On 25 October last year, plans for a peaceful and democratic transition in Sudan were shattered by a coup d'état orchestrated by the military's Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan. Since then, the African country has experienced critical moments. The death toll in protests against the coup has risen, while hundreds of people have been reported injured. Sudan's ousted prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, has been under house arrest since the military dissolved the transitional government.
Internationally, several countries have condemned the military coup, supporting the return of Hamdok's government. They have also called for the release of the prime minister and all those arrested. The African Union (AU) has decided to suspend Sudan, expressing its "total rejection of the institutional change of government".
However, despite the chaotic situation, Al-Burhan's recent decision to release four ministers detained during the coup is a breakthrough in the country's situation. According to national broadcaster Sudan TV, the released ministers are Hamza Balul, in charge of Culture and Information; Hashem Hasab al-Rasul, in charge of Communication and Digitalisation; Ali Jeddo, in charge of Trade; and Yusuf Adam, in charge of Youth and Sports. In addition to ordering the release of the politicians, an adviser to Al-Burhan, Taher Abu Haga, announced on state television the 'imminent' formation of a government.
This is not the first time that Al-Burhan has extended a hand to the transitional government. A few days after the coup, he said that Hamdok is "welcome" in this new political phase and remains a candidate to "head the next government".
The military leader made this decision after a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. During the call, Guterres urged Al-Burhan to release "Hamdok and other civilians arbitrarily detained in Sudan," a UN spokesman said. The secretary-general also stressed that the UN "will continue to support the Sudanese people in their struggle to fulfil their aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future".
During the conversation, Burhan pledged to "maintain peace and the inevitability of democratic transition and complete the transition process in a manner that preserves the security of the country, the achievements of the revolution and leads to an elected civilian government," according to Sudan's state news agency.
In addition to talking to Al-Burhan on the phone, the UN maintains a special envoy in the country, the German Volker Perthes. The political scientist is working to reach an agreement to address the current crisis in the country. "The broad outlines of a possible agreement include the return of Hamdok, the release of detainees, the government of technocrats, the introduction of amendments to the constitution and the lifting of the state of emergency," Perthes told Reuters. "The longer he waits, the more difficult it will be to implement such an agreement and to get the necessary participation of the population and political forces," he added.
For the US, the Sudanese military leader's recent decision is not enough. This is what Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a telephone conversation with Al-Burhan. Blinken insisted on the "immediate release of all detained political figures". He also called for "a return to a dialogue that would return Prime Minister Hamdok to office", a spokesman said in a statement.
"The secretary expressed his hope that the Sudanese army would take the necessary steps to enable the resumption of a US-Sudanese partnership that encompasses political, diplomatic and security issues," the spokesman's text adds.
Al-Burhan, as he did during his conversation with Guterres, reaffirmed "his commitment to sustaining the democratic transition and completing the transition process". He also reiterated "preserving the security of the country".
Among the detainees are still important figures such as Sovereign Council member Mohammed al Fekki, the prime minister's adviser Yasser Arman, and Cabinet Affairs Minister Khaled Omar Youssef, according to AFP.
The military leader also spoke with African Union emissary Olusegun Obasanjo to inform him that "a government of technocrats was about to be put in place", according to the Sudanese news agency SUNA.
A spokesman for the prime minister said in a statement that Hamdok will not enter into any dialogue with the army until the authorities meet a number of conditions. These include the release of detainees and a return to constitutional order.
Sudan's transitional government was formed following the 2019 coup that ousted dictator Omar Al-Bashir after 30 years in power. This Executive was born after an agreement between the military junta, the various civil organisations and political parties. This administration, in addition to leading Sudan towards democracy, had initiated a series of key social and economic reforms to boost the country's development. It had also reached peace agreements with several rebel groups in Darfur, seeking to heal the wounds of the region's bloody conflict.