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Analysis: Deal that Puts Sudan Between Light and Darkness

Analysis: Deal that Puts Sudan Between Light and Darkness

Saturday, 31 August, 2019 - 05:00
Sudanese demonstrators wave their national flags as they attend a mass anti-government protest outside Defense Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
London - Amir Taheri

So far, so good! This is how some analysts have reacted to the political power-sharing deal signed by Sudan’s ruling military junta and opposition groups, which ended President Omar al-Bashir’s decades’ long dictatorship following protests.

Good or not, the real question is how far is the so-far in the question. The short answer maybe: not far enough. The “deal” now receiving its final legalistic shape is basically concerned with the mechanics of power rather than the substance of a strategy to put the east African nation on a different trajectory.

Under the deal, Sudan’s Transitional Military Council and the opposition Freedom and Change contribute equally to an 11-person council that will govern the country, with each side rotating in the leadership for three years or longer before the end of elections.

Since even one week in politics is regarded as too long, it is obvious that three years would be even longer especially that the Sudanese military has a long history of one-step-back-two-steps-forward tactical moves.

The whole deal may be designed to reduce the panoply of political, economic and moral issues just created by the national uprising to just three parcels.

The first of these is the creation of the governing council that, examined closely, looks like the continuation of the military junta with a civilian varnish.

The second parcel reduces three decades of oppression on a massive scale to just one investigation: that of the 3 June massacre of protesters at the hands of the military’s “special units.” Those hoping for a thorough and systematic investigation of countless reports of illegal imprisonment, torture and even extra-judicial killings would have to wait for another day and, hopefully, another deal. Nor is there any prospect of a truth and reconciliation process designed to close a bloody chapter authored by Bashir and his associates. And all that not to mention the genocidal war in Darfur, the loss of South Sudan and years of blood-stained civil discord.

The third parcel is to confine the whole issue of corruption that, in Bashir’s Sudan had become a way of life rather than an aberration, to a sham trial for the fallen chief on a single charge of embezzlement.

However, other issues urgently need to be attended to.

What will the new regime, if it deserves such a label, do with the International Criminal Court’s demand for the extradition of Bashir and some of his associates to face trial on charges of crimes against humanity?

How did a country that errand over $200 billion in oil income end up with foreign debt exceeding $55 billion?

Who decided to sell large tracts of fertile land to Chinese concerns and who pocketed the money?

Could an incompetent military cope with an economy in meltdown mode with inflation hovering around 70 percent?

By retaining control of the various security agencies, the military may be under the illusion that, at some time in the future, they may be able to push the genie of national revolt back into the bottle.

Bashir’s trial may well be just a charade as some cynics suggest which would be bad enough. However, it would be even worse if it were not a charade but a real attempt at scapegoating the fallen despot. The party of terror in the French revolution claimed that by guillotining one “top head” they might avoid chopping many more heads. They landed themselves in a spiral of terror in which no one could stop head chopping; and ended up losing their own heads as well.

Bashir is certainly no angel. However, it would also be wrong to claim that he is the only devil around.

The energy and the moderation demonstrated by the Sudanese people during their surprising revolt indicates a national readiness for a genuinely new start and the opposition’s acceptance of what is clearly a far from ideal “deal” indicates much goodwill on its part. To take that goodwill as a sign of the opposition’s naiveté may be counter-productive for the military and dangerous for Sudan.

Some observers have welcomed the deal as a first step. It may well be a first step but what is important is to find out a first step in what direction and towards what? The Sudanese people have the desire and the personnel to move towards a people-based system of government and the rule of law. In its present form, the “deal” does not guarantee movement in that direction without, however, pointing to an opposite direction. It points Sudan towards a dicey chiaroscuro fraught with political risks.

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