Military, Civilians Reach Agreement in Sudan; Cautious Optimism Reigns

A power-sharing agreement was reached Friday between Sudan’s military government and civilian opposition, bringing an end to the month-long standoff between the two sides, and the best bit of news in nearly 30 years.  The country will be controlled by a joint sovereign council until elections can be held in three years and three months.  The preliminary deal also includes the promise of an independent investigation into the June 3 massacre, in which 100 protesters were killed.  The opposition, and its supporters, were jubilant, but cautious.

Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan (born 1960) is a Sudanese Army lieutenant general who is currently serving as de facto Head of State of Sudan after former Chairman Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf resigned and transferred control.

According to the deal, mediated by the African Union, between the Transitional Military Council and the civilian Alliance for Freedom and Change, the joint sovereign council will be made up of six civilians and five members of the armed forces.  A military representative will lead the council for the first 21 months, then a civilian leader for the next 18.  Elections will then be held once the transition period ends.  Civilian leaders had hoped for a lengthy delay before elections, to keep the military from stacking the deck.  Hearty skepticism still remains, however, that the military will ever give up power.

Omar al-Bashir was President of Sudan from the June 1989 military coup until his own overthrow in April 2019. In 2009, he became the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes, for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur. On 13 May 2019, prosecutors charged al-Bashir with “inciting and participating in” the killing of protesters (Wikimedia).

A detailed, transparent, national, independent investigation” will also be held, “into all the regrettable violent incidents that the country faced in recent weeks,” a civilian negotiator also told BBC News.  On June 3, some 100 protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, by the country’s Rapid Support Forces.  There is little doubt, inside or outside of the country, that the military carried out the massacre.  Thus, what exactly there would be to investigate, and who, if anyone, would be held accountable, will be a major test for the inquiry, and the deal itself.

The regime has also yet to restore the country’s internet access, which it cut off after the massacre, raising further questions as to the legitimacy and transparency of the deal.  State-run media remains the sole source of information for many.  However, foreign media captured the sense of the population as hoping for the best out of a flawed deal.  “We would like to see many more guarantees from the TMC,” a protester told Al Jazeera, “because they’ve made many promises on handing over power only to backtrack later on.”  Another noted, “the TMC’s actions over the past month proves this council is not serious about giving up power to civilians.”  Still, the deal is a “good move for Sudan.”

The military has ruled— and misruled— Sudan for 30 years.  It was the military, led by Omar al-Bashir, that overthrew a civilian government on June 30, 1989.  It was the military that waged multiple civil wars, perpetrating numerous atrocities— most notably in Darfur— before and since.  It was the military that finally got rid of Bashir, ten years after becoming the first sitting president to be indicted for war crimes, when even they tired of him last April.  And it is the military which maintains power, and has demonstrated the willingness to maintain it by force.  It will be up to the military to finally relinquish power, and demonstrate good faith in following through on the deal to which they just agreed.  Getting to this point was a major step in and of itself.  Now the Sudanese people, and the rest of the world, must sit and wait.

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Robert Martin (CN Staff)

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