On November 21, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok appeared alongside General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army chief who in October had deposed him and put him under house arrest, during a televised ceremony at Sudan’s presidential palace in Khartoum to mark the signing of a new power-sharing agreement.
Shortly afterwards, Hamdok said he had signed the 14-point political deal that restored him to power to “avoid further bloodshed” after dozens of civilians were killed by security forces during protests against the October 25 coup.
But the bloodshed did not end.
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters continued taking to the streets, denouncing the military’s power grab and its subsequent deal with Hamdok, whom they accused of “betrayal” for signing an agreement that ensured the military’s dominance in Sudanese politics.
And late on Sunday, just hours after medics said security forces had killed another three protesters, bringing the overall death toll since the coup to 57, Hamdok appeared on television again – this time to announce his resignation.
In his address to the nation, the prime minister said he had tried his “best to stop the country from sliding towards disaster”.
“Despite everything that has been done to reach a consensus … it has not happened”, he added, citing “the fragmentation of the political forces and conflicts between the [military and civilian] components of the transition”.
Sudan “is crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival”, he warned.
‘Writing on the wall’
Hamdok’s exit did not come as a surprise. For weeks, there were reports he was about to step down amid disagreements over the naming of a new government, with unnamed sources saying last month that he had informed a group of national political and intellectual figures of his imminent intention to do so.
According to Kholood Khair, the managing partner of the Khartoum-based Insight Strategy Partners, a think-tank that focuses on transitional policy, “the writing had been on the wall for Hamdok – arguably since before the coup”.
Although his popularity among the public rose in the immediate aftermath of the military’s power grab, his stock had been waning due to a series of painful economic reforms, said Khair. “Given Hamdok’s propensity for compromise, it was a surprise that he lasted all those days in detention after the coup, without acquiescing,” she added.
The deal that Hamdok “unilaterally” signed with al-Burhan was “very unpopular”, Khair continued, and “that saw his political stock diminish”.
Independent Sudanese analyst Muhammad Osman said his resignation came later than expected.
“The November 21 deal lacked public support, apparent in the continuation of the protests against him and his inability to appoint any ministers. It meant that no one wanted to share this pact with him.
“In their [protesters’] view, all he did was legitimise the coup,” he added.
“Hamdok was like a fig leaf.”