Sudan's future is uncertain after the resignation of prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, which has left the army in full control of the north African country where former dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April 2019.
His resignation followed demonstrations on Sunday in which thousands marched in the capital city Khartoum and other cities nationwide in protest against a deal Mr Hamdok had done with the military to return to power. The prime minister had taken back his position six weeks ago following an October 25th military coup, when he was placed under house arrest.
Announcing his resignation, the 66-year-old former economist said Sudan "is crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival".
“I have tried as far as I am able to spare our country the danger of slipping into disaster,” he said in a televised address. “Despite all that was done ... to fulfil our promises to citizens of security, peace, justice and an end to bloodshed, this did not happen.”
Protesters have spent the past three years demanding civilian rule and trying to bring the country out from under the control of a US-sanctioned regime that was accused of turning Sudan into a pariah state while presiding over war crimes and genocide in the Darfur region.
Before the October coup a transition to a civilian head of state had been scheduled for the following month. Coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said the military is still committed to the transition and hopes for elections in July 2023.
Military forces have repeatedly met protesters with violence. On December 30th, the pro-democracy Sudanese Doctors Committee said at least four people were killed after security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas. On January 2nd, it said at least three protesters were killed in Omdurman, near Khartoum.
Sudan, which has a population of roughly 47 million, marked its independence day on January 1st, commemorating the country's 1956 achievement of independence from Britain and Egypt.
Britain's minister for Africa Vicky Ford tweeted that she was "deeply saddened" by Mr Hamdok's resignation.
“He was serving Sudan and its people’s desire for a better future. Millions have raised their voices since [the October 25th] coup to demand civilian rule: security forces and other political actors must now respect those demands.”
The US state department’s Africa bureau said it continued to stand with the people of Sudan as they push for democracy and called for violence against protesters to cease. In a tweet it urged leaders to “set aside differences” and appoint a new prime minister and cabinet in line with the “people’s goals of freedom, peace and justice”.
People in Sudan
are sceptical about the influence the international community could have. "Word to the wise: rely solely on international support to your detriment," tweeted Kholood Khair, the managing partner of the Khartoum-based Insight Strategy Partners, a think tank that focuses on transitional policy and state-building.
Ms Khair accused the US of gearing its whole policy approach around Mr Hamdok.