Sudan coup imperils hard-won international backing

It was only this year that impoverished Sudan began to make major strides, overturning decades of isolation and embarking on the path of much-needed investment and aid. Its latest military coup jeopardizes this progress, analysts say.

The country fell into pariah status with the West under the autocrat Omar al-Bashir, as Washington imposed crippling sanctions on its regime for harboring Islamic extremists, including al-Qaeda leader Osama ben Laden, in the 1990s.

Bashir was finally overthrown by his own army in April 2019 after street protests against his iron rule.

A precarious civilian-military government shared power from the end of the year, before being uprooted by Monday’s coup.

It was not until last December that Sudan officially freed itself from Washington’s designation as the sponsor of terrorism, paving the way this year for more than $ 50 billion in debt relief and a renewal of the largesse of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Sudan was on the right track, said Alex de Waal, a longtime expert on the country and executive director of the US-based World Peace Foundation.

– Suspension of American aid –

“Sudan’s national interests have been served by continuing this slow path of reform with international assistance finally starting to scale up,” de Waal said.

But by arresting civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former international economist, as well as several of his ministers and civilian members of the country’s power-sharing council on Monday, the military posed “serious risks for Sudan,” according to an official. International report said Crisis Group.

Washington wasted no time in taking action. Hours after the coup, he suspended a package of $ 700 million in economic support intended to aid Sudan’s democratic transition.

On Tuesday, the European Union threatened to withhold financial support if the Sudanese army did not immediately restore civilians to positions of power.

If such threats are implemented – especially by Western donors and the World Bank – Sudan’s “belated but nonetheless substantial progress that has been made towards stabilizing the economy will collapse,” he said. by Waal.

Sudan is one of the least developed countries in the world, where a tripling in the price of bread at the end of 2018 sparked protests that led to Bashir’s dismissal by his own army.

The country has recently faced shortages of medicines and other essentials, and inflation is well over 300%.

After Bashir’s ouster, the Gulf monarchies deposited an initial $ 500 million in the central bank as part of a pledged $ 3 billion aid package to maintain their influence in the country.

– A troubled region –

Even if the military leader and coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan gets additional Arab financial support, it will not match that offered by international institutions and Western donors, de Waal said.

The coup “leaves Sudan potentially extremely isolated, going back to a period of avoidance of the rest of the world,” he added.

Shunned, but in the company of other troubled countries in the region.

Sudan’s southeastern neighbor, Ethiopia, is engaged in a year-long war against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray.

On the western flank of Sudan, Chad remains under the grip of the army, although threatened by insurgents, and further west, there is unrest in the Sahel.

“A prolonged struggle in Sudan would be another disaster for the region,” according to the ICG report.

On Monday, the Hamdok-loyal Information Ministry said soldiers “fired live ammunition at protesters … in front of army headquarters” after the coup. At least four protesters were killed and around 80 people injured, according to the Sudanese Independent Central Medical Committee.

Analysts fear that resistance to the coup will be brutally suppressed.

De Waal said it would not just mean bloodshed in the capital Khartoum.

“Civil war in the provinces of Darfur and South Kordofan would most likely be rekindled,” he said.

Sudanese leaders who allow the assassination of protesters or resist a return to the transitional arrangement that led to civilian rule should face sanctions from the African Union, the ICG said.

The Gulf monarchies and Egypt, which have forged the closest ties with Burhan and the Sudanese military, should urge restraint, the researchers added.

“They have nothing to gain from the instability in Sudan which seems likely to follow the military takeover,” the ICG said.

bur-sbh / hha / tp / it / dwo

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