Sudan Enters Unchartered Waters.

Mahmud Saleh

Follow-up: The Ethiopian PM, Dr. Abiy Ahmed,  visited Khartoum in a bid to mediate the ruling Military Transitional Council (MTC) and the opposition, led by Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). The outcome is not known. However, Khartoum is yet tense, with total civil disobedience called by SPA in effect. The last crackdown by the military council to clear protestors’ from a makeshift campsite in front of the armed forces HQ resulted in the loss of hundreds of casualties. The standoff in the streets continues.

There is a chance that the current popular uprising could be hijacked by radicals as the relation between the military and the opposition has repetitively hit snags, with intra-opposition relations showing widening chasms and the mistrust between the opposition and the ruling junta widening.

International and regional pressures and influences are growing on both sides. Regional powers appear to be supporting the junta’s strategy of a transitional period in which the military and the opposition can form a caretaker government while the country prepares for a general election. Western countries are pushing for an immediate civilian overtake. The foreign interference, however, has aggravated the situation. In a few instances, both sides seemed to have reached an agreement. Apparently, due to pressures being applied on both sides, setbacks have become a familiar trend.

Unless prudence reigns, the situation could go either in the direction of total military control or towards a weak and dysfunctional civilian government, which could take the country into a deepening abyss where a military coup will eventually take over. 

Here is the problem: the military, by its nature, drives legitimacy from the fact that it is the only national organ responsible for the defense of the country. The opposition led by SPA needs to understand that it is not ELECTED, hence, it does not have the legitimacy to govern right away, without a process that leads to an election. Therefore, it needs to be disciplined enough to work out a mechanism that leads to a general election where it could run based on platforms and governed by the constitution of the country, where it could win and govern with the blessing of the Sudanese people.

The second point missing is that the MTC has the responsibility of keeping law and order. I can’t imagine any government, including the USA, would tolerate its armed forces’ HQ blocked by demonstrators.

Therefore, I feel the opposition is getting emboldened by western powers who careless about the complicated nature of Sudanese politics, a country that is suffering from active revolts and civil wars. The military has a point when it emphasizes security. The opposition is fragmented and could claim any legitimacy to govern at this time. It could only find a way to work within a transitional mindset where the military is also a partner.

Below is an opinion I penned on 12April 2019. I still think the realistic outcome would be something similar to it.

I hope I am wrong, but here is my prediction regarding the Sudanese political change. UNLESS the following steps are taken, Sudan will plunge into chaos and, finally, the military will overtake control, which will resume the vicious cycle of military rule.
1. The military remains the guarantor of the transition.
2. A caretaker government forms by TECHNOCRATS representing the military and the political forces of the country, including known Sudanese academicians and professionals from around the world. The job of the government is to stabilize the Sudanese economy, restore its diplomatic links and prepare the country for transitioning into a full-blown civilian government. This government gets its legitimacy from a transitional charter that the majority of Sudanese political forces agree on. It defines the role of each component of the government (military/civilian) and maps out a road that would end in electoral democracy.
3. Forming an independent Commission to draft documents (constitution, parties laws, election’s laws, etc.) for the next phase, transition to democracy.
4. Forming an independent commission for investigating crimes committed by the Al-Basheer government against state and people of Sudan. The commission utilizes Sudanese and international laws to investigate and prosecute financial thievery and crimes against humanity.
5. An independent “Truth and Reconciliation” Commission to sort out crimes of less severity.
6. The Sudanese court system remains independent and untouchable
7. As the political climate clears up and matures, the role of the military phases out from day to day government tasks, as prescribed in the transitional charter.
8. As per the interim charter’s articles, the country enters a civilian multi-party democracy.
9. Instead, if the people insist on a “military-hand-off” position, as it seems the case is, the country will inevitably plunge into chaos because the parties are not in a position to form a government of national unity let alone tackle the immediate problems of the country, which are concentrated on security and economic matters.
10. I wish the people of Sudan success.

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