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A court in Sudan recently sentenced a woman to death by stoning on adultery charges. The cruel decision, the first in a decade, is bad enough, the Guardian reported. But some Sudanese worry that it heralds a new era of female oppression and human rights violations in the wake of the military coup in the northeastern African country late last year.

As the New York Times explained, coup leaders allowed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to return to work in November 2021 after he signed a power-sharing agreement that granted concessions to the military. Opposition parties criticized the agreement as an abdication of civilian control. Hamdok took office in 2019 after protests forced the resignation of Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan as a dictator since 1993.

The Sudanese military holds a “sprawling monopoly over the country’s economy,” Al Jazeera reported, citing a Center for Advanced Defense Studies report. A transition to a more democratic form of government would surely put those riches at risk, the report’s writers concluded. A Sudanese military spokesman claimed the report’s findings were false.

Since the coup, street protests and civil unrest have become increasingly common in Sudan. After a day when nine people died in clashes with security forces, troops fired tear gas and used water cannons against rioters in the capital of Khartoum who were drawing close to the presidential palace, noted Reuters. At least 113 protesters have died since the coup.

In response to the pressure, Sudanese military strongman Abdel-Fattah Burhan recently said he and the army would allow a civilian government to take the reins of power soon, reported Radio France Internationale.

Critics viewed his statement as an empty promise, however, and warned that he could be making things worse.

Speaking to the Sudanese news outlet Dabanga, Sudanese opposition leaders wanted to know how the military proposed shifting state responsibilities and powers to civilians. They believed he could be stalling for time rather than making good-faith promises that addressed his critics’ demands.

The military, for instance, has proposed creating a “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces” that would have unspecified powers but presumably play a role as an ultimate arbiter of policy, added the Washington Post. Such moves could backfire. Analysts at Stratfor warned that Burhan risked triggering more protests if he believed his rhetoric would somehow conceal his inaction.

Even in countries that are not democracies, leaders who break their promises can be forced to go.

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