Abdalla Hamdok announces resignation as Sudan's prime minister

Hamdok reached a deal with the military a month after the October coup. This deal has sparked numerous protests in the country, which have been violently repressed

PHOTO/AP  -   On Sunday 2 January 2021, Hamdok announced his resignation amid political deadlock and widespread pro-democracy protests following a military coup that derailed the country's fragile transition to democratic rule.

Sudan begins the year with a new political upheaval. Abdalla Hamdok, the man charged with leading the country towards stable democracy, announced his resignation in a televised speech. "I decided to hand back the responsibility and tender my resignation as prime minister, and give an opportunity to another man or woman from this noble country to help him or her through what remains of the transition period to a civilian democratic country," Hamdok said. The former prime minister highlighted his efforts to make Sudan a secure, peaceful and just country, although he acknowledged that he had not achieved his goal. "I tried everything I could to prevent our country from falling into disaster. Now, our nation is going through a dangerous tipping point that could threaten its survival unless urgently rectified," Hamdok said.

Hamdok's resignation comes shortly after mass protests against the military and the former prime minister's deal with the military junta. Many protesters branded Hamdok a "traitor" and claimed that the deal would allow the return of the "old regime". However, Sudan has been witnessing protests since the 25 October coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The Sudanese accused the military of obstructing the democratic process and violently suppressing the revolts. On Sunday, Sudanese medical sources reported the deaths of at least three protesters.

Mapa de la capital sudanesa de Jartum AFP/AFP
AFP/AFP - Map of the Sudanese capital of Khartoum

 One of them reportedly died after a "violent" blow to the head in Khartoum, while another was shot in the chest in Omdurman, a suburb of the capital, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD). However, the pro-democracy committee has already reported 57 deaths in total since the protests began in October, as well as hundreds of injuries. Moreover, the UN has reported numerous allegations of sexual violence by security forces against several protesters. But brutality in the protests has not been the only thing the authorities have used to try to silence the Sudanese people. Internet connections were also disrupted, as reported by NetBlocks, an NGO set up to monitor freedom of access to the internet.   

Hamdok, during his speech, fondly recalled "the young men and women of the resistance committees" demonstrating for a civilian and democratic government. "You have done well and your steadfastness was inspiring and shaped the characteristics of a new Sudan," he said, even though these protests were also directed against his agreement with the military. However, Hamdok explained that he came to this point with the aim of "bringing the parties to the dialogue table and agreeing on a roadmap to fulfil the remainder of the transitional period". "The people are the ultimate sovereign authority, and the armed forces are the forces of these people who carry out their orders," he added.  

Miles de manifestantes sudaneses a favor de la democracia se concentraron frente al palacio presidencial en Jartum, desafiando los gases lacrimógenos, un despliegue masivo de soldados armados y un apagón de las telecomunicaciones PHOTO/AFP
PHOTO/AFP - Thousands of Sudanese pro-democracy protesters rallied outside the presidential palace in Khartoum, defying tear gas, a massive deployment of armed soldiers and a telecommunications blackout.

The United States, a country that had become a major supporter of Hamdok's government, has already spoken out. The State Department has urged Sudanese leaders to "set aside differences, find consensus, and ensure the continuation of civilian rule" and called for a new prime minister "in line with the 2019 constitutional declaration to fulfil the people's goals of freedom, peace, and justice". Hamdok's possible successors include former Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Badawi, reports Asharq media. Washington has also alluded to police brutality in the protests. "Violence against protesters must stop," the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs stressed.  

Hamdok's legacy  

After the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir, the dictator who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years, Abdalla Hamdok became the leader of the transition to democracy and began working to organise free elections in 2023. Hamdok gave hope for peace to a people who had been mired in violence and repression for three decades. However, the former prime minister had to face major obstacles, including an assassination attempt in March 2020. First, Hamdok faced a bleak economic outlook. In 1993, when the US accused Khartoum of sponsoring terrorism, a trade embargo was imposed on Sudan and it was cut off from international financial markets. 

PHOTO/AFP - Sudan's senior general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks as he attends the conclusion of a military exercise in the Maaqil area of northern Nile River state on December 8, 2021.

This made the African country one of the poorest in the world. Although under his rule Hamdok managed to get the International Bank to wipe out a large part of Sudan's debt, the economic situation remains critical. Nonetheless, Hamdok did agree with the Bank's president, David Malpass, to a $2 billion fund for Sudan. Since the fall of Al-Bashir, Sudan has managed to emerge from international isolation. Sudan was removed from Washington's list of countries that support terrorism after recognising the state of Israel. 

Moreover, Hamdok had to deal with the conflict in Darfur, a region that suffered genocide between 2003 and 2008 at the hands of the Al-Bashir government. The dictator was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The people of Darfur were subjected to ethnic cleansing, mass murder and rape. As a result of Al-Bashir's campaign against the Darfur rebels, 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million Sudanese were forced to flee their homes.  

Manifestantes sudaneses se concentran en el barrio de al-Daim, en la capital, Jartum, el 2 de enero de 2022, en medio de la convocatoria de concentraciones en favor de la democracia en "memoria de los mártires" muertos en las recientes protestas PHOTO/AFP
PHOTO/AFP - Sudanese protesters rally in the al-Daim neighbourhood of the capital Khartoum on 2 January 2022, amid calls for pro-democracy rallies in "memory of the martyrs" killed in recent protests.

In this context, and with the aim of advancing peace and healing the wounds of war, Hamdok visited North Darfur in November 2019, seven months after Al-Bashir's ouster. The visit was also his first trip to a Sudanese region since taking office. Hamdok met with displaced people and regional leaders in order "to build a sustainable peace based on the priorities of the transitional period". No Sudanese official had travelled to Darfur in 16 years. It is worth noting that since the military coup in October, violence has flared up again in the western region.