Renewed tribal violence in the western Sudanese city of El Geneina over the past week has displaced more than 15 000 people, the United Nations said.
The war-weary Darfur region has seen an increase in violence recently, humanitarian groups say, which analysts link to a peace deal signed in October 2020 that has led to some groups to jostle for power while not adequately addressing security concerns.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a personal dispute in the village of Adikong between two men from the Masalit tribe and an unspecified Arab nomadic group sparked the conflict.
Armed nomads attacked the local market, set fire to part of the village, and killed nine people including two children, it said.
The fighting, which spilled over into other villages, caused 11 100 people to be displaced within the El Geneina locality, and an estimated 4 500 others to flee across the border to Chad.
A joint security force was dispatched to the area, the UN statement said.
El Geneina and the surrounding area saw several incidents of violence in 2021, and more than half of residents are in need of humanitarian aid according to UN estimates.
The early-2000s conflict in Darfur between rebel groups on one side and government forces and allied militias on the other caused an estimated 300 000 deaths. About 2.5 million people live in displacement camps across Darfur, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Darfur residents complain that the militias continue to carry out attacks on villages and camps.
Some 430 000 people have been displaced in 2021, a four-fold increase over 2020, aid groups say.
The alliance of farmers in El Gezira and El Managil forewarned authorities of the winter harvest failure, owing to the unjustified increase in agricultural fees, neglect of cleaning canals, lack of production inputs and, potential failure to fertilise the crops in time.
An official spokesman for the alliance, Abdeen Bargawi, said in a statement to Radio Dabanga, that the essential nitrogen-rich fertiliser for winter, if not applied in time, will vastly decrease the crop yield. He also said that this would lead to farmers being unable to pay accrued debts to the Agricultural Bank.
Bargawi went on to explain, that the alliance is in the process of initiating a legal case against the Agricultural Bank and the management of the El Gezira project, to compensate the farmers for the failure of the winter season.
The alliance is calling on the public to show solidarity with the farmers and to support their protest of the current situation.
Hundreds of Sudanese protesters took to the streets of the capital on Thursday, marching towards the house of 23-year-old Thabit Hussein, who was killed during clashes near the presidential palace earlier this week.
Hussein was one of three people killed during Monday’s protests, bringing the death toll among protesters to at least 76 since the military takeover on Oct. 25.
Activists said security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters in several locations in the capital, including around the fortified presidential palace.
Hussein’s mother, Shadia Ahmad, urged de-facto Sudanese leader Abdel-Fattah Burhan “to stop the bloodshed, to set and negotiate with the youths to see what they need exactly,” because, she added, “negotiation is the only solution for the problem.”
The relentless protests have rocked the country since the military coup three months ago.
Fresh crackdowns on protesters will likely complicate U.N. efforts to find a way out of the country’s crisis.
The coup has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir.
The African nation has been on a fragile path to democracy since a popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.
Sudan has been politically paralyzed since the coup, with the turmoil worsening since the resignation this month of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who complained of failure to reach a compromise between the generals and the pro-democracy movement.
Hamdok had been reinstated in November in a deal with the military that angered the pro-democracy movement.
The U.N. mission has in the past two weeks been consulting with rival Sudanese factions in efforts to bridge the gap between the generals and the pro-democracy movement.
There are now fears of an escalation in the confrontations between protesters and security forces that have gripped the capital, Khartoum, and beyond in recent weeks, resulting in the deaths of at least 57 people, a doctors group said.
A vast country of about 43 million people in the northeast of Africa, Sudan has neither the political structures nor the independent political bodies in place to legitimately appoint a new prime minister, analysts said, dampening further the country’s hopes of exchanging a military dictatorship for democratic rule.
“It is very clear that the military and its alliance won’t hand over power peacefully, so they will try to crush the peaceful resistance,” said Dr. Sara Abdelgalil, a Sudanese doctor and a former president of the doctors’ union. “We are expecting the worst.”
An economist, Mr. Hamdok was a novice politician who spent much of his career working for international organizations, including the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
“He was an affable, grandfatherly figure who really in his person symbolized a better future,” said Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank based in Washington. “He came to symbolize the hope and change of Sudan.”
Understand the Sudan Coup
On Oct. 25, a coup led by the military derailed Sudan’s transition to civilian rule and plunged the country back into fear and uncertainty.
Simmering Tensions: In the weeks preceding the coup, the relations between the military and civilian leadership grew fraught. Here’s why.
But in the end, Mr. Hamdok, 66, faced the herculean task of attempting to unite the disparate actors who strove to shape Sudan’s future.
There was the military, the country’s long-dominant force, which removed him from office on Oct. 25, kept him sidelined under house arrest — and then reinstalled him a month later after he signed a deal with them.
There was the constellation of political parties and trade unions, many of which all along had rejected any power-sharing agreement with the military.
And then there were the protesters, who have flooded the streets since late October, despite a violent crackdown. In chants and on signs, they labeled Mr. Hamdok a “traitor” who had undermined their quest for “freedom, peace and justice.”
On Monday, the United Nations and countries including the United States called on Sudanese political leaders to patch up their differences through consensus and dialogue. U.S. Senator James E. Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr. Hamdok’s resignation “completes” the military coup of Oct. 25, and urged the military to “hand over power to elected civilian leaders.”
Experts say that installing a legitimate civilian government now will not be easy.
As part of a constitutional declaration signed in 2019, a legislative council would have selected a prime minister. That appointee would then be approved by the Sovereignty Council, a transitional body composed of civilian and military leaders.
But the transitional legislative council was never formed. And Gen. al-Burhan dissolved the Sovereignty Council after the coup, and established a new one stacked with military appointees and their allies, said Lauren Blanchard, a specialist in African affairs with the Congressional Research Service, a research institute of the United States Congress.
Another option, according to the 2019 agreement, Ms. Blanchard said, would call for the Forces of Freedom and Change — which led the civilian side of the transitional government — to select a prime minister. But with the general’s crackdown on protesters, the participation of the Forces of Freedom and Change seems unlikely, she said.
With no prime minister or civilian government, the military, former rebel groups and the powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces are now in control of Sudan.
Magdi el-Gizouli, a Sudanese fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, a research group, said that some of the names floated for appointment as prime minister — as the military tries to temper both international criticism and domestic protests — include a former finance minister, Ibrahim Elbadawi, and Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a human-rights activist. But both men and others are likely to decline the offers, he said, given the pressure coming from the general public.
“So for now, it is the generals who will make the decisions,” Mr. el-Gizouli said. “If you command an army and have guns in Sudan, you now make the decision.”
Mr. Hamdok’s resignation does put increased pressure on the military, Mr. Hudson said. The generals have used Mr. Hamdok as cover, he said, shielding them from international pressure and financial sanctions targeting their extensive business networks.
But even as they paid lip service to democracy and elections, the generals undermined Mr. Hamdok’s leadership, and over the past two months, responded with brutality to the protests of those calling for a fully democratic Sudan.
Despite the crackdown, anti-coup demonstrators have continued to turn out every week, with neighborhood resistance committees becoming ever more organized in standing up to the military. But with Mr. Hamdok gone, many civilians and analysts are now worried about a more extensive and severe crackdown.
Sudan is going “deeper in the wrong direction,” said Mr. el-Gizouli, of the Rift Valley Institute. “It is heading toward a hollowed-out political system where words and structures don’t mean anything, and where killing people doesn’t cost you anything.”
Abdalla Hamdok, prime minister of Sudan’s fragile transition to civilian rule before being ousted and detained in an October coup then reinstated, resigned Sunday in a new blow to the turbulent African nation.
After weeks of house arrest, during which Sudan was rocked by mass protests, he officially returned to government under a deal signed with military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in a televised ceremony on November 21.
However pro-democracy protest organisers rejected the deal and in the ensuing weeks, tens of thousands have taken to the streets to protest against Hamdok’s ineffective and hamstrung government hampered by the military’s tight grip. France 24’s Bastien Renouil reports on the resignation of Sudan’s PM
In the face of the rising violence — at least 57 protesters have been killed since the coup and hundreds more wounded according to medics — and accusations of “treachery”, Hamdok decided to step down.
“I have tried my best to stop the country from sliding towards disaster,” he told the nation in a televised speech on Sunday hours after the latest anti-military rally in Khartoum.
He cited “the fragmentation of the political forces and conflicts between the (military and civilian) components of the transition” and said that “despite everything that has been done to reach a consensus… it has not happened”.
Sudan “is crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival”, he warned.
Hours earlier thousands flooded the streets of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman, braving a heavy troop deployment, chanting “power to the people” and demanding the military return to their barracks.
Hamdok, a British-educated economist who worked for the United Nations and African organisations, carved out an image as a champion of good governance and transparency over the course of a long and varied career.
He emerged as Sudan’s civilian leader after a wave of unprecedented, youth-led protests brought down long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who was arrested by the military in April 2019.
Hamdok was outside Sudan and not directly involved in that protest movement, but the appointment of the moustachioed technocrat was cheered by much of the population and greeted by the international community.
His challenges were huge: political turmoil and economic crisis, shortages of basic commodities, and the need to rebuild a banking sector on the verge of collapse.
Hamdok was born in 1956 in the state of South Kordofan. After completing a degree in agricultural economics in Khartoum he moved to Manchester in the United Kingdom for his masters.
Years later his home state found itself on Sudan’s southern border when South Sudan became independent in 2011 after decades of war with the north.
His own village turned into a war zone and Hamdok was keen to push for a resolution to Sudan’s civil conflicts.
Hamdok drew on his experience in various African peace-building initiatives when Sudan signed a deal with rebel groups in October 2020 to end unrest in Sudan’s regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Before joining the post-Bashir transition he was deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.
Divisions and economic woes
Bashir’s regime had long been under crippling US sanctions but, with Hamdok’s government in power, Washington removed Sudan from a sponsors of terrorism list.
That and debt relief from international creditors opened the way for foreign investment.
The trade-off was tough economic reforms. His government scrapped subsidies on petrol and diesel and carried out a managed float of the Sudanese pound.
Many Sudanese saw the measures as too harsh and anti-government protests broke out in several parts of Sudan.
Delays in delivering justice to the families of those killed under Bashir, and even during the 2019 protests following the autocrat’s ouster, also left Hamdok vulnerable to criticism.
His troubles escalated from mid-September when anti-government protesters blockaded Sudan’s main seaport, triggering nationwide shortages in wheat and fuel.
Divisions deepened within the Forces for Freedom and Change, the umbrella civilian alliance which had spearheaded the protests against Bashir, and which picked Hamdok as premier in 2019.
The compounding political and economic problems augured Burhan’s October military coup.
With his resignation, Sudan, a country with a history of coups, appears to have once again plunged into a new political abyss.