Tensions have increased in Sudan during disagreements between the Sudanese military and protesters. The main protest group has stated that the military is not serious about a transfer of power to civilian rule, following the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir. Ongoing negotiations between the protesters and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) about the formation of a joint body to oversee the transition period following the end of al-Bashir’s rule are deadlocked over the issue of who would control this body. Protest groups wanted the TMC to relinquish power to a 15-member council of eight civilian representatives and seven military officials, but the TMC has instead proposed a ten-member body, with only three civilian figures and seven military representatives. The TMC has not displayed a willingness to transfer their ultimate authority, while the protesters have indicated they will not end protests until there is a turnover of power to a civilian government. The protest leaders have called for a mass rally on 2 May to maintain pressure on the military.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) is the main protest group. Mohamed Naji al-Assam, an SPA spokesman, said, “With the passing of time the powers of the military council are expanded and this is a very big danger for the Sudanese revolution.” General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy TMC head, said, “We are ready to negotiate but no chaos after today. We told them, continue with the sit-in, but the train is connected to delivering fuel.” This refers to protests that have disrupted trains and other activities.
The protests in Sudan, which bring with them a desire for greater civilian rule, are facing the significant challenge of a military that appears unwilling to share significant power, beyond basic formalities. The obstacles that this young movement face in their demands for greater civilian power and governmental accountability are large and becoming more apparent after the ousting of al-Bashir. The power dynamics and imbalances between the protest groups and the military are enormous barriers to a new transition and makeover of Sudan’s governmental structures.
In December 2018, anti-government protests erupted across Sudan over sharp price hikes and shortages of commodities like bread and fuel, but quickly expanded into calls for al-Bashir to step down as president. Protests continued despite a strong crackdown by the government, which involved the deaths of many protesters. On 11 April 2019, the Sudanese army arrested al-Bashir, ending his rule. A two-year transitional period was announced, under the military council. Al-Bashir’s rule, which began after a 1989 military coup, has been highly controversial, with accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity made against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ongoing protests in Sudan, which have continued after the end of President al-Bashir’s rule, are indicative of widespread issues in the country that cannot be resolved with a coup. The iron fist of the military has a significant hold on the country, and it greatly shapes the potential outcomes of negotiations with civilian protesters, activists, and political parties. While the end of the rule of a person with as much controversy and atrocities linked to their name as al-Bashir would appear to be welcome news, the current state of the country is quite delicate. The aspirations of greater civilian power are threatened by the realities of power imbalances, but the very act of protesting played a pivotal role in putting effective and noticeable pressure on the governmental regime and its insiders.