Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned in a televised statement Sunday, ending a short-lived political agreement with the country’s military, which had temporarily deposed him in an October coup before allowing him to return to power.
Meanwhile, a massive protest movement has repeatedly filled the streets of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, denouncing both the military and Hamdok, whom they saw as compromised for his cooperation with the forces that sought to sideline him.
A prominent doctors union has tallied 58 deaths among protesters targeted by security forces in the 10 weeks since the coup.
“I tried as much as I could to avoid our country from sliding into disaster,” Hamdok said. “I decided to give back the responsibility and announce my resignation as prime minister, and give a chance to another man or woman of this noble country.”
Military officials arrested Hamdok and dissolved the government on Oct. 25, then kept him under house arrest for a month. The move sparked outrage among Sudan’s protesters, whose movement, now three years old, brought about the fall of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April 2019.
It also upended Sudan’s rapprochement with Western countries, which had severed ties with the northeastern African country during the Bashir era. Billions of dollars in bilateral aid, debt relief and investments were put on hold.
After feverish mediation attempts by foreign and domestic power brokers, Hamdok was reinstated as president in November in a deal between civilian and military leaders. That deal was supported by Western governments but was seen by protesters and some of the country’s political parties as a betrayal by Hamdok of their ultimate goal: a fully civilian government.
That transition to a civilian government was meant to move forward in November, but it was derailed by the coup. Sudan’s military leader, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has repeatedly pledged to shepherd the country toward elections by mid-2023. He says he will not run.
Many in the country deeply distrust the military’s leadership. Burhan and other top military officials were part of Bashir’s campaigns that destabilized much of southern and western Sudan, and resulted in the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
Much of Sudan’s business interests are now controlled by military and paramilitary figures, and analysts say one major reason they have clung to power, and continue to delay the election timeline, is to buy time to secure continuing control over those interests.
Hamdok’s resignation sets up a potentially explosive confrontation between the military, a powerful paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the protest movement.
Recent protests in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities have been brutally dispersed by the RSF and police who have used live ammunition, huge amounts of tear gas and batons. The doctors union has reported on several occasions that RSF forces have stormed hospitals, looking for injured protesters to arrest.
The United Nations human rights office says 13 women and girls have alleged rape and gang rape by security forces during the recent protests.
The protest movement could grow as the country’s economy weakens. Inflation is skyrocketing, and pandemic-related shocks and the suspension of Western aid have made it harder for many to feed their families.
Hamdok, an economist who once worked for the United Nations, was hailed early in his tenure as a technocrat who could corral new Western support for the economy.
“I have had the honor of serving my countrymen for more than two years,” Hamdok said Sunday, “and during this journey, I have sometimes done well, and I have sometimes failed.”