As Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is forced to step down by the military after three decades in power, Chatham House experts analyse why this has happened and look at the road ahead.

Chatham House
Apr 12 · 3 min read
Demonstrations in central Khartoum on April 11. Photo by AHMED MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images.

What happened this week?

The Sudanese people have been protesting for four months across the country calling on President Omar al-Bashir and his government to step down. A significant turning point in the attritional revolt came on 6 April, when thousands of peaceful protesters marched towards the Sudanese army headquarters calling for the military’s support in removing the regime.

This location has become the focal point for the protests, with pressure for change from the Sudanese street rising and forcing the military to step in and remove al-Bashir from office on 11 April.

In addition, elements within Sudan’s army have protected Sudanese civilians from being removed and dispersed by militias controlled by the security services. This has illustrated a growing divide between the political leadership of the armed forces and middle-ranking officers.

The people have reached out to the army, and there remains some hope they can maintain stability and support a political transition in the country.

What role is the army playing?

A transitional military council has been installed for two years which will be led by Lieutenant General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf who, until now, was Sudan’s first vice-president and minister of defence and a staunch ally of the former president. He has moved to distance himself and the armed forces from the previous regime and appealed to the people to support military.

The critical issue is now whether the army will want to monopolize power, and replace one military leadership with another, or whether power will be shared with and transferred to a transitional civilian government.

The military council has announced it has no ambitions to hold onto power but is the guardian of the Sudanese people and want to see their legitimate aspirations realised. It also confirmed meetings will be held with a range of political parties and that this is a golden opportunity to chart solutions for moving Sudan towards a legitimate civilian-led government.

Additionally, it has been confirmed that former president al-Bashir is under house-arrest and will be prosecuted in Sudanese courts, not handed over to the International Criminal Court, which accuses him of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Darfur. This is contentious for many Sudanese who may think that the military is providing their former leader with a soft landing.

Sudanese people remain sceptical. The armed forces choice of a contentious interim leader is unlikely to appease protestors and there is potential for increased violence and fragmentation if demands for a transition towards an inclusive transitional civilian government are not met.

What is likely to happen next?

Demonstrations are likely to continue over the coming days and it remains to be seen whether the transitional military council attempts to enforce the renewed state of emergency and curfew, or if more time is given to convince the public that genuine political transition will follow.

The forces of the Declaration for Freedom and Change, steered by Sudan’s Professional Association (SPA), which has been orchestrating the protest movement, have rejected the transitional military council and called for demonstrations to continue outside army headquarters in the capital and regions, as well as for the leadership of the armed forces to hand over power to a civilian administration.

These Forces, which also include the main political opposition group such as the Sudan Call alliance, the National Consensus Forces, and civil society organizations, have formed a council and propose to govern the country for four years to bring about peace and accountability, followed by general elections.

This alliance has become a coherent political force in the country but still needs time to establish transitional plans, including outlining its political leadership structure and solutions for the economic crisis.

In the short-term it is necessary to build-trust and narrow divisions. One option for moving forward could be to establish a transitional civilian council led by technocrats, who could work alongside the military leadership to chart a path towards reforms during the interim period.

Written commentary by Ahmed Soliman, Research Fellow, Horn of Africa, Africa Programme, Chatham House.

Read more from Chatham House on Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

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Chatham House

The Royal Institute of International Affairs. An independent policy institute with a mission to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

Chatham House

Written by

The Royal Institute of International Affairs. An independent policy institute with a mission to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

Chatham House

The Royal Institute of International Affairs. An independent policy institute with a mission to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

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