Sudan moves to restructure security services after unrest
KHARTOUM – Violence in a number of Sudanese governorates has recently renewed talk about the need to restructure security services. This comes amid pressure by the Alliance of Freedom and Change Forces on the Transitional Sovereign Council to quickly approve a law to form an internal security apparatus to deal with elements affiliated with the Islamist movement that seeks to incite unrest in the country.
Following a recent wave of violence, a number of civilian governors claimed some police elements are affiliated with the regime of former President Omar al-Bashir regime and accused them of acts of theft and looting in numerous governorates.
Al-Jazirah governorate Abdullah Idris al-Kateen called for police officers who belong to the former regime to be sacked and accused them of playing a role in facilitating acts of looting.
On Monday, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited the interior ministry, his first such visit since taking office, and met with a number of leaders and members of the security services.
Observers say that the visit marks the beginning of action to restructure security institutions and provide the necessary support to police forces, who will soon come under increased pressure as the government makes difficult decisions, including devaluing the country’s currency, the pound.
A member of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant General Shams El-Din Kabbashi and Minister of Cabinet Affairs Khaled Omar Youssef held separate meetings with Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Ezz El-Din Al-Sheikh a few days ago.
During the meeting, the talks focused on ways to provide all the needs and requirements of the police forces and address the security service issues in order to enable them to perform their national duty to preserve citizens’ security and stability.
The transitional authority is facing many political difficulties as it works to restructure the security services, with increasing pressure from sympathisers of the former regime. The revolutionary forces have so far been unable to achieve their vision to comprehensively restructure all agencies, and their contribution has been limited to issuing pension decisions and changing a number of leaders.
The government approved the formation of an internal security apparatus after an assassination attempt on Hamdok last March. The body, however, has not yet seen the light due to disagreement over whether it will answer to the police forces’ ‘director, who was top security service authority during the era of Bashir, or to the interior minister, who has huge executives now.
The Forces of Freedom and Change asserted that the law forming the internal security apparatus will be approved during the next meeting between its central council, the government and the sovereignty council. There is also an agreement between the civil and military components to form a body to confront the smuggling of terrorist elements across the borders of the vast Darfur states. The body’s role is set to cover information and security issues through coordination with military forces in the periphery states.
— Fearing reactions —
Security sources revealed to The Arab Weekly that there are concerns over a repeat of armed protests that took place in Khartoum about a year ago, against the background of decisions to restructure the General Intelligence Service. These concerns, they said, have made the restructuring process move at a slow pace.
The same sources indicated that many decisions have been made in various security sectors in recent months, with hundreds of members sacked and others referred to retirement after evidence they collaborated with the former regime.
The government wants to restructure the army and armed forces in parallel with the restructuring of the security services in order to avoid a security vacuum that might be exploited by hostile forces.
Hamdok appointed Khaled Mahdi Ibrahim as chief of the Sudanese police forces, succeeding Izz-Eddin Al-Sheikh, who was recently appointed interior minister. He also played a key role in dismissing some security officials, as well as hundreds of police college students who are affiliated with the Islamist movement.
The leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change Ibrahim al-Amin emphasised that the security services, like other state institutions, need to be quickly restructured to confront the dangers facing Sudan.
He told The Arab Weekly that the influence of Bashir’s supporters over the apparatus complicates the restructuring process. Amin said a new attitude towards security must be instilled such that elements of security agencies feel they are working to protect citizens’ security and not simply the regime’s security.
Amin, who was one of the figures who participated in the delegation of the Forces of Freedom and Change that negotiated with the Military Council to restructure the police, stressed that there is a consensus that reform should become the responsibility of the Sovereignty Council’s military body, away from partisan polorisation.
The biggest controversy relates to restructuring the General Intelligence Service’s security body, with the transitional authority hoping to turn it into a civilian apparatus specialised in providing intelligence instead of being a body devoted to protecting the Bashir regime.
There are more than 10,000 members in the body’s operations’ committee whose roles have not been restructured and integrated into the security system.
The armed movements are exerting vigorous pressure to restructure the intelligence apparatus. Previous disagreements arose between the leaders of those movements and the elements of intelligence agencies, and it is expected that the presence of the revolutionary elements at the head of the ruling power structures will soon contribute to moving this file.
Political analyst Muhammad Shinawi expected that the presence of the forces of a number of armed movements in Khartoum, in coordination with the security and military agencies, would be a prelude to engaging directly in the implementation of the security arrangements and the restructuring process.
Recently, forces affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Movement, a group affiliated with politician Minni Minnawi, arrived in Khartoum with all of their war equipment before the security arrangements were implemented, but their presence angered many political forces.
Shinawi explained to The Arab Weekly that the armed movements’ relentless desire to integrate their elements within the security services and military institutions, in addition to international support for Sudan bringing down the Juba Agreement, are contributing to overcome the obstacles facing the transitional authority.