Sudan’s Hamdok calls on divided factions to work together or face devastating civil war
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok pleaded Tuesday with pro-democracy groups to work together again and avoid a “devastating civil war”.
Hamdok said the groups behind an uprising that toppled autocrat Omar Al Bashir in 2019 must again close ranks for the sake of Sudan.
In a televised address, he also tried to reassure Sudanese that the ambitious but tough reforms introduced by his transitional government would ultimately turn the economy around.
Hours earlier, peace talks between the government and a major rebel group were suspended, apparently to give both sides time to review the process and find compromises.
The talks took place in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. No date has been announced for a revival.
Mr. Hamdok’s comments reflected the gravity of the political, security and economic situation in Sudan, 26 months after Al Bashir’s removal from office after months of deadly street protests against his 29-year rule.
Mr. Hamdok, a career UN economist, took office in August 2019 as part of a power-sharing deal between the generals who ousted Al Bashir and the pro-democracy groups who staged the protests.
Tension was simmering between the civilian and military wings of the transitional administration over the limits of authority on either side.
The country also faces an upsurge in violent crime, shortages of basic items such as bread and gasoline, and rising consumer prices as it moves towards democratic rule.
“Our country is facing difficult circumstances which threaten its unity and cohesion, as well as the spread of hate speech and divisions,” Hamdok said.
“These divisions could lead us to chaos, reinforce criminal gangs and strife between segments of the population. This can lead to a devastating civil war.
There were violent street protests in Khartoum on Thursday and Friday, sparked by a sharp increase in fuel prices as part of the government’s campaign to remove state subsidies.
Angry crowds in the tens of thousands closed the capital’s main roads, burned tires and destroyed private property. Shops were looted in parts of the city.
Mr. Hamdok said the violence and crime in Sudan was mainly the result of divisions among the pro-democracy groups that led the uprising.
He also blamed “enemies of the revolution” and supporters of the Al Bashir regime.
“The divisions between the forces of the revolution give its enemies the possibility of operating and conspiring,” Hamdok said.
There are fractures in the alliance of political parties, trade unions and professional unions and student and women’s organizations that have led the protests against the Al Bashir regime.
Mr. Hamdok acknowledged the “cruelty and harshness” of the reforms introduced by his government.
“But this is the only remedy for our situation,” he said. “The realistic solution lies in the productivity and potential of the agricultural sector.
In recent weeks, Sudan has seen much of its $ 60 billion foreign debt canceled and obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from international agencies, including the World Bank.
Its removal from the US list of terrorist sponsor states last year qualified it for financial assistance from donors and international financial agencies.
Its efforts to end protracted conflicts in its western and southern regions led to a peace deal with several rebel groups last October.
Most of these groups wielded little power and held no territory.
But the government began peace talks last week with one of the country’s main rebel groups, the People’s Liberation Movement of North Sudan, but they were abruptly suspended on Tuesday.
The group controls large swathes of land in the western and southern regions of Sudan.
Delegates said both sides agreed on most of the issues discussed but more work was needed to iron out remaining differences.
“The government delegation will return for the next round once the right conditions are in place to discuss the remaining outstanding issues,” said General Shamseldeen Al Kabashi, chief government delegate.
Sudan has been in the throes of civil unrest since its independence in 1956.
These conflicts, which have killed and displaced millions of people, devastated the economy and contributed to military coups that toppled democratically elected governments and put generals in power.
Sudan’s economic woes, perhaps the worst since independence, are largely caused by the 2011 secession of the country’s oil-rich south after more than two decades of civil war.