Press Release / / 11.03.21

Sudan’s Coup: New Report Spotlights Corruption of Military and Security Services


New Report Spotlights Corruption of Military and Security Services Underlying Coup in Sudan

International Policy Actions and Financial Pressures Urged to Address Crisis, Support Return to Civilian Transition

November 3, 2021 (Washington, DC) – A new report by The Sentry details power dynamics in Sudan following the October 25th military coup, spotlighting the corrupt incentives of the military and security services. Published today, “A Strategy for Revitalizing Sudan’s Democratic Transition” lays out urgent recommendations to help counter entrenched kleptocracy, address Sudan’s political crisis, and revitalize the transition to civilian rule.

Suliman Baldo, Senior Advisor at The Sentry and report co-author, said: “Sudan’s kleptocratic and repressive deep state, constructed over three decades by Omar al-Bashir and his regime, has survived the fall of that dictator. This deep state has abruptly terminated the power-sharing agreement between civilians and the military and, with it, Sudan’s transition to democracy. By staging the October 25th coup d’état, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, cadres of the former regime, and opportunistic allied militias and armed movements are yet again seeking to hijack the Sudanese economy for their private interests and for those of their regional allies and backers. Recurrent mass protests rejecting their move offer a testimony to the resilience of the Sudanese people and their determination to return their country to a path of democracy, rule of law, and financial integrity. All states and organizations with influence in Sudan should act now to strongly support these aspirations and help to counter Sudan’s slide back into unchecked kleptocracy.”

J.R. Mailey, Director of Investigations and report co-author, said: “By seizing power, Sudan’s security services are hijacking and preserving the violent kleptocratic system of the Bashir era. Ultimately, control over the state affords the security services continued opportunities to accrue wealth while shielding themselves from accountability for past and future abuses. Responses to the coup must confront this challenge head-on, imposing consequences for the security services by targeting their wealth.”

John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “Reviving Sudan’s democratic transition will require addressing the fundamental power imbalance and warped incentive structures that gave way to the coup. This means identifying a core set of benchmarks and milestones to guide the transition and imposing significant—yet targeted—financial consequences on anyone who delays, obstructs, or undermines progress toward those goals.”

On October 25, Sudan’s military dissolved a civilian-led transitional government that had been established following the April 2019 ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir. The coup ended a military-civilian power partnership that was meant to transition Sudan to democracy, with elections slated for 2023. The power grab prompted thousands to protest in the streets of Khartoum—both on the day of the coup and during planned demonstrations on October 30. The security services have responded by disrupting internet and telecommunications networks, deploying troops throughout Khartoum and other population centers, and beating and firing openly on protesters. They have killed 12 and wounded hundreds in the week following the coup.

Selected excerpts:

  • The coup is the result of warped incentive structures that trace back to the Bashir era. The security services power grab followed escalating tensions. Throughout the transition, the security services resisted the imposition of civilian oversight or constraints, balked at discussions of accountability for past atrocities, and maintained a range of commercial interests and relationships with foreign patrons. By seizing power, Sudan’s security services are hijacking the state and preserving the violent kleptocratic system of the Bashir era. Ultimately, control over the state affords the security services continued opportunities to accrue wealth while shielding themselves from accountability for past and future abuses.
  • Financial pressure is essential for building the leverage needed to get the transition back on track. The international community’s response to the coup must confront the warped incentive structures of the security services head-on, targeting the wealth and impunity possessed by the military.  Governments and international agencies should impose targeted network sanctions on the Sudanese officials involved in the coup, as well as those responsible for subsequent abuses perpetrated by the security forces. Sanctions should target the networks of companies controlled by Sudanese military and security agencies. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) should issue an advisory on the money laundering risks associated with the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and companies under their control. Finally, financial institutions and the private sector more broadly should not wait for governments to act. Foreign companies, including banks, should assess their commercial ties to Sudan to ensure they are not inadvertently funding Sudan’s security services.
  • The objectives of negotiators must reflect the stated goals of Sudan’s population. The foundation of any agreement must be the formation of a civilian-led transitional government endowed with full executive powers. The security services—and especially their finances—must be brought under civilian oversight and control. Although some concessions to the security services may be necessary and inevitable, continued free rein over the country’s lucrative economic sectors and amnesty for the perpetrators of atrocities and war crimes should be off the table.

Read the full report:

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About The Sentry

The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. By disrupting the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment, we seek to counter the main drivers of conflict and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts, as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists, and banking professionals. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.