Sudan coup generals determined not to lose long-held power: analysts

Since its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has experienced rare democratic interludes, but overwhelmingly years of rule under military leaders.

Sudanese people protest against a military coup that overthrew the transition to civilian rule, on 25 October 2021 in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman. Sudan's top general declared a state of emergency and dissolved the authorities leading the country's democratic transition today, after soldiers detained civilian leaders in what the UN condemned as a 'coup'. Picture: AFP

KHARTOUM - By ousting senior civilian figures and disrupting a transition to democracy, Sudan's generals have ensured they maintain control in the East African country, as they have for most of its post-independence history, analysts say.

On Monday, security forces detained civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who have shared power with the military following the ouster of the autocratic president Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir more than two years ago.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan declared a state of emergency and dissolved the cabinet, as well as the ruling Sovereign Council of military and civilian figures which he has led since August 2019.

The Council was supposed to pave the way for full civilian rule.

Since its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has experienced rare democratic interludes, but overwhelmingly years of rule under military leaders.

The latest putsch "looks very much like an attempt by the security forces to maintain control over economic and political interests, and to resist the flip" to a civilian order, said Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group.

The army's move "epitomises their fears" of civilian rule "in a country which was under the control of the military for 52 out of its 65 years of independence," Horner said.

To Magdi el-Gizouli of the Rift Valley Institute "the coup was far from surprising".

The Sovereign Council ruled the country alongside a transitional government led by Hamdok, an economist, but the role of civilian leaders had been receding.

The main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) which led anti-Bashir protests, splintered into two opposing factions, one of which held demonstrations in support of the military.

AN 'ENGINEERED' CRISIS

Critics alleged those protests were being driven by members of the military and security forces, and involved counter-revolutionary sympathisers with the former regime.

"The crisis at hand is engineered - and is in the shape of a creeping coup," mainstream FFC leader Yasser Arman said two days before the military made its move.

Last month the government said it had thwarted a coup attempt, and Burhan dismissed as "slander" suggestions that the army was involved in that manoeuvre.

Ahmed Soliman, an analyst from Britain's Chatham House think-tank, told AFP the military has resisted significant reforms including "professionalisation and civilian oversight" of its institutions, as well as its business interests.

The military dominates lucrative companies specialising in everything from agriculture to infrastructure projects.

Hamdok said last year that 80% of the country's public resources were "outside the finance ministry's control", although he did not specify the proportion controlled by the army.

Such "really critical issues in the transition have fuelled very recent turmoil that is taking place in Sudan and perhaps set the stage for this hostile takeover by the military," Soliman said.

The military's actions are likely to lead to more instability, he added, so "apart from securing their own interests" it is difficult to know what the officers are trying to achieve, Soliman added.

Protests against the coup have already led to three deaths on Monday, and there will be "heavy civilian resistance", Gizouli said.

"The military will have little option but to crush it by force," he said.

Gizouli believes Burhan will remain in power for the foreseeable future but might talk with civilian leaders who remain free, like Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi.

"He still needs a civilian face for the government," Gizouli said.

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