REGIONAL REPORT

Sudan coup leaves unstable Horn of Africa on edge

There is already military infighting in Ethiopia between the federal forces and TPLF, tension in South Sudan and Somalia

In Summary

• Sudan’s top general declared a state of emergency, dissolved the authorities leading country’s democratic transition

• Now with the coup, international partners and organisations fear it will worsen an already fragile situation in the Horn.

Sudanese protesters march in 60th Street in the capital Khartoum, to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan’s government, on October 25
Sudanese protesters march in 60th Street in the capital Khartoum, to denounce overnight detentions by the army of members of Sudan’s government, on October 25
Image: AFP

The Sudan coup has put the already unstable Horn of Africa on the edge.

Sudan’s top general declared a state of emergency, dissolved the authorities leading the country’s democratic transition, and announced the formation of a new government after soldiers detained civilian leaders on Monday.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s announcement in a televised address came after armed forces detained figures of the government in charge of leading the transition to democracy since the April 2019 ouster of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir.

"To rectify the revolution’s course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide… dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet,” Burhan said.

But on Tuesday in a press conference, Burhan defended the military’s seizure of power, saying he had ousted the government to avoid civil war.

Burhan said the army had no choice but to sideline politicians who were inciting against the armed forces, and that the military’s action did not amount to a coup.

“The dangers we witnessed last week [demonstrations against the prospect of a coup] could have led the country into civil war,” he said.

Late September, there was an attempted coup in which the military reportedly arrested 21 army officers and dozens of soldiers.

At the time, Prime Minister Hamdok accused supporters of the former regime of Omar al-Bashir of being behind the attempted military overthrow.

“What happened is an orchestrated coup by factions inside and outside the armed forces and this is an extension of the attempts by remnants since the fall of the former regime to abort the civilian democratic transition,” Hamdok said in a televised statement.

Now with the coup, international partners and organisations fear it will worsen an already fragile situation in the Horn.

There is already military infighting in Ethiopia between the federal forces and TPLF in Tigray, a war that has spread to Amhara and Afar regions triggering a humanitarian situation.

More than 60,000 Ethiopians have fled to Sudan and are camping in the eastern cities bordering Ethiopia.

Neighbouring South Sudan is also unstable with infightings, while the electoral process in Somalia remains unresolved.

Responding to the developments, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they are working closely and on an urgent basis with partners to chart a common diplomatic approach to address the coup and to prevent further instability in Sudan and the region.

The Troika, which brings together the US, the UK and Norway, condemned the coup, noting that a democratic Sudan with a fully legitimate civilian government remains the best guarantee for the long-term stability of the country and the broader region.

AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki also condemned the coup and called for the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and the military within the framework of the Political Declaration and the Constitutional Decree.

“The chairperson reaffirms that dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition,” the statement read in part.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council in a statement issued by Council President Martin Kimani (Kenya) said members underscored that any attempt to undermine the democratic transition process in Sudan puts at risk the country’s security, stability and development.  

By extension, an unstable region would mean more trouble for the Horn, the Sahel region (Chad) and Northern Africa.

The Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Monday also called on all parties in Sudan to abide by a power-sharing deal outlining political transition in the country.

In a tweet, the Cairo-based Arab League expressed deep concern over developments in Sudan and called on all parties to fully abide by the Constitutional Declaration signed in August 2019.

“It is important to respect all decisions and agreements that were agreed regarding the transitional period until elections are held,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheit said.