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Sudan: Mounting scepticism over latest “breakthrough” deal 

By Jihad Mashamoun and Patrick Smith
Posted on Monday, 22 July 2019 14:44

Deputy Head of Sudanese Transitional Military Council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and opposition alliance signed coalition's leader Ahmad al-Rabiah shake hands after signing a political accord as part of a power-sharing deal aimed at leading the country to democracy following three decades of autocratic rule in Khartoum, Sudan July 17, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

Billed as a breakthrough by Ethiopia’s mediator, Sudan’s generals and civilian negotiators, the latest deal to emerge on a transitional regime has fallen flat with pro-democracy campaigners this week. 

Campaigners say they’re critical of the latest political accord for several reasons:

  • Gives far too much power to the military
  • Doubt the accord’s aims to launch an independent investigation into the 3 June massacres that killed over 120 people at the sit-in outside the ministry of defence
  • The military tried to sneak in a clause giving soldiers immunity from criminal charges after a technical dispute arose over differences between the accord’s Arabic and English versions

There is also suspicion that the generals are stalling the talks in the hope of dividing the opposition, and co-opting civilians into another military-dominated regime.

  • The deal leaves another three months to decide the composition of the 130-member legislative council, which is meant to steer constitutional, and judicial reforms over the next three years.
  • Parties failed to sign a constitutional declaration last week

On 14 July, soldiers killed an activist distributing pro-democracy leaflets, casting more doubt on the military’s intentions.

As the political talks drag on, there are signs emerging that the mass protest movement that toppled President Omar Al-Bashir in April is getting disillusioned.

  • “This agreement is repeating the same policies of the centre of Sudan against the rural and marginalised areas, neglected since the independence of Sudan in 1956,” Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel leader Malik Agar told Middle East Eye in Addis Ababa.
  • “We reject this agreement because we have a lot of reservations about the domination of the security organs during the transitional period and the wide powers granted to the military council,” activist Siddig Faroug told Middle East Eye in Khartoum.

Activists are also questioning the military’s claims of thwarting a coup d’etat, saying they see this as more delaying tactics.

Others are more positive about the new accord, saying it’s a step in the right direction.

Dr Mohammed Naji al-Assam, a leader of the Sudan Professionals Association (SPA) which launched the protest campaign last year, commended the agreement.

  • The SPA says it’s holding meetings to explain the accord to pro-democracy activists.

Deputy leader of the Transitional Military Council and Commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo described the accord as an “historic moment” for Sudan, reported Agence France Presse.

Ibrahim al-Amin, a member of the DFCF negotiating team, told AFP that they had completed the political declaration and would now be focusing on constitutional terms.

The  17 July political accord spells out a formula for the transitional government, which has been on the table for the past three months:

  • A tri-cameral structure made up of a ruling sovereign council, a ministerial cabinet and a legislative council
  • Military and civilians have five members eachon the sovereign council, taking turns to name its chairperson

Government of the future?

Civilian candidates for key ministerial council positions include: 

  • Prime minister: Abdallah Hamdok, former deputy executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa; and Omer al-Diger, President of the Sudan Congress Party
  • Finance minister: Abdallah Hamdok, former deputy executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa
  • Foreign affairs minister: Current frontrunner, Omar Bashir Maneesi, former top official in the UN High Commission for Refugees; Ibrahim Taha Ayub, former foreign affairs minister after the intifada of 1985; and Nuraldeen Sa’ddi, experienced diplomat in West Africa. This role will require negotiating Sudan’s re-entry into the international system, securing the end of sanctions and a deal to cut its foreign debt.
  • Justice minister: Frontrunners are law school graduates, Adil Samir and Nabil Adeeb. They studied Sharia law and other legal systems at the University of Khartoum. They are both Coptic, seen as independent, and credited with an impressive work ethic. The DFCF wants to use the 3-year transition period to reform the judicial system and the constitution, establishing an independent and credible judiciary.

Bottom line: Whether or not they take up such positions depends on their political ambitions. The accord stipulates that no one who serves in the transitional government should be eligible to run for office in elections due in three years’ time.

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