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Sudan's revolution fades as the Transitional Military Council rejects mediation

Sudanese demonstrators gather to protest demanding a civilian transition government in front of military headquarters outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan on 3 May, 2019 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]
Sudanese demonstrators gather to protest demanding a civilian transition government in front of military headquarters outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan on 3 May 2019 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]

Few Sudanese support the notion that the ideals of the revolution should be abandoned, but most have surrendered to the reality that the desired civilian transitional rule is unlikely to be delivered anytime soon.

The latest Ethiopian mediation efforts proposed by Mohammed Darir, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed's envoy, was accepted by the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) but rejected yesterday out of hand by the Transitional Military Council who despite recognising the legitimacy of the DFCF now seems unwilling to negotiate.

The suggestion was that the disputed Sovereign Council should be made up of seven military men and seven members of the DFCF with an additional eighth seat reserved from political groups from outside of the DFCF umbrella. An alternating chairmanship between military and civilian leaders had also been put forward. Again, it was envisaged the previously agreed issues would remain in force: two-thirds of a ruling council would go to the DFCF and one third to the other political factions within a three-year transition period. It included the creation of a Council of Ministers appointed exclusively by the DFCF. However, in rejecting the deal the military council spokesman, Shams El Din Kabbashi play down the significance of the Ethiopian plan which he suggested had been received from no more than an unsolicited, "independent stakeholder."

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Furthermore, in the absence of consensus on a full and final settlement, the TMC plans to forge ahead with a technocrat government announced previously by the Deputy President of the TMC, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalu. In  several significant policy statements, he declared, last week, the creation of the several working groups including committees for the youth and women and one appropriately called, "the Committee for the Protection of the Revolution," to demonstrate its commitment to December's popular uprising which ended in the removal of President Omar Al-Bashir on April 11th.

Meanwhile, night demonstrations have continued in limited areas in the capital, but the turnout is reported to have been extremely low. Without the internet, which was shut down on 3rd June, protestors have been unable to galvanise support, although a major "Million Man" march is being planned for June 30th – the anniversary of the coming to power of deposed President Oman Al-Bashir in 1989.

Internet wifi services for the Sudani telecom company which has links to the security services are still operating, at almost unusably low speeds, for major businesses and government departments. On Sunday, the courts ordered the military to end the cyber blackout, but the TMC has yet to respond to the ruling.

Heading Sudan's proposed changes in government is Deputy President Dagalu who has begun personally financing public transport vehicles allowing citizens to take free rides on dozens of bus routes in and out of the capital. It follows his intervention in Ramadan when he handed $100 in cash to every teacher involved in the marking and assessment of the Sudan Secondary School Certificates and announced that a government led by the military would ensure all teachers' salaries were increased. Hardcore supporters of the revolution are boycotting his services or have refused to take his money, but the complimentary transport comes as a relief to those trying to get around the city to make ends meet.

Reports say that the streets, offices and shops remain at 60% capacity as restricted cash flow prevents everyday trade and continues to cripple Sudan's economy. Most Sudanese seem now to have quietly accepted the opportunity to strike a political deal with the military has been missed and that the revolution has all but faded and died. They are now dealing with the reality of Sudan's "fait accompli", which puts the military firming in control with no plans in the transitional period to relinquished power.

Behind the scenes, attempts to split the ranks of the DFCF appears to be succeeding. It is understood, from sources close to the events, the military council are communicating directly with the Ummah party led by Sadiq El Mahdi and the leader of Sudan's Congress Party, Omar Al Digair who have been approached to put together a Council of Ministers. Sources report that Al Digair has frequently been meeting with Army officials and opposition groups in his offices in the Khartoum 2 area.

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Under the plans being hatched by the TMC in opposition to Ethiopia's mediation attempts, a new election law will be drafted without the appointment of a functioning legislative council. This would leave the bulk of the DFCF out of the picture, particularly the far-left communist parties. The TMC is hoping to stage an election under international supervision within a nine-month to a year.

Doubts about the fairness and transparency of such elections need to be dispelled if the TMC is to complete a credible transfer of power. However, it remains unclear how the TMC will raise the estimated two billion dollars needed to put in place the infrastructure and paraphernalia required to stage the elections. Raising the cash, registering voters and organising the count are tasks that may well require more than a year.

Nevertheless, the TMC seemed to be unperturbed by the argument that an election within a year would not allow enough time for the registration of hundreds of thousands displaced peoples living in camps throughout Darfur and other conflict areas in Sudan. Nor do they appear to be concerned about the argument that elections under the current set up would favour the ousted ruling party who could re-emerge in power under new leadership.

Activities in support of the committees suggested by the Deputy President Dagalu, appear to suggest that the machinations of the old ruling National Congress Party have been revived. It follows a leadership meeting held by the old party and the formation of a local administrative council that appear to mirror the workings of the former regime.  The once covert operations of the old regime are now becoming increasingly visible as the military forge ahead and meditation continues, for the time being, to be brushed aside.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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