The military wing of the Sudanese government breaks its alliance with the civilian wing and demands the dissolution of the cabinet

The president of the Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has called for "broadening the base of parties" that make up the transitional executive as a solution to the crisis that has opened up after the failed coup
Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan

AFP/ ASHRAF SHAZLY  -   President of the Sovereign Council of Sudan General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

After the attempted coup repelled on 21 September in Sudan, the country is going through a turbulent period that threatens to undo the democratic transition. The failed coup, which was allegedly launched by a small group of officers loyal to former dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir, mortally wounded the fragile government alliance between the military and civilians, who were planning to hold elections by the end of next year.

The mutual distrust between the different sections of the executive is public and notorious. This has been demonstrated by various members of the cabinet in recent weeks through open criticism of their partners, blaming them for the deep social and economic crisis plaguing the country.

The latest figure to charge the civilian section of the executive was Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, president of the Sovereign Council, which also acts as head of state, who proposed on Monday to "dissolve the transitional government" in the absence of alternatives capable of resolving the crisis, which has worsened since the coup attempt. Al-Burhan's plans call for the formation of a new executive "with a broader party base".

This opening would include all "revolutionary and national formations, except the dissolved National Congress party". Al-Burhan made the announcement at a military event, where he questioned the role of civilian members of the cabinet and revealed that "the military component has rejected all attempts to continue the coalition in its previous state" despite having maintained close contact with its partners.

Manifestaciones Sudán
AFP/ ASHRAF SHAZLY  -  Mass demonstrations against Al-Bashir. Sudanese had been demanding his surrender to the ICC for months

Al-Burhan added that the armed forces, with him at the helm, would be responsible for protecting the transitional period "until free and fair elections are achieved, in which the Sudanese people choose who governs". A statement that raises doubts among observers about the true intentions of the military wing of the government, which still has members loyal to the previous regime in its ranks.

The president also demanded that the incumbent government appoint new "independent and representative of all the people" members to the Constitutional Court. However, meetings between the different institutions have been suspended since the failed coup d'état. Institutional paralysis.

In 2019, former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was ousted after ruling Sudan with an iron fist for three decades. During this period, the country went through a second civil war that ended with the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and a conflict in the western region of Darfur. At that time, the continuous street demonstrations against him led to his resignation, a resignation forced as a result of the continuous pressure from the military establishment.

On 5 July of the same year, the Military Council and the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance reached an agreement laying the foundations for the political transition. Under the pact, the government would be composed of the Sovereign, ministerial and legislative councils, divided between military and civilian. Al-Burhan assumed full powers for the first 21 months, handing over to Abdallah Hamdok as prime minister when the term expired.

Omar al-Bashir
ARCHIVO/SUDAN FILES  -  In this photo taken on August 19, 2019 former ruler Al-Bashir faces a corruption trial in Khartoum

Al-Burhan himself, however, denounced an attempt by the various political forces to exclude the army, in a clear allusion to Hamdok's statements, who attributed the coup to remnants of the previous regime, which led to an avalanche of street protests against the military. Civil society interpreted the coup as an attempt by the army to subvert the roadmap agreed in 2019.

The transitional agreement left a number of problems that have yet to be resolved. The FFC is demanding that the military undertake a series of security reforms and hand over command of the police and intelligence services to civil society. However, Al-Burhan pledged that "the leadership of the military and security agencies is not a place for political bidding, and will not be subject to the current quotas". "The people decide," he said.

Open warfare

The division within the executive is deep. The military wing accuses the civilian wing of wanting to "monopolise power". The first vice-president of the Sovereign Council, Mohammad Hamdan Dalgo, aka "Hemeti", expressed himself in this sense, accusing the civilian members of being overly ambitious "when it comes to occupying a chair", while the military is focused "on getting the country out of the crisis". 

"We will only hand over the police and the general intelligence service to an elected government," Hemeti told the Sudanese newspaper Alsudani. "We have not discussed handing over the presidency of the Sovereign Civilian Council, and it is not on our agenda at the moment because it is premature," the military high command concluded, contravening the 'de facto' transition agreement.

Abdullah Hamdok
AFP/ ASHRAF SHAZLY  -  Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok (centre) and Major General Malik Tayeb Khojali (left) inspect a guard of honour in El-Fasher, North Darfur

Hemeti is one of the generals of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces who, in coordination with former President Al-Bashir, allegedly committed crimes against humanity in Darfur province, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). This compels Hemeti himself and other senior military commanders to maintain power in Sudan because, if they lose it, they risk being extradited to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the same way as Al-Bashir.

Civil society accuses the military of fomenting unrest in various parts of the country to destabilise the current government pact. Speaking to Reuters, former trade minister and one of the civilian negotiators, Madani Abbas Madani, said that "the military component is not interested in completing a civilian democratic transition", but rather aims to damage civilian authority and "create a reality that will allow them to seize power by fomenting ethnic divisions".

By broadening the FFC's party base, the restructuring could "create the ideal environment" for the military to seize power, notes research associate Osama Abuzaid in Middle East Eye. "Despite Al-Burhan's repeated assurances that the military would never attempt a coup, some believe that the recent failed attempt was a trial balloon aimed at testing the chances of a future coup".