Tensions over Sudan’s transition crisis defused but challenges abound

At the centre of the talks would be the formation of a 15-member transitional sovereign council to manage Sudan’s transition.
Sunday 16/06/2019
Sudanese protesters chant slogans and wave national flags as they demonstrate during a rally in Khartoum, May 31. (AFP)
Sensitive phase. Sudanese protesters chant slogans and wave national flags as they demonstrate during a rally in Khartoum, May 31. (AFP)

CAIRO - Analysts of the conflict in Sudan said they are hopeful after a call for civil disobedience was suspended and negotiations between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council resumed.

However, the developments do not ensure a quick end to the crisis in Sudan because the main parties involved are holding fast to their positions, they added.

“The whole situation can go back to square one once more and very quickly,” said Sudanese political analyst Mohamed Saleh Matar. “Parties to the conflict care only about power, nothing more.”

Talks between Sudan’s military rulers and the opposition stalled June 3 following the bloody dispersal of a major protest camp outside the general army command in Khartoum.

Dozens of demonstrators were killed when troops stormed the camp. The tragedy caused an international uproar, which forced the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to declare an investigation of the incident.

A civil disobedience programme began June 9, followed a TMC announcement that it would have elections in nine months, to demand the TMC handing power to civilians. The strike paralysed life in Sudan. Streets were empty and commercial outlets shuttered.

The suspension of the strike and the possible resumption of talks were announced June 11 by Mahmoud Drir, an adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was in Khartoum to lead mediation efforts in collaboration with the African Union.

At the centre of the talks, he added, would be the formation of a 15-member transitional sovereign council to manage Sudan’s transition. The sovereign council was proposed by Ahmed, who said eight of its members should be civilians and the remaining seven could come from the military.

Drir noted that the TMC also agreed to release political

detainees as a measure of goodwill if the civil disobedience was called off and negotiations resumed. There is scepticism, however, about the ability of the opposition and the TMC to move beyond those measures.

The insistence of the TMC to lead the transitional body will be an issue in the way of agreement between both sides, analysts said.

“The council insists on managing the whole thing and this can make the situation explode yet again,” said Hani Raslan, an African affairs specialist at Egyptian think-tank Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “The military council needs to understand that it is in a much weaker position after the June 3 massacre.”

There are fears in the TMC that its leaders could be taken to court once power has shifted, hence the council’s insistence on leading the body proposed by Ahmed.

The TMC announced June 10 that it had suspended and referred to trial officers suspected of taking part in the June 3 violence.

The unwavering position of the opposition, which may not have the necessary political expertise to run the country, is another challenge for Sudan, analysts said.

“Opposition leaders are incapable of presenting any concessions,” Matar said. “They need to realise that they will never reach power without negotiations.”

The crisis in Sudan remained a stressful situation internationally because of the risk of further violence.  Sudan’s geopolitical importance as a midpoint between the Horn of Africa and North Africa is also drawing attention to its internal crisis.

International powers have been trying to influence events in Sudan and could be part of the problem, observers said.

“The Sudanese have a good chance of ending the current crisis, only if they have a will to do so, away from foreign interference,” said Mohamed al-Shazly, a former Egyptian ambassador in Sudan. “Some Western powers are playing a negative role in the crisis, which can make things worse.”

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