Sudanese opposition and military council in agreement
Sudanʹs first steps towards democracy?

Following weeks of unrest, the governing military council and protest movement in Sudan have reached agreement over a transitional administration. But scepticism remains over whether the military will actually cede power

Are military leaders in Sudan really about to cede their power to civilians? A surprise deal reached last week brings the opposition movement in this nation on the Nile at least one step closer to such a scenario.  At any rate, if the peace deal between the ruling military junta and civilian negotiators for the Sudanese protest movement, reached under the aegis of the African Union, is indeed finally implemented.

"Both sides have agreed, for three years, or a little more, to establish a transitional council, in which military leaders and civilians rotate," African Union mediator Mohamed Hassan Lebatt announced at a media conference in Khartoum on Friday morning.

Thereafter, there are plans to hold democratic elections. Eleven individuals will sit on the agreed transitional council – five military leaders and five civilians. The 11th member, the person holding the balance of power so to speak, is to be appointed by both sides in consensus.

Chairmanship of the council is to be on a rotating basis. A member of the military will lead it for the first 18 months. The agreement stipulates that the current head of the military council, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, will assume this role. Thereafter, the council will have a civilian chairman for the following 18 months.

After the formation of the transitional council, it will be charged with appointing a government made up of independent technocrats. There are also plans to form a parliament at a later date. But the exact details of this are still unclear.

Verhandlungen zwischen Militär und Demonstranten in Khartum (am 3. Juli): Fahrplan für die politische Zukunft. (Foto: afp/Getty Images)
Fahrplan für die Zukunft des Sudan: „Man sollte sich aber keinen Illusionen hingeben. Dieser Deal zwischen Militärrat und Opposition im Sudan kann jederzeit torpediert werden, vor allem von Seiten des Militärs und der Milizen“, warnt Karim El-Gawhary in seiner Analyse.

Broken promises

Of paramount importance to the protest movement: there should be an independent investigation into the violent events of recent months. During the breaking up of a demonstrators' protest camp on 3 June, the opposition says more than a hundred people were killed; the government puts the figure at 62. At the time, 40 bodies were pulled out of the Nile alone.

RSF paramilitaries are being held responsible for the brutality. These Rapid Support Forces are led by  Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, also known as Hemeti. Acting as Janjaweed militias in the war in Darfur, these fighters are already suspected of committing numerous human rights offences.

The protest movement is celebrating the deal, but remains cautious. "We hope that the agreement marks the beginning of a new era," declared Omar al-Degair, leader of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a broad-based alliance of opposition groups in Sudan.

But the military has made promises before and gone on to break them. For this reason, there is still some scepticism within the Sudanese opposition over whether the military will actually give up its power in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

On the other hand, there is also recognition within the ranks of the opposition movement that without the approval of the military and above all the RSF militias and Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, aka Hemeti, there can be no peaceful solution. The demonstrators know that much blood would be spilled battling for any alternative to this deal. Issuing only vague comments on the new deal, Hemeti himself has called it all-embracing and excluding no one.

The agreement gives both sides the chance to take a breather for now. The events of recent weeks have resulted in a stalemate in Sudan. The military and paramilitaries continued their violent crackdown on demonstrators, who for their part continued to bravely throng the streets despite the repressive measures. Most recently, on the last Friday in June, the protest movement flexed its muscles and organised mass rallies in almost all of the nation's provinces.Urgent need for compromise

Now both sides have finally realised that neither can assert itself and that a compromise is necessary. This scenario has only been made possible by two things: on the one hand, the opposition is very well organised. On the other hand,  there are many contradictions within the military and the militia groups. The men with the weapons are not all on the same page.

But we should be under no illusions. This deal can be torpedoed at any point, by the military and the paramilitaries.

After all, for them to voluntarily cede power would be an absolute first in this region.

In addition, numerous external actors are meddling in Sudan. First and foremost the autocratic Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They are using vast amounts of money to try and influence the situation and have absolutely no interest in a successful civilian and democratic experiment in Sudan.

For military rulers further up the Nile in Egypt, such a scenario would also represent a threat.

The final chapter in the battle between civilians and the military in Sudan has certainly not yet been written. There are powerful forces keen to prevent a civilian government at all costs. And we've yet to hear from them.

Karim El-Gawhary

© 2019

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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