Sudan’s fearsome scenarios

Asmaa Al-Husseini , Wednesday 19 Jun 2019

Is Sudan on the path to chaos? Observers tell Asmaa Al-Husseini dark schemes loom over Sudan as long as the army and opposition are at loggerheads

Sudanese aviation professionals
File Photo: Sudanese aviation professionals wave national flags as they rally in support of civilian rule at Khartoum airport in the capital on 27 May, 2019 (AFP)

Sudan was in danger of repeating the Libyan and Somalian chaotic scenarios if its opposition and army didn’t agree on the steps for transition, warned Tibor Nagy, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs as he was wrapping up a visit to Sudan.

In fact, given the current circumstances, chaos is not the only bad scenario awaiting Sudan. Another dark fate may loom, where the former regime makes a comeback.

The remnants and militias of the Islamic front that has been at the helm of Sudan for the past three decades are waiting for the right time to pounce back on power.

Many observers believe the men of the former regime have a hand in steering the present events with support from regional players, such as Turkey and Qatar, and the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The former regime may return to power through a military coup, a change within the military council ranks that pretends to sympathise with the revolutionaries, or by changing its skin altogether and morphing into a civilian form, observers believe.

The third scenario the Sudanese fear is the birth of a new dictatorship at the hand of the ruling military council, which seems to want to have pre-eminence in running state affairs.

The gap is increasingly widening between the Alliance of Freedom and Change (AFC), that expresses the popular will, and the Transitional Military Council (TMC), particularly after the crackdown on protesters who had camped for weeks in front of the army headquarters in central Khartoum and in which more than 100 Sudanese were killed and hundreds injured.

Sudan’s media reported that TMC officials said the council will form a caretaker government in two weeks, a statement some observers believed was an attempt to threaten or pressure the AFC.

Sources close to the TMC said that in light of the AFC’s resistance to cooperate with the council, only two paths exist: either Al-Sadek Al-Mahdi, the Sudan Call and Unionist Alliance step in to receive power, or the TMC forms a civilian authority according to the form it sees fit.

Informed sources in Sudan said there were attempts to impede Ethiopian mediation efforts in Sudan and bring to the surface differences on regional and international levels.

They added that powerful figures within Islamist circles in Sudan are utilising these differences to sow more rifts between the two parties.

A prominent Sudanese politician said that it had become certain there was a complete lack of trust between the TMC and AFC, and that the possibility of the two parties steering a transitional phase together was nil, unless the leadership of both the council and the alliance changes.

“The result of the investigation into the dispersal of the sit-in will help clear the vision for the near future, so will the African-US meetings and how many of the AFC demands the TMC will be willing to comply to,” the politician said.

“The bloody events of the sit-in crackdown changed the Sudanese stage. Without a transparent, trustworthy investigation into the dispersal, the event will remain a threatening element to security and social peace in Sudan,” said a Sudanese activist.

Meanwhile, informed Sudanese sources said national activists and experts have embarked on a mission to document the testimonies of witnesses that were present where the dispersal took place.

The testimonies, they said, implicated the security apparatuses and militias of the former regime who were involved in killing peaceful protesters.

AFC sources said the TMC are betting on cracks in the wall of the alliance. The council will lose the bet, they said, adding that the next few days would see the gap bridged between the AFC and the public.

The same sources said the council was seeking through media blackouts and misinformation to isolate the AFC from the public, destroy the alliance’s credibility and sideline the people. The AFC will increase its pressure on the TMC on the diplomatic and popular levels, they said.

Tibor Nagy
Tibor Nagy, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, speaks during a news conference on the case of Sudan, in the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia June 14, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

Sources in the National Umma Party reported that its leadership ascertained it will not be part of any transitional government the TMC forms, and that the party was reorganising its ranks at the time being.

The party’s statement comes as the TMC has placed its bets on partnering with the National Umma in the next phase.

Doubts, meanwhile, are increasingly being woven around the intentions of the TMC to form a transitional government to tighten its grip on power and to sideline the AFC if the alliance maintains its hardline stance against the military council.

These doubts extend to the TMC intentions to strike alliance with civil administrations and some weightless parties that formerly sided with Omar Al-Bashir’s regime and Islamist forces.

In addition, AFC sources said the Ethiopian mediator informed them the TMC backed down on its deal with the alliance.

Amid the darkness of the Sudanese stage, domestic and international efforts are toiling to avert a catastrophe of vast proportions in the country, said informed Sudanese sources.

The AFC, meanwhile, has intensified its public campaigns against the TMC. It announced a schedule for protests in the capital Khartoum and other regions, formed committees and platforms in neighbourhoods to inform the public about the political situation and invited the people to organise protests at night in villages and districts to condemn the violent dispersal of the army headquarters sit-in on 3 June. The protests are to be followed by demonstrations of the Sudanese Professionals Syndicate under the banner “We fight, we don’t bargain,” and “International justice for the massacre.”

Sources in the opposition alliance said the TMC will try to convince the public that it is holding all the cards of the game, defame the AFC, and spread lies and rumours.

It would also start courting some opposition ranks to divide the bloc, in addition to distracting the people’s minds by opening the investigation into corruption charges against Al-Bashir.

They added the AFC is adamant on executing its demands and on rejecting direct negotiations with the TMC.

The alliance, the sources said, believes that talks should embark from the main point of contention, which revolves around the sovereign council and the percentage of its representation, and that it is vital an independent international committee conduct the investigation into the sit-in dispersal.

The Sudanese Journalists Network condemned the continuation of severed Internet services and the TMC’s announcement that it would not return the service because it threatened national security.

The network added, in a statement, that the TMC’s announcement revealed the mentality that was in charge of the country, running the state without appreciating the role of the free media and the Internet and how they affect all aspects of life and the direct interests of the public.

The Journalists Network also condemned the mass firing of journalists in Sudan’s media institutions.

The situation has become complicated in Sudan with parties seeking their personal interests instead of the good of the public and the country, informed Sudanese sources said. The inclination towards escalation will only lead to war, complicating the scene in Sudan even further.

Meanwhile, TMC head Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan is continuing a tour of Eritrea and Chad after he visited Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. Observers commented that Al-Burhan’s tour aims at securing Sudan’s borders and gaining political support from neighbouring countries.

International pressures are putting further weight on the TMC to investigate the sit-in crackdown, and on the opposition as well as the military to resume negotiations.

The European Union condemned the violent dispersal of the sit-in which led to killing and injuring peaceful protesters as well as sexual violations.

An “independent and transparent” investigation into human rights violations in Sudan was due, said a European Union (EU) meeting in Brussels.

The union demanded trying the officials in charge of the dispersal, halting violations against civilians, freeing those detained in events related to protests, and protecting freedoms, particularly those of assembly, the media and acquiring Internet services.

The EU said it was upset over the deteriorating human conditions in Sudan and stressed the importance of delivering aid quickly to the Sudanese.

The union asserted its support for African Union (AU) efforts to ensure the handover of power to a transitional civilian government and requested the TMC and AFC return to negotiations and refrain from escalatory measures and unilateral steps.

It also commended Ethiopia for its mediatory role and called on regional and international organisations to support AU efforts.

The Sudanese people have the right to a peaceful, organised transition to a civilian government, the return to a constitutional system and democratic rule enforced through fair, free and transparent elections.

“As soon as a civilian transition takes place, the European Union will be ready to assist, both politically and economically,” the EU statement said.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 20 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Sudan’s fearsome scenarios

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