EXPLAINER - How months of tensions lead to Sudan's coup

Monday's military coup threatens to halt Sudan's fragile transition from democracy to democracy. This comes more than two years after the uprising that forced Omar al-Bashir, the long-serving autocrat, to be removed.

EXPLAINER - How months of tensions lead to Sudan's coup

After months of increasing tensions between military and civilian authorities, the move is a welcome development. Protesters have gathered to protest the takeover. Troops opened fire on some marchers and killed some, opening the doors for more turmoil in the nation of 40 million.

Here's how Sudan got to this point.


The military dismantled the transitional government of Prime Minster Abdalla Hamedok and the Sovereign Council. These were power-sharing bodies of military officers and civilians who had been ruling Sudan since the end of 2019.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan declared that the military would remain in power until elections are held in July 2023. The top military officer declared a state emergency and said that a government made up of technocrats will be created to manage the situation until elections are held.

He made his announcement hours after Hamdok was arrested by the military along with other high-ranking officials and political leaders.


Although the United States, European Union, and United Nations condemned the coup, much will depend on how much leverage they place on Sudan's military. To overcome its economic crisis, the country needs international assistance.

The Sudan's generals also have strong ties to Egypt and Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and UAE. They have so far resisted the urge for chaos and instead called for calm.

Burhan stated that he is committed to holding elections according to schedule. However, a year and a half is quite a while and it isn't clear if the military will let go of its power that it has enjoyed for many decades.

Protesters are concerned that the military will control the process and they vow to continue their pressure on the streets. This could lead to new confrontations.


Al-Bashir was removed by the pro-democracy movement. This group included professional unions and political parties, as well as youth groups. It was only a partial victory as protesters were unable to force the military from politics.

Al-Bashir, who was elected to power in 1989, had ruled for over 30 years under an iron grip supported by the military, Islamists, and his supporters. After months of protests, the military was forced to expel and imprison Al-Bashir.

The military took power right after his death. Protesters continued to gather in the streets demanding that the military hand over power to civilians. In June 2019, the main protest camp was attacked by armed forces. More than 100 people were killed and many women were raped.

The military eventually reached a compromise. The Sovereign Council was formed by both civilians and military officers. It was to govern the country until elections were held. Hamdok was appointed prime minister of the transitional government by the council.

The compromise stipulated that the council would be led by military personnel first, before civilians.

Burhan has been the council's chief since then. His deputy chief was Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo who is the chief of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. This group, which was notorious for atrocities in Darfur during the 1990s and is blamed for the 2019 Khartoum massacre, has been Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo as the chief.

In November, a civilian was to assume the role of council leader to lead it through to the 2023 elections.

The agreement ended Sudan's status as a pariah in the world. After the normalization agreement between Israel and the military-led council, the U.S. removed Sudan from its list of countries supporting terrorist acts.

The transitional government reached a deal with many rebel groups in Sudan, who have been fighting the Khartoum government for years. The deal allowed the armed rebels from Sudan to return to Khartoum and was waiting for them to be absorbed into military.

Hamdok's government, which won praise from Western governments as well as rights groups, has reformed many of the strict Islamist rules that were in place during the al-Bashir era. It has had to struggle with a weak economy.

What sparked the COUP?

For months, tensions have grown between those who support the military and civilian rule.

The main protest umbrella group, the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC), has increased calls for the military's surrender to civilians. The FDFC includes various anti-al Bashir political parties, professional groups and rebel groups.

It also calls for the restructuring of military and security agencies in order to eliminate loyalists from al-Bashir, absorb different armed factions into their ranks, and place them under civilian supervision.

The military's supporters have also taken more action. Tribal protestors have blocked access to Sudan's Red Sea port and fuel pipelines since September. They are demanding that Hamdok's government is dissolved.

A pro-military splinter group of the FDFC also organized an anti-government sit-in outside the Sovereign Council Headquarters this month. It accused officials of mismanagement, monopolizing power, and omissions. This faction also includes rebel groups who have made peace with the military and certain political parties.

Both sides have protestors motivated by economic hardship. It was already a problem under al Bashir and one of the main reasons people rose against him. The country has been experiencing even more shocks since then as it tries to rejoin the global economic system. The country has been suffering from rising inflation and shortages in basic goods due to economic reforms carried out by the interim government.

Burhan, energised by protests, repeatedly called for the dissolution of Hamdok's transitional regime. Burhan stated that the military would only give power to an elected government.

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