World News Sudan new political agreement remains out of step with Sudanese public opinion

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum, Sudan on August 13, 2021 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]
Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum, Sudan on August 13, 2021 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]

Ten days after Sudan moved into its 67th year of independence, the divide between the Sudanese and the political groups who signed an agreement with the Sudanese government has deepened. As the country also enters its fifth year since the removal of the 30-year leadership of Omar Al-Bashir, the signing of an agreement between the Sudanese Army and the four political factions appears to almost ignore the demands of the Sudanese people totally.

Likewise, the Sudanese appear to be oblivious and unconcerned about the political manoeuvres of the parties seeking to secure a new position of Prime Minister. The proposed appointment comes after the signing, in December, of a new agreement breaking the political stalemate. The agreement gives executive power to a new Prime Minister and removes the Sudanese army directly from power, the agreement rests on five major issues, including justice and transitional justice, security and military reform, reviewing the peace deal, the dismantling of the regime of former President Omar Al-Bashir and resolving the issue in eastern Sudan.

However, insiders that I have talked to, suggest that the President of Sudan, Lt. General Burhan would be unhappy about the appointment of a Prime Minister who would be unsympathetic towards the demands of the army generals.  After Burhan's public rebuke of the former National Congress ruling party, observers are convinced old members of the Party are moving to take control of large parts of the country, especially areas outside of the capital. In addition, sources say foreign powers, including United Kingdom, have begun informal talks ahead of any expected move to power. Sources have also mentioned offers of asylum have been offered to major figures in the Islamic movement, if the return to power because hazardous.

It remains to be seen if the familiar disagreements to appoint the head of a government will lead to acrimony. Especially, if plans to remove the current Minister of Finance go ahead. Jibril Ibrahim, the leader of Justice and Equality who came back to the government after signing the 2020 Juba Peace Accord continues to be unwilling to step down from government as, in his view, this would be a breach of the peace accord.

There are mixed opinions about Ibrahim's performance in the Treasury Department. According to financial analyst, Hafiz Ismail, writing in the news outlet Dabanga, the current Ibrahim should be dismissed. A new government should review his fiscal policies "that has turned into collecting fees and taxes without providing services".   Ismail went on to say, "Ibrahim is taking advantage of the government vacuum and the absence of a legislative council to impose huge increases in service fees and taxes"  – various fees were increased on Monday last.

However, financial journalist, Mekki El Mograbi praised Ibrahim on the "remarkable" job he had done in stabilising the currency. "The increases in the government's fee and taxes have helped to bring much needed revenue to the economy. Citizens have had to make a choice between payment for staples and for aspirational services like renewing passports."

Whatever happens, the appointment of a new Prime Minster will be of great interest to the United States which would also like to ensure that Sudan maintains unbridled support to the West in war effort against Ukraine. Observers are saying that the US President, Biden, is serious about bringing Sudan on side but is worried about Sudan's relation to Saudi Arabia and, ultimately, Khartoum's relationship with China and Russia.  Shortly after signing the framework Agreement sponsored by US and others, Burhan visited Riyadh after the Chinese President Xi met, on 9 December, the Saudi leader, King Salman.

Although Washington is keen to have Sudan on side, it would only be prepared to do so at the lowest cost. Given that Sudan remains in a weak political situation, observers say Washington would be unwilling to give Burhan and the Sudanese army any incentives that may embolden the Army's hold on power.


Sudan protests and Prime Minister resigns - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Sudan's prime minister resigns amid deadlock, anti-coup protests – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Meanwhile, on the Sudanese streets, the hope remains that civil societies will continue to amass the support of human rights groups which one commentator has described as an injection of "dark money" – in other words informal and undetected sources of income are being used to mobilise the protestors. The ability to continue the opposition requires funding but, most of all, it requires an unwavering determination to maintain a war of attrition.  Since 25 October, when the former Prime Minister, Abdullah Hamdok was removed, the protest groups have viewed any attempts to end the political crisis with "inadequate" agreements as a complete betrayal of their demands.

Not least, the consistent demand of the protestors has been justice for those killed before and after the removal of Omar Al-Bashir. In particular, the protestors and families of victims are angry that the 150 people killed, 3 June 2019, outside the Army headquarters have not received justice, yet alone there has not been an adequate investigation of the tragedy, despite repeated assurances.    In reality, protestors continue to be unwilling to accept assurances or concede on their principal demand for the Army to leave power once and for all.

Notwithstanding, the promise to protect the transition made by the leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and Burhan's deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo's, his words have not been welcomed by the Sudanese. Even his general apology "for the state's violence and mistakes towards communities throughout (Sudan's) history" has fallen on deaf ears. The Sudanese public arena seems set to continue protesting for at least the two-year transition, or until public opinion drastically changes.

Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion at the XXIX International Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin on January

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