On 30 June, Sudanese citizenry protested against political deadlock in what some observers claim involved millions of demonstrators, with a myriad of Sudan’s flags proudly waved among the crowds. On 5 July a potential deal was struck between the Transitional Military Council and the umbrella opposition, the Freedom and Change Coalition, but just a smattering of flags were seen amid muted cheers could be heard across the capital, Khartoum.
The agreement itself, however, is yet to be penned as the Transitional Military Council (TMC) wants to limit the influence of the transitional government’s parliament to issues pertaining to the transition period –effectively curbing its ability to legislate, according to news reports and sources on the ground. Under the agreement, the opposition will appoint 67% of the parliamentarian appointments and effectively control the legislative branch.
Despite the auspicious clauses, Sudanese protestors remain cautious over the deal. “The agreement reached does not reflect the objectives for which the Sudanese came out to the streets for –the demand for a full civilian government,” said Tahani Ismail, an aid worker based in East Darfur.
On July 5, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Freedom and Change Coalition announced a power-sharing agreement for the three-year transitional period that will lead to general elections. In accordance with the deal, the Sovereign Council will be composed of 11 members. Each of the two sides will appoint five members who will co-opt a civilian member. The Sovereign Council, while largely ceremonial in powers, has the final say in decisions made by the other government branches – the executive and legislative. However according to a leaked document, the Sovereign Council would not be able to stop legislation and decrees coming from the legislative and executive councils if a two-thirds majority could not agree within 15 days.
The military junta will have the first opportunity to lead the transitional government, with seemingly little oversight despite being implicated in a 3 June bloody crackdown on protestors in Khartoum that killed over 100 people and injured countless others. The agreement stipulates TMC leader General Abdel Fattah Burhan will head the transitional government for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian chairman for 18 months. According to a leaked document circulated on 9 July, the army and the paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), will be subject to decisions by select members of the transitional government within the sovereign council and executive council –but not the parliament. In fact, the establishment of the legislative branch is still pending.
The agreement relies on trust via the military council where the TMC has brought little confidence to the table says protestor Islam Ali. “How can we be expected to trust this council?” Ali asks, “The military killed protestors and still wants to legitimize itself through this agreement.” For the military council to cede power would be a first for the country, he added.
There’s ground for cautious optimism in #Sudan as a power-sharing deal is struck between the military TMC & civilian FFC. But why are the women who played a leading role in the #SudanUprising & sacrificed a lot in bringing the downfall of the Islamist regime not represented!? pic.twitter.com/GJIMVf8wU2
— Elias Amare (@eliasamare) July 6, 2019
Working in the restive Darfur area, where intermittent conflict since 2003 has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and displaced millions, Tahani Ismail has witnessed firsthand how RSF forces have targeted the populace with impunity. Ismail fears the agreement provides the military council too much power that will ensure conflict and indemnity for crimes committed by the former ruling party. “The military junta is powerful and will remain powerful in the three-year transitional period,” Ismail told Ayin, “making it difficult for civilians to open up dialogue to end war and achieve peace by addressing historical grievances.
Many people Ayin spoke to from the peripheries of the country, especially from the war-torn regions of Darfur and the Two areas: the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, feel the agreement did not go far enough to address their circumstances. “Despite the agreement between them the problem remains in the marginalised areas, far from the signatories to the agreement,” Ibrahim Shammu from El Geneina, West Darfur, told Ayin. “The agreement is fragile and strengthens the position of the military, giving them a chance to stay out of accounting circles.” Sources in El Geneina and Nyala told Ayin that RSF forces under the TMC’s deputy, Lt.-Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (aka “Himmedti”), are omnipresent, effectively controlling both major Darfur towns. The need to dissolve state militias launched by the former ruling party should have been composite of any agreement, says Nyala resident and recent university graduate Mohammed Ali. “They failed to address the issues of the revolutionaries, such as the dissolution of the paramilitary forces of the old regime, including the Popular Defense Force, shadow battalions, etc.”
While many Sudanese remain wary of the TMC’s continued presence in government, others remain cautious of both sides. “This settlement between a group seeking to control power and another seeking to maintain the same power, the outcome is nothing new, it is expected,” says Mageed Mohamed in Umbadda, Omdurman, where the bulk of the protests took place.
But not all those involved in the protests are pessimistic. “The agreement does not meet all aspirations but it’s a platform and an opportunity on which we can build and find solutions to key issues such as peace, building national institutions and federal administrative and financial institutions,” says Musa “Adebayor” who has been active in the protests since they began last December.
Many members of the public supported the agreement’s stipulation calling for investigations and justice for past killings and attacks by the state. In fact, many Sudanese told Ayin they support an expansive justice –not only for the protest period and the deadly attack on 3 June, but covering the entire history of the former ruling regime since seizing power in a coup in 1989. “I support the idea that investigations and prosecutions should take place for the killings during the revolution from 19 December to 30 June,” said Mohamed Adil from White Nile State. “But I also support a second phase that would include all the crimes of the former regime from 1989, including war crimes committed in Darfur and the Two Regions.”
Once established, the legislative assembly under the agreement should allow for a civilian controlled legislature to ensure such investigations into past impunity exist. According to the leaked version of the agreement, the sovereign council must review and either pass or reject any legislation or decrees within 15 days or the legislation will go into automatic effect.
With the agreement remaining unsigned and reports of alleged internal coups within the TMC, protestors on the streets of Khartoum and other towns across the city remain circumspect and prepared to return to the streets to demonstrate at any time. “On my personal level, I will continue to resist and protest until a change that meets the demands and objectives of the revolution are met,” said activist Mageed Mohamed. “We need a radical change in the structure of the total system.”