Sudanese face economic chaos with return of Bashir-era brutality

The Sudanese military is more firmly in power since the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Sunday, as demonstrators continue to protest the army crackdown that has left dozens dead. While Hamdok’s resignation came as no surprise, Sudanese people are bracing for a difficult 2022.

Protesters in Khartoum chant slogans during a rally to denounce the October 2021 military coup in Sudan.
Protesters in Khartoum chant slogans during a rally to denounce the October 2021 military coup in Sudan. AP - Marwan Ali

“People felt that the longer [Hamdok] stayed in position, he was just a shill for the coup regime. People for the most part didn’t doubt his intentions, they didn’t think he wanted to be part of the coup regime,” Kholood Khair, managing partner of Khartoum-based Insight Strategy Partners think tank, told RFI.

However, two of Hamdok’s priorities – ending bloodshed and ensuring that gains made by the transitional government were not reversed – were not realised, and Khair questions how much longer he would have been able to justify his position, given the decreased space he had to deal with these issues.

After the coup d’etat of 25 October, Hamdok was put under house arrest by the military until 21 November. He gained the respect of the people while detained, but lost support when he signed the pact with the military when he was released.

This latest move has affected the Sudanese economy considerably, said Kamel Karar, a Khartoum-based economist and member of Sudan's Communist party.

"There’s no cabinet of ministers and no plan for the economy," said Karar.

"The government is asking the ministry of finance to tell them how they can adjust expenditure and revenues in governmental units, but no one has an answer."

The coup has also upended imports and exports, as shipments have stopped and prices of goods and services are rising rapidly, he said.

"There's more than 700 percent monthly inflation and there is no budget now, and we’re in January," he added.

 "We are facing real economic problems. How can the majority of people live in this situation?"

Bashir playbook

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said on Sunday that 56 people have been killed since 25 October, with more than double the number of rapes and maiming by the military.

Protests are ramping up, some to the levels experienced under President Omar al-Bashir who was ousted in April 2019.

“The Bashir playbook is being followed almost to a ‘T’ – the repression tactics, bringing tanks, armed police and armed security officers on to the street, the media crackdown, the appointment of military Islamists to keep the security and legal positions,” said Khair.

The military have even renamed the National Intelligence and Security Services as the General’s Intelligence Services, she said.

What is happening on the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman is just a part of the whole picture of the country.

Khair says that in western Darfur, the military is using local dynamics to re-assert power, partly because the 2020 peace agreement did not lead to peace, nor the economic or political dividends that the agreement promised.

The World Food Programme (WFP), which has food warehouses based in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, announced in late December that it would have to suspend its operations after three warehouses were looted.

People carted more than 5,000 tonnes of food, destined for almost two million people in 2022.

“It looks like the preparation for a new war in Darfur and everyone is trying to get supplies where they can, gearing up for this return to conflict,” said Khair.

Power back to the people

While any sort of talk of the transition is a moot point, Khair maintains that inclusive dialogue is necessary. The military continuing its crackdown and pushing forward with repression and killings has destroyed what little trust Sudanese people had in creating a transition to civilian government.

“The local resistance committees who have been the heart and the engine of the pro-democracy movement have vowed not to negotiate with the military and I think that‘s something that should be accommodated,” she said.

The resistance committees, normally neighbourhood-based, need to speak to other civilian groups, including political parties.

“Political parties will need to come up with a new way to engage with the military, because thus far, all of their negotiations with the military have resulted in very heavy compromises, most recently in 2019,” she added.

Any movement would be led by the people, as Western governments have condemned the coup and the military actions from afar, but have not indicated any sort of help.

And while going back to the streets carries a social and economic cost, as well as a fear of violence, Sudanese people have continued to show strength during pre-planned large protests.

There is no protest fatigue, although the smaller protests attract fewer people.

“But what we also see in those instances is more determination, more resolute participation from protesters,” Khair adds, qualifying that these efforts are more of a marathon than a sprint.

Civil society will not be receiving international funding, which will curtail their programmes, but everyone is expecting a difficult 2022, she said.

More resistance creates more international acclaim and army crackdowns are more likely to lose international support.

“At some point the military will concede to a dialogue process. I just hope it’s sooner, rather than later, so further bloodshed can be spared,” said Khair.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app