Africa

Sudan's military sign deal to reinstate ousted PM Abdalla Hamdok

Published : November 22, 2021 14:20 IST

Ousted Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has signed a deal with the country's military leadership which sees him reinstated. Photo: AFP

Hamdok is set to return to power in Sudan just weeks after being ousted by the military.

After weeks of negotiations, Sudan's military leaders accepted a deal to reinstate Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister on November 21. Hamdok, who was removed from power on October 25, will now return to lead a technocratic government for a "transitional period" until elections can be held. It was not immediately clear how much power will the civilian government truly have.

"Sudanese blood is precious, let us stop the bloodshed and direct the youth's energy into building and development," Hamdok said after the signing of the deal. The U.S. is "encouraged" by the deal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on November 21.

Army to release detainees

Talking to the Al Jazeera network, Hamdok said that the deal allows him complete freedom in forming his cabinet. Earlier on November 21, the politician said he accepted the deal to avoid further bloodshed. The move comes after the military violently clamped down on anti-coup protests. Another protester was killed on November 21 in clashes with security forces.

The country's top military leader, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, thanked Hamdok for his service and said the prime minister "was patient with us until we reached this moment." The 14-point deal also includes a pledge from the military that all political detainees would be released. Burhan and other top military leaders have clashed with the country's civilian leadership since the military coup that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019. But Burhan has insisted his more recent move against Hamdok was not a coup, describing it instead as an attempt to "rectify the transition."

How has the U.S. and E.U. reacted?

"I am encouraged by reports that talks in Khartoum will lead to the release of all political prisoners, reinstatement of Prime Minister Hamdok, lifting of the state of emergency, and resumption of coordination," Blinken tweeted. "I also reiterate our call for security forces to refrain from excessive force against peaceful protesters," he said.

The U.S. and the international community backed the return of the prime minister. The E.U.'s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell welcomed the news and called it the "first step to bring the transition back on track." "Too many people have lost their lives since October 25. Unity and inclusiveness for a peaceful and democratic Sudan is what the people of Sudan want and need," he added.

Protests continue despite Hamdok's return

Burhan previously pledged to hold a new election in 2023. However, many pro-democracy factions rejected the November 21 deal between Hamdok and the military — saying they would continue their protests.

The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, the group that spearheaded the uprising that culminated in Bashir's ouster, said the perpetrators of the coup should be brought to justice. "We affirm our clear and previously declared position that there is no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy for the coup," the faction said in a statement. "We are not concerned with any agreements with this brute junta and we are employing all peaceful and creative methods to bring it down."

The Umma Party also released a statement stressing its opposition to any deal that fails to "meet the aspirations of all revolutionaries and the Sudanese people." "The party expresses its faith in the victorious and rebellious resistance and reaffirms that it shall always stand by the people to protect justice," it said.

Violence unabated

Since the news of the deal to reinstate Hamdok, witnesses have reported seeing protesters again rallying against the military in downtown Khartoum, in the state of Kassala and the city of Atbara. A 16-year-old boy was reportedly shot dead during the protests on November 21, bringing the total death toll to 41 since the unrest began last month.

Reuters news agency meanwhile reported that according to a witness, thousands marched towards the presidential palace in Khartoum ahead of the meeting with Burhan and Hamdok. Security forces used tear gas to disperse groups approaching the presidential palace, with some of the protesters shouting that Hamdok had "sold the revolution."

"We do not want a partnership with the military," a protester in North Khartoum was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency. "We want a complete civilian state, for the army to return to its barracks, and to hold accountable those who killed protesters since the coup."

Hamdok 'lost a lot of credibility' as his allies reject deal

Kholood Khair, managing partner at the Insight Strategy Partners think tank, told DW that not many are in favor of the deal. "I think it's fair to say there has been a broad rejection of this agreement," she told DW.

"The PM has lost a lot of credibility with this move," she told DW. "And of course, this political agreement — much like the coup itself – has dismissed much of his political umbrella, which has left him reasonably isolated." She added that "what people were calling for was for the military to be negotiated out or for the military to retreat from the political life altogether. This agreement does not do that. What it effectively does is whitewash the coup … and enable the military to retain a lot of the power that it has."

"The terms of the agreement don't stipulate that the military has to give up anything, power or otherwise." Khair also told DW that the deal would not avert protests and is likely to "add fuel to that fire." It could also encourage the military to possibly stage another coup down the line, she told DW.

Coup slammed abroad

Earlier on November 21, Hamdok was freed from house arrest. The ousted prime minister had been under armed guard since military leaders declared a state of emergency in October. "The house arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been lifted and the forces guarding his house have been withdrawn," the official is reported to have told AFP. The deal was reached after weeks of talks that included political factions, former rebel groups as well as military figures.

Despite Burhan avoiding the term "coup", the takeover saw the military tighten its grip on power, appointing a new military-run Sovereign Council, chaired by Burhan. The council also included a paramilitary commander, three senior military figures, three ex-rebel leaders and one civilian.

The coup was slammed widely, both inside the country and internationally. The African Union suspended the country's membership following the military takeover, with the U.S. also demanding that military leaders step aside and return the country to civilian rule. Earlier this month, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on the military leaders to "step back in order to allow the country to return to the path of progress" after the coup on October 25.

ab, dj, kb, see/rs (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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