Sudan’s Hamdok “too focused on the economy” and plagued by internal struggles, experts say


Until his dismissal by the military last week, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former World Bank economist, led the country’s transition reforms that he hoped would solve the country’s financial problems.

Sudanese economists and independent political analysts fear that in his pursuit of swift reform, he has neglected critical issues that the military said led to the seizure of power on Monday.

First, the deep gaps between parties and competing agendas after decades of repression under the autocrat Omar Al Bashir. The second is the painful short-term impact of its economic reforms on the vast majority of the 44 million people who have been squeezed by years of neglect, a deep financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the military chief, General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, paid tribute to the civilian leader who had been deposed and said he had agreed to Mr Hamdok’s initiatives on numerous occasions, but ultimately the prime minister would not be able to work freely as long as he was politically restrained . The general’s main criticism was of the Forces of Freedom of Change (FFC), the pro-democratic umbrella organization that led the 2019 uprising against Al Bashir and formed Mr Hamdok’s power base.

General Al Burhan said he had offered concessions to the FFC but these were rejected. The FFC condemned the actions of the military and called for the army chief to resign.

“I think the transitional government has been pushed too much firefight, leaving them little time for more strategic and important political projects,” said Husameldin Elnasri, a Khartoum-based strategist, economist and managing director of Dabara Consulting The national.

Mr Elnasri, a staunch supporter of Mr Hamdok, said he understands why the prevailing impression in the country is that the prime minister has tried to limit himself to economic matters since his appointment in 2019.

Hamdok was proposed by the FFC after weeks of negotiations with the military in the summer of 2019 on the shape of the transition after nearly 30 years of Al Bashir’s rule. But since then they have left the horns behind on several of the decisions he made, most notably his proposed model of power-sharing with army generals and painful economic reforms.

There were sharp divisions in the civil alliance. In September, 20 political parties joined forces to criticize the bloc for “hijacking the revolution and poorly managing the transition period”.

They accused other parties within the alliance of being hostile to the army, as the power-sharing negotiations were fraught with difficulties and problems from the start.

The divisions reached a climax the week before the seizure of power by hundreds of activists outside the presidential palace to demand the dissolution of the government.

They shouted, “Down with the hunger government,” while ordinary Sudanese people wait for hours every day to buy bread and fuel.

The pro-military sit-in was supported by key political figures in Mr Hamdok’s cabinet, including his Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Gebriel Ibrahim Mohammed.

The embattled prime minister, released by the army and returned home under guard after his arrest on Monday, came between the factions of the FFC and the army.

Mr Hamdok’s allies have made it clear that there will be no compromise with the army on demands made after an attempted coup last month, such as the dissolution of the 18-member committee that was set up by hundreds of millions Recovering dollars on land, property and businesses in Khartoum from the overthrown Al Bashir regime.

“People expected more from this government on the transitional justice front. The government was also expected to be more inclusive and complete all the promised institutions including Parliament and the Constitutional Court. People also took to the streets because they agreed with the general were not happy. ” Al Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo or Hemedti and their attempts to stay in power, “Elnasri sums up some of the differences of opinion.

Tim Phillips, founder and CEO of Beyond Conflict, a Boston-based NGO that has helped democracy transition and national reconciliation in dozen of countries, says politicians fear alienating the masses who yearn for a democratic Sudan.

“Politicians are often restricted by their previous public positions, the pressure of party politics and narrow interests. Politicians are often elected by announcing that they will not compromise on important issues, which often locks them up when compromises are required. On the other hand, the public is not exposed to the same pressure or incentive and has more flexibility in finding compromises that politicians often struggle with, ”said Philips The national.

Hamdok’s “tragic mistake”

Mr. Hamdok, 65, spent most of his career as an economist in key international institutions such as the World Bank.

He clarified the long open question of Sudan’s alleged support for terrorism after Al Bashir received Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. Mr Hamdok agreed to compensation for the victims’ families in order to be removed from Washington’s list of state sponsors and to allow international bodies, lenders and governments to be moved to aid the interim administration.

He has also made headway in talks with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to join it after nearly two decades of failed attempts under the former dictator.

His tweets reflect his entrepreneurial mindset and financial acumen.

At the Paris conference in May where the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to repay some of Sudan’s grueling external debt, he said tweeted a well-produced video that he said “showcased Sudan in a new way as a country rich in natural resources and diverse cultures, and also aims to attract investment and tourism”.

But its painful economic reforms came at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Sudanese. Inflation has risen to over 340 percent and there is a shortage of everything from electricity to medicines to bread.

That quest to enlist Western economic support while ignoring the livelihood impact of reforms was the “tragic mistake” of Mr Hamdok, said Zaynab Mohamed, a political analyst for Sudan at UK Oxford Economics, an institute that specializes in the assessment and analysis of economic, social and business impacts.

“It created the environment in which this coup was possible. It has been painful to make massive payments to be removed from the list of state sponsors of US terrorism and to clean up their arrears in recent months, “said Ms. Mohamed.

Mr Hamdok’s interim government paid $ 335 million to victims of past attacks on the United States in April under an agreement that removed the country from the US terrorist blacklist.

The attacks in 1998 included the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al-Qaeda, which was supported by Al Bashir.

“The implementation of the recommended reforms, in particular the reduction in subsidies and the currency devaluation, have also contributed to the sharp rise in the cost of living. It is certainly likely that Mr Hamdok, as a World Bank economist, was blind to the disruptive effects of the reforms – that, in his orthodox view, he was not sufficiently sensitive to how angry more expensive fuels, medicines and staples were making people, ”added Ms. Mohamed .

Mr. Elnasri, the Sudanese economist, agreed.

“I think the economic reforms were too tough too soon, which made it difficult for almost everyone to cope,” he said.

“However, as a country, we had very little room for maneuver to negotiate and negotiate with creditors and international organizations. Had we had the choice, we would have spread the reforms over two or three years instead of the few months we were given paid off with falling inflation and the stability of the exchange rate. “

The coup against Mr Hamdok, however, could unite the FCC and focus heads among those pushing for civilian rule.

Demonstrations in support of the democratic transition continued throughout the week, with the FCC and other forces pledging to fight the coup, despite several protesters killed and dozens injured when security forces used live ammunition to disperse crowds this week.

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets on Saturday to denounce the military takeover and demand that General Al Burhan “go.”

Updated: October 31, 2021, 11:32 am


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