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Sudan

Military faction fans crisis, trying to derail transition to elections

A shadowy alliance with links to the ousted Beshir regime is calling for a coup against the transitional government

Efforts to derail Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's reform agenda and oust the civilian-dominated council of ministers have intensified with a military-backed protest in Khartoum on 16 October. This follows an attempted putsch, seen by many as a rehearsal, on 21 September and weeks of orchestrated disruption at Port Sudan ratcheting up the country's economic woes.

The pro-military demonstrators called on General Abdel Fattah Burhan, commander of the armed forces and current head of the joint civil-military Sovereignty Council, to mount a coup against the civilians in the power-sharing government.

Their timing is critical. This year, Gen Burhan is due to step down as the military's chair of the Sovereignty Council to be replaced by a civilian appointee. And the council of ministers is organising an international conference next month to raise funds for its economic reform programme (AC Vol 62 No 15, Between money and the military).

Civilian activists suspect collusion between the organisers of the Khartoum protests, and the security forces. Many of the demonstrators were bussed in from outside the city.

Khartoum's State Governor Ayman Khalid accused an armed group, apparently with links to the military command, of removing guard rails around key government buildings. Police and other security officers meant to protect civilians in the government were withdrawn on the day of the pro-military protests.

Led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, civilians in the government under the banner of the Forces of Freedom and Change have launched wide-ranging reforms to the judicial system, the armed forces and security services. They also control the Empowerment Removal Committee which aims to purge state entities of loyalists to the Islamist regime of Omer el Beshir, ousted in April 2019.

On 15 October, Prime Minister Hamdok described the current impasse between the civilians and the military in government as the 'worst and most dangerous' and risked throwing the 'future of the country to the wind'.

'I am not neutral or a mediator in this conflict. My clear and firm position is complete alignment to the civilian democratic transition,' said Hamdok.

He described as 'legitimate' the grievances of some groups blockading Port Sudan but called for them to join negotiations to address complaints and get the transition back on track. So far, Gen Burhan hasn't responded to Hamdok's speech but has been lobbying for the civilian-led council of ministers to be dissolved.

Activists in the FFC and other groups wanting to strengthen the transition to civil rule are organising a demonstration in Khartoum on 21 October.



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