CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced his resignation Sunday amid political deadlock and widespread pro-democracy protests following a military coup that derailed the country’s fragile transition to democratic rule.
Hamdok, a former U.N. official seen as the civilian face of Sudan’s transitional government, had been reinstated as prime minister in November as part of an agreement with the military following the October coup. In that time he had failed to name a Cabinet and his resignation throws Sudan into political uncertainty.
In a televised national address Sunday, Hamdok called for a dialogue to agree on a “national charter” and to “draw a roadmap” to complete the transition to democracy in accordance with the 2019 constitutional document governing the transitional period.
“I decided to return the responsibility and declare my resignation as the prime minister,” he said, adding that his stepping down would allow a chance for another person to lead the nation and complete its transition to a “civilian, democratic country.”
The prime minister said his efforts to bridge the widening gap and settle disputes among the political forces have failed.
He warned that the ongoing political stalemate since the military takeover could become a full-blown crisis and damage the country’s already battered economy.
“I tried as much as I possibly could to prevent our country from sliding into a catastrophe. Now, our nation is going through a dangerous turning point that could threaten its survival unless it is urgently rectified,” he said.
The October coup had upended Sudan’s plans to move to democracy after a popular uprising forced the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.
Four months after al-Bashir’s ouster, the generals and the protesters reached a power-sharing deal to rule the country through elections in 2023. However, military-civilian ties have been frayed by the military takeover.
Hamdok’s resignation comes amid a heavy security crackdown on protesters denouncing not only the takeover but the a subsequent deal that reinstated him and sidelined the pro-democracy movement. He was reinstated in November amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight led by him.
The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, an umbrella group of Sudanese political parties and pro-democracy organizations, has rejected the November deal and said it remains committed to ending military rule. It has continued to organize anti-coup street protests which were met with heavy crackdown.
On Sunday, prior to his resignation, Sudanese security forces violently dispersed pro-democracy protesters, killing at least three people.
The Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the pro-democracy movement, said one of the dead was hit “violently” in his head while taking part in a protest march in Khartoum. The remaining two were shot in their chests in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, it added. The group said dozens of protesters were injured.
Activist Nazim Sirag said security forces used tear gas and sound grenades to disperse protesters, and chased them in side streets across the capital.
Protests also took place in other cities including Port Sudan and Nyala in the Darfur region.
The protests came despite tightened security and blocked bridges and roads in Khartoum and Omdurman. Internet connections were also disrupted ahead of the protests, according to advocacy group NetBlocs. Authorities have used such tactics repeatedly since the Oct. 25 coup.
Sunday’s fatalities have brought the death toll among protesters since the coup to at least 57, according to the medical group. Hundreds have also been wounded.
Allegations surfaced last month of sexual violence, including rape and gang rape by security forces against female protesters, according to the United Nations.
The ruling sovereign council has vowed to investigate violence against the protesters.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged security forces to “immediately cease the use of deadly force against protesters” and to hold those responsible for violence accountable.
He also called for Sudanese leaders to accelerate their efforts to form a “credible cabinet,” an interim parliament and judicial electoral bodies that will prepare for the country’s planned 2023 elections.
The rotating leadership of the sovereign council now chaired by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan should be transferred to a civilian as was planned before the coup, Blinken said.
“We do not want to return to the past, and are prepared to respond to those who seek to block the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a civilian-led, democratic government,” he added.