The ongoing political process, where is it taking Sudan?

 The ongoing political process, where is it taking Sudan?

Amgad Fareid Eltayeb


The spokesman for the forces that signed the framework agreement with the military declared that a final agreement would not be signed with the putschists on April 1 as planned. This was because the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces could not come to an agreement on the details of the reform process in the security sector. Maybe the current stumbling in the political process is a sign of the biggest disease that has been plaguing Sudan's transition since it began in 2019 and caused it to stumble until it ended with the coup on October 25, 2021. This disease was the desire to politicize the reforms in the state apparatus and use them to get as many political gains as possible for the different parties. This approach has unfortunately resulted in the prioritization of political interests over the tasks of the transition and ultimately hindering it.


From the start, this approach has hampered the task of reforming the security and military sectors.  Military components, whether in the army or the RSF, have resisted this process since the start of the transitional era, obstructing any practical measures to move it forward.  Official political discourse and action on security sector reform were confined to Juba Peace Agreement-related security arrangements. The failure to initiate and advance this process was one of the primary factors that paved the way for the coup on October 25, 2021.


The political process launched by the Forces of Freedom and Change - Central Council with the coup leaders has deviated from the initial target of restoring Sudan's civil democratic transition. Instead, it has devolved into a cheap effort to reclaim power, with no regard for the necessary subsequent reform processes in the state machinery, both civil and military, required for the transition.  It is a travesty that the framework agreement signatories used disinformation and propaganda to portray their return to power as a victory for the people's will, when in reality, people remain sceptical of the stagnant process and its potential ramifications, despite growing fatigue with the current state of affairs. Furthermore, the putchists' fluctuating alliances with political forces, notably their shift from the side of the alliance with the Democratic Bloc to dealing with the Central Council, have made this political process partial in its design, participants, and issues addressed, jeopardizing the ability of its outputs to achieve any stability, let alone restore the path of transition. 


The transformation of the political process into a mere arena to reap the authoritarian spoils has turned the discussion of issues into transactional, give-and-take bargains in which there is little focus on the goals related to the transition itself. This further fed the politicization of the reform processes and the various tasks of the transitional period, making the political process an opportunity for each of the political actors to reap as much of the gains it can.  And because the motivation of the civilian signatories’ forces (the Central Council forces and those who accompanied them from the allies of the former regime) became merely to return to power, they were the most generous in granting concessions;


They asked themselves, what does the military want?" immunity from accountability! so they granted them immunity. But "Nemo dat quod non habet," so they subsequently attempted to bring this bestowal to light through meta-discussions of the issue of transitional justice. They discussed transitional justice practices in Colombia and South Africa, but failed to address political accountability in the context of the crimes committed. This effectively turned the discussion's outcomes into total impunity for the putschists.  The deal was sweetened further by participating in the whitewashing of the Rapid Support Forces and its commander, Hemedti, which did not begin by naming him Sudan's Human Rights Champion of the Year, but continued to reintroduce him as an ally of the democratic forces as a foundation of their growing alliance.


The workshop to address the problems of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) was conducted without the participation of the majority of the agreement's signatories, and without any real discussions about what these problems are on the ground.The workshop was repeated in Juba for those who did not attend the Khartoum version, and both concluded without substantive recommendations that address the real issues of JPA implementation, which is the same disease afflicting the Sudanese transition. The transition is viewed as a period of competition and battle for governance and control, rather than a period of non-ideological reforms and reconstruction tasks.


The workshops of the framework agreement continued in the same manner, and the race was on to complete them as quickly as possible, focusing on the process's flagship and primary objective, the prize of power. This, however, erupted at the most recent workshop devoted to discussing Security sector reforms. The army and the Rapid Support Forces (The two main stakeholders on the matter) are already in control and sitting on their coup power seats.  Therefore, the two parties focused on harvesting other long-term political gains at each other's expense, regardless of whether or not this was rational. The greatest risk associated with this, however, is that it is a pivotal process related to the use of weapons in Sudanese political history. Political disputes in Sudan were always prone to military power and influence capable of overthrowing any democratic system. This put Sudan at the top of the list of African nations with the highest number of coups and attempted coups. The military and security reform process is not an appropriate arena for political manoeuvring. Concepts such as the subordination of the military apparatus to civilian control, the unity of the command-and-control structures of the country's armed forces, and the methods and approaches of recruitment, training, and armament are not and should not be linked to the pursuit of an ally that possesses weapons and military influence in order to align itself with imposing a particular agenda.  This is a mistake committed by the Forces of Freedom and Change – and those who travel with them – when they attempt to construct a democratic structure with repressive instruments. The Rapid Support Forces was established during the Bashir era as one of the weapons of repression and civil war; given its deep roots, it cannot be transformed overnight into a tool for constructing democracy and civilising political life.  Not to mention that Hemedti and his forces spared no effort in engaging in regional and international issues and affairs, in a way which reveals its leader's ambitions to use these forces as an instrument for his political ambitions inside and outside of Sudan.

On the other hand, the Sudanese army is infected with the disease of practising politics. Sudan’s prolonged history of military rule, most recently during the infamous alliance between the National Islamic Front and the Militaria, which has ruled the country for the past 30 years, transformed the doctrine of the armed forces in their understanding of their relationship with the state apparatus from a role of "protection" to one of "guardianship." The military considers itself an entity above the state apparatus and not part of it, thus having the right – or the duty in their perception – to exerting undue influence over the government and its policies. The evidence for this extends from General Burhan's statements to the overwhelming feeling of "the military strategists," who consider that any nonsense they say on TV is words of wisdom and complete truth that everyone should be convinced of.


The process of reforming this institution, however, should neither be viewed as one of vengeance nor humiliation.  Rather, it is a reform mechanism whose objectives are identical to those of reforming the country's health system, the Ministry of Finance, or economic reform.  This process aims to restore the natural role that state-owned weapons should perform within the normal setting of state apparatus roles. And reinstate the military and security institutions to their normal position as one of the professional service services.  Rather, its subordination to civilian oversight and management and the implementation of policies decided by the leadership of the executive branch is similar to the subordination of other state agencies such as the Ministry of Health, the Department of Social Welfare, and the Department of Education, and not a demotion.  In actuality, what is deducted from military establishment is the abnormal situation that their independence and political participation have created.


As early as the initial phases of the political process, international mediators recognised the shift in the process's nature and objectives.  Perhaps the slip of the tongue or the intended reference mentioned by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Volker Perthes, in his recent report to the Security Council that Jibril and Minawi (two leaders of rebel movements who initially sided with the coup but did not sign the framework agreement) are only seeking to ensure their participation in the next government, is more suitable to be generalized to all actors in the current process. Mr. Perthes is well aware that this process, in which he and other diplomats play the role of the producer of whatever been decided by the screenwriters of the Central Council and brought to them ready for cinematic projection, has nothing to do with the restoration of the democratic transformation path and is merely an attempt at distributing power and influence over the upcoming period.


That is why international mediators and their staff — in the United Nations, ambassadors, the African Union, IGAD, and others — brazenly repeat some strange arguments as if they were logical constants. Such as Burhan's reluctance to accept the army's submission to an unelected civilian government as commander and accepting his refusal to submit to a civilian oversight as a logical political stance. In doing so, he puts the legitimacy of the transitional government into question, so why should he participate in it? and why the international community should recognise it if it does not have legitimacy to oversee its own army. And what is this strange scenario in which the state army is independent of the executive powers of the state? The legitimacy of the transition and its government is the legitimacy of the revolution. It is not deficient by any means, and questioning it is questioning the revolution itself.

Another strange thesis that is taken as a logical position is that Hemedti doesn't object to being part of the army, but he doesn't want to answer to the commander-in-chief of the army. Instead, he would rather answer to the head of state, whose duties are mostly ceremonial. Not to mention that this makes the commander-in-chief neither commander nor chief, but none of these international experts told us how this situation is straightened out while seeking to end the multiplicity. All of these strange things that are treated as if they make sense in Sudan's Wonderland have to do with the fact that international mediators are sure it is just a power struggle and not an attempt to set up a real path to transition. 

This also brings up the debate about how long it should take to integrate the Rapid Support Forces. Some say it should take ten years, while others say it should only take two years. The mediator needs to work hard to get them to agree on a five-year compromise. Without addressing the question of where these figures originate, The only difference between the RSF and the army is the tribal structure of the RSF, which must be eliminated as part of any reform process, but it is a force that was fighting the same enemy with the same combat doctrine, weapons, and training, and a large number of its officers are former armed forces officers. So, why is it taking so long to integrate them? If it isn't simply a concession to its leader's ambitions of continued political power!

Conspicuously, the international community and its mediators are now attempting to reach an agreement... Any agreement, in any form. Some, if not the majority, of the international staff and envoys have shifted their attention to celebrating the successful conclusion of a political process, regardless of what its results will be or whether they serve the goals of the revolution and contribute to stability and democracy in Sudan or not. This will not affect them in any way; it is simply an accomplishment or point added to their resumes. They are aware, as are we, that the texts of the agreements in Sudan are largely meaningless and that the formation of the next government will have the greatest impact on the course of events. But the current frenzied political bargaining will lead to the formation of a multi-headed government, Which paves the way for more conflicts, instability and lack of consistency in the state apparatus.


Talking about deferring battles and coping with reality may seem prudent, but deferring should not imply forgetting or ignoring the problems at hand. This was the miscalculation made by the forces of in 2019.  We must continue to highlight the quandaries and complexities created by current agreements and plan to deal with them.  The Sudanese are shaping their future with their choices, and the road is being made by walking...  Either we choose the right path and battles to create a better future that is created here and now, or we write on ourselves to spin in closed circles that only take us back to the past.


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