Sudan’s Coup Leader Declares That “The Military Will Step Aside”, Yet Violence Continues

On Monday, July 4th, the Sudanese coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan gave a speech on national television announcing that the military is ready to take a step back and allow civilian forces to begin the transition to a democratic government. Resistance movements and other civilian factions, however, responded negatively to the news. “We don’t trust the army as they are continuing to kill protesters while claiming that they are willing to solve the crisis and hand over power to civilians,” said Omar Al-Digair, a member of the Forces of Freedom and Change coalition (FFC). 

The military rule in Sudan began on October 25th, 2021, and was a consequence of the already unstable political situation of the country. In 2019, a wave of popular uprisings ousted the autocratic dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir who had been ruling the country since 1989. After the uprising, a transitional power-sharing government, the Sovereign Council, was formed with the intention of moving towards a civilian-led government and holding democratic elections by 2023. However, as General al-Burhan was declared head of state, tensions escalated and led to the 2021 coup d’état. It was al-Burhan himself that declared a state of emergency and announced a military takeover.  

Since then, Sudanese cities have been experiencing repeated outbursts of military and police violence against peaceful pro-democracy protesters, who are organized in resistance committees and advocate for the withdrawal of the military and the formation of a new transitional government. Repression has resulted in 114 victims, 10 of which were killed in the most recent protest in Khartoum on June 30th, 2022, as reported by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors. The UN, the African Union, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) condemned the use of “excessive force” and Michelle Bachelet, UN rights chief recently pointed out that “so far, no one has been held accountable for these deaths”.  

When al-Burhan talked to the nation on Monday, he declared that the military would take a step aside from international political talks and allow the formation of a transitional government, apparently conceding to the requests of the pro-democracy movement. However, civilian blocs and resistance committees do not believe these statements, as spokesmen from the FFC have reported to the press. In fact, reports show that the military continues to exert violence and still controls the Central Bank and foreign policies. To the alarm of protesters, al-Burhan has put forward the idea of forming a new “Security and Defense Council”, which would join the military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The widespread fear is that this new council will supersede the authority of any civilian government, therefore nullifying democratic efforts. In such a framework, it is very likely to have a prime minister who would only act as a puppet to al-Burhan and his regime.  

Attempts from international actors to mediate between the military and the civilian factions have until now failed, as the resistance committees refuse to collaborate. Shainez Gamal, a member of one of the committees, declared that “there will be no negotiations, no partnerships, and no legitimacy for the military.” In the meanwhile, although the situation remains unclear, civilian blocs are trying to reorganize in order to run day-to-day affairs as the military loosens its grip.   

As international intervention is not welcomed in Sudan, one must now hope that the pro-democracy movement will be able to apply enough pressure to force al-Burhan to truthfully take a step back and allow for the transitional government to be formed and agree on a constitutional declaration that would define the terms of the transitional period to democracy. In the meantime, UN agencies and NGOs have renewed their commitment to helping the Sudanese population and to alleviate the tolls that the civil uprising has on the most fragile parts of society. 

Camilla Giussani