South Sudan: A failed military coup and a crisis

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

South Sudan’s key tribes closed the primary port located in the eastern region following September’s failed military coup plunging the country into shortage of essential commodities.


Thousands of South Sudanese were compelled to take to the streets of Khartoum city following the military coup attempt alleged to be initiated by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the country’s transitional de juve government - the Sovereign Council - as the newly appointed President. On September 30, the protesters sloganed “the army is Sudan’s army, not Burhan’s”, while carrying the national flag in their hands.

Representational image of people getting displaced in South Sudan.  

Protesters who mostly belonged to the Madani and Atbara regions denounced the “forces of darkness” referring to the military intervention with the 39-months-lasting transition government. The country’s key tribes closed the main port located in the eastern part, which in turn has placed a strain on essential commodities such as medicines, fuel and wheat.

The Forces of Freedom and Change, and several other political parties including Sudanese Communist Party, National Umma Party and the Sudanese Congress Party have been arguing that they are against the military coup for ‘safeguarding’ Sudan’s democratic transition: “By overthrowing the ruling coalition's authority with its military and civilian brutality and the establishment of an authority that reflects the revolutionary demands aimed at overthrowing, dismantling and filtering brutal dictatorial power,” one of the resisting front stated. However, the Forces of Freedom and Change (a group composed of civilians and formal rebels) appear to be more divided with each passing day. 

Fear of military resurrection 

The general apprehension among commoners is the fear of renaissance of military dictatorship that implicitly resembles the period of Omar al-Bashir, the dictator who was overthrown during an uprising in 2019. Protesters in Sudan expect the military’s dominance in the transitional government to deepen, especially after September’s failed coup by a faction of the military. General Burhan’s grip over the economy also has activists fearing the military’s return to power.

According to the World Bank, Sundan is the world’s youngest nation at present. Out of the total population of 4.4 crore in the Northeast African country, the military has been sharing power with civilian administration in the transitional government (comprising six civilians and four military officers) after the revolution. This involved four subsequents months of mass uprising which ended the decades-long tenure of Bashir’s dictatorship in April 2019. 

Ever since, the transitional government is running the state, and is scheduled to remain in power until 2023, as per the agreement signed between the Sudanese military and the Forces of Freedom and Change in August 2019.

Map of South Sudan.

In May, Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan dissolved the Parliament, which paved the way for the appointment of opposition members under the 2018 peace accord. The decision was appreciated by the members of the civil society group. 


General Burhan, the head of Sudan’s military as the President, blames the civilian members of the transitional government "for failing to deliver civilian administration" (within six civilians and four military officers the cabinet is shared between the president who heads the military and prime minister who head the civil part of administration). Responding to the allegations, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stressed on the need to “restructure the military” and "bring it under civilian control". 


The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan in its September report revealed that a staggering amount of wealth amounting to nearly $73 million were getting diverted from public coffers and resources since 2008, and almost $39 million was stolen in a span of less than two months.

“This plundering continues to fuel political competition amongst elites, and is the key driver of the ongoing conflict and the underlying reason behind reducing the prospects of peace,” the commission reaffirmed in its report.

Sudan's economy is tumbling due to inflation and the ongoing crisis has pushed a large number of people to the brink of poverty. 


Edited by Roshni Shroff

Written by Umer Beigh


Some resources to help you understand more about the conflict in South Sudan: 

The military has taken over in Sudan. Here's what happened

Sudan coup: Military dissolves civilian government and arrests leaders