Sudan's pro-democracy protesters face a new test after helping oust President Omar al-Bashir: getting the military to cede power.
UNITED NATIONS – Sudan remained on a knife edge Monday, a week after more than 100 pro-democracy protesters were killed in the capital Khartoum in a brutal wave of state-directed violence.
Long-time Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was deposed in April by a military council that promised a swift handover to civilian governance.
Khalid Mustafa Medani is an associate professor of Islamic Studies at McGill University and says when the military council called off talks with protest groups, it led the same civilians who helped drive away Bashir to turn their sights on a military council that showed little desire to cede power.
Under domestic pressure, Sudan’s de facto leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, traveled to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates where he reportedly received messages of support from leaders with notably bad reputations when it comes to the treatment of protesters.
“That trip really led to the Transitional Military Council being emboldened in terms of insisting on the military staying in power.”
Shortly after Burhan’s return to Sudan, state-affiliated militias notorious for their role in the Darfur genocide carried out a deadly dispersal of a protest camp in Khartoum.
Demonstrators responded with disciplined non-violence, but Medani worries Sudan’s military leaders will try to incite opposition violence nonetheless. And as the rank and file of the Sudanese military decide whether to attack unarmed protesters or defy the orders of their superiors, Medani says the wider world faces a choice, too:
“To what extent will the American people, the American government and the European Union and of course the African Union – who have all now decided that there must be a transition to civilian-led government – will they intervene robustly politically and diplomatically, and will they call for an arms embargo? And to what extent will they implement sanctions against Burhan? That is what people are really looking forward to.”
As of Monday evening, the Trump administration is reportedly mulling the appointment of a special adviser for Sudan policy. The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, is also planning to visit the country later this week.