Burhan’s Fragile Agreement With Hamdok

The situation in Sudan is not getting any better with the military insisting to maintain its tight grip on power. On 21 November, the head of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council Abdel- Fattah Burhan signed an agreement with Abdallah Hamdok, in an attempt to solve the political crisis that started with the latest military coup.

“By signing this declaration, we could lay a genuine foundation to the transitional period,” said Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the country’s top military leader. “We want to establish a true partnership with all national forces so that we can eventually build institutions that can take us forward.”

“The signing of this deal opens the door wide enough to address all the challenges of the transitional period,” said Hamdok, speaking at the signing ceremony.

The agreement, however, has been met with severe criticism. Though the agreement reinstates Hamdok as the Sudanese Prime Minister, it does not specify the date of the military handover to an elected civilian government.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, a group that played a key role in the uprising against Bashir, voiced their vehement opposition to the agreement, accusing Hamdok of committing “political suicide.”

“This agreement only concerns its signatories and it is an unjust attempt to bestow legitimacy on the latest coup and the military council,” tweeted the group shortly after the deal was signed.

We are not sure either if Hamdok signed the agreement voluntarily or under political pressure from the Sudanese military. It is clear that the pro-civilian movement and the Sudanese demonstrators won’t tolerate such an agreement.

“For us, any step that is going to keep the military in power and is going to keep the military to having a political role will be totally refused,” said Samahir Mubarak, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association. “All these agreements that are going to keep the military in power have no regard. We are out in the streets … this is totally refused. It is not going to put an end to the bloodshed.”

“This declaration legitimizes the military coup d’état,” said a statement from previous FFC ministers. “We were surprised by the signing of a political declaration.”

Yet, we still have hope. The fact that the Sudanese demonstrators refuse the military rule gives a glimmer of hope to the global pro-democracy camp that one day Sudan would return back to its golden days. But, these demonstrators need international backing. Countries like China could seize the political crisis to siphon the country’s strategic resources. With its so-called “Road and Belt” initiative, Beijing is already dominating the African continent. Though relations between Beijing and Al-Khartoum deteriorated since the rapprochement efforts between the US and Sudan, the latest military coup angered Washington. And it seems the only one benefiting from this drift is China.

Now it’s time for the international community to act. Western states were unable to muster a strategy to support the democratic transition in Sudan since the outbreak of the revolution in 2019. Before the 21 November agreement, the African diplomats called on al-Burhan to reinstate Hamdok as Prime Minister. But we need to understand that the democratic transition is much more than that. The military should specify the date of the military handover to an elected civilian regime. Ostensibly, the military and the civilian camp have cooperated to rule the country for years. But in reality, the military was and still is in control of everything. A number of countries would be happy if Sudan becomes another Yemen or Libya. We need to look at the bigger picture; the democratic transition in Sudan may pose a threat to authoritarian regimes in the region. Autocrats are aware of that! They don’t want another “Arab Spring”.

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