Sudan: Security Mutiny Raises Civilian Stake

19 January 2020

Last week's mutiny by some security troops where six people were killed and the country's airspace was closed briefly represented the most serious challenge to the post Al-Bashir period, yet at the same time it is opening the way for a new balance of power in the country that is yet to take shape.

It was the call for a civilian-led regime that has dominated the scene since popular uprising erupted last year and was culminated into a two months sit-in before the army headquarters that eventually ended up into a power sharing agreement between the military and civilians.

The five months popular uprising crowned by the sit-in was instrumental in pushing the military and security forces to side with the people's demand for regime change, but it was significant that the military council that took over from former President Omar A-Bashir was composed of the three branches: the army, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the security forces that was in the front line defending Al-Bashir regime.

Despite the role the security forces played in the change, but it has accumulated a bad image and was seen as Ingaz heavy hand in dealing with the opposition. And that was why one of the demands was to strip the security from its striking power and restrict its role to information and intelligence gathering and analysis.

The mishandling of the disbanding of the operations units was mainly blamed for riots that took place in a number of locations across the country and even in highly populated areas that posed a serious risk to ordinary people. Though the decision to dissolve these units was taken some months earlier, but those troops were not disarmed.

Whether there is coordination to stage a counter coup given the fact that the mutiny took place in a number of locations across the country or that it was related to the civilian anti-demonstrations dubbed the Green March remains to be seen pending the investigation that is to be carried out.

However, an army officer was appointed to head the General Intelligence Services (GIS), a move seen strengthening the grip of the army on intelligence. "In search of stability for Sudan, and after discussions with Lt. Gen Burhan, I am glad to announce our joint decision to accept the resignation of Gen Abu-Bakr Dambalab from his post as Director Gen of the General Intelligence Services & to appoint Gen Jamal Abdelmajeed instead," Prime Minister Dr. Abdalla Hamadok wrote in a tweet to underscore the "successful partnership" between the civil-military tandem in Sudan.

The first step to take is to make use of this tragic incident to carry on a long delayed decision that is to move any military presence and make the country's cities military-free locations. If such a step is to be implemented it will send a strong message that the country is really on its way to highlight its civilian credentials. No wonder the country has experienced more than half a century of direct military rule, though the military were inspired by civilian political figures to stage coups and have short cuts to power.

And that is why the game is not over yet for the military and their presence in the political scene. The most important factor is to reach a sustainable peace deal that will allow the military to take a back seat. Though such a step is important, but more significant is to build the strong pillars for the much anticipated civilian rule in terms of professionals association, political parties, trade unions and free press.

The real test will take place throughout the transitional period and whether the military component in the supreme council will hand over the presidency to a civilian. The personal relationship between the two generals: Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who heads the council and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti that dates back to their work together in Darfur, has played a significant role in impacting the political change that took place in the country.

It remains to be seen whether that relationship will survive the change or whether one of them will take over as the ultimate leader. Yet with the military becoming more of a pariah phenomenon, it is up to the civilians to make the difference and ensure their control of the scene.

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