Sudan: Who Do You Trust

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July 8, 2019: Over the weekend the AU (African Union) confirmed that the TMC (Transitional Military Council) and the FDFC (Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change or Forces for Freedom and Change and the Alliance for Freedom and Change) had reached a new agreement (on July 4) to share power in Sudan. Ethiopia co-sponsored the mediation efforts with the AU.

Many Sudanese are suspicious but media report seeing public celebrations in Khartoum. The core of the AU agreement is a “rotating joint sovereign executive council” that will rule for approximately 39 months. The council will have five military members and five civilian members. This is a major concession by the TMC. The TMC will control the council for 21 months then a civilian administration will take control for 18 months. The 21 months is a major concession by the FDFC.

The agreement took many by surprise. Sudanese hopes for civilian rule and democratic governance energized by the April 11 fall of dictator Omar al Bashir have been fading. The TMC was indicating it intended to remain in power for as long as possible despite its claims to support the goals of the “Declaration of Freedom and Change” document and hold free elections and give way to civilian rule. The June 3 attacks on protestors strongly suggested the TMC had decided to suppress the broad-based revolutionary coalition which meant the April ouster of Bashir just one more military coup d’etat. Elected government in Sudan have proved to be unstable and ineffective, a common problem with new democracies. The frequent response to an inept and chaotic elected government is for the military to forcibly replace the elected government to “restore order”. Sudan has had five of these between 1956 (when Sudan gained independence) and 1989. The last one resulted in a permanent military government pretending to be a democracy. Many Sudanese do not trust the military leadership to allow the return of democracy. In Sudan that is not an unreasonable fear.

Coups in Sudan are an old, sad and often repeated story. After independence in 1956 Sudan had a series of military coups that always resulted in physical suppression of opponents after the coup, especially political opponents who wanted to curb the military’s institutional power. The 1964 and 1985 coups are notorious examples. After the suppression, oppression usually follows. The European nations and other “donor” nations (like the U.S., Canada and Japan) overwhelmingly support the revolutionary coalition and that may have finally had an effect on the TMC. Remember, the key revolutionary demonstrations were led by the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), who are largely technical experts (teachers, electrical engineers, mechanical and construction engineers, lawyers and doctors) and educators. Essentially the TMC has been waging civil war on the very people it needs to solve the economic problems that plague Sudan. Bashir’s inability to address Sudan economic woes incited deep resentment and played a major role in his downfall. Perhaps the TMC figured this out. (Austin Bay)

July 7, 2019: In the South Sudan capital (Juba), operations at the international airport resumed after being suspended for over 24 hours because radio equipment in the control tower had failed late on the 5th. The radios used to communicate with aircraft had not been maintained or replaced during the years of civil war because the money was not available. Commercial airlines have been complaining about the increasing incidence of equipment failure at the airport.

July 6, 2019: In western Sudan (Darfur), some rebel groups pointed out that the TMC/FDFC deal may fail because it did not put a priority on making peace in Darfur first. Actually, the current peace deal does put a priority on negotiating agreements with rebel groups in Darfur and in the couth (along the South Sudan border)

In the Sudan capital various rebel groups agreed to cancel major demonstrations being planned for the 11th.

July 5, 2019: In Sudan Internet has not been restored, as it was supposed to be as a result of the day old peace deal between TMC and everyone else. The Postal and Communications Corporation, which actually operates Internet services in Sudan, if still run by pro-TMC officials and insists new restrictions must be placed on Internet use, mainly to prevent overloading the system. This means restrictions on the transfer of large files (usually videos). This is one of the many issues in the July 4th deal that could derail the entire agreement.

July 4, 2019: The TMC and FDFC agreed to somewhat complex terms and a timetable that will lead to elections in late 2022 and a democratic government.

July 3, 2014: In Sudan, power-sharing talks between the TMC and the FDFC resumed. They were suspended after the harsh and deadly June 3 crackdown on demonstrators that left 120 dead in the capital. After the crackdown, the TMC annulled all deals made. According to the FDFC, before the crackdown, the TMC agreed to give the FDFC 67 percent of the seats in the interim parliament. The FDFC could also name a cabinet. The main remaining dispute was over who would control the sovereign council, which would hold executive (presidential) power for three years. The TMC insisted on controlling it.

In southern South Sudan (Central Equatoria state), an outbreak of fighting has left 104 people dead. Two rebel militia factions battled army units in the area.

July 2, 2019: In neighboring Congo, a confirmed case of the Ebola virus was discovered near the border with South Sudan. Local (Congo and South Sudan) and international health organizations are monitoring the situation. Unfortunately, the border is porous and South Sudan’s civil war continues to sputter, creating a breakdown in local health care systems when it does.

June 30, 2019: In Sudan (the capital) unidentified gunmen fired on protestors who were demonstrating against military rule. Six civilians and three members of Sudanese security forces (likely soldiers) were wounded. The protestors were crossing a river bridge when the snipers shot at them. Despite this interference, the mass protests against the TMC took place in the national capital and other towns and cities. These were apparently the largest demonstrations to occur on one day that Sudan had ever seen.

June 29, 2019: The U.S., Great Britain and Norway (the Sudan Troika) demanded the TMC respect the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly and avoid the use of violence. All three nations support mediation efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia.

June 27, 2019: The U.S. is pushing back on a TMC demand that the Darfur UN peacekeeping force begins turning over UN bases to Sudan’s notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The TMC made the demand in mid-May. Local observers allege that the RSF has already occupied nine of ten sites peacekeepers have vacated within the last eight months. The Americans note that the RSF descends directly from the Janjaweed militias which were responsible for the genocidal violence in the region. And who was in charge then? Lieutenant General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemedti) the deputy head of the TMC. Hamdan still commands the RSF. It is believed the RSF has at least 50,000 armed fighters. Meanwhile, the UN announced that it will suspend planned peacekeeper force reductions.

June 25, 2019: The TMC shut down most internet services in Sudan right after the June 3 massacre. The TMC wanted to limit coverage of the bloody attack and curtail the opposition’s ability to communicate. As of today, most internet services remain unavailable to civilians. Since June 5 protestors, foreign aid groups and local businesses have been demanding the TMC restore internet service.

June 24, 2019: Uganda reported that border customs personnel had seized a truck carrying food to the South Sudan SPLA-IO rebels. The food shipment was not illegal per se, but the truck was using a route that would have avoided customs inspection. Uganda is trying to stop the shipment of ammunition and weapons into South Sudan, in accordance with international sanctions.

June 20, 2019: In Sudan, pro-democracy protestors in the capital accused the TMC of conducting a counter-revolution.

June 18, 2019: Food aid agencies report over seven million people in South Sudan now face a critical lack of food. That is about 60 percent of South Sudan’s population. Foreign aid groups have positioned 173,000 tons of food in the country in order to avoid famine. Famine conditions exist in remote areas of three states, Jonglei, Lakes and Upper Nile.

June 15, 2019: In Sudan, local media and foreign aid workers report that RSF militiamen raped at least 70 women on June 3. Local protestors and foreign aid organizations are demanding the TMC withdraw RSF militiamen from the national capital.

June 12, 2019: Ethiopia announced that the TMC and the FDFC will resume negotiations. The time frame is uncertain. Diplomats hope they can restart within a week. Ethiopia and the AU are attempting to mediate the crisis in Sudan.

June 11, 2019: Foreign aid organizations claim that Sudanese security forces (likely the RSF) have continued to launch attacks in Darfur. Allegedly three dozen villages have been attacked in the last six weeks. The figures are difficult to verify.

June 10, 2019: In Sudan, the TMC shut down civilian internet service throughout the country. Shops have opened in the capital despite new calls for strikes to protest the June 3 massacre in the city. However, protestors said the strikes and civil disobedience are having an effect on the TMC.

June 9, 2019: In response to the June 3 massacre in Khartoum, the SPA and the FDFC called for a nation-wide campaign of civil disobedience, to include work stoppages and transport strikes.

June 4, 2019: The FDFC announced that in the wake of the June 3 TMC violence and the death of over 100 people, it will not continue discussions with the TMC.

The U.S, Britain and Norway issued a powerful condemnation of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council for ordering violent attacks on civilian protestors. The diplomatic statement pulled no punches. It held the TMC directly responsible for the attacks and declared that the TMC had put Sudan’s transition process in jeopardy. It also reprimanded the TMC for withdrawing from negotiations with the FDFC.

June 3, 2019: In Sudan (the capital), security forces loyal to the TMC launched a night attack on a protest camp in the capital, near the Armed Forces headquarters. TMC claimed that the protest camp wasn’t the target. The security forces were raiding a murky nearby area where a threat to order had developed. The sit-in protest camp was the target and demonstrators reported that RSF militiamen conducted the assault and many people were killed. Some witnesses reported RSF militiamen committing rape and dumping several dozen bodies in the Nile River. Over the next few days a more accurate casualty count was compiled, with the help of local doctors and nurses treating the wounded, indicating that over 120 died.

Earlier in the day the TMC unilaterally announced that interim elections will be held in nine months (likely March 2020). This timeline is unacceptable for the opposition. Foreign governments also condemned the TMC’s decision.

 

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