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Turmoil in Sudan – The Protests So Far

By Clayton Barrington – Russell, BA Arabic and International Relations

Content warning: This article discusses violence and references incidents of sexual assault 

On 21 November, Sudan’s prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, was reinstated back to his position after being removed by the country’s army chief roughly a month ago. 

“The attempted power-grab back in October this year came as a shock to many”

The attempted power-grab back in October this year came as a shock to many and the resulting protests across the country have resulted in at least 42 civilian deaths at the hands of Sudanese security forces.

According to the Deputy Head of Sudan’s temporary Government, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the Prime Minister was fully aware of October’s military takeover and was in support of it. It is unclear whether Hamdok really knew of this plan.

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has been head of Sudan’s military since 2019 and became the country’s official head of State following Abdalla Hamdok’s deposition. 

Two years ago, following mass protests, Army Chief al-Burhan helped orchestrate a coup d’état in which the long-standing president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown. Al-Bashir was arrested while the military took over the country and established military rule. This appointed Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as the head of state. 

These protests then turned against the military, which responded with brute force. The ‘Khartoum Massacre’ occurred on 3 June 2019, in which the military opened fire on thousands of protesters in Sudan’s capital resulting in the loss of over 120 lives. 

Following this, the military agreed to share power for 39 months after which there would be elections. Al-Burhan’s October power grab changed that, dissolving the government. The prime minister was removed from office and a state of emergency declared. This made al-Burhan the head of state again. 

According to al-Burhan, the prime minister was removed because of the government’s political stalemate. The government could not function as its military-run ‘Security Council’ was always at odds with the ‘Civilian Cabinet’ led by the Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok. As a result, the two sides could not agree to implement policy. 

Many academics and political analysts believe that al-Bashir’s coup was motivated by other reasons. Prime Minister Hamdok had promised to investigate the devastating ‘Khartoum Massacre,’ for which al-Burhan had given the go-ahead as the head of the army. By deposing him, it is unlikely for the investigation to go ahead. 

Al-Burhan may also be investigated for his involvement in the long-standing conflict in Darfur, along with the arrested Omar al-Bashir. The ex-President was handed over to the International Criminal Court for trial after his arrest in 2019. 

He was wanted for various war crimes in the western region of Darfur, such as systematic rape and torture. During this time, many army chiefs are suspected to have also been involved in this. Consequently, journalists and political analysts in Sudan believe that al-Burhan will go to great lengths to prevent the investigation from happening.

Photo Caption: Confrontation between police and protestors, Khartoum, Sudan (Credit: Marwan Ali, AP).

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