As Sudan’s military has successfully imposed its will on the country, Sudan’s revolution has been all but derailed, crushing the country’s democratic transition. Despite an increasing authoritarian entrenchment and renewed human rights violations, including the beating of protestors, arbitrary arrests, and torture of political prisoners, the United States and other global powers have failed to employ substantial pressure on the Sudanese military.
Nationwide protests toppled long-standing dictator Omar Bashir.
In April 2019, nationwide protests spurred on by indignation at the country’s corruption and autocracy toppled long-standing dictator Omar Bashir, whose 30-year reign had kept Sudan in a period of international isolation and economic impoverishment. Although the country had since made inspiring democratic gains, the military managed to overwhelm the civilian groups in government in a coup in October 2021.
After the coup, international pressure managed to broker a truce between the military and civilian transitional government. However, the former’s abuses have once again prevailed. And despite once again facing overwhelming odds, thousands of Sudanese protestors have fought bravely to prevent the military’s attempts to cling onto power. On May 12, large protests demanding that the military cede power erupted around the Presidential Palace in the Sudanese capital Khartoum,.
“All we are asking now is for the military council to step down and hand the state over to a civilian government in order to save the state, because Sudan is now collapsing, there is no justice, there is no freedom, and there is no peace,”Africa News quoted Abd El-malik Ibrahim, a protester in Khartoum.
Meanwhile, the Khartoum State Resistance Committee expressed its intentions to continue protests in the face of the military’s crackdown, saying: “We call on all those who reject the coup to continue the revolutionary escalation through the various methods of civil and peaceful resistance and to reject settlements that do not meet the aspirations of the Sudanese and do not reflect the goals of the glorious December  revolution . . . .”
While civilians have prioritized non-violent resistance, activists have repeatedly denounced live ammunition and tear gas firing by security forces.
The military coup has also enabled old human rights violations to resurface.
The military coup has also enabled old human rights violations to resurface, namely in the country’s Darfur region. Since 2003 Darfur has suffered unresolved war among Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed that are linked to the government, and opposition groups that protested neglect of non-Arab communities.
Gaining a new lease on life, the Janjaweed attacked the major Darfur city of Geneina in April. Attacks on the surrounding villages had already forced villagers to flee to Geneina. But with attacks on Geneina’s medical facilities and main hospital, the victims found no refuge from the Janjaweed’s atrocities .
“For the first time in Geneina’s history, the hospital has been completely evacuated. All health institutions in the city are closed,” the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors said on Twitter.
In a separate assault on the city of Kreinik, the Janjaweed killed 201 civilians, including six teachers, and injured 98 more. A statement issued by the Kreinik Voluntary Youth group read, “The attackers arrived in 4×4 vehicles mounted with machine guns, [and on] motorbikes, horses and camels.”
Prominent members of Sudan’s Rapid Support Force (RSF), a paramilitary force that grew out of the Janjaweed, are part of the military government, meaning that the faltering of Sudan’s democracy has indeed enabled wider human rights abuses.
Sudan’s military is indeed resembling a fledging dictatorship that could steer Sudan back towards international isolation and economic regression. International bodies have limited leverage over the country, with neither civilian groups nor the military accepting talks facilitated by the UN and African Union. Instead, military members have even threatened the UN.
Sudan’s military is indeed resembling a fledging dictatorship.
On March 28, Volker Perthes, head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan, spoke to the UN and warned that the “violent repression” of protests represents a threat to Sudan’s transition. In response, Sudan’s military head General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and other military members called for a “jihad” against Perthes and threatened to expel him from Sudan.
Amid these international failures to broker a political solution, Russia has also looked to bolster its ties with Sudan. After all, Moscow has shown its willingness to align itself with the Sudanese military leadership. This has been beneficial for Moscow as it seeks a naval base along the Red Sea, which Khartoum has already given consent for, even amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. And should tensions between Moscow and the West continue to rise following the war in Ukraine, this could propel Moscow further into courting Sudan.
Even before the coup, Sudanese protestors were concerned that the country’s very survival could be threatened, even as the international community’s pressure waned after the military’s attempts to take over became less obvious after April 2019. This waning pressure demonstrates the West was more focused on containing the coup rather than addressing the causes.
Importance of The Economy
Under former US President Donald Trump’s administration, Washington delivered the necessary support for Sudan’s economy by lifting its crippling State Sponsors of Terrorism from the Bashir era, allowing legal international investment into the country. Yet this clear quid pro quo for Khartoum’s normalization with Israel indicates that solving Sudan’s internal tensions and troubles were not the US’s priority.
Hyperinflation is high and the country has suffered from hard currency shortages.
However, as investments into Sudan were scarce, the economic strain in the country continued. Hyperinflation is high and the country has suffered from hard currency shortages, meaning the military could capitalize on the public’s woes and blame what it called the “civilian politician’s ineptitude.”
And now that Sudan is facing further instability due to the coup and continued power struggle, this is scaring off international investors and preventing the favorable economic conditions that would be necessary to ensure that the country’s democratic transition could flourish. After all, the World Bank suspended its ongoing $760 million aid project for Sudan just two days after the coup. Moreover, the US has said it won’t provide aid for Sudan unless the military halts it abuses and takeover.
The US has shown before that it has the power to influence Sudan’s outcome. In 2019, after the military revealed its true colors by openly firing on peaceful protestors staging a sit-in in Khartoum, the US managed to broker a transitional agreement in July 2019 that gave the civilian movements a seat in power.
Just suspending economic aid is not the answer, as this would likely further empower the Sudanese military. Instead, providing lasting support for Sudan’s opposition movement and pressuring the coup instigators is necessary to ensure that its democracy does not collapse. After all, a lapse into authoritarianism could have substantial consequences not only for Sudan, but for the rest of East Africa, further enabling abuses such as Ethiopia’s crackdown in the Tigray province or bolstering Russia’s expansion into the region.