The Internal and External Factors That Will Shape Sudan’s Political Transition
By Joburg Post
The stamina exhibited by mainly young protesters in Sudan is a clear reflection of the depth of their grievance and frustration. Their persistence was critical in ousting the dictator Omar al-Bashir. But it will also be required to provide the desired quality of the post uprising government and political environment.
In the coming days, weeks and months, I have no doubt that the Sudanese people will be shocked by the evidence of atrocities and corruption during the 30 years of misrule by the National Congress Party in the name of political Islam.
The unprecedented drama of al-Bashir’s ouster and the stepping down after only one day of Lt. Gen. Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, who ousted him, shows the extent of breakdown in the National Congress Party. This political drama has been influenced and shaped by the resilience and determination of the Sudanese protesters.
Amid public pressure, the new Sudanese military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, ordered the arrest of National Congress Party leaders, including al-Bashir. He has also amalgamated the Sudanese military forces. Above all he has shown willingness and commitment to give way to civilian rule.
But there is lingering suspicion that Burhan may favour the military junta managing the transition. This would be a repeat of the 1985 transition. This time around, protesters are determined to break that cycle of repeated civilian uprisings followed by military takeovers.
Their demand for civilian rule is backed by the recent unequivocal resolution by the AU Peace and Security Council. This is also the stance of the US. The real challenge now is whether the Sudanese professionals association and political parties can agree on a civilian transitional government.
Equally important is the role played by outsiders. Sudan has undoubtedly become the battlefield of the politics of the Gulf. And of political Islam and moderate Islam. The Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain bloc supports – and has leverage over – the military council. Its aim is to isolate the political Islam bloc of Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
While the Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain bloc agrees with the Sudanese protesters that political Islam has failed to deliver during the past 30 years, they don’t agree that the military council is unfit to manage the transition. Or that a civilian transition government would be ideal to put Sudan on a solid path of sustainable democracy.
The professionals association and political parties haven’t been able to jointly agree on a list of the candidates for the transitional government.
The professionals association appeared ready with its list of candidates. But the political parties are yet to agree and reconcile their list with that of the professional association.
If they fail to agree on a list the military council could seize the opportunity to directly appoint a handpicked government headed by prime minister under its direct supervision. This is what happened in 1985.
The failure to reach consensus on the civilian transitional government could lead to a rift between the protesters and professionals association and political parties on one hand and protesters and the military junta on other hand. It could also widen cracks between the professional association and political parties.
These divisions could be avoided if the political parties could support the professionals association to manage the civilian transitional government. This could create a conducive political environment for fair and transparent national elections.
This critical moment is not about sharing the political cake. Rather it’s about creating an environment for democracy to prosper. In my view the professional association rather than political parties are best suited for this task.
The external actors with interests in Sudan will influence the final outcome of this uprising.
In my view the political position of neighbouring countries should be guided by the resolution of the AU Peace and Security Council. This has called for the military junta to immediately hand over power to civilian transition government.
So far the reaction has been mixed. For example Ethiopia has made it clear that it backs the choice of people of Sudan . On the other hand Egypt sent its chief spy to Khartoum in support of military junta – and as part of the politics of the Gulf.
The reaction of countries further afield has also been mixed. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent a high powered delegation to Khartoum.
Turkey, Qatar and Iran are anxious that the change in Sudan is targeting their political Islam agenda and have tried to reverse the trend. The minister of foreign affairs of Qatar tried to visit Khartoum through some remnants of the National Congress Party in the ministry of foreign affairs. His visit was blocked in a fiasco that resulted in the sacking of the undersecretary of the ministry.
The Sudanese populace is determined to provide a new political path. For this reason, external actors should be guided by the will of the people of Sudan rather than their narrow political interests.