GP Insights # 135, 24 August 2019
Finally, there is a power-sharing deal agreed by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), an alliance between leaders of protest groups and the Military. The deal has resulted in Abdalla Hamdok becoming Sudan's new Prime Minister and constituting a sovereign council. He embarks upon a new era for Sudan after months of political uncertainty, protests and violence.
The sovereign council would constitute six civilians and five military nominees. General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan will chair the council for the first 21 months, who also headed the TMC. After this, a civilian leader would be appointed for the remaining 18 months. The power-sharing will last for 39 months, and at the end of this period, elections are expected to be held, which would ultimately result in a transition to a peaceful and democratic government led by civilians.
What is the background?
It all started with a "bread protest" against a rise in inflation back in December 2018. The rising food prices, economic policies, long-standing corruption and repression culminated in the protests. The protests initially started as a peaceful march organized by people across the board. Later inability of Al-Bashir's Government to address people's grievances led to protests turning into violent and spread from smaller cities to metropolitan areas.
The government-led crackdown on the citizens left them deprived of necessities and shutting down social media. Al-Bashir also declared a year-long state of emergency and dissolved both central and state governments.
The protestors held a sit-in in front of military headquarters demanding to intervene and force the President out. After months of unrest, in April 2019, Bashir was finally overthrown by Military. After few days military assumed powers and constituted a Transitional Military Council (TMC) headed by General Burhan, as it stated, to ensure 'order and security'.
However, protesters demanded to hand over the responsibility to civilian authority. On 3 June, clashes led to the killing of protesters and drew international condemnation, saying TMC bore responsibility. Initially, talks between generals and protest organizers showed little progress but eventually agreed. On 4 August both signed a constitutional declaration for transitional Government.
What does it mean?
After decades of authoritarian rule, economic woes and isolation from the international community, Sudan finally gets a chance to breathe an air of freedom and opportunity. Young men and women were at the forefront of the protest, which shows that the country has an aspiring population. They were not only successful in overthrowing Bashir but also prevented the Military's complete takeover.
Also, it is not common to see Military after assuming powers to agree to share the responsibility, in African countries. Sudan gives hope that civil and Military can reach agreeable terms through consensus. The thirty-nine months transition period agreed upon by civilian and military nominees indicates that the time can be used to build faith between them before complete handing over to the civilian rule. The newly formed cabinet headed by civilian Abdalla Hamdok has an enormous task ahead to rebuild and resurrect economy to fulfil the needs and aspiration of the people.
The addition of women in the cabinet looks promising. The new council will also have to work towards ending the prolonged isolation of Sudan and ensuring the integration of it with the world economy. This political reform can be seen as a victory for the pro-democracy movement, and hence the civilians have reason to rejoice, but at the same time should remain nervous about the path ahead as they need to be careful not to let slip this opportunity back into the hands of the dictator or the Military.