Sudanese relieved but wary of new transitional government

August 30, 2019
Sudanese people launched a mass, sit-in protest outside the headquearters of the armed forces in Khartoum in April.

Following months of mass mobilisations, which successfully toppled former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir only to have the military attempt a take-over, the Forces for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) agreed on August 17 to a transitional government.

While there is relief that, for now, the violence has ended, many Sudanese remain wary. No one has been held responsible for the deaths of more than 100 peaceful protesters killed on June 3, when the army opened fire on the mass sit-in outside the military headquarters.

The Sudanese Communist Party also withdrew from the talks in early August, saying it would not negotiate with the military and called for the Forces for Freedom and Change to do the same. It remains a member of the FFC, but reiterated that it would continue to campaign for implementation of the demands of the revolution and “to struggle with the people in the street until a radical change has been achieved”.

There is still a lot of uncertainty about how the transitional government will function, Maysoon Elnigoumi, a member of Sydney’s Sudanese community told Green Left Weekly. “It hasn’t been a smooth transition, messy with a lot of loose ends.

“The Prime Minister had to be sworn in by the previous regime’s head of justice, due to an oversight in the agreement, which states that a judicial council is to be formed to appoint the head of justice and high court judges.

“By the time of the signing of the agreement, there was no judicial council formed. The terms of the agreement are still foggy: they seem to imply that the sovereign council has the right to approve or disapprove of the appointment of judges,” Elnigoumi said.

The agreement states that the transitional government is to last three years before fresh elections are held. An 11-member sovereign council, made up of five civilians and five military representatives plus a chair, was sworn in on August 21.

General Abdel Fatah Burhan — whose military council took power in April — will chair the sovereign council for the first 21 months, after which a civilian leader will take over.

Abdallah Hamdok is the new Prime Minister. Elnigoumi said that his swearing in was both “met with joy in the streets” but that “people are wary”.

The Sudan Tribune reported Hamdok used his swearing-in ceremony to describe the movement that forced out the former regime as “the greatest revolution”. He said his government will be based on “freedom, peace and justice”, the slogan of the December Revolution.

Hamdok said ending the war and stopping the suffering of war-affected and displaced people will be his government’s priorities, alongside building a strong national economy.

“So far the prime minister has met with the families of martyrs at the SPA [Sudanese Professional Association] headquarters. He met with Imam Sadiq Almahdi, the National Umma Party leader and driving force of the Forces for Freedom and Change”, Elnigoumi said. She said that while visiting flood-devastated areas he talked up the need for a “flexible approach to the economy” and stressed the need for universal access to health and education.

Hamdok previously worked for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He reportedly told a media conference on the day of his swearing in that he had already started talks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank about restructuring Sudan’s crippling debt.

Elnigoumi said Hamdok “expressed his admiration of the Ethiopian and the Rwandan models” and that his vision is to move Sudan away from its dependence on raw material exports “towards processed and industrialised exports”.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the constitutional charter signed on August 4 calls for a raft of major institutional and legal reforms including ending repression and gender discrimination, ensuring accountability for crimes since 1989 under al-Bashir’s rule and for an investigation into the June 3 attacks.

However, the constitutional charter does not provide for the criminal prosecutions of those most responsible. “It provides immunity for sovereign council members, including Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, or ‘Hemeti’, who is the head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Burhan’s deputy”, said HRW. “By all accounts … the RSF has led most of the attacks on protesters since April, including on June 3.”

“In July, the attorney general announced findings of an investigation into the June 3 attack, claiming that 87 people had died, and finding that ‘rogue’ RSF soldiers were responsible,” HRW said.

Burhan denied ordering the crackdown, while Hemeti announced arrests of some suspects. However, Sudanese activists and protesters rejected the findings and have continued to demand accountability for the killings. The RSF has a well-documented record of abuses committed in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile.”

Elnigoumi said there is also concern about the internal power struggle within the opposition forces, and how the transitional government will reflect the will of the Sudanese people.

“There is anger about how the Forces for Freedom and Change are functioning,” said Elnigoumi. “There is speculation that they are seeking to divide power between their parties and in breach of the Declaration of Freedom and Change.

“The declaration stated that parties would keep away from representing themselves at the executive and sovereign level and would only be represented in the legislative assembly.

Protests are still continuing on the streets against any power-sharing agreement.

“There is disappointment in the SPA’s lack of leadership,” said Elnigoumi. “People are protesting in front of the SPA headquarters and the National Umma Party headquarters, where the Forces for Freedom and Change meet, to protest any power sharing in the government.

“They have succeeded to some extent to prevent a member with a political affiliation from joining the sovereign council.

“For example, the nominee for finance minister is Ibrahim Badawi, a World Bank official affiliated with the National Umma Party.

“One of the popular choices for the sovereign council was Mohamed Tayishi, an activist and a former student leader. A social media campaign pressured the SPA and Forces of Freedom and Change to nominate him.

“Another campaign, set off via social media, is the 50% campaign led by women’s organisations and feminist activists. It is demanding equal representation in all levels of government and has proposed a list of women fit to govern.

A group of leading women activists also met with Hamdok to discuss the issue with him.

“So far, they have organised two protests — one in front of the SPA headquarters and another in front of the Umma Party’s headquarters. They have stated that they will continue to protest until their demands are met.”

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