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The sit-in in Khartoum. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty

U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman will visit Khartoum this week amid what Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has called the “worst and most dangerous" crisis of Sudan’s transition to democracy, two sources with direct knowledge tell Axios.

Driving the news: Roughly 2,000-3,000 people had joined a sit-in in Khartoum as of this afternoon, per Reuters, after protesters massed over the weekend to call on the military to bring down the government. The protests came just four weeks after a failed military coup.

  • Larger pro-democracy protests are expected on Thursday.

The big picture: After a mass uprising toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir in April, 2019, a joint military-civilian council took power to preside over a 3½ -year transition toward democratic elections.

  • But the current turmoil is exposing tensions between the civilians and the generals, and endangering that transition.
  • Leadership of the ruling council is due to pass from Gen. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to a civilian in the coming months, though the exact timeline is disputed.
  • A blockade in Eastern Sudan led by a tribal leader who is also demanding the government be dissolved is further fueling the crisis.

The Biden administration has thrown its weight behind Hamdok and the civilian leadership, with Secretary of State Tony Blinken tweeting in support of Hamdok on Saturday and national security adviser Jake Sullivan calling the prime minister after the coup attempt and issuing a warning to those seeking to thwart the transition.

  • Feltman will arrive in Khartoum later this week for his second visit in three weeks. He also called Hamdok and Burhan last week to stress “the importance of adhering to the transitional order.” The State Department declined to comment for this story.
  • The U.S. removed Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list after Bashir's ouster and has promised aid and to help re-integrate the former pariah state into the global economy — all of which gives Washington leverage.

The other side: Key regional actors oppose the democratic transition.

  • Egypt has been deepening its engagement with the Sudanese military, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia are allied with the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful paramilitary group that is also vying for power in Khartoum, says Yezid Sayigh, who runs the Carnegie Endowment’s program on program on Civil-Military Relations in Arab States.

Behind the scenes: The divisions aren't just between the civilians and the military, but within those camps.

  • "The coup attempt opened the door for discord, and for all the hidden disputes and accusations from all sides, and in this way we are throwing the future of our country and people and revolution to the wind,” Hamdok said on Friday.
  • "It's the tensions, lack of consensus on really personal and ideological grounds between the civilians that have contributed to this opening," says Joseph Tucker, a Sudan expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The bottom line: Sudan is having the most open and vibrant debate since independence about the roles of the state, of religion and of the armed forces in politics and the economy, Tucker says. 

  • “I think there is still consensus among Sudanese that there is no going back to the way things were under the Bashir regime,” he adds. 
  • But the path to whatever comes next is still deeply uncertain.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 10, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Honoring Latino veterans' service & sacrifice

On Wednesday, November 10th, Axios justice and race reporter Russell Contreras discussed ways to commemorate the contributions of fallen heroes and the importance of public policy that supports Latino veterans in civilian life after they have served, featuring Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance board member Col. Lisa Carrington Firmin.

Rep. Ruben Gallego recalled his experiences serving in the military and discussed the government’s role in protecting and honoring those who have served in the armed forces.

  • On the need for military representation in Congressional leadership: “The less people you have in the military that serve in Congress, the less people you have to keep the Department of Defense in check. At times, I’ve seen members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, be way too deferential to the Department of Defense, to generals, not calling into question things that really should be called into question. They should be part of our oversight.”
  • On changing military base names to honor Latino heroes: “The military is growing more and more diverse...especially when it comes to Latinos in the military. We need to have some type of base that’s named after Latino heroes, so that way they have someone to look up to…”

Col. Lisa Carrington Firmin illustrated her experiences as a Latina woman in the Air Force, why reforming the military environment is a meaningful goal, and how her father inspired her career in military service.

  • On the personal impact of a conversation she had with a fellow young Latina enlistee: “I realized that I was a role model and that not only were people watching me to see if I succeeded or not, but the people watching me, and I guess even silently rooting for me to do well, those were my fellow hermanas, and Latinos in the service. She made a real difference to me in how I carried myself.”
  • On the significance of having more high-ranking Latino officers in the military: “I never worked for a woman until I had been in the service 18 years at the Pentagon, and I had never, ever worked for a Latino or Hispanic officer. I think that's important, because the people coming up in the ranks need to see themselves in the leadership, I never saw that. It is really hard to be what you cannot see.”

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.