Sudan engages peaceful transition after crisis − but challenges abound

Achieving a peaceful outcome to Sudan’s conflicts and resolving the economic crisis are the twin priorities of newly appointed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Saturday 24/08/2019
Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during a news conference in Khartoum, August 21. (AP)
Historic moment. Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during a news conference in Khartoum, August 21. (AP)

CAIRO - Sudan began implementing transitional arrangements after the swearing-in of the 11 members of the Sovereign Council and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The country is set to work on major crises left by the 30-year rule of ousted President Omar al-Bashir and to capitalise on the people rallying in addition to the strong regional and international support for the power-sharing agreement between the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change.

Sudanese General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who headed the military council, was sworn in as chairman of the Sovereign Council.

Hamdok, a UN senior economist, was selected to lead the 39-month transitional government and will effectively start tackling the country’s many unresolved crises. He said he was giving top priority to achieving a comprehensive peace and will need all the African experience he has to end conflicts in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Tamador al-Tayeb, an academic at the Institute for Diplomatic Studies in Khartoum, said: “All parties should take advantage of the current consensus… What lies ahead is a tough period of negotiations to take care of the pending issues and reassure the marginalised regions.”

Tayeb insisted that the attention of the international community since the beginning of the revolution was focused on two issues: the peaceful transfer of power to civilian authority and reaching a comprehensive peace.

She pointed out that many international powers tied the provision of economic aid to Sudan to progress made on the issue, as well as dealing with crises resulting from the large number of refugees and displaced persons and the inequitable distribution of wealth.

Sudan has received aid pledges from many countries. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were at the forefront of foreign countries delivering on such promises.

Nearly bankrupt, Sudan needs to address the dire economic situation at the root of much of its turmoil. “With the right vision, with the right policies, we will be able to address this economic crisis,” Hamdok promised.

The new government is counting on having Sudan removed from the US terrorism list and on ending the effects of economic sanctions to facilitate the flow of aid and investment in Sudan.

Khartoum has received positive signals from Washington since al-Bashir’s ouster but the Trump administration has yet to take concrete steps towards lifting the sanctions, preferring to wait to make sure there are no setbacks to the process.

Sudanese researcher Hamid Tijani said that after the transition agreement there is overwhelming expectation the United States will move quickly to remove Sudan from its terrorism list.

Tijani said Hamdok will not allow extremist forces on Sudanese soil, which had led to the placing of Sudan on the US terrorism list.

“The sooner the government makes rapid progress towards peace, the more it will receive foreign aid and the sooner it implements real economic solutions and citizens feel that there is real change,” Tijani said.

There is also wariness in Khartoum about risks posed by supporters of the Islamic Movement and the former regime and the chance they may try to sabotage the power-sharing agreement. Many of those groups’ leaders openly rejected the agreement and vowed to disrupt its implementation.

Some Sudan experts said that such threats can be understood in the context of Islamist leaders’ desire to seek some political role during the transitional period. But in jockeying for those roles, they are aware of the general consensus in Sudan in favour of excluding former regime figures from the political process and holding them accountable for misdeeds under al-Bashir.

US Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, expressed “grave concerns” about whether officials associated with the former regime “will prove trustworthy partners given their history of violence, repression, corruption and bad faith.”

Observers said members of the former establishment share a strong tendency to yield to the new authorities’ decisions and to avoid the repeat of previous mistakes.

A large segment of the Sudanese population is optimistic that balanced external relations will be established by Khartoum away from the ideologically slanted connections sought by al-Bashir’s regime.

Towards that end, the announced agreement seems to have given Sudan a sizeable advantage. The United States, Norway and Britain welcomed the progress made. “The appointment of a civilian-led government presents an opportunity to rebuild a stable economy and create a government that respects human rights and personal freedoms,” they said in a statement.