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Sudan is a disaster waiting to happen

Sudanese protesters take part in a sit-in demanding the government dissolution over poor living conditions, outside the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 18 October 2021. [Mahmoud Hjaj - Anadolu Agency]
Sudanese protesters take part in a sit-in demanding the government dissolution over poor living conditions, outside the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 18 October 2021. [Mahmoud Hjaj - Anadolu Agency]

Following Saturday's demonstrations in Khartoum in support of the calls by army officers to replace the cabinet and reform the Forces of Freedom and Change coalition, it is fair to say that political and social polarisation in Sudan has reached a critical level. This will push the country to explode if the matter is not addressed quickly. A number of factors could see threats not only to the transitional stage but also the entire country.

For example, the dialogue prevailing in Sudan is tone-deaf as it tightens its grip on political relations between the civil and military components of the Transitional Council entrusted with national leadership during this stage. Moreover, the discourse of exclusion and treachery between political actors who differ on almost every issue creates the impression among ordinary citizens that the basis of their differences are partisan interests and thus not in the interest of the country or even the transitional period. Added to that is the fact that weapons are held beyond the regular armed forces, with several militias based in Khartoum following the orders of conflicting political leaders, which encroach on policing roles without any sense of deterrence or rebuke from the senior officers of the Sudanese Army.

At this rate, Sudan will soon be a "non-state" resembling the shambles witnessed in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Observers need to find the courage to point out that there are forces inside and outside Sudan working on many levels to bring about such a destructive scenario.

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No matter what the reasons are for all of this and who is supporting these particular forces, the result will be the same, with no clear winner or loser: everyone will lose. Those who think otherwise are deluded. Nobody will be in a position to apply the coup de grace to their opponents, regardless of who is backing them now.

The main losers, of course, will be the Sudanese people and their country, which is facing an unprecedented crisis. We must start immediately, with determination, to end the polarisation and begin the transitional tasks to reclaim our country. Unity of purpose and action is essential. Political and ideological differences must be set aside in order to make the transitional period a success and save the country. Political differences are natural and expected, and can bring forward positive results if they are managed well. Today, though, what we are seeing is a conflict over who has power in Sudan, and this is taking priority over the needs, security and safety of the people.

Sudanese protesters take part in a sit-in demanding the government dissolution over poor living conditions, outside the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 18 October 2021. [Mahmoud Hjaj - Anadolu Agency]

KHARTOUM, SUDAN – OCTOBER 18: Sudanese protesters take part in a sit-in demanding the government dissolution over poor living conditions, outside the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on October 18, 2021. ( Mahmoud Hjaj – Anadolu Agency )

Regardless of the intentions of each of the parties, and whether their disagreements match their intentions and goals or not, they can agree upon the openly contentious issues. The only thing that is off the agenda is the attempt to portray the December 2018 revolution as a mistake staged by politically-inexperienced activists. Anyone who believes this has no role to play.

I agree with the speech made by the prime minister last Friday, in which he addressed the general features of the road map for getting out of the crisis. I believe that we all have a duty to fill the map with as many details as possible. My initial contribution to this process is presented here for discussion, revision or modification.

The Sovereignty Council should be amended so that it has 11 members, in accordance with the terms of the constitutional document, although I wish that this number was just five or six. I suggest reviewing the performance of all council members, so that the weakest is removed, without any considerations unrelated to the national interest.

I also propose adherence to the provisions of the constitutional document and the formation of the Council of Ministers based on professional competency, not partisan or regional quotas. Everyone can submit nominations, but ultimately, the decision should be made by the prime minister, again without partisan or regional quotas.

We should activate the Legal Reform Commission Law passed on 22 April last year, so that it can be the basis for the reform of the justice and human rights system, free from interventions by the Empowerment Committee and the sovereign and executive authorities. Appointments to the civil service should be revised and controlled through the Selection Committee and the Civil Service Reform Commission.

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Accusations against the Empowerment Removal Committee should be addressed and investigated, while its performance must be reviewed in terms of its composition and methodology. Necessary amendments to its governance should be proposed, while the Appeals Committee should be reformed and activated to uphold justice and the rule of law.

However, demanding the dissolution of the committee or cancelling its decisions without any appeals would be a distortion of the revolution's slogans and an attempt to undermine it. The Empowerment Removal Committee is one of the December revolution's first mechanisms to eradicate the former regime. It was established according to the constitutional document and a law authorised by a joint meeting between the Sovereignty Council and the Council of Ministers.

Independent national commissions must be formed immediately, with priority given to constitution-making, the constitutional conference and the elections committee. In addition to performing their allotted tasks, the national commissions will also achieve widening participation in the transitional and state administration agencies.

I call on the forces of freedom and liberation on either side to hold an urgent conference with the aim of unifying these forces and agreeing on the appropriate structures to lead the way forward. They must also discuss how to include other forces that believe in the revolution and agree on forming a transitional legislative committee. If we fail to act, then one thing is certain: Sudan is a disaster waiting to happen.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 17 October 2021

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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