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Two Sudanese failures in one

Khairallah Khairallah

Published: Updated:

The resignation of Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is indicative of a failure to establish a new balance in the country that could lay the foundation for a modern civil state.

The resignation also uncovers the depth of the internal crisis that’s putting the country’s fate at stake. This failure to establish a new equilibrium also implies the Sudanese people’s refusal to learn from the experiences their country has gone through since its independence in 1956, especially the continued successive internal wars.

Till this day, this infighting has yet to end, despite the secession of South Sudan from Sudan following a referendum in the summer of 2011 and the establishment of an independent state in the south so Omar al-Bashir can maintain his rule and regime.

At the heart of the Sudanese failure, which was conveyed by Hamdok’s resignation, lies a lack of popular awareness of the requirements that this complicated stage in the country warrants on the one hand, and an insistence on the part of senior officers on playing a central key role in the process of building a new Sudan on the other hand.

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In their quest for a civil state tailored to their own interests, Sudan’s officers do not hesitate to use force and crackdowns to ensure the military is not removed from the influential position it currently holds and insists on keeping.

For this reason, one can consider the Sudanese failure to be two failures in one: a popular failure, and a military failure.
The military do not seem to understand that riddance from the backward, miserable, three-decade regime of Omar al-Bashir would not have been possible had it not been for the Sudanese people’s insistence.

On the other hand, little do the Sudanese that took to the streets to overthrow al-Bashir know that the military’s senior officers were the ones to convince the ousted president to resign and put him in jail to avert bloodshed. These senior officers were the ones to tell al-Bashir it’s game over.

Instead of complementarity between the two sides, there was no hope of building a better country after getting rid of al-Bashir and his backwardness. However, both sides —indispensable to each other until further notice— are clearly running out of patience.

In fact, due to a lack of political maturity, the Sudanese street has yet to comprehend that the military’s senior officers are a vital need at this stage, and that the return to civil rule can wait a little until better circumstances crystallize.

Such political maturity is a must in Sudan. The major and unpopular decisions that need to be taken require, first and foremost, a cover from the military. Had it not been for some major officers, especially Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan would still be on the US terror blacklist, and debt-forgiveness would not have happened.

Sudan's top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks following a deal-signing ceremony with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (unseen) to restore the transition to civilian rule in the country in the capital Khartoum, on November 21, 2021. Nearly a month after Sudan's top general ousted the prime minister, they signed a breakthrough deal to reverse the military takeover that had sparked international condemnation and mass protests. (Photo by AFP)
Sudan's top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks following a deal-signing ceremony with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (unseen) to restore the transition to civilian rule in the country in the capital Khartoum, on November 21, 2021. Nearly a month after Sudan's top general ousted the prime minister, they signed a breakthrough deal to reverse the military takeover that had sparked international condemnation and mass protests. (Photo by AFP)

Al-Burhan seems to understand what’s happening in the world and the region, especially the significant developments taking place in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, and the role that Sudan is supposed to play in supporting regional stability.

In other words, a cover is needed for Sudanese political decision making in the light of the Ethiopia and Yemen crises and Iran’s quest for effective and influential presence in the Red Sea. This was evidenced by the Houthis’ seizure of a ship flying the UAE flag and carrying medical supplies off the port of Hodeida, which goes to show that eventually, the Houthis are no more than a tool in the hands of Iran.

Since Sudan’s independence, the military never managed to cooperate with civilians, nor did civilians manage to cooperate with the military.

There was hope that a new era would begin after 2019 in the aftermath of the end of al-Bashir’s regime, which had only caused backwardness despite all the resources the country has. Hamdok’s resignation came to crush all hope for a better future.

Now, the question is: Is Sudan incapable of having a civil state under the protection and assurance of the military?

It seems like Sudan is standing before a scary, unknown future, with no new equation in sight that provides some kind of civil rule with guarantees that real experts will be given the chance to address the economic issues first and foremost.

In the lack of such an equation, which is the ideal choice for the country, it seems like the military will enshrine their position as a reference for any civil state. That is, unless they are tempted to repeat the horrible mistakes of the past, starting from Ibrahim Abboud, to Omar al-Bashir, to Jaafar Nimeiry.

Now more than ever, Sudan needs international and Arab sponsorship to avoid the worst. Otherwise, the Sudanese will be likened to the royal family and its nobles in France, who kept their head buried in the sand and refused to acknowledge that they lost the throne following the 1789 revolution. This is why Talleyrand said of them: “They have learned nothing, and they have forgotten nothing.” They learned nothing from the experience they went through and forgot none of their bad habits.

In any case, Sudan is standing at a critical juncture today. This is what Hamdok said in his resignation announcement, which reflected the bitter journey he went on since becoming Prime Minister in 2019, before being placed in house arrest last October then released and re-tasked with forming the government as a result of pressures exerted by global powers on the military.

In the last few weeks, the military seem to have regained their breath. They resorted to violence and crackdown to confront a street that is trying to skip stages in its rush to reach its goal. However, that’s impossible in a country like Sudan, whose politicians of all affiliations are used to endless futile quibbles.

As such, when Hamdok found himself hostage to the impossible equation that is a military-civilian understanding, he decided to flee. He left Sudan to mire in a swamp of misery, despite the desperate need for the once-promising country to salvage what can be salvaged, especially given the internal insistence to get rid, once and for all, of the backwardness of the al-Bashir regime.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai.

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