Breakthrough in Sudan

Asmaa Al-Husseini , Thursday 11 Jul 2019

A deal was reached between the ruling Transitional Military Council and the opposition in Sudan this week, but a permanent solution to the crisis in the country has yet to be found

Sudanese protesters
Sudanese people chant slogans and wave their national flag as they celebrate, after Sudan's ruling military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups reached an agreement to share power during a transition period leading to elections, along the streets of Khartoum, Sudan, July 5, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets of the country’s towns and cities to celebrate the deal reached between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Alliance of Freedom and Change (AFC) this week seven months after the beginning of an uprising in December 2018 against the rule of ousted former president Omar Al-Bashir.

The euphoria of the people on the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman expressed their desire to reach an agreement that will lead to the transition to democratic civilian rule.

Some saw the breakthrough deal as a victory for the revolution, while others believe it is a betrayal. Many felt it was the best available option that can be developed further.

The two sides agreed on the creation of a sovereign council rotating between military and civilian leadership for three years and three months.

They also agreed to form a civilian government composed of independent nationalist figures led by a prime minister chosen from the ranks of the AFC.

Transparent and in-depth investigations will be carried out into the recent violence in Sudan. The TMC and opposition also agreed to postpone the establishment of a legislative council or parliament.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the TMC’s deputy chairman who is also commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RFF), said that “this agreement is comprehensive and does not exclude anyone.”

He thanked the African and Ethiopian mediators who had helped to broker the agreement for their work.

Omar Al-Dagir, a leading AFC figure, said the deal paved the way for the setting up of interim authority institutions to implement economic, political and social reform programmes and focus on the issue of peace.

He hoped the agreement would be the start of a new era in which unity, awareness and collective determination would prevail to achieve the dreams of the Sudanese people, silence the guns, and accomplish the national interests.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which led the protests against Al-Bashir, praised the deal and the formation of a joint sovereign council.

“Our proud people, now the path is gradually expanding. Stand shoulder to shoulder and block a vacuum by closing ranks… Today is the birth of joy in our country. May the light of freedom shine free of any shadows,” it said.

Sudanese experts believe that dismantling of the “deep state” in Sudan and its hidden apparatus is the best way to end plots to destabilise the interim phase and make the partnership between the TMC and AFC a success.

Yasser Orman, deputy leader of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Sudan, said the deal was limited to the issues of quotas and hierarchy without agreement on the principles governing the democratic transition, dismantling the deep state, and reaching a comprehensive peace.

There needed to be a transition to pluralism, he said. “This requires forming a leadership for the forces of change that represents all their components to lead the transition phase,” he added. “We must learn from the past in order to cross into the future.”

There has been widespread debate in AFC ranks about the importance of drawing up a platform in preparation for taking over the reins of government.

Saleh Jalal, a leading figure in the Umma Party, said that “starting today, we must change our mindset inside the AFC from one of activists to that of statesmen and stateswomen.”

“The AFC is not in opposition, but is the ruling party now, and the people are waiting for it to provide services, including food, healthcare, education, peace, security and development. The AFC is practically and morally responsible for the performance of the next government.”

Omar Al-Qaray, a Sudanese intellectual, said that “a positive outcome of the deal is that it has ended the oppression, killings, arrests and stalemate.

It has also made the AFC an effective actor on the political stage and a partner in power, giving it control of the cabinet and the majority in parliament during the interim phase.”

“It now has platforms from which it can contribute to change. The agreement has curbed the powers of the TMC and showcased the AFC to the world and highlighted African mediation as a peacemaking force amid the turmoil and not a rowdy opposition,” he added, going onto urge the AFC to advocate freedom as one of the top demands of the revolution and to vet candidates for official posts in the interim phase.

Sudanese commentators believe that a flexible interpretation of the agreement will be problematic and could hinder its implementation.

Some criticised statements by TMC Chairman Abdel-Fattah Borhan regarding the mandate of the sovereign council during the interim period, saying that it would have the power to veto cabinet decisions and give its opinion on the appointment of ministers.

The agreement, to be signed within one week, remains fragile and needs to be protected by immediately starting confidence-building between the two sides. This will not be easy and will require immense efforts and assistance from African and Ethiopian mediators.

It will also require the AFC, which represents the revolutionary forces, to act wisely on its internal affairs, close ranks, form a united leadership, and deal fairly with criticisms from some of its members.

It also needs to contain other Sudanese forces, achieve comprehensive national reconciliation, and lead the people to achieve the goals of the revolution.

For the TMC, the agreement is a way of ending its dilemma as being caught between the revolutionary forces and the people. At first, the military was seen as a partner in the revolution for helping to overthrow the previous regime.

But then a wedge grew between the military and the people followed by the forced dispersion of the sit-in on 3 June.

The current deal gives the TMC a second chance to prove its statements that it is not an extension of the Al-Bashir regime and that it has chosen to support the people. This will require efforts to reestablish trust and credibility and erase the negative impacts of the previous regime.

The two sides need to act in partnership. If they manoeuvre and deal with each other through pressure and blackmail, this will not benefit Sudan in its current fragile state with its multiple security, political, economic and social troubles.

If a credible partnership is not achieved, the next government will not be accepted by the Sudanese people or the international community.

Sudan is still under sanctions, and it must overcome its current troubles to reach stability while taking into consideration the difficulties of the interim period, the high expectations of the people and problems related to the displaced and mass destruction across the county on all levels.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Breakthrough in Sudan

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