Divided civilian movements deepen political crisis in Sudan

Sunday January 16 2022
Protesters in Khartoum

Protesters in Khartoum. Sudan though remains in the rough seas, despite the large number of mediation offers. PHOTO | FILE


Sudan completed another week in the dark on just how to form a government accepted by civilian groups, amid violence and deaths in the capital Khartoum.

And while the protests have been all against the junta, it turns out divisions within civilian movements could also be hurting any steps towards a lasting solution.

On Thursday, a senior police officer was shot dead in the battle with protesters opposed to the military junta.

All these happened in the same week that the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) announced the launch of a process to facilitate consultations between all parties to the crisis in the country on the democratic transition. The African Union also said it supports the move.

And on Wednesday, the UN Security Council affirmed its support for the efforts made by the United Nations envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes in an effort to conduct indirect negotiations between the civilian and military components. But even that session was inconclusive.

A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, as the Council session on Sudan was in private, said the closed Security Council session on Sudan was "interrupted by questions" from Russia, China and the African members of the council, namely Kenya, Gabon and Ghana, "but there was no actual opposition."


Another diplomat said during the session "there was broad support for Perthes and his efforts". "However, many questions have also been asked about how to make the process inclusive ensure the participation of all the major parties," he added.

"During the session, Perthes elaborated his approach to the crisis and ways to solve it, stressing that the two parties themselves in Sudan want indirect negotiations to help resolve the crisis,” the official said.

Meanwhile, regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) said it will lead efforts for dialogue between the parties to the political process in Sudan to search for solutions. It didn’t give timelines.

Sudan though remains in the rough seas, despite the large number of mediation offers and international support at hand, mostly because local political protagonists haven’t showed willingness to talk. Sudanese Political analyst Yasser Al-Awad said that the current problem lies in the differences between the civil political forces themselves, with some showing hardline stances.

“Accepting some demands and rejecting others will signal a sense of betrayal. In turn it will lead to more discord, making it difficult to reach a unified vision,” he told The EastAfrican.

Earlier, the resistance committees and the Sudanese Professionals Association, two civilian movements opposed to the military rule, announced their rejection of the UN initiative and that they adhere to the three No's: "No negotiation, no partnership and no legitimacy" with the junta. While a state of disparity prevails among the forces of freedom and change, the other movement of civilians, two statements have been issued by this bloc, one categorically rejecting the United Nations initiative and the second saying that it will subject it to study after formally receiving invitation.

These local, international and regional moves come on the impact of a severe political crisis that has exacerbated after the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok from the post. Opposition activists have continued to protest since the Sudanese army chief, Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on October 25, took power by force and dissolved the Transitional Sovereign Council he chaired, and detained a number of ministers and declared a state of emergency in the country. He also put Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest, which he only came out of after agreeing to form a new government. Hamdok resigned on January 2 after failing to harmonise demands of civilians and the junta. Amid the chaos, Sudan’s junta is also facing the dilemma of authorising the budget for the new fiscal year, after political developments cast a heavy shadow on the situation, especially with the internationally backed transitional government dissolved.

Countries and international financial institutions stopped aid worth millions of dollars that were intended to support the civil authority. It also hampered Sudan's eligibility for more than $50 billion in debt relief under the IMF's Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. In addition, there has been suspension of 17 development projects that would have been financed by the World Bank.

This aid has not resumed and tensions have risen in the streets fueled by poverty and frustrations. The Sudanese were surprised at the beginning of the new year with an increase of nearly 600percent on the electricity tariff.

Mr Hamdok singled out the economic situation and his efforts to address the situation with an oath in his long resignation letter, saying, “We presented many packages of structural treatments in the economy, and we entered into the debt relief initiative for the heavily indebted poor countries, and it was hoped that 90 percent of Sudan's debts, which exceeded $60 billion, were forgiven when reaching Completion point.”

Hamdok had spoken before, indicating the government’s challenges including a struggling national economy, stifling international isolation, corruption and debts that exceeded $60 billion.