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Controversial new council in Sudan signals the death of the far left

December 10, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Sudan’s Sovereign Council chief General Abdel Fatah Al-Burhan in Khartoum, Sudan on 15 September 2020 [MAZEN MAHDI/AFP/Getty Images]

The pressure for Sudan’s far left to be isolated from the country’s politics reached its climax this week with the formation of a new council from which its representatives will be excluded. The President of Sudan and leader of the ruling Sovereign Transitional Council (STC), Abdel Fatah Al-Burhan, has secured himself as head of the new Council of Transition Partners (CTP) without appointing a deputy, but has already signalled that members of the communist and far left parties will not be invited as members of the new body.

In a letter announcing its formation, he said that the CTP has been created specifically to incorporate the armed groups who had recently signed a peace deal to end decades of hostilities. The new council will be “responsible for leading the transition period, resolving differences [between those in power] and having all the necessary prerogatives to exercise its power,” reported Sudan’s official news agency.

The majority of the rebel groups, with some exceptions, signed the agreement back in October. In recent weeks, their leaders have travelled to base themselves in Khartoum. The armed groups will eventually become part of the leadership in the STC, but they are keen to stay close to the command and control of the military. The CTP will see the armed groups cooperating closely with the leaders of the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Government spokesman Faisal Mohammed Saleh said that Burhan’s decree contradicted the “constitutional declaration” signed in August last year between pro-democracy activists and the generals. “It is imperative that we declare our disaccord with the creation of the CTP in its current form,” said Saleh.

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Since the army’s ousting of former leader Omar Al-Bashir in April last year, the revolutionary forces of the Freedom and Change movement have dominated Sudanese politics. The left-wing alliance managed to force the army to sign a historic agreement giving civilians the right to participate in the government for the first time in three decades in a bid to move the country towards democracy. Much of the mobilisation and ongoing protests have happened at the behest of the Sudan Communist Party. In fact, the catalyst for the December 2018 Revolution was in Atbara, a town renowned for its traditional links with the communists.

The communist movement — which didn’t change its name following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall — was in part supported by Western powers. In the early days of the revolution, they were quick to condemn the “interference” the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the internal affairs of the Sudanese government.

According to journalist Mekki Al-Mograbi, the support for the far-left parties by some European powers was not accompanied by finance. “The far-left was supported by the West in its criticism of the military and the call for civilian democracy,” he explained, “but it became clear it had no means to bring funds to solve the economic problems.”

Since the revolution, the far left has been a source of irritation for the two Gulf countries who have singlehandedly been sponsoring Sudan’s military leadership. Online economic conferences by the Friends of Sudan, a group of mainly European donors, have failed to raise the funds that Sudan needs to stave off hyper-inflationary conditions recorded in October at 230 per cent. For almost a year, long queues for petrol and bread have become commonplace, and growing disenchantment with the leadership, particular by the left, has led to widespread criticism of its agenda.

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One critic, who preferred not to be named, said that the Sudanese want bread and a good future for our children: “We do not want laws allowing children to report parents when they are disciplined, or groups pushing homosexuality. We need bread!”

It remains to be seen how the far-left will respond. The CTP has been welcomed by centrist and right-wing political groups such as the Sudan National Congress Party and the Ummah Party. They believe that the army is an essential element in the future stability and governance of the country, a political position that the far-left rejects. “The fact of the matter is that the army has the support of the Gulf States and possesses the logistical resources to keep the country functional,” says Al Mograbi.

The marginalisation of the far-left in Sudanese politics is by no means a foregone conclusion. Paradoxically, though, it may serve to reduce political tensions in the country. Despite the obvious concerns of the Freedom and Change movement that has run the government, the new council cannot be ignored. The CTP’s function is being described as “coordinating and resolving disagreements that might emerge during the transitional period.” That appears to be shorthand for establishing a mechanism that means government policy can be challenged but no longer derailed by the left.

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