More and more people from across the Sudanese social spectrum are lining up behind the country’s military, with most of them demanding stability before anything else in the wake of the recent failed coup attempt in Sudan.
The Sudanese army quelled the attempted coup on 21 September, repulsed attempted Ethiopian infiltration across the border and retook the Al-Fashqa region from the Ethiopian Amhara militias that had taken control of the fertile region with the consent of the former regime led by ousted president Omar Al-Bashir as part of the Khartoum-Addis Ababa alliance prior to 2019.
The actions of the Sudanese military have increased the number of its supporters, with these joining its traditional loyalists from central Sudan. The country has restored its close links with Egypt and the Arab world and drawn apart from Ethiopia, Turkey and Iran since the overthrow of Al-Bashir and his Muslim Brotherhood followers.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok accused Al-Bashir’s supporters of carrying out the attempted coup. However, there have also been conspiracy theories pointing to head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, army leader Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, saying that the latter was trying to impose military rule to combat instability.
Other theories say that Al-Burhan’s deputy, leader of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces Mohamed Hamdan, aka Hamidti, was the mastermind of the coup. Still others say the failed coup was an attempt by disgruntled military officers to win over people unhappy about the difficult economic conditions in Sudan.
A war of words flared up between the country’s civilian and military leaders after Al-Burhan accused his partners in the Sovereignty Council of providing the atmosphere for the coup, while one prominent government figure accused Al-Burhan of “taking a leaf from an old book” in his behaviour.
Since the toppling of former president Omar Al-Bashir, Sudan has been governed by the Constitutional Document that created the ruling Sovereignty Council, the cabinet and the legislative authority, all shared between the civil and military camps.
The country is mired in complex challenges, with the economy plummeting and living conditions being harsh. Large parts of the population suffer from power outages for hours every day. Many medicines are not available, there is a bread crisis, and fuel is not easy to find.
Remote corners of Sudan are faring even worse. The peace process in Darfur has been brought to a halt despite the many displaced people kicked out of their homes by Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In East Sudan, the local Bagga tribe is demanding a larger share in government and an end to marginalisation.
Some civil-society groups in the Sudanese capital Khartoum have accused the tribes of being remnants of the Al-Bashir regime. The tribal leadership in west Sudan strongly supports Hamidti, and it seems that eastern tribal leaders have also joined his camp.
Sudan’s tribes were linked with the Al-Bashir regime, and today there is a need for tribalism, religious differences and ethnic divisions to be transcended.
“The military is trying to create a force that can bring this about, but it is not easy,” commented Wagdi Saleh, a member of the Committee to Dismantle the 30 June 1989 Regime that was led by Al-Bashir.
“It is difficult to bring all the Sudanese people under one umbrella. Moreover, the majority of tribal members are closely attached to their leaders,” Saleh added.
The Native Administration system in Sudan has been in force since the colonial era in regions far from the capital. It has contributed to the lack of development in many regions, leaving them under the control of tribal leaders who until recently were in charge of education, social services and security.
“The fact that the army fended off the Ethiopian attacks has increased its popularity, and it would now be difficult to remove it from the political stage,” Saleh said. “The political map of Sudan consists of the Native Administration in the remote regions, army supporters in the populous countryside and civil forces and the middle classes in the capital,” he added.
Sudanese journalist Fayez Al-Salik said the military was supported by the middle classes, who seek stability.
“Although a long transitional period can help in building institutions that can stand up to any possible comeback for dictatorship, it also places burdens on the shoulders of the middle class, which will support any party that will improve its living conditions,” Al-Salik said.
“If the tribal leaderships and the army, together with its supporters, can draw closer to each other, we will have the nucleus of a political body that can transcend ethnic, tribal and religious differences,” he said.
Al-Burhan said during celebrations of the anniversary of the retaking of the Al-Fashqa region that they were an affirmation that the region was Sudanese land.
“The epic restoration of Al-Fashqa was an affirmation of Sudan’s ability to protect its rights. Whoever accuses the Sudanese army of engaging in wars by proxy must stand on Al-Fashqa’s soil, which is, and always will be, Sudanese land,” Al-Burhan stated.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly