US, Israeli link in Sudan military takeover
The Sudanese army general who stage-managed his country’s normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel swept aside the civilian part of Sudan’s government in a coup that has been a long time coming.
As is the case with almost all military coups in the Arab world, the state-run Television of Sudan suddenly cut off regular programming on Monday morning and started airing national songs before airing a televised statement read by General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan who has been a key player in Sudanese politics ever since the overthrow of former dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
The influential general announced the dissolution of the transition cabinet of ministers led by Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok. He also dissolved a ruling body known as the Sovereign Council and declared a state of emergency that entails curfews.
Civilian leaders under house arrest
In the meantime, the ministers and the prime minister himself were arrested or forced to stay at home in what appeared to be under house arrest.
In a sign that Hamdok was barred from any movement, the office of the prime minister issued a statement calling on the people to take to the streets and protect the revolution from the “thieves.”
“We call on the Sudanese people to protest using all peaceful means possible … to take back their revolution from the thieves,” Hamdok’s office said in a statement.
Tensions between military and civilian leaders
Frictions between military and civilian parts of the government increased over the last few weeks, with the civilians accusing the military of playing a role in last month’s attempted coup to remove them from power and undermine the previously agreed to the power-sharing system between the military and the civilian groups.
The government of Sudan has been more or less equally shared between the military and the civilians since 2015 according to an agreement between the two sides on the requirements of the transitions period which was supposed to last until 2023 when the transitional government would be replaced with an elected government.
Based on this agreement, the Sovereign Council was established with members from both sides. Al-Burhan was the chairman of the council. He has been accused by members of the Hamdok government of trying to disrupt the democratic transition.
In his Monday statement, the general offered assurances that the military will continue the transition process. “The army will continue the democratic transition until the handover of power to an elected civilian government,” he said, noting that “there is a need for the army to protect the security and safety of the country as stipulated in the constitutional declaration.”
Full-fledged military coup
But the statement failed to convince the ousted government whose ministers are now in custody. The Sudanese Ministry of Information announced that “what happened in Sudan today is a full-fledged military coup,” calling on the masses to “cut off the road to military action until the coup attempt is overthrown.”
Al-Burhan said the constitutional framework that allowed for power-sharing turned into a source of struggle and that the military needed to step in to save the country. But this kind of messaging is unlikely to convince his rivals given his close connection with foreign parties who sought to beef up al-Burhan at the expense of the Hamdok government.
Israel, UAE, Saudi axis
Many in Sudan and beyond considered the general as an ally of the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Al-Burhan himself did nothing to debunk these allegations. Instead, he even exacerbated them by secretly meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda last year.
During the meeting, al-Burhan and Netanyahu agreed to cooperate toward normalization between Sudan and Israel, a move that sparked widespread uproar in Sudan and the entire region given the history of enmity between Israel and Sudan. This is a cause for concern for many Sudanese who harbor fears over a growing Israeli influence in their country if al-Burhan succeeds in consolidating power.
US envoy met military leader before coup
Moreover, some Sudanese could even raise questions over the close relationship between al-Burhan and the Americans. The coup took place hours after Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met with al-Burhan in Khartoum. During the meeting, Feltman presented proposals to enhance the “spirit of partnership” and seek to get the country out of its current crisis. A Sudanese statement stated, “The American envoy, Feltman, presented several proposals that would enhance the spirit of partnership and hard work for the safe exit of the country from its current crisis.”