, and 14) former Commerce Minister, Madani Abbas Madani.
Sudan’s TSC, the joint military-civilian government in Khartoum, has ended with this coup on October 25, 2021, perpetrated by Chairman of the TSC, General al-Burhan. Upon hearing of the military coup, thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Khartoum, sister cities Omdurman, Khartoum-North and other regional capitals that just days ago had rallied in Marches of the Millions; protesting the arrest of PM Hamdok and others who supported the transition to a democratic civilian government. That goal has ended with the Sudan military chief’s actions. Clashes with the SAF/RSF Janjaweed forces in Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum-North have initially resulted in seven dead, 140 injured with the numbers rising given continuing protests. Calls are rising for another “Marches of the Millions” on Saturday, October 30, 2021. General al-Burhan’s action brought outrage from major Western countries, the EU and UN with a more muted response from the Arab League, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The coup occurred while US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman was in Khartoum after meetings on the weekend of October 23-24 with General al-Burhan and now-deposed PM Abdallah Hamdok, as well as other officials warning of the consequences. Ambassador Feltman, on hearing of the coup, issued a statement from the US Embassy in Khartoum saying: Washington was “deeply alarmed” over the reports of the military takeover, adding that it puts U.S. assistance “at risk.” This duplicitous action by General al-Buran is a major embarrassment to the Biden Administration and US Senators Coons, Risch and Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who had warned about “malign powers” in Sudan seeking to shut down the effort to achieve a stable and equitable democracy. It also throws into question the Abraham Accord between Sudan and Israel backed by the Gulf emirates who secured a $50 billion IMF debt reduction deal and invested billions in Sudan’s agricultural and resource development for the ‘breadbasket of the Arab Middle East.” Deposed PM Hamdok was contemplating signing new declarations in Washington in furtherance of the Accord between Israel and Sudan. An anonymous Sudan diplomat interviewed on Israel’s Kan Radio suggested that the coup might not affect the status of the Accord, but also cautioned saying: “the identification of the military with the normalization efforts could backfire.” He reportedly said: The military “made a big mistake by throwing away the partnership with the civilian officials. They are underestimating the response of the people, which is fed up with military coups, and they may face an uprising.” That concerned Jerusalem Post columnist Herb Keinon who noted in an op ed on Sudan-Israel relations: “if Sudan’s military leadership sees that its ties with Israel are not reaping the benefit of getting sanctions relief or aid from Washington, it will likely rethink its normalization process with the Jewish state—a process that, in any event, has not exactly fired the imagination of the masses in Khartoum.”
This coup followed an announcement by TSC Chairman General al-Burhan on September 21, 2021, of a foiled coup attempt and terrorist attacks in Al-Jabra, Khartoum. The seeds of the coup were inherent in the instability of the FFC—a loose confederation of political parties that shared power with the TMC in 2019 when the former Bashir NCP regime had fallen apart. What followed in the wake of the foiled September 2021 coup were dueling protests in favor of a changeover from the military wing to FFC, the civilian partner to lead the transitional government scheduled for 2023: versus others calling for a military coup. Moreover, the Sudan Revolutionary Front that had executed the Juba Peace Agreements in October 2020 split with the FFC. There were counter-revolution protests by an FFC splinter group supported by elements of the deposed Bashir NCP regime. Protests led by the Beja tribal leaders in Eastern Sudan blockaded Port-Sudan and the national distribution links for distribution of food, medicine, and other necessities paralyzing the country spiking hyper-inflation. Further, The Beja blockade disrupted critical trade routes linking with major export market in Red Sea partner countries resulting in adverse loss of monthly revenues estimated at over $83 million. As the political situation in Sudan became critical; warnings were issued by visiting World Bank President David Malpass and U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman that a military takeover in Khartoum might result in a rollback of debt relief deals struck on June 29,2021 and a possible return to sanctions.
On October 20, the eve of the nationwide “Marches of Millions” protest throughout Sudan, US Senators Chris Coons (D-Delaware), chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) of the Senate African Affairs Subcommittee on African Affairs warned:
“The right to non-violent protest and state protection of all protesters are paramount features of Sudan’s shift towards a more citizen-centered, rights-based, and peaceful democracy. As the Sudanese take to the streets on Thursday [October 21, 2021] in planned demonstrations, it is vital that security forces respect and protect citizens’ right to peaceful protest, and most importantly, Sudan’s leaders and stakeholders continue to work through the mechanisms of the agreed, civilian-led transition. The United States must also continue working with Sudan’s government and our international partners to reign in the malign forces seeking to undermine the country’s transition.”
The Biden Administration was vitally concerned that Sudan make the transition to a democracy from the mixed military/civilian Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) after lifting economic sanctions and providing more than $337 million to assist in the process. Those concerns sent Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, on two emergency trips in October 2021 to Khartoum to confer with the TSC leaders. During his three-day trip September 29 to October 1, Feltman met with TSC Chairman General Abdel Fatah Aburahman al-Burhan, Cabinet members, as well as Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. Ambassador Feltman’s State Department communique issued following those meetings warned that US support might be withdrawn:
He … underscored that such support depends on Sudan’s adherence to the agreed transitional order as established in the 2019 Constitutional Declaration and the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement. Deviation from this path and failure to meet key benchmarks will place at risk Sudan’s bilateral relationship with the United States, including significant U.S. assistance, as well as the prospect of security cooperation to modernize the Sudanese armed forces and U.S. support in the International Financial Institutions and for debt relief.
Prior to his second trip on October 21, The National reported Feltman’s interview comments concerning the “Marches of Millions” across Sudan, internal TSC turmoil, and the barriers that prevented transition to the protesters aspirational goal—a civilian democracy:
We are hoping that the demonstrations will reflect that peaceful spirit that animated the transition back in 2019, [but] it is not really a surprise or alarming that there are political debates going on inside Sudan. Calls for Mr. Hamdok to resign and for his Cabinet to be replaced were a “distraction,” It is a deflection of attention that needs to be devoted to the transition benchmarks.
We are calling on the military and the civilians to pull together in a unified way behind the concept of the constitutional declaration and the Juba peace agreement along with other critical steps needed to exit the crisis include the establishment of a constitutional court and transitional justice mechanisms, and the formation of an election commission.
On the broader regional geo-political, diplomatic, and economic development relations with the Gulf “partners” and Israel, Feltman said:
We have been in discussion with our Gulf partners … they understand that the success of the transition in Sudan depends on maintaining this military-civilian leadership up until the election. Gulf countries understood the links between debt relief and making progress on the transition, and the priority of backing existing transitional authorities and “not one person or one side.” We were encouraged that Sudan signed the Abraham Accords and that shows the recognition of the benefits of expanded collaboration with Israel. However, the pace of that development is up to the two partners: Sudan and Israel.
All the warnings by US Senators Coons, Risch, Menendez and Special Envoy Feltman went unheeded with announcement of the coup by General al-Burhan ending the transition to a long sought civilian government. In response to ‘these anti-democratic actions,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced pausing of more than $700 million in funding slated to assist the transition to a civilian government.
How a Foiled Coup Forced the Military-Civilian Partnership End
On September 21, 2021, Chairman of the TSC, General Abdel Fattah Abdurrahman al-Burhan made a stunning announcement about a foiled coup attempt by members of “military officers of armored corps.” Further, he indicated that they attempted to seize a radio station and close a major bridge in Khartoum. At issue is whether the Sudan military leaders were trying to create chaos to further stymie the transition to a civilian government in 2022. While seemed normal, people on the street in Khartoum were cynical. One Khartoum student Mujtaba Idris commented: “We understand what’s going on. Politics is very dirty, and this is how they play it.”
That was the calm before the storm broke on September 30, 2021. This was like the situation in 2018 when thousands poured in by car and train into Khartoum, prompted by the Sudan Professional Association (SPA) call, which began the efforts that led to the 2019 overthrow of the Bashir regime. The civilian uprising consequently forced the military to consent to a transition regime to an elected civilian government after 39 months. A statement issued by the SPA calling for the protest cited the impasse: “The objective of these marches is to protect Sudan’s democratic transition and there is no way to achieve that without ending any partnership with the military council.”
A Washington Post report noted the angry demands of protesters:
Demonstrators waved Sudanese flags and chanted pro-democracy slogans. They accuse the military of dragging its feet on transferring power to civilians, purging state institutions of remnants of al-Bashir’s regime, and bringing to justice those responsible for the killing of dozens of protesters in June 2019, when security forces dispersed a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, former UN official and head of the civilian government expressed the view that the alleged coup was an “effort to undermine democratic transition.” Transitional Sovereignty Council Chairman Generals Abdel Fattah Abdurrahman al-Burhan and his Deputy Chairman, Mohamed Hamdan Dogolo (Hemeti) have difficulties with that outcome, especially as they and others were involved with the 2003 Darfur ethnic cleansing and would be subject to prosecution by the International Criminal Court indictments of 2009 and 2010. An exception made in the July 2021 US lifting of US Sanctions for support of terrorism-maintained sanctions against involved in Darfur genocide.
But there was more to come in October to reinforce the SPA and Hamdok concerns: the unraveling of support of the civilian transition government by the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF). “This government has failed to achieve the goals of the revolution,” Al-Toum Hajo, deputy chairman of the SRF, said at a press briefing on October 11, 2021 reported by Bloomberg News.
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. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also suggested at an army event Monday that the government be replaced.” The RSF withdrew support for Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a group of parties composed of the Nile Valley Elite that backed the uprising and selected the civilian government of the TSC. The FFC accused the SRF of “discrediting the government” and aiding the military seeking to create” chaos.
These fissures in the TSC are exacerbated by the blockade of Port Sudan on the Red Sea and major road network by Sayed Tirik, a tribal leader of the Beja, a former member of Bashir’s National Congress Party. The Beja blockade has prevented deliveries of flour, oil and other necessities to the Khartoum region, further exacerbating inflation and economic recovery.
Note the comments of a spokesman for Sudan TSC PM Hamdok on the blockade impact:
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. here 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.
The Livestock Fisheries Minister of the TSC estimated that Beja blockade will cost $83 million in lost revenue a month in exports especially to Egypt. Supplies of fuel and flour in Khartoum may only last another two weeks before running out, he said.
These political and economic disruptions may jeopardize the July 1, 2021 IMF Debt relief plan of close to $50 billion, and the Paris Club offer $2.4 billion in loans. Moreover, it may possibly delay the $400 million Saudi and UAE investment in the Sudan’s agricultural sector. It will likely disrupt the important Red Sea trade with Egypt, of more than $856 million, annually. The Sudan Livestock and Fisheries Minister Hafez Abdel Nabi estimated that the Beja blockade of Port Sudan is costing Sudan $83 million a month in vital trade with Red Sea Countries.
What precipitated the fall of the Sudan Transitional Government?
Sudan’s transitional government political landscape was fraught with threats of military coups, terrorism, civilian uprisings, and call for the Prime Minster Hamdok to dismantle the civilian government controlled by the FFC. Fearing of prosecution; TMC Chairman and Deputy Chairman Generals Abdelfattah Abderhaman al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dogolo (Hemeti), were unwilling to transfer power to their civilian partners. Instead, they engaged in a rigorous campaign against the Sudanese Empowerment Removal Committee established to dismantle institutions of the NCP regime. Moreover, the generals boycotted prominent members of the TSC threatening to dissolve the partnership of the transitional government established between the TMC and FFC following the collapse of the former Bashir NCP regime.
Seizing Power and Dismantling TSC partnership
The objective of Chairman of the TSC Burhan and his Deputy Hemeti was to break up the partnership with the FFC and replace it with a new system of government that would include other political parties who previously were partners of the deposed Bashir NCP regime. Remaining in power was the goal of Sudan’s generals who led the TSC. There were only two ways to achieve their objective: staging a military coup or winning a rigged election. To realize this objective, Burhan and Hemeti worked extensively to bring back the NCP in a new guise. Both generals were close collaborators of former President Bashir and his Islamist agenda of Arabization of Sudan and the oppression of indigenous African people.
Historically, Bashir and the NCP were adept at creating and managing crises. The objective of TMC leaders Burhan and Hemeti was to dismantle the TSC partnership government with FFC and manipulate to gain public support and obtaining legitimacy. They ignored the ongoing crisis in Eastern Sudan, initiated a false scenario of military coup and organized fake terrorist attacks inside the capitol of Khartoum. They unleashed the group known as “Negro” composed of parentless children who live in streets formerly organized and trained by the NCP to commit crimes against the people during public protests. They also released a new criminal group known in Sudanese terms as Tisa Tawil (9 Long or Nine Long). Nine Long groups recently appeared in Khartoum riding motorcycles in streets robbing people in daylight by snatching handbags, telephones especially from women. They unleashed these groups to create security instability and chaos to frighten and confuse the public. Thereby hoping to gain public support and credibility of the international community, especially US, and Israel for a military regime to declare martial law that would help them stage the coup.
Origin of Sudan’s Political Parties and their Failures
Deep disagreements between the military and civil components of Sudan’s transitional government had turned the streets of Sudan into open demonstrations, demanding the dissolution of the government, others hoping for maintaining it. This situation had exacerbated the crisis raising complex tensions, the worst since the fall of the Bashir regime in 2019. The TSC military leaders ended that uncertainty by seizing power with the October 2021 coup.
We have documented how flawed and deceptive was the formation of partnership between FFC and TMC. Initially, the FFC arose from the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) that led to demonstrations causing the collapse of the President Bashir’s regime. The so-called Sudan’s traditional political parties were not part of the December 2018 Revolution. They were linked to Bahir’s NCP regime, and they were prepared for his 2020 re-election. They joined the revolution following the collapse of Bashir’s regime. As the protesters rejected the traditional parties to lead them, behind the scenes, they created FFC out of SPA to become a political incubator of the revolutionaries and began negotiations with the TMC. They reached an agreement with the TMC to share the government. However, the April 2019 protesters insisted on transferring the power to a civilian-led authority. FFC members opted to join the TMC to use force and dispersed the protesters in the runup to the October 2021 Coup.
The TMC/FCC coalition hijacked the revolution by agreeing with Bashir’s security system that killed the protesters and falsely imposed their will in the pretext of preventing the revolution. They also communicated to the public and the world that they were part of the revolution, protecting the state from collapse and transitioning the country to a democracy. That charade was cover for their goals and intentions were different from the aspirations of the revolutionary youths who shed so much blood to bring down the Bashir regime.
Since Sudan’s independence, the structure of these political parties, whose leaders came from the Nile Valley elites in the northern region of the country, constituted a weak coalition their allegiance is to personal family interests, Islamist religious sects, tribalism, as well as influential foreign Arab autocratic rulers. Sudan’s failure stems from these political parties who have no clear political goals other than tribal and religious fanaticism. In his 2008 Sudan Tribune article: “The Nuba: A People’s Struggle for Political Niche and Equity in Sudan,” Dr. Omer M. Shurkian stated: “The so called traditional political parties have proven to be politically incorrect, corrupt and dysfunctional. In fact, they are inter alia, the agents of socio political and economic malaise in the country. Moreover, the traditional political parties are in a state of disarray, malfunctioning, and mismanaged and lack a comprehensive and coherent policy agenda for resolving the human and political crisis in Sudan.”
These political parties have engaged in Sudan’s politics since Independence. None of these parties established clear goals to help develop the country. The fallen FFC civilian government led by Hamdok was dominated by four political parties: The Umm National Party, The Federal Democratic Party, The Sudanese Congress Party and Arab Ba’ath Party. These political parties, members of FFC, claimed to represent Sudan’s revolutionary forces working to realize their goals. Instead, they were engaged in developing policies empowering their parties. This is a major reason Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok’s weak government was overthrown dashing the aspirations of the December 2018 revolutionaries. The FFC parties who survived the military coup ignored the demands of the people and joined the TMC coup led by Bashir’s senior officers who are loyal to NCP.
The hapless Hamdok clearly saw the looming possibility of a military Coup Sudan. He stated in one of his speeches that the ongoing crisis was a power struggle between those supporting a transition to a democratic civilian led authority versus “others” in the TSC who sought a dictatorial regime led by military. During the two years of the fallen transitional government, neither the member political parties nor Hamdok’s government mentioned establishing institutions such as the electoral commission, legislative and judicial councils that could ensure fair and transparent democratic elections transferring power to civilian-led authority. Moreover, the fallen TSC government did not draft a constitution or organize a Census Bureau to compile population statistics used in establishing election districts. The Sudanese people have never heard of the presumed election of 2023 except from USAID Administrator Samantha Power when she visited Sudan in August 2021 announcing new funding of $4.3 million dollars in support of transition to a democratically elected civilian government. Now those USAID funds are unlikely to be funded in the wake of the October coup.
The TSC failed to realize the aspirations of the people. These aspirations included redress of past injustices. Especially the 2009/2010 indictments issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hand over for prosecution deposed President Bashir and collaborators on charges of committing genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity against the people of Darfur affirmed in the Juba Peace Agreements of 2020. The TSC has refused to address the massacre of the 2019 sit-in protests enhance economic development and ending inequity in the Sudan. The TSC was unwilling to engage these issues, especially on matters of human rights violations. The primary reason is that those who committed these crimes in the ICC indictments include the current top leaders of the TMC Generals Burhan and Hemeti who control the Republic of Sudan. They staged the October military coup fearing possible revolutionary reprisals. In the runup to the Coup, Generals al-Burhan and Hemeti appeared in social media visiting military garrisons, delivering speeches, to obtain popular support that would allow them to disrupt a peaceful transition.
An illustration of the conspiracy of the TMC and FFC was the alleged Beja people’s “Peaceful Protest.” Their protest claimed to resolve issues related to the historical marginalization of Beja people which is considered as a just cause by many Sudanese. Notwithstanding, the Beja protest that blocked a strategic national route virtually paralyzing the whole country was deemed morally and legally unacceptable. Beja traditional Chief, Mohamed Al Ameen (Tirik) instead of calling for recognition of Beja rights requested General al-Burhan to dismantle the current government in Khartoum. He called for annulment of the Juba Peace “East Path” Agreements beseeching the Islamic movement that ruined the country for the last 30 years to take control of the Sudanese state to “save the country.” Moreover, Tirik called upon Islamist religious sects to unite and face the “danger” threatening the country.
Foreign Intervention and Exploitation of Sudan’s Resources
Currently Egypt is the major export market for Sudan’s agricultural products including livestock. Egyptian traders go as far as al Obeid, North Kordofan, buying these products using Sudanese local currency. Saudis made land agreements for 90 years to grow forage crops providing feed for their livestock in Saudi Arabia. The Emirates buy and export gold illegally extracted from Darfur by companies such as Al-Junaid controlled by RSF/Janjaweed militia’s commander TMC deputy Chairman Hemeti and his family. These Arab countries were effectively supporting the ethnic cleansing objectives of the Arab Coalition Plan of the TMC engaged in continuous rape, looting, and burning villages in Darfur all while in the presence of government security forces. These countries are well-aware of the genocide, war crimes and human right abuses committed by Hemeti and Burhan’s RSF/Janjaweed militias in Darfur and elsewhere. Nonetheless, they want to maintain them in power and use them with economic investment policies to facilitate exploitation of Sudan’s resources. They would benefit from the October military coup despoiling Sudan’s critical resources.
Activists reported in social media that, the recent terrorist attacks in the capital were nothing but a conspiracy to create problems to mislead and confuse the Sudanese public and the international community. Furthermore, Sudanese activists, political analysts and media groups consider the October military coup as fabricated to give the false impression there were security threats in the country that the civilian rule could not deal with.
FFC Splinter Group Support Military takeover of Government
Prior to the October military coup, counter-revolutionary protesters staged sit-ins at the Presidential Palace calling for the military to dissolve the government. These protesters were supporters of Bashir’s NCP regime. Those demonstrations were led by a splinter group, known as the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) “B” or the National Accord Group. There were ironically joined by Darfur resistance movement signatories of the Juba Peace deal and political parties led by the Khartoum Nile Valley elite. Beja people from East Sudan arrived in Khartoum on October 18, to join the protest. Demonstrations in Darfur and elsewhere called for the dismantling of the transitional regime.
It is clear from the October 25 military coup that a hoped-for democratic transition in Sudan has ended. The question foremost in the minds of the Sudanese people now is how do they obtain relief from crushing economic distress? The economic conditions are chaotic. The current upwardly spiraling exchange rate is 450 Sudanese pounds to the dollar; 10 times higher compared to 45.34 Pounds in 2019. Bread which cost one Pound in 2019; today is ten times that price at 50 Sudanese Pounds. One gallon of fuel in 2019 cost twenty-eight Pounds; currently, a gallon is 1600 Pounds. Coup leader General Burhan and his supporters used that economic situation to justify the new dictatorial regime, one that joins the Islamists and the military. Meanwhile, the Sudanese people continue to suffer.
FFC Counter Demonstration Call of October 21, 2021
October 21 is a special day in history for most Sudanese. It reminded them of the October revolution of 1964 the first Sudanese uprising that compelled the military dictator, General Ibrahim Abud to relinquish power to civilian authority. The FFC call to launch the counter-protest was not a coincidence, but a well-planned organized plan. They thought it would be the deciding factor to end Sudan’s current political turmoil. Hundreds of thousands of protesters went to the streets of the twin cities of Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum-North Districts villages calling for a civilian-led government.
On October 21, protesters from all works of life, including government officials, university students, school children, businesspeople, women’s groups rallied across the country. They called for a democratic civilian-led authority and rejected military rule. They opposed the return of the NCP, and its affiliated groups. They called for the handover of imprisoned former President Bashir and his collaborators for prosecution by the International Criminal Court. They sought redress of the past injustices, especially the protest-sit-in dispersed by the security forces in 2019. They demand establishment of the legislative council, reformation of the FFC. Protesters also demanded the removal of General Burhan and his Deputy Hemeti and dismantling the counter protest in front of the Presidential Palace. These massive protests sent a message that they did not trust Sudan’s military generals, especially when freedom is dictated by them remaining in power.
Most people expected that there would be conflicts between the two groups; fortunately, the demonstrations were peaceful. However, there were clashes in front of the Parliament Building in Omdurman during which police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse protests injuring 17 people including Journalist Ahmed Hamdan who is in critical condition. Further, there was another incident in which the security forces shot and killed protesters in al Obied Northern Kordofan. On October 24, Counter protesters blocked a bridge and major street paralyzing traffic in Central Khartoum for hours. The governor of Khartoum, Ayman Nimir, said that “a group of employees of the dissolved National Congress Party (NCP) (the party of deposed dictator Omar Al Bashir) closed the Mak Nimr Bridge and the Nile Street to disrupt traffic in central Khartoum. The state government directed the police, to “take decisive action” using tear gas to disperse and arrest the NCP protesters. Now, with the October 25th Coup, the NCP remnants backed by the Military coup leaders are in control.
Since 1964, periodic protests have called for justice, equality, rule of law and demanding a civilian-led democratic government. The tight grip on power of minority Nile Valley elites in northern Sudan since Independence from Britain have thwarted periodic protest demands to share decision-making in the country with the rest of the Sudanese civil society. Fearing losing power in a democratic system they have opted for military control. The four parties of the FFC, that protesters allege hi-jacked the 2018 rebellion that ousted the Bashir regime, did not want democracy in Sudan. Instead, they have opted for an oligarchic dictatorship backed by the military. That is at the crux of what triggered the October 25, Military coup. The actions by coup leaders Generals al-Burhan and Hemeti means that deprivation of basic freedoms, ethnic cleansing, and violations of human rights of Sudan’s indigenous populations in Darfur and other conflict regions will continue unabated in accordance with the NCP Arab Coalition Plan.
Geo-Politics of Red Sea Interests and Sudan
In our book, Genocide in Sudan: Caliphate threatens Africa and the World, we noted the Bashir’s transformative decision to cut relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2014. Although as we revealed the NCP leadership wanted to keep that as a possible bargaining chip with a “brother nation.” However, Iran’s support of the Houthi rebels presented an opportunity to return to the Saudi and UAE alliance. Sudan supplied 6,000 troops to the Yemen conflict in support of the Saudi-UAE coalition in exchange for a $5 billion payment. But it also presented an opportunity in 2016 to reach out to Israel, in part because of the Jewish nation’s growing back-channel relationship with Arab Front-Line countries in the Middle East, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia given their opposition to Iran’s Islamic Republic, Palestinian terror groups, Hamas, and indifference to the Fatah-PLO theme of “peace flows through Jerusalem” victimhood meme. This despite Israel’s 2009 and 2012 air assaults on Iranian arms facilities in Sudan and transfers of weapons and munitions across Egyptian Sinai to Hamas in Gaza. We noted the significance of another factor: the attraction of Sudan as a veritable “breadbasket for the Arab Middle East” and requirements of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to address food insecurity.
In January 2017 just before the inauguration of President Trump, outgoing President Obama began the opening to Sudan , when he issued an Executive Order No. 13761 partially lifting economic sanctions with a “lookback” in six months. In July 2017, President Trump signed as order extending it to the end of October 2017. Those US Presidential executive actions may have been the signal to the Arab League, at a March 30, 2017, gathering in Amman, Jordan with Bashir present to announce a major $13.1 billion agriculture and livestock program with Sudan backed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kingdom of Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Qatar. Then there were billion dollar the gold development interests of Saudi Arabia in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Erdogan’s Turkey had a stake in the Red Sea, having established military facilities in Somalia on the Bab al Mandab. In December 2017, he visited Bashir in Khartoum endeavoring to cement a relationship with Bashir, who accepted a proposal to restore an Ottoman-era Haj pilgrimage transit port on the Red Sea at Suakin across from Saudi Arabia. With the fall of Bashir in April 2019, that relationship ended for all intents and purposes.
Thus, providing an entry for US-led discussions leading to opening of dialogues by the TSC with US and Israel under Trump Administration and UAE auspices beginning with the February 3, 2020, meeting between TSC President General al-Buran and former Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu in Entebbe, Uganda. Al-Burhan said after the meeting that it came “within the framework of Sudan’s efforts for its national and security interests”. He “stressed Tel Aviv’s role in supporting Sudan’s efforts to exit the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list”. The Trump Administration “orchestrated the event with the backing of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and Egypt.”
In May 2020, the TSC offered a $335 million out-of-court settlement by Sudan of the $7.3 billion US court award to victims of the 1998 Al Qaeda Bombing at two US Embassies in East Africa and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen restored Sudan’s long-sought sovereign immunity barred as a designated State Supporter of Terrorism (SSOT). In consideration, the TSC demanded “oil and wheat shipments worth $1.2 billion dollars, an immediate 2 billion US dollars grant and pledges of further aid from the U.S. and the U.A.E. over 3 years.” Former Secretary of State Pompeo flew to Khartoum for discussions on August 22, 2020 on moving forward normalization with Israel that initially failed. On October 22, 2021, a joint US-Israeli delegation met with TSC officials in Khartoum and achieved a settlement.
On October 23, 2020, the White House announced an Accord deal between Sudan and Israel. On October 25, Israel announced it was sending Sudan $5 million in wheat shipments. On December 14, 2020, The Trump White House issued an executive order taking Sudan off the Treasury , US Department of Commerce, and State Department SSOT listing. Funds were deposited on March 31, 2021, announced by Biden Secretary of State Blinken. That set in motion efforts by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to approach the IMF and World Bank regarding negotiation of more than $50 billion in Sudan debt forgiven under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) IMF and issuance of a $2.4 billion interim facility. As we noted earlier, the IMF announced the debt resolution with Sudan on June 29, 2021. Note this comment on the impact on Saudi Arabia investment in Sudan of the IMF debt forgiveness deal.
Saudi’s investments in Sudan are safe for the foreseeable time. That is because the main impediment to Sudan receiving debt relief was the country being included on the US State Sponsor of Terrorism (STT) list that discouraged foreign banks to carry out transactions with Sudan in order to comply with US laws. Sudan removal sends a signal to foreign banks and companies that doing businesses in Sudan will not result in them facing legal challenges with US authorities.
Based on these developments, both Gibril Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)—a signatory armed faction to the JPA—and TSC Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, who is also a leader within the Sudan Resistance Force, and Al-Hadi Mohamed, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, held a joint conference on July 9, 2021, with Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and 40 Saudi companies in Saudi Arabia. The outcome of the conference is an agreement to open 15 branches of Saudi banks in Sudan and to establish a ministerial committee with the intention to facilitate more investments in Sudan, further encouraging Saudi Arabia to increase its influence in Sudan above the $35 billion invested in Sudan as of 2020, with $26.5 billion previously invested in agriculture alone.
On January 7, 2021, Sudan and the US signed an Abraham Accord, the third one preceded by those of the UAE and Bahrain and followed by Morocco. Signatories were “Sudan’s Harvard-educated justice minister Nasr al-Din Abd al-Bari and the former U.S. treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin”. The U.S.provided Sudan with a 1 billion U.S. dollar bridge loan to clear arrears with the World Bank—a precondition for the June 29, 2021 $50 billion debt reduction. An initial meeting in Khartoum was held with Israeli Mossad Director, Eli Cohen on January 26 “resulted in the first signed memo on economic and security issues between the two nations.” The first Sudan meeting in Israel occurred on April 13, 2021. As noted earlier, those normalization discussions continue, despite the lack of recognition by Sudan Foreign Ministry. We note this comment of Justice Minister Abd al-Bari who signed the Israel Accord on behalf of the TSC: “that the Constitutional Document places no restrictions on government policy apart from the principles of independence, national interests, and balanced foreign relations, and by no means precludes normalization of ties with Israel.” With the October 25, 2021, military coup the question is has the Abraham Accord between Sudan and Israel been breached?
Will Normalization between Sudan and Israel continue?
Sudan’s military coup leaders have maintained contact with Israel in furtherance of normalization under the Abraham Accords signed off on January 6, 2021. On September 23, 2021, the former TSC government announced seizure of Hamas assets in Sudan, which the Palestinian Authority objected to. Ironic given previous Bashir regime supplies of material and weapons to the terrorist organization in Gaza under the previous direction of TMC Deputy Chairman Mohamed Hamdan Dogolo (Hemeti). On October 9, 2011, the Sudan Tribune reported a delegation led by Deputy Commander of the RSF/Janjaweed militia Lt-Gen Abdel Rahim Hamdan that included Lt-Gen Mirghani Idris Suleiman, Military Industry Corporation of Sudan held two days of discussions with Israeli National Security Adviser, Eyal Hulata. It further noted that in April 2021, the former TSC government had abrogated the 1958 Boycott Law against trade and diplomatic contact with Israel.
Military coup leader General Abdelfattah Aberhaman al Burhan has held the portfolio for relations with Israel since the meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Entebbe, Uganda on February 3, 2020, backed by the UAE. On October 14, 2021, Al-Monitor reported the meeting in Abu Dhabi of Sudan Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej. Abduldari extolled the virtues of extended cooperation between the two countries, emphasizing educational and high-tech exchanges leading to conclusion of agreements. Israel Regional Minister Frej noted in a press interview “that a marginal nationalist minority in Sudan is trying to sabotage the rapprochement efforts, but there are still on the right track. He said he believes bilateral agreements between Israel and Sudan will be signed soon.” In the wake of the October 25 military coup that prospect may have dimmed.
The Marches of the Millions across Sudan on October 21, that demanded the transition of military control to a civilian democratic government, ended with the October 25 military coup led by Generals al-Burhan and Hemeti. They dissolved the failed TSC civilian partnership replacing it with those Islamist parties that previously had links with the Bashir NCP regime They arrested PM Hamdok and selected cabinet members that opposed the military takeover, sparing those of the FFC-led 2018 revolution who supported the coup. A protest and blockade of the Port-Sudan and shutdown of the national distribution system by the Beja people in Eastern Sudan demanding the dissolution of the government the whole country worsening the economic distress
The economic conditions throughout Sudan are chaotic ravaged by 400% hyperinflation. The current foreign exchange rate is 450 Sudanese Pounds to the dollar; 10 times higher compared to 45.34 Pounds in 2019. One loaf of bread which cost one Pound in 2019; today is ten times that price at 50 Sudanese Pounds. Coup leaders are, callously indifferent to the suffering of the Sudanese people. The Coup may threaten normalization with the US and Israel undermining the Abraham Accord. US Senators Chris Coons, Jim Risch of the Subcommittee on African Affairs and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez warned about these distressing developments citing concerns over “malign forces” threatening Sudan’s transition to a civilian democratic system. US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman after two emergency meetings in Khartoum in October 2021 identified the barriers to achieve a transition to a civilian-led democracy including resumption of military control. He warned that the Sudan military asserting control may result in loss of US billion-dollar funding, reimposition of sanctions jeopardizing the Gulf-backed $50 billion debt deal with the IMF and their $2.4 billion loan facility. In reaction to the October 25, 2021, coup, the US State Department announced holdback of $700 million slated for transition to a civilian democratic government in Sudan. Sudan could be on the verge of a chaotic bloody sectarian civil war given the actions of coup leaders, Generals al-Burhan and Hemeti. Al-Burhan believes the opposite; that his coup may have averted a civil war. Meanwhile, more protest Marches of the Millions are planned across Sudan seeking the creation of a democratic civilian government replacing his military dictatorship.