Hopes of a transition to civilian rule in Sudan were revitalized earlier this month with a new power sharing agreement finalized between the Transitional Military Council and Sudan’s Forces of Freedom and Change. The power sharing agreement is the result of an ongoing dispute between transitional military council figures and the civilian backed push for governmental control in the wake of former president Omar al-Bashir’s removal in late 2018. While this recent development is a sign of hope for the small African nation, questions still remain unanswered as to whether or not this deal will bring about the changes necessary for Sudan’s future.
The problem with transitional arrangements such as the one in Sudan is the increased likelihood that the military refuse to cede control of government to civilian rule. In involving the military, protesters solidify their push to oust repressive authoritarians like al-Bashir but also carry the risk of losing control of the situation in its entirety. Countries that undergo democratic pushes with military help run the risk of ceding government control to a military junta. This results in a similar repressive rule that their old leaders once had – creating a problem while attempting to fix another.
The recent developments in Sudan are cause for celebration given the African Union’s support for the move and the fact that both parties have come to the table to negotiate. However, a healthy skepticism of the success of the deal suggests that the military are merely stalling and are likely to solidify their control over the nation. Since the end of al-Bashir’s rule there have been countless abductions of protesters, beatings and torture of dissidents by hitsquads employed and armed by the National Security Intelligence Service under the jurisdiction of the police. Despite the initial agreement on 11th April 2019, the TMC had until this new agreement refused to budge. This should give the international community cause for concern as the TMC will not easily cede control of government.
The small country has been in a tumultuous period since early December 2018 when protesters took to the streets of Khartoum to vent their anger at then President Omar al-Bashir’s economic policy. Soon after, the protests evolved into a push for al-Bashir’s complete removal after three decades of autocratic rule. In calling on military support, protestors successfully pushed for a transition of power arrangement that this new agreement seeks to end. Central to this new agreement succeeding is the role played by greater regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Presently, the TMC are supporting the Saudi incursion into Yemen by supplying troops to stave off the threat posed by Houthi Yemen. Like most events in the region, the actions of powerful nations impact the stability of smaller nation states.
Whether or not this new power sharing agreement is respected and a full transition to civilian rule is enacted will be the subject of international attention for the next number of years. If successful, the model of Sudanese transition may well pave the way forward for democratic revival throughout much of Africa – indeed the world. If not, the international community must rethink its approach to the region in general by limiting foreign incursions, invasions and actions that destabilize the status quo.