Sudanese demand freeze of international aid to the military

Sudanese protesters are urging world powers not to resume development aid to their government for fear of legitimising the October 25 coup and spoiling their country’s transition to democracy.

Talk of restoring aid picked up after Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was released from house arrest and reinstated on November 22. But Sudan’s resistance committees – neighbourhood groups with a horizontal command structure that are spearheading the pro-democracy movement – interpreted Hamdok’s move as ratifying the power grab of military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the frontman of the coup. Activists have since called on the global community to starve the military of aid.

“In the interest of the people and of the protesters, the global community must not support this government in any way,” Zuhair al-Dalee, a representative of one of the resistance committees in the capital of Khartoum, told Al Jazeera. “Any aid that comes to this government will just support the coup. It won’t benefit the people.”

Sudan’s Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim recently said the government was in dire need of international support after it was unable to access $650m in international funding last month – aid that was suspended by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund following the coup. The freeze could make it difficult for the government to secure vital imports such as food and medicine in the coming weeks.

The coup also resulted in the suspension of $700m in US aid. Part of that assistance was intended to provide a financial cushion to help the poorest Sudanese survive austerity measures.

Economic collapse?

Cameron Hudson, a non-resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council Africa Center, said there is now an active conversation in Washington about restoring assistance, but that American officials are in a Catch-22.

“Washington is really in this position where it feels like an appropriate response to the coup is withholding assistance, yet that could be the move that triggers the collapse of the economy and which the international community and Washington then gets blamed for,” said Hudson.

“We also don’t know what kind of pressure Hamdok is putting on the US admin,” added Hudson. “The US clearly wants to support Hamdok since he has been the centrepiece of US policy. If he wasn’t prime minister, the US wasn’t going to tolerate or recognise this government.”

Samahir Mubarak, a member of the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded protests against former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019, told Al Jazeera that protesters are angry the United States is sidelining the pro-democracy movement to support Hamdok. Her criticism came as US President Joe Biden launched his virtual Democracy Summit, which brought together 100 representatives from governments and civil society groups from across the world.

“The US is reducing the entire transition to supporting a single person, and that’s giving a way out to the military,” Mubarak said.

Sudan’s generals desperately need aid to compensate their own constituents and coopt new factions, which analysts have said is key to obtaining legitimacy and consolidating power. The head of a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) recently threatened to flood Europe with refugees if the EU did not support the government.

“If Sudan opens the border, a big problem will happen worldwide,” Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo, who is better known as Hemeti, told Politico earlier this month.

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