In any acrimonious divorce it’s common for a fight to break out asking: who gets the house?
This can be applied to Sudan where the military – not entirely keen on a shared marriage with the democratic civilian government – instead took complete control of the country.
Hard fought by the people of Sudan for decades, democracy has lasted only two years.
The military coup against its equal partners in governance - the civilian branch of the Sovereign Council was always doomed to fail: it was born as a fragile heterogeneous body that was never a unified platform.
The precarious power-sharing formula that was reached after the downfall of the thirty-year-old tyrant rule of Omar al- Bashir in April 2019, was always set to collapse with so much power left in the hands of the army, and widespread corruption amongst the former despot’s cronies.
Sudan illustrates perfectly the inability of a joint military and civilian ruling body to govern a country: it is self-defeating.
The rules upon which military functions are exclusive from others and are essential. The military is set to one side and called upon by the government of a country when needed. They simply cannot become part of the political decision-making process.
Based on this, the coup in Sudan is far from surprising. The anticipation that a joint civilian-military government would succeed was fanciful.
The army commander General Abdel-Fattah Burhan himself aborted a coup attempt last September. Perhaps it was simply altruistic or he discovered that he was targeted too.
Burhan said at the time: “Had it succeeded [the coup], the attempt could have had devastating consequences on the unity of the army, security forces and the country.” Doesn’t it now?
The turbulent co-existence between the two factions of the Sovereign Council had witnessed waves of tension since its formation. The attempted assassination of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in 2020 was only one example.
Elections were set for 2024, a period too long to cement a democratic path. Early elections that would give way to a new political elite would have been a better option.
The civilian groups aren’t completely innocent in the roles they’ve played in the debacle. They are guilty by association in the country’s collapse. Civilian groups successfully united to oust al-Bashir, but have floundered in their efforts to unite since 2019.
Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) is an umbrella organization created to gather together civil parties and activists. With no common platform, in-fighting and bickering is never good as a force for change.
In the midst of an omnipotent political vacuum, Sudan was always going to face a massive struggle in its attempt to introduce some form of democracy, but it wasn’t insurmountable.
It might be now. The economic problems that have always plagued the country have just got a whole lot worse with the US blocking $700 million one day after the coup happened.
The troubled nation of 40 million people was already confronting ballooning inflation, and shortages of basic goods prior to the coup.
Under the guidance of the IMF the legitimate Sudanese government had been slowly applying a reform program that was in its infancy.
In a step that reflected Western support for this democratic transition and economic changes, the Paris Club of official creditors agreed last July to cancel $14 billion of Sudan’s debt, and to restructure a further $23 billion the country owed to member states.
Aside from the economy, Sudan’s geographic locale has seen neighboring countries historically dominate it. These same countries will no doubt look for opportunities to intervene.
Key among them is Egypt. The two countries have substantial mounting differences, including the Renaissance Dam and the mineral-rich Halayeb triangle on their borders.
The failed assassination of Former President Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995 which saw Cairo accuse Khartoum of plotting remains a landmark in relations between the two countries.
Taking into account Egypt’s military rule, having a counterpart in Sudan with a similar approach is more favorable than a military-civilian democracy. The era of military rule has not reached its demise yet and remains viable and is flourishing.
Ultimately, the international community has to confront Burhan. It simply isn’t enough to withhold aid funding. The EU criticized the coup without accompanying it with concrete measures or threats, and worse, the African Union called for dialogue to resolve the crisis. It looks like the victors of the latest international coup are now the in situ government in the long-term.