Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 8, 24 August 2019

Sudan: Political Transition and the challenges to Peace
Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In the news

Sudan has witnessed several shifts that would enable the country to move towards civilian rule this week. It began with a power-sharing deal that was reached on 17 August 2019 between Sudan’s military and civilian leaders that is, between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Freedom and Change (FFC) which is an alliance of protesters and opposition parties.

The agreement signed gave way for a transitional government to be led by Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, who would take power on the first of September. The new administration is to also replaces the military leadership that ousted Bashir in April and is expected to govern for just over three years until elections can be held. Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is to lead the governing council for the first 21 months.

On 22 August 2019, Abdalla Hamdok was chosen by the protest movement to be the Prime Minister and he took the oath late that afternoon. He has 21 days to form a 20-member cabinet excluding the interior minister and defence minister who would be picked by the soldiers that are on the sovereign council. Along with this, the sovereign council was inaugurated, this council would comprise of six civilians and five soldiers to rule Sudan for a period of three years until elections can be held. Burhan was sworn in as the council’s chairman and he would lead the council for a period of 21 months followed by the appointment of a civilian ruler who would be appointed by the people will take over the next 18 months. Nine other members of the council also took their oath of office. The sovereign council is to oversee the formation of the government.

Issue at large

The crisis in Sudan can be traced back to December 2018 when then-President Bashir’s government-imposed austerity measures, this caused large scale demonstrations and it resulted in the removal of Mr Bashir who was in power for 30 years by the military after sit-ins outside the defence ministry. The demonstrates, however, went on to demand that the power be quickly transferred to the civilians. General Burhan and a few other generals formed a council however they failed to bring stability to Sudan which was now facing protests that were violent and sometimes deadly.

Sudan’s military council and the pro-democracy council reached a new power-sharing agreement on 5 July 2019, with help from the African Union (AU) and Ethiopia who played roles of mediators. Here both sides agreed to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council that they would rule on rotation for a period of three years and three months.

On 17 July 2019 Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council signed the power-sharing agreement. The ceremony was held in the capital, Khartoum. This marked the end of protests and negotiations that have been going on for more than three months. The deal also promises an investigation into all the violence that has taken place.

On 4 August 2019, the military and protesters went on to sign a constitutional declaration which gave way for the formation of the transitional government.

In perspective

What lies ahead for Sudan are many challenges, the country continues to witness unrest in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and the Blue Nile, where many people are still displaced by the conflict, looking into these matters will be the priority of the transitional government. The other challenge is the fragile economy of Sudan which is on the verge of collapsing, the transitional government will need to take measure to build up the economy of Sudan to see some positive change in the country. Thus, it would take time for the council to clear the old system that Sudan is running on now, the people have high expectations from the council and it would be challenging for them to deliver results in such a situation.

Apart from these challenges, there is a need to remove all those who were loyal to Bashir in the armed forces, these people have caused unease among the people. Further, the security sector would have to undergo major changes.

The other question is to do with the doubt of whether the military will keep up to its part of the deal, although the protests have gone on to state that they would continue to mobilize street power to pressurise the military to uphold its commitment this remains uncertain.

Although there are a lot of challenges that are posed in front of the new council the measures taken and events leading up to now have put Sudan on the road headed for stability, thus it is in the hand of the leadership and the people of Sudan to cooperate to achieve this goal.

Abigail Miriam Fernandez is pursuing post-graduation in Stella Maris College, Chennai. She can be reached at fernandezabigail123@gmail.

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