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DUBAI: Photographer and activist Lana Haroun, 34, was in Khartoum in 2019, at the epicenter of Sudan’s revolution. She helped document the rage and optimism of the movement that ended dictator Omar Bashir’s 30-year rule in April of that year.

Like thousands of Sudanese who had long dreamed of political change, Haroun was hopeful as the country subsequently began a difficult transition to democratic civilian rule. These hopes soon turned to despair.

Abdalla Hamdok, a respected UN diplomat who was appointed prime minister in August 2019, has offered a vision of peace and prosperity. But with the economy in crisis, Sudan quickly began to run out of food, fuel and medicine.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. (AFP file photo)

He acknowledged the difficulties resulting from the austerity measures he had adopted, but expressed the hope that their positive impact would be felt very soon.

However, as the daily street protests grew increasingly violent, Haroun decided it was time to leave the country. In November 2020, she and her family packed up and moved to Dubai, where she now works for an oil company.

“The economic situation was very bad in Sudan and there are many things I want to do in my life,” she told Arab News. “I had to leave.”

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. (AFP)

Sudan’s democratic transition stalled in October 2021 when military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan staged a coup, overthrowing the civilian government and removing Hamdok from office.

In response to the ensuing international condemnation, the military offered a power-sharing deal and reinstated Hamdok as prime minister in November. The deal proved unpopular with pro-democracy groups, however, leading Hamdok to resign on January 2.

Photograph by Lana Haroun of Sudanese protesters during the 2019 uprising against longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. (Photo courtesy of Lana Haroun)

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen now,” Haroun said. “Many people leave Sudan because they are afraid of losing their lives, not just because there is no food or money, but because they are afraid of being killed.

“Sudan is now worse than in Bashir’s time. We don’t have what we need to lead a normal life and more people are being killed than ever before.

In a televised address after his resignation, Hamdok said the country was at a “dangerous turning point which threatens its entire survival”. It was no exaggeration; with rising inflation, commodity shortages and deadly unrest in Khartoum, the outlook has rarely been gloomier.

“Sudan has sadly fallen from the grace of being a rare positive story in the Horn of Africa into the hands of another military regime,” Mohamed Osman, a former Sudanese journalist and freelance scholar on the region, told Arab News.

“History is repeating itself for the third time since the country’s independence. But this time it’s a harrowing combination of tragedy and farce.

One of the main challenges for international observers is the lack of reliable information from inside Sudan, largely due to frequent internet shutdowns.

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A number of former govt. officials and activists have been detained by Sudan’s new military rulers.

Among the persons targeted are members of the Dismantling Committee of the regime of June 30, 1989.

As a result, responsibility for the killings of protesters – whether the result of factional infighting, criminality or deliberate targeting by the feared Rapid Support Forces – is difficult to determine.

“No one knows who is killing in the streets,” said Haroun, who has been trying to follow events as best she can from self-imposed exile in Dubai.

“It’s crazy. But for sure this murder is from the military themselves because they are running the show in Sudan now.

Since October, the value of the Sudanese pound has depreciated alarmingly, adding to inflationary pressure. The removal of Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2020 was expected to stimulate financial flows that could benefit growth. By all accounts, the advantage was wasted.

“The economy was already struggling to recover,” Osman said. “Now this coup has made his situation worse, making life in Khartoum very difficult. Many people lack money and try to leave the country.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, around 14.3 million people in Sudan, almost a third of the population, will need humanitarian assistance this year, about 0.8 million more than last year.

To complicate matters further, disputes over land, livestock, access to water and pasture since October 2021 have sparked an outbreak of tribal clashes, looting and rape in the vast arid region of Darfur.

The World Food Program has suspended operations following the looting of its warehouses in North Darfur state, an act that “deprived nearly two million people of desperately needed food and nutrition support”, the official said. ‘agency.

Although the main conflict in Darfur has subsided, regions of Darfur bordering Chad are awash with weapons and home to most of Sudan’s three million displaced people.

“The situation in the short to medium term is very grim,” Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa analyst at Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research, told Arab News. “The army, entrenched, refused any idea of ​​resolution. They want a solution on their own terms.

“I think they understand that they are not going to pursue Bashir’s strategy and hope that a military government will be acceptable in the long term.”

But Abdi thinks the Sudanese public will not accept this status quo, so army leaders likely want to install a weak civilian administration they can control. If that is the army’s game plan, he said, he is unlikely to fly with the Sudanese public.

“Their hope was that Hamdok would be the person to lead the country to better days,” he said. “I think he got trapped by the military and he couldn’t maneuver and he did the right thing, which was to resign.”

On January 26, divisions within Sudanese society appeared to deepen further when thousands of pro-military protesters gathered outside the Khartoum office of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan to demand an end to “foreign interference” and for the UN special representative for Sudan, Volker Perthes, to “return home”.

Perthes, who was appointed head of UNITAMS in January 2021, tried to bring Sudanese stakeholders to the negotiating table to discuss a peaceful political solution and put the democratic transition back on track.

He said the UN itself “does not offer any blueprint, plan or vision for a solution”. But the Sudanese military-led government has rejected his efforts, arguing that he should work as a “facilitator, not a mediator”.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of Sudan’s young anti-coup protesters have continued to march through the streets of Khartoum, where they regularly clash with security forces amid a fierce crackdown on dissent. Since the coup, at least 79 people have been killed and hundreds injured.

Supporters of the Sudanese army gather outside the UN mission office, west of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on February 5, 2022. (AFP)

The daunting task of restoring democratic transition falls to a population that is fed up with endless internal conflict, displacement and impoverishment.

“The protests are not only taking place in Khartoum, but also in Darfur and other parts of the country,” Erika Tovar Gonzalez, communications and prevention coordinator at the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Arab News. News from the Sudanese capital.

“There is a humanitarian crisis, there is armed and criminal violence and tribal clashes that continue to displace thousands of people. Young people are depressed. Some even have suicidal thoughts. They feel they have no future.

The result is two seemingly irreconcilable visions, with the nation’s fate hanging in the balance.

“Even Sudanese political parties that would have been willing to give Al-Burhan the benefit of the doubt for pragmatic reasons are more cautious now,” Gonzalez said.

“Because once they get into bed with the military, they damage their credibility and won’t get any support from the public. Al-Burhan became more toxic as an ally.

Sudanese Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan salutes soldiers during a military exercise in the Maaqil area of ​​North Nile state on December 8, 2021. (Photo by Ebrahim Hamid / AFP)

Analysts therefore believe that it is unlikely that Al-Burhan and the army will be able to maintain their grip on power.

“I don’t think the military (strategy) is clear,” Abdi said. “One speculation is that the military is aware that it will not be accepted, but what they are trying to do is buy more time to fulfill their exit promise.”

Osman believes the military miscalculated how events would unfold after last October’s coup.

“Who’s going to give them money now?” He asked. “Western aid is suspended. The Gulf countries will not give them enough money. You cannot stabilize a regime without money. The army shot itself in the foot. The economic situation can only get worse as they move forward with this coup.

Osman added: “There can be no hope for political compromise unless the military first stops its deadly crackdown on the protests.