Reinstated Hamdok Mild After Losing Sudanese Civilian Support

  • Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, reinstated after signing a deal with military
  • Assigned to create a ‘technocratic’ government without former allies, the FFC
  • Expected to lead the country to democratic elections, whilst under military oversight. 
Hamdok reinstated
Source: BBC News

Why is Abdalla Hamdok’s heat level mild?

Answer: Hamdok back in power, but unpopular due to military deal.   

In 2019, Sudan saw a democratic revolution that ended the 26-year rule of the former military dictator, Omar al-Bashir. As Khartoum flooded with democratic protests, sparking a bloody response from the Sudanese military, the fall of al-Bashir represented a new chapter for Sudan. With high hopes, a power-sharing agreement was signed between coalition pro-democratic groups and the Sudanese Transitional Military Council. Shortly after, Abdalla Hamdok, a Sudanese economist, was selected as the transitional Prime Minister of the country. 

In the power-sharing agreement, the country was set on a democratic trajectory that was expected to last three years, eventually resulting in a civilian-led government. However, on October 25, after a coup d’état that resulted in the arrests of many of the civilian politicians, ousting of Hamdok, and the destruction of the transitional Sovereign Council, the future of Sudan’s transition seemed incredibly bleak. Following the coup, Sudanese civilians took to the street to protest against the military putschists, hoping to turn the country back on its democratic track, while punishing those who undermined it. 

Following the weeks of protests in Khartoum and international condemnations of the overthrow, the coup leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, stepped aside, agreeing to a deal with Hamdok. The agreement reinstated Hamdok as prime minister and put the country back on the path that was agreed upon in 2019. Though democracy was back on the Sudanese radar, protesters were less than satisfied as the deal failed to punish those who overtook the country, and instead allowed them amnesty as some took previously held posts. 

Though Hamdok had the support of the pro-democracy movements before his arrest, after signing the deal, much of this support quickly dissipated. The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), which is one of the most important pro-democratic factions in Sudan, denounced the agreement between Hamdok and the military. Due to the deal, many Sudanese protesters believed that Hamdok turned his back to those who supported his rule in the first place. Although Hamdok’s mandate was reinstated, protests by pro-democracy demonstrators continued and many turned their dissidence towards the civilian PM. The parliament members who represented the FFC also resigned from their posts, protesting Abdalla Hamdok and his deal with al-Burhan. 

In a normal setting, Hamdok would not be considered mild, but quite hot as he won his seat back. But because he lost some of his closest political allies and is no longer seen as a hero, his heat rating takes a hit from what could have been. 

What is changing Abdalla Hamdok’s temperature?

Answer: Able to establish ‘technocratic government’, but does not include FFC. 

Even before the coup led by al-Burhan, Hamdok was not a popular figure in Sudan. He was criticized for being less effective when it came to foreign policy, one of his duties in the power-sharing agreement. For example, when Sudan signed the Abraham Accords with the State of Israel, it was not Hamdok who represented Sudan, but al-Burhan. Sudan has also seen poor economic performance as of late, with shortages of basic goods, riddling inflation, and instability in the country’s western region of Darfur. The poor economic standing was also used as a justification by al-Burhan and the military to take over the country and dissolve the sovereign council. 

Hamdok, being removed from power, immediately froze as he was put on house arrest along with many other members of the civilian-wing of government. Bloody protests erupted in Sudan as the military took a hard stance against their people, firing tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds, eventually killing 44 people and injuring hundreds. As the protests continue, and the demands of justice against the coup leaders remain unanswered, Hamdok sees that his popularity is on a sharp decline. Soon Hamdok will have to decide how to deal with the protest movement, and how he decides to subdue them will have huge implications on how he is received by the Sudanese population. 

One of the major points in signing the agreement with al-Burhan, Hamdok was able to gain responsibility for setting up a “technocratic government”, under the oversight of the military. As this will represent the new chapter of the Sudanese transition, it is understood that the previous civilian faction of government will no longer take part in the transition. Despite the FFC’s removal, this new setup gives Hamdok more power in the future of the country, but it does not completely satisfy FFC loyals.

The country is also being somewhat put back on track to a democratic transition as elections of 2023 are an end goal, which would also push out the military branch of the government completely. Though the deal is not ideal for Hamdok nor the FFC, it is no doubt that putting Hamdok back into the PM role is favored over the return to military dictatorship. 

After the coup, Hamdok was freezing cold due to his house arrest and having his position stripped away from him. Now back in power, he is slowly heating up, but due as he loses civilian support, Hamdok finds himself in a mild position. As Hamdok continues his rule, he needs to find a way to potentially garner his support from the streets or he will continue to face backlash from those that once backed him. 

What is driving Abdalla Hamdok?

Answer: Democracy and winning back the allies he once had in the current deal framework. 

Hamdok’s ultimate goal is to see Sudan become an effective democracy after the 2023 vote. Though he was seen at the beginning of his mandate as a figure of democracy, his agreement with the military and al-Burhan took this away from him. Though he knew signing the agreement would destroy his standing with the FFC and protesters, Hamdok claims that he signed to “avoid further bloodshed namely against the youth”. As the repressive military takeover became increasingly bloody, reviving scenes from the 2019 revolution, Hamdok says that he was pressured by the fear of what was to come had he not signed the deal.  

Due to the widespread chaos and horror at the hands of the Sudanese Security Forces, Hamdok made the decision to remove some of the higher officials that were responsible for the violent reactions to the protests. Of these included the Director-General of the Sudanese Police as well as his Deputy, replacing both of them with Hamdok’s appointees. This is a move by the Prime Minister to try to show the street protesters that change is coming; though the legitimacy of this move is questionable, as police have continued tear-gassing protesters in Khartoum. 

Hamdok has also doubled down on his promise to bring democratic rule to the country, stating If the Sudanese people think that the agreement does not meet their interests, I will submit my resignation”. Such a statement by Hamdok would only suggest that he is desperately trying to reawaken his support from the FFC and the street protesters. Though many would say that the agreement does not serve their interests, Hamdok is trying to buy time to bring his former confidants back to his side. 

What does this mean for you?

Answer: One less strongman in Africa, Abiy Ahmed to be emboldened in dam dispute.

Had the military stayed in power in Sudan, there would have been an incredibly different dynamic in terms of international relations. For one, Sudan was removed from the African Union on October 26, just a day after the coup. International powers such as the United Arab Emirates, United States, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia, released a joint statement calling for the “full and immediate restoration of the transitional government in Sudan”.

Sudanese assets, aid, and remittance flows were also frozen for the Sudanese coup leaders, pressuring them to reinstate Hamdok. These all ostracized Sudan from the international community as no one would accept a coup by al-Burhan and the military. Though there was international pressure to reverse the coup d’état, Egypt was one country that was supportive of the coup and is even suspected to have had a hand in it. 

Between Hamdok and al-Burhan, the two have opposing doctrines on dealing with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. As for the Prime Minister, he has preferred a diplomatic stance, supporting Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to reach a multilateral agreement. General al-Burhan has met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on numerous occasions to discuss the possibility of a binding agreement for the dam. Though for al-Sisi, a strongman leader in Sudan means an allied partner to fight against Ethiopia and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Considering this, it is not surprising that Egypt and al-Sisi would be willing to support a military-led government in Sudan. Though there are reports that al-Sisi was not just supportive of the coup, but also hosted al-Burhan to discuss the move that would be taken and to receive “regional support. Due to al-Sisi’s backstage intervention with al-Burhan, if Sudan can reach its democratic goal, it will cause heavy implications between Sudan and Egypt. 

Now that Hamdok is back in power in the country, it will be harder for Egypt to expect a strongman partner like al-Burhan to stand up against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopia. Abiy Ahmed would of course have favored that Hamdok came back into power due to the low chance that he will strongly oppose his regional agenda. With this being said, it is expected that Abiy Ahmed will continue his aggressive moves to fill the Grand Renaissance Dam and not let anyone such as al-Sisi or al-Burhan hold him back.