Sudan’s reinstated prime minister Abdalla Hamdok says government will be independent

The administration will focus on rewriting the constitution and holding elections on time

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has said an agreement he signed with the country’s top generals, who took charge of the country last month, will give him the authority to form his own independent government.

One day after signing a deal with Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, Mr Hamdok said the government would focus on rewriting Sudan’s constitution and holding elections on time.

The agreement envisions an independent, technocratic Cabinet to be led by Mr Hamdok until elections can be held in 2023. It also stipulates the release of all political prisoners.

While Sudan would still remain under military supervision, Mr Hamdok said he would have the power to make the government appointments.

“This was a key part of the political agreement we signed,” Mr Hamdok was quoted as saying by AP, “that the prime minister should have the power and the authority to form an independent technocratic government, in complete liberty and without any pressures.”

The proposed government would replace the one he had led since August 2019 under a power-sharing deal between the military and a pro-democracy alliance. This was preceded by months of street protests that ultimately forced generals to dismiss Omar Al Bashir in April of that year.

On Monday, up to 12 ministers resigned from their posts including Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq Al Mahdi.

Ms Al Mahdi said that she and her colleagues were protesting against Mr Hamdok before signing the new deal without consulting his Cabinet.

In an interview with the Atlantic Council, she also described what took place in Sudan as a “coup”.

“We expected him to call us even for 10 minutes before he goes to this gathering,” Ms Mahdi said. “But none of that happened.”

The deal was swiftly rejected as legitimising the military takeover by the country’s main pro-democracy movements, including the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), the political power base of Mr Hamdok’s former government.

The Sudanese Armed Forces said it wanted to emphasise that last month’s military intervention occurred only because some politicians had tried to hijack the policymaking process, causing the civilian government to drift deeper into animosity and division.

But pro-democracy groups launched civil disobedience campaigns since the takeover, with street protests commonplace.

Local resistance committees and the Sudanese Professionals Association – which was among the groups that led demonstrations in the uprising that toppled Al Bashir – organised rallies in an attempt to reverse the military takeover.

Internet services have been down across most of the country since October 25 and phone coverage remains patchy.

“Whoever once believed in Hamdok, the man is dead. But those who believe in the revolution should know that it does not die,” the resistance committees of Khartoum said in a statement.

“We in the committees of Khartoum hereby declare that the deal which was struck does not concern us at all and we are adhering to our position: no negotiations, no partnership and no bargaining. November 25 will be a day of loyalty to the martyrs and to reassert our resolve to bring down the coup leaders, both military and civilians.”

Supporters of the new deal hope that Mr Hamdok can work with the generals to pave the way for elections, potentially leveraging his position as well as international support to help get the political transition back on track.

But fears remain of a return to the tug-of-war of the last two years, which embittered both sides of the political crisis.

The pro-democracy movement has vowed to keep up the street protests until the military hands over power to civilians. But the generals have much to lose and a prolonged stand-off could ignite wider disorder.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Mr Hamdok and separately to Gen Al Burhan on Monday, urging ‘’both leaders to work rapidly to put Sudan’s democratic transition back on track”, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Mr Blinken said the leaders should move to consolidate their agreement, ‘’including creating a transitional legislative council, judicial structures, electoral institutions and a constitutional convention”, Mr Price said.

The military takeover has drawn international criticism. The World Bank paused economic aid and stopped processing any new operations in Sudan, while some major multinationals backtracked on signing lucrative contracts linked to the nation.

Western powers have put economic assistance to Sudan on hold, and said that relief for tens of billions of dollars of foreign debt is in jeopardy unless there is a return to a democratic transition.

Opposition to the deal between Mr Hamdok and the military underlines the fragility of Sudan’s democratic transition and leaves the prime minister without a power base to back him as he continues his ambitious economic reforms.

The latest development does not bode well for the stability of Sudan at a time when its economic woes are deep and most of its 40 million people struggling to make ends meet.

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 4:46 PM
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