The seizure of power by Sudan’s generals brings to an end a two-year power-sharing arrangement between civilian and military, a supposed transition to democracy and civilian rule for the first time since 1989. It followed a civilian uprising that, in 2019, after months of street protests, ousted dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who presided over decades of autocratic rule and isolation.
News of the coup brought calls for a general strike and hundreds of young people on to the streets of Khartoum with soldiers opening fire, killing seven people and wounding at least 140.
Western powers had pinned hopes on a democratic transition, and, as reports swirled about the imminence of a coup, the US sent an emissary to ask the army to hold back. Three hours after he left, the army made its move, just weeks before the general who led the transition Sovereignty Council was due to hand over to a civilian. Instead he arrested most of its civilian members.
Although the military had facilitated the removal of al-Bashir, notorious for his support for Osama bin Laden and for genocidal massacres in western Darfur, the military balked at civilian demands to hand him over to the International Criminal Court. The transition to democracy had also threatened the military's vast economic interests, including Sudan's gold trade, while economic hardship, with inflation at nearly 200 per cent, helped fracture the anti-Bashir alliance.
The uneasy civilian-army cooperation of the last two years has uncomfortable parallels with the temporary shared rule between Myanmar's military and Aung Sang Suu Kyi. The generals there took the steam out of popular uprisings that threatened to displace them, with promises of democratic transitions. Once the street movements ebbed, they simply elbowed civilians aside.
The putsch is another blow to the African Union's democratising agenda. Its weak response to military takeovers in Mali, Chad and Guinea earlier this year, and the reported support for the coup by Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia suggest Sudan's people will have little help from outside.