To the elation of the Sudanese people, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition Alliance of Freedom and Change (AFC) signed a constitutional declaration on Sunday paving the way to a transitional civilian government. A celebration of the pact is to be held in the presence of regional and international representatives on 17 August.
Signatories to the declaration were Vice President of the TMC Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemedti, AFC representative Ahmed Rabie, African Union Special Envoy to Sudan Mohamed Al-Hassan Lebatt and Ethiopian mediator Ambassador Mohamed Dirir.
Hemedti said the declaration was a “victory of national will”, vowing to “seek retribution against those who did Sudan and the Sudanese wrong”. He added that “Now a critical chapter in the country’s history has folded, it is time to build on the next transitional phase.”
AFC leading figure Omar Al-Doqeiri said “The declaration is a new chapter in the history of Sudan, paving the way for the formation of the transitional authority’s institutions and achieving the goals of the revolution. The priorities of the coming phase are making peace, economic reform, transparent investigation into the violent incidents, building balanced foreign relations based on mutual interests, drafting a permanent constitution and preparing for elections.”
After signing the declaration, Al-Doqeir spoke of the sufferings the Sudanese had to endure. “The people lived through three decades governed by a corrupt, authoritarian regime,” pointing out that the Sudanese nation strove for freedom and dignity.
In comments Lebatt reiterated the African Union’s support for Sudan, focusing on four points both the TMC and the AFC should commit to. He said all should remain loyal to the glorified Sudanese revolution; protect the land and respect the security and defence system of the country; keep Sudan safe from foreign intervention; and pay special attention to the role women, youth and scientists play in the rise of the nation.
For his part, Dirir said: “We proved to the world that we, the Africans, can solve our problems on our own,” adding that Sudan will be removed from the list of countries harbouring terrorism.
Six civilians will serve on an 11-seat sovereign council that will act as a collective presidency. The remaining five will come from the military. A member of the military will lead the council for the next 21 months and a civilian will lead it for the 18 months after. The council members and its composition will be announced on 18 August.
The prime minister will be appointed 20 August, the government formed 28 August, while the first joint meeting of the sovereign council and cabinet will be held 1 September.
AFC Spokesman Madani Abbas said the cabinet will comprise a maximum of 20 ministers, adding that 67 per cent of the legislative council will be picked by the AFC, while the remaining 33 per cent will be selected after consultations with the sovereign council and formed of the political powers that partook in the revolution but were not signatory to the declaration.
The constitutional declaration states that the premier will choose cabinet ministers from names compiled by the AFC; the Rapid Support Forces are affiliated to the military institution, answering directly to the commander of the armed forces; and the Sudanese intelligence service will fall under the supervision of the sovereign council and the cabinet.
The Sudanese people went out on the streets to celebrate the signing of the constitutional declaration. Political parties, syndicates and social organisations welcomed the move, including the National Umma Party, the Professors of Sudan Universities Initiative, the Lawyers Syndicate and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella grouping that spearheaded protests since they erupted in December 2018.
SPA leading figure Mohamed Nagi Al-Asam said, “The transitional phase is no picnic. It is a journey of tireless, hard work. The success of this phase is the responsibility of all of Sudan.”
The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, encompassing three armed movements and an affiliate of the AFC, declared that it was not represented in negotiations taking place between the TMC and AFC. The group added that it was sidelined and that this was going to complicate the political scene and reproduce a national crisis leading to elitist agreements that do not represent Sudan or the Sudanese.
Rabie, however, while assuring that “an entire chapter in the declaration is dedicated to the peace arrangement”, said that a representative of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front was present at the meeting held between the TMC and AFC.
The former ruling National Congress Party released a statement in rejection of the constitutional declaration. “The bilateral agreement between the AFC and the TMC sidelined all other elements of Sudan’s political and social life. Totalitarian policies based on elimination will complicate the future of the transitional period.”
The party, formerly headed by ousted president Omar Al-Bashir, claimed the declaration was not based on Islamic Sharia and that it opened the door wide for secular orientations.
The declaration will not be able to withstand the challenges of the transitional phase, opined Sudanese expert Salah Al-Bandar, director of the extremism studies unit at Cambridge University. Al-Bandar stated that conflicts will not cease, and that signing the agreement was not a new phase in the history of Sudan, but rather a new chapter in a critical period that is based on a fragile balance.
If the TMC and AFC respect their partnership, assign balanced figures to steer the country through the transitional phase, and contain armed groups, there may be a chance for further understandings between the two groups, said Sudanese security expert Hanafi Abdallah.
Mohamed Hamad Said, secretary-general of the Sudan Call group, said the agreement constituted a political settlement for the two main players on the Sudanese political stage. But Said expects more hurdles to come, as a result of Islamists’ infiltration into all Sudan’s state apparatuses.
Said expects positive shifts on the economic, political and social front to be witnessed in the country in the near future, after the declaration “facilitated the transformation to a civilian executive authority, established the rule of law by separating authorities from each other and loosened the grip on freedoms”.
Journalist and political activist Amir Ahmed Al-Sayed and political analyst Abdel-Moneim Suleiman both agreed that Sudan’s priority was the elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood from the Sudanese scene.
The latter said the nation was fresh out of a 30-year period of oppression, tyranny and religious manipulation, and that it is facing enormous challenges to overcome that sorry state of affairs and establish peace, stability and prosperity.
Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, a figurehead with the AFC, said the opposition group and the TMC had “to restore mutual trust before forming the government and instating transitional rule”.
These steps, Al-Mahdi said, will earn Sudan the support of the regional and international communities and help it consolidate its footing on the domestic front.
“At this juncture Sudan’s gravest challenge is the deeply rooted former regime which, with its extensive capabilities, has stood behind the military coup and many crises Sudan had to come face to face with. It is the threat of this deep state that provided the popular will for negotiations to move in the right direction. We are now faced with a semi-collapsed state on the security, economic and political front due to the policies of the past three-decade regime.”
Security and political experts on Sudan warn that the coming few months will be difficult with remnants of the old regime becoming active to impede reform, spread fear and commit crimes to encourage the people to revolt again.
Sudan has four challenges, which if overcome will set the country on the right track. The first is reinstating Sudan’s institutions and its civil service system before Islamists came to power after orchestrating the June 1989 military coup.
The second challenge is embracing all of Sudan’s political players and armed movements in the country’s new structure. That these powers function outside the official political theatre is a threat to the stability of the state.
The third is the collapsing economy. Hundreds of billions of dollars were stolen from the Sudanese and it is time the country’s money was returned to its treasury.
The fourth and gravest challenge is the destruction of the former regime’s sleeping cells that will do anything to impede progress on the ground.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Sudan at new juncture