Manipulating the international system for credibility is not new for Sudan. With Bashir at the helm, the regime had been honing its (now) impeccable skills at manipulating the international double standards to cement its grip on power.
In exploiting the resources – in what was once Africa’s largest country – to a racist capitalist global system, Bashir’s regime unleashed a beast of apparently internationally passable mass human rights violations ravaging one of the continent’s richest soils.
But to regain international creditably, the regime had to first remove Bashir as the face of Sudan while trying to keep the system he had created intact. The plan of Burhan and his allies – both internal and external – was for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to head a two-year transition period that would allow the regime to regain power in the upcoming civilian elections of 2021.
This illusion of a transitional government is intended to convince the already exhausted people to complacently accept today’s “power sharing” agreement.
But let’s be clear: the only sharing happening now is behind the scenes between a re-centralised Khartoum and external agents fuelling the military to maintain power through a facade of processed progress.
Steering a course through three processes, the TMC has so far succeeded in high-jacking Sudan’s revolution.
Fuelling the flames of psychological warfare
In deliberate attempts of self-preservation, Burhan and the other leaders from Bashir’s regime worked together to oust the former President in April 2019. With the support of regional actors, they then called for a two-year transition period to be followed by elections in 2021.
The framing of Bashir’s ousting as a “military coup” rather than a natural response to the legitimate demands of the people was the beginning of a new wave of viscous psychological warfare on the people. It was a tactic meant to disempower the people and frame the military as on the people’s side.
However the reality is the former regime remains embedded in the military structure to actively manoeuvre a comeback: A return to power through ‘civilian’ elections after Sudan’s name had been removed from its SST list.
Being black-listed by the US had blocked the regime’s ability to get debt relief or new international credit. That in turn hindered the business interests of the regime and its ability to subsidise basic commodities that ultimately lead to the historic revolution of consciousness and mounting protests outside of the Sudanese Military Headquarters (SMHQ) in 2019.
As the people garnered international support through their peaceful sit-in , the military leveraged its regional “allies” to thwart and outmanoeuvre civilians’ call for transparency, freedom, peace and justice. Said allies continue to throw their weight behind the military over the Sudanese people. That in turn better served the UAE’s and Saudi Arabia’s undeniable interests in an illegal and illegitimate war in Yemen and soon after in Libya.
With powerful regional allies, Burhan and his allies in the TMC did not have any interest in negotiating a power-transition agreement with the Declaration Forces for Freedom and Change (DFCF) taking the reins.
In fact, the TMC has ordered its security forces to clear the protest site in front of the SMHQ, which is now known as the #SudanMassacre of 3 June 2019. After security forces carried out the massacre, on that day Burhan, then chairman of the TMC, appeared on national television where he terminated any negotiations with the DFCF and declared elections to take place within nine months.
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The TMC then set its eyes on making an alliance with the armed rebels to further its credibility both internally and externally. It attempted to form alliances with certain leaders from the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces (SRF) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/ Army that is led by General Abdel Azziz Al-Hilu.
All in the name of undermining the negotiating power of the DFCF. Admittedly, this sparked panic for survival among the negotiating parties.
Getting the civilians to (not) do the work:
With one of the main slogans of the revolution being Madaneya (civilian), it was clear that the people would only recognise a civilian leader. This meant the military had no chance of legitimate rule without civilians. So civilians had to be chosen strategically.
In the unfolding tragicomedy that is the Sudanese political scene, think of it as an audition: the slightest error risks bringing down curtains exposing ugly behind-the-scenes of warlords and complacent military and civilians covering all angles to protect a system now surpassing Bashir and his regime’s greed, but also catering to the regional and international bellies of corruption and hypocrisies.
The protest of 30 June of 2019 and unparalleled mobilisation around the world calling to #Watch_Over_Sudan_June_30, encouraged the US to pressure the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and to some extent Egypt – the main backers of the TMC – to convince the latter to sign a power sharing agreement with the DFCF that gave way to the current bodies of the transition period of the Sovereign Council (SC), the Cabinet of Ministers (COM) and the yet to be formed the Legislative Council(LC).
Though some might disagree, specifically “chosen” civilians were ultimately approved by the military and had one role: unite through division, as has been the modus operandi of the military.
One need not look beyond the aggressive SST-delisting campaign ‘led’ by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok who tied the starvation of his people to legitimising a government still ruled by murderers as per the power-sharing agreement that brought him in.
Understandably, “everything is a process” and one “can’t undo 30 years of corruption overnight”. But measures could have been imposed to ensure that those clearly tied to acts of genocide did not escape prosecution by simply stating they no longer support terrorism, thereby garnering a stamp of approval.
So when Hamdock – a leading economist – can’t find a way to feed people without legitimising warlords in one of the world’s most fertile soils with an army of youth and members of the diaspora at his disposal vowing to “build it”, one must #AskMoreQuestions and #KeepEyesOnSudan.
Therefore choosing civilians seemingly representative of the revolution was a strategy to limit, discredit and dissipate complaints. The ultimate goal of the transitional government’s agenda was clear: “delist above all” with a perfect answer ready for any complaints:
1. “It’s a process”
2. It’s civilian-lead.
With the real answer being:
3. It’s a checkmate without one soldier moving.
But, the psychological outmanoeuvring was not enough. The military needed to show it is capable of and actively seeking peace.
For this reason, the TMC (currently the military components of the Sovereign Council) has taken over the Juba Peace Talks from Hamdok to make an alliance with the armed rebels groups of the SRF. The SRF had withdrawn from the DFCF as they felt they were not being well-represented by them.
The constitutional declaration that both the TMC and the DFCF signed on 17 August, 2019, effectively gave the military components control of the Juba Peace Talks.
This declaration gave the SC a mandate to only sponsor peace talks with the armed rebels, while the government is meant to stop wars and conflicts. Additionally, in support of the military components of the SC, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been involved in those talks to bridge the differences between them and the rebels of the SRF.
The visit of some of SRF leaders to the UAE in November 2020 to discuss the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement is a notable example alluding to speculations that the UAE promised financial support for some members of the SRF in exchange for signing the agreement.
With the focus being divided between delisting and the peace talks, there was simply no bandwith to accommodate the peripheries. This takes Sudan back to being centralised via Khartoum.
With Sudan now off the STT list, and with the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement completed, Burhan and his allies will continue their psychological warfare against Sudanese to undermine the transition.
Therefore the following three points are recommended so civilian ministers can rebuild their wavering domestic credibility.
a. Complete transparency: Outline to the people through forums and social media what they have achieved since their appointment and what are the remaining challenges.
b. Hand over every known member of the former regime responsible for the Darfur genocide to the ICC until a functional judicial system with civilian ministers is established. This is not limited to Bashir, but also includes both Burhan and Hemeti.
c. Incorporate the Local Resistance Committees and active civil society groups working towards the pillars of the revolution by giving them sizable representation in the Legislative Council.
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