The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sudan’s military reinstated the civilian prime minister. But post-coup turmoil could deepen.

Hamdok was ousted from power in a coup last month that reignited mass protests and political uncertainty.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok chairs a cabinet meeting in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, on Sept. 21. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI — Sudan’s military and civilian leaders reached a deal Sunday to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was ousted in a coup last month that reignited mass protests and political uncertainty more than two years after a popular uprising forced out longtime autocrat Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Hamdok, who had spent the past month under house arrest, praised the agreement as a way to restore Sudan’s fragile democratic transition, but the country’s swelling and powerful protest movement, which seeks the removal of the military leaders behind the coup, roundly rejected the deal.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been at the forefront of protests that have roiled the country since late 2018, called it a “treasonous agreement.” The organization said the deal fell “far from the aspirations of our people” and was “nothing more than ink on paper.”

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who had used a state of emergency to consolidate power within his office, said Hamdok would lead “an independent technocratic cabinet until elections can be held,” according to the Associated Press. The government would still remain under military oversight, the AP reported.

Sudan’s revolutionaries vow to resist military’s power grab

The deal seemed likely to further plunge Sudan into turmoil rather than calm weeks of protests and strikes that have paralyzed the capital, Khartoum. A prominent doctors union alleged that security forces have killed 40 protesters since the coup. Some were killed by live ammunition, the group said. Others suffocated from widespread use of tear gas.

Hundreds of protesters marched toward Sudan’s presidential palace in Khartoum on Nov. 21, opposing a deal between Sudan’s prime minister and military leaders. (Video: Reuters)

Hamdok called for an end to the clashes.

“I know our youth have the capacity for sacrifice, determination and giving up all that is precious,” he said Sunday, according to Reuters. “But Sudanese blood is precious. Let us stop the bloodshed and direct the youths’ energy into building and development.”

The deal reportedly includes guarantees to release government officials and politicians held since the Oct. 25 military takeover.

Many protesters had hoped that Hamdok would hold out for an agreement that would ensure a full transfer of power to civilians and not a deal with coup orchestrators who had begun assembling a government full of figures from the Bashir regime.

Protesters were out in the thousands Sunday, many openly denouncing Hamdok, who until now had been seen as a kind of hero, enduring house arrest while pushing for a civilian government.

“The streets have already vowed to keep resisting, so it’s likely that we’ll see more, not fewer, protests,” said Kholood Khair, managing partner at Insight Strategy Partners, a policy research think tank in Khartoum. “They feel that they have been betrayed multiple times already and that now Hamdok is the latest.”

The Forces of Freedom and Change, a political party that was part of Hamdok’s pre-coup government, said its position remained clear: “No negotiation and no partnership and no legitimacy for the putschists.”

The deal follows weeks of feverish shuttle diplomacy by regional powers as well as top U.S. officials in the region.

Senior State Department officials had been pushing for Hamdok to be returned to power, including in recent visits by Molly Phee, the top U.S. diplomat in Africa, and Jeffrey Feltman, the special envoy for the Horn of Africa region.

Phee traveled to Khartoum from Nov. 14 to 16 and worked to advance efforts to “support the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and to restore the country’s civilian transition to democracy, including the return of Prime Minister Hamdok,” according to a State Department spokesman.

During her meetings, the spokesman said, Phee “urged the release of civilian leaders and protesters detained since the October 25 military takeover and called for the security services to exercise restraint in dealing with peaceful protests.” She also met with Burhan.

A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to give a more candid assessment of Sunday’s deal, said, “The announcement itself is not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for execution and this to stick.”

John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.

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