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Articles and ViewsThe Labyrinth of the Democratic Transition in Sudan By: Amgad Fareid Eltayeb
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The Labyrinth of the Democratic Transition in Sudan By: Amgad Fareid Eltayeb

12-23-2021, 03:53 PM
أمجد فريد الطيب
<aأمجد فريد الطيب
Registered: 09-21-2021
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The Labyrinth of the Democratic Transition in Sudan By: Amgad Fareid Eltayeb

    03:53 PM December, 23 2021

    Sudanese Online
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    On October 25, joint military forces moved to seize power in Sudan. They arrested dozens of politicians and government officials Including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian member of the Sovereignty Council, Muhammad Suleiman Al-Faki, and the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Khalid Omer Yousif. Army’s Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant-General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan authorized himself to exercise the powers of the Sovereignty Council and the Cabinet. Consequently, he dissolved the Sovereignty Council and the Cabinet, froze several articles of the constitutional document, dissolved professional associations and trade unions, shut down Internet, among other classic decisions of any coup. This effectively ended the transitional period that began in August 2019 after the people’s revolution toppled the Islamic regime of Al-Bashir in April 2019.

    The transitional period started by an agreement between Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) (a broad alliance of political parties and syndicates who directed the revolution) and the military. The agreed upon constitutional document structured the transitional government in Sovereignty Council of military and civilian representatives with honorary powers to act collectively as the head of state, a non-partisan cabinet, and a Transitional Legislative Council, in which political forces would be represented. Later, the transition was augmented by signing Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) with armed movements represented in the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) in October 2020. The peace negotiations leading to the JPA witnessed the first military encroachment on executive tasks, with the appointment of a negotiating delegation headed by General Hemedti (Commander of the infamous Rapid Support Forces). This encroachment never stopped. The military increasingly interfered in foreign policies, economy, supervision of state agencies, civil service appointments…etc. They did not hide their eagerness for having more executive powers, and their lack of contentment with the honorary status of the Sovereignty Council. The term (military component) was coined and used widely to describe the five military members of the Sovereignty Council, to distinguish them from the other six civilian members, although the Sovereignty Council should have exercised its functions as a single body in which decisions are taken by a two-thirds majority.



    JPA granted the SRF 25% share of cabinet, breaking the non-partisanship stipulation of the initial agreement. FFC demanded amending the constitutional document to allow similar participation of its components. This resulted in full partisan composition of Hamdok’s second cabinet in February 2021. The FFC had previously shown its eagerness to play an executive role. The amendment of the constitutional document to establish the Council of Governing Partners as a supervisory body over the transition in December 2020, aroused public discontent to the extent that the term (blood partnership) was coined to refer to it. It appeared as an attempt to avoid the formation of the Legislative Council.

    Increasingly, the issue of powers, not tasks, became the main focus of all actors in the transition. Hence, October 25 coup was no surprise to anyone. The military component wanted more power and control. Over the months preceding the coup, the Army’s official newspaper continued to promote a discourse about the ineffectiveness of civilian government and call for army intervention to fix things. The military’s support for the FFC to assume executive responsibilities was only in order to create discord, and then division among civilians. This actually happened later under pretensions of lack of inclusive participation in power. The military component spared no effort in promoting these divisions and trying to distort the image of civilian politicians and assassinate their characters, using both local tools and automated disinformation campaigns with Russian links on social media that encourage military control and undermine the civilian government. Some civilian politicians and political forces - even from within the FFC - participated in these smear campaigns with unprecedented shortsightedness.

    In addition to the longing of military to power, the coup had other reasons; the oncoming of the date of handing over the Sovereign Council chairmanship from the military to civilians, the generals’ concerns about the results of investigating the massacre of the dispersal of the sit-in in the absence of any serious moves by all parties to reveal facts or initiate practical measures for truth, reconciliation and transitional justice, the military's desire to maintain their influence and avoid the process of reforming military and security institutions in Sudan, preserving the huge economic interests of the military that grew extensively during three decades of kleptocratic rule of the National Congress Party, Ties with the toppled regime and the heavy presence of Islamist ideologue elements in the security and military services that all efforts to purging and reform were resisted in the past two years, and the support of neighboring countries and Russia for a military takeover to protect their interests and thwarting the democratic transition, which may be an encouraging model for spreading democracy in the region in a way that threaten their ruling models. Russia strongly seeks to establish a military naval base on the coast of Sudan on the Red Sea, in agreement with the Sudanese military. With the presence of Wagner group and its investment arm M Invest LLC since 2017 in Sudan, Russian fingerprints all over this coup.

    A fundamental structural reason behind the coup was the entrenchment of a misconceptional term that was repeated frequently by civilian leaders, including the Prime Minister. It is portraying the transitional government as a partnership between civilian and military components. The repetition of this term diverted the focus of the transition from tasks to powers, and fueled the delusional perception of the military of their entitlement to exercise executive powers other than what the constitutional document stipulates. This concept created a perception of the existence of entitlements of authorities for (partners) rather than the state structures, and made agreements between these partners superior and dominant over the agreed constitutional text that set the course and tasks of the transition. Of course, these agreements were unstable, volatile, and subject to different circumstances and political alliances between different actors in different times and subjects. In conclusion, the transitional period lost its blueprint as a result of the consolidation of this concept, and its course became hostage to the balance of power and temporary alliances between parties. The dominance of this concept over the transitional government impeded the ability of the state apparatus to implement unified policies and make decisions. The rights of the partners to agree to intervene to change or disrupt policies and decisions were superior to the powers of the executive state apparatus. This made the executive branch vulnerable to constant political blackmail and contributed to further dividing the civilian component whose parties resorted at different times to seek help and ally themselves with the unified military partner to achieve their political goals. This fueled the military’s delusion of their guardianship over state, and fed their coup tendencies more. The outcome of the multiplicity of decision-making centers has been disastrous at all levels.

    On November 21, Hamdok signed an agreement with the putschists after which he was released from house arrest and reinstated to his position. This did not reverse of the coup nor resolve the situation for many reasons. The substance of the agreement was nothing but confirming and attempting to codify desires and decisions of the putschists. Moreover, whether he signed voluntarily and convinced or not, several weeks after the signing, it became clear that Hamdok is helpless and incapable of reversing essential decisions taken during the coup. He could not even restore the syndicates which Burhan dissolved during the coup. What is more, Major General Al-Burhan, a few days after the signing of the agreement, unilaterally appointed the head of the judiciary and the country’s attorney general, the two highest judicial positions, without any kind of consultation. Prime Minister was only able to take some administrative decisions on civil service appointments and even those were subject to clearance by the military. Hamdok was forced to accept the continuity of the ministers who participated and supported the coup in their ministerial seats, forefronted by the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement and Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim. Moreover, Hamdok did not have the mandate from the political forces to cut such a deal with the putschists. The scene of signing November 21 agreement which was attended only by the pro-coup politicians was an indication that Hamdok was taking an improper partisan stance which unfortunately is not pro-democracy. Hamdok lost -or forced to lose- much of the popular and political trust and support that was rallied around him as a symbol of legitimacy after the October 25 coup and before it.

    It would have been possible to restore trust (or at least part of it) if he had the ability to make decisions that reflect commitment to civil democratic transformation and restoration of the path of transition in Sudan, and pointed to the shortcomings of this agreement and presented his proposals to address them. On the contrary, Hamdok launched a PR campaign to promote the coup and justify its orientations, adopting the same putschists’ discourse about excluding political forces from the scene, and adopting the call for elections at the end of the transitional period that is practically concluded by the coup. As if the October 25 coup did not happen. As if the transitional period is just a space of time not linked to implementing specific tasks needed to build democracy in Sudan. As if the Sudanese people and the national political forces are supposed to predestinately consent to the military tutelage over the political process in Sudan and to surrender to its threat of coups and bloodshed at all times when they don’t like the political track. It was not only a discourse but also actions. In the first week of signing and before any consultations or understandings with political forces, Hamdok's advisors invited international organizations and donors to discuss perpetrations for elections. Diplomats who attended the meeting indicated that Hamdok's staff “did not know what exactly they wanted from it”. Most likely, this meeting - as early as it was- was an attempt from Hamdok’s staff to appease the military putschists and send a message that they had actively engaged in their plan, and on the other hand, to whitewash their names by presenting the international community with its favorite discourse about elections. Nevertheless, this revealed how little they perceive about the political process and democratic elections. Elections are not a bureaucratic process, but rather a political process. Those running in these elections are the political forces not external actors. There is no point in trying to prepare a field when the players refuse to play in principle, and for good reasons.

    This is not the first time that the path of democratic transition in Sudan is disrupted after the people revolution toppled Al-Bashir. After the June 3 massacre, negotiations between civilians and military stopped. It was not restored until after the visit of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his pressure on all parties to return. Local initiatives did not succeed in restoring the process due to the lack of confidence in its impartiality and the lack of sufficient weight of mediators to persuade the parties. Abiy’s restored process was entrusted to the AU mediation (whose office in Khartoum composted of three people and no ambassador at the time). The process was shaky, jumbled, and unstructured, depending only on personal initiatives and contacts of the then African envoy, Mohamed Hassan Ould Labbat.

    This and other reasons related to the capacity of the political movement that was negotiating while burdened with fatigue issues and intrinsic problems accumulated during thirty years of the Islamists’ dictatorship, and without consensus on the state structure, transition process, and the details of the necessary reforms during it, led the outcomes of that process to be flawed and full of shortcomings. Even the linguistic formulation of some constitutional articles was problematic and led to complications in their implementation. Some important transitional tasks such as security sector reform, constitution-making process among others were dealt with very lightly and superficially as mentioning them was just to tick a box. As well, the outcomes were devoid of grantees and monitoring mechanisms. Partially because of the weak influence of the AU mediation, its unwillingness or inability to engage in long-term commitments that it lacks the capacity to implement. But also, the military component was reluctant to instate such safeguarding mechanisms, and used populist rhetoric to confuse between what is xenophobic nationalism and what is patriotic to avoid and stigmatize such proposals. It was a mass blackmail tactic that worked at the time and is now being used again, backed by the shortsightedness and immaturity of some actors who do not realize that they are shooting at their feet and on the path to civil democratic transition in Sudan.

    November 21 agreement did not resolve the October 25 coup, but in practice it became part of its process. Going back to before October 25 is impossible, if it is at all useful. The democratic transition, which has been faltering since August 2019, is practically over by a military coup. This fact cannot and should not be ignored. Sudan needs a new inclusive political process to restore the of realizing the aspirations of the people's revolution. it needs to be inclusive in terms of both actors and issues. Issues that were not discussed clearly enough in the previous negotiation, such as military reform, criminal and transitional justice, basis of marginalization, dismantling economic empowerment, use of traditional influence and soft money in politics, system of government and state structure, the conducive environment for democracy, and the constitution-making process should be included in a clear, transparent and structured discussion among all actors. Those actors include new influential forces, such as resistance committees and the demands groups, who had the loudest voice in resisting the coup. The demands and proposals of these forces should be discussed clearly and publicly in any political process aimed at stability in Sudan. No country can be governed without adequately considering the orientations of the organized grassroots groups. Likewise, the inclusion of the neglected issues of peace with Sudan People's Liberation Movement led by Al-Hilu and Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel-Wahed Nour in any prospective political process is crucial. There can be no real democratic transition in Sudan without completing the peace process and there can be no inclusive process without the participation of these two major forces. They have the right -if not the duty- to discuss and present their theses on the broad national political issues discussed in such a process. Furthermore, the outstanding peace issues are principally political issues of a national nature that concern everyone, and need to be discussed by everyone. The piecemeal approach to addressing Sudan's crises is tested and proven ineffective.

    Any attempt to impose a political pact on the political and mass movement before a comprehensive political process will be an absurd totalitarian measure, and its outputs will not worth the ink with which it was written. In order for any political pact to be respected and adhered to, it must be the result of a fully participatory political process and not prior to it.

    Perhaps such process seems a wishful fantasy in the current situation, especially with the deep distrust between all parties the inability of the Prime Minister to confront the reactionary forces and go forward in the path of democratic transition. However, it is time for the international community to walk its talk about supporting democratic transition in Sudan. The congratulatory support and welcoming of the November 21 agreement are meaningless and aimless. it was born emaciated in its cradle before clinically die for the Prime Minister's lack of power. It is time to put tangible objectives for the international efforts and tools. There is an urgent need to pressure those who carried out a coup to stop and accept the fact that they cannot rule Sudan with violence, oppression, bullets and fire once again. Sudanese, who revolted to uproot Al-Bashir's dictatorship, will not accept replacing one tyrant with another. The ongoing mass resistance since the first day of the coup is continuing, and increasing. The international community needs to be honest with itself and with the Sudanese who have had enough of rhetorical slogans. Threats of sanctions (that are not binding to implement), suspension of support and other means will be just a waste of time and endorsement of the status quo unless they are linked to a clear objective. This can be the initiation of a serious inclusive process to restore the path of democratic transformation in Sudan and setting a precedent for the rule of law and punishing democracy saboteurs.

    The UN political mission to Sudan (UNITAMS) is in appropriate position to propose and launch such a process. It is already mandated by the UN Security Council resolution 2524 (2020) to “assisting the political transition, progress towards democratic governance, protection and promotion of human rights, and sustainable peace”. This is all the mandate it needs to initiate such a process. However, it cannot do it alone. Pressuring the putschists to retreat from their coup process and genuinely engage in a political process, needs serious carrots and sticks. Convincing the political and mass movement to trust another political process needs serious strong guarantors who can stand by and support the implementation of the outcomes. Countries and regional organizations who repeatedly stated their support for civilian democratic transition in Sudan should put their influence and weight on a unified platform aiming at a well-planned, structured and practical process. This can take place by a panel of influential international figures who carry the influence of their countries and organizations to support the UN mission in achieving this and coordinate the different pressure and influence cards of the different international actors behind one specific target.

    Sudan today is at a crossroads on the path of its revolution. The Sudanese people have clearly chosen their path through peaceful struggle to achieve their aspirations for democracy and stability under the slogans of their revolution: freedom, peace and justice. But the question remains how serious is the rest of the world in supporting democracy and helping Sudan transition to a democratic state.

    Sudanseen at Thursday, December 23, 2021



    عناوين الاخبار بسودانيزاونلاين SudaneseOnline اليوم الموافق 12/23/2021


    عناوين المواضيع المنبر العامبسودانيزاونلاين SudaneseOnline اليوم الموافق 12/23/2021


    عناوين المقالات بسودانيزاونلاينSudaneseOnline اليوم الموافق 12/23/2021
                  

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