Osman Mirghani

The Broken Record Destroying Sudan

Even as the war continues to take a toll on the Sudanese people, the civil forces that had played a prominent role during the four-year transition period continue to operate in the way they always have. They remain divided, constantly squabbling and trying to outmaneuver one another. Indeed, the Alliance for Freedom and Change - Central Council and the FFC-Democratic Bloc are holding separate talks in Cairo. Other talks are also being held simultaneously in Togo, between forces from Darfur, high-ranking Rapid Support Forces officials, and figures affiliated with the Forces for Freedom and Change.

Add to this the tense disputes between the FFC - Central Council and the Islamists, and between the FFC - Democratic Bloc and the Kazin loyalists (Muslim brotherhood), which overshadowed dialogue on how to end the war, and you get a full picture of how intractable the situation is in Sudan.

These schisms and the constant bickering among Sudan’s political forces do not bring us any closer to ending the war. Indeed, fragmentation fuels the conflict and could perpetuate it. If their stated desire to establish a ceasefire is sincere, these forces should start by resolving the disputes that undercut the transitional period and led to this tragic war. To this end, the parties should hold extensive and inclusive talks. I believe that all parties, with the exception of the dissolved National Congress Party, which the people have already overthrown through their revolution.

If the political forces overcome their differences and endorse a clear joint roadmap for how Sudan should be governed, I am almost certain that the war would end swiftly. Such a roadmap would pave the way for continuing the transition that had been ongoing before the war. It would also help the country fix the damage left by the calamity that has befallen the country - a monumental task by any standard.

The war has changed things, and the state of affairs it has created demands a broad reassessment. The fact is that returning to the same point we had been on the eve of the war is impossible. This includes the “Framework Agreement,” which was one of the causes of the conflict. The consensus required for the next phase will not be built by blocs talking only amongst themselves. Dialogue that gives rise to a clear roadmap, endorsed by as a coalition as possible, for ending the disastrous war and laying the groundwork for a more stable transition.

The challenging circumstances that the country is undergoing demand open hearts and minds. It requires consensus around how to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. First and foremost, we need an agreement on how to end the war, which is the top Sudanese citizens’ top priority right now. After that, the forces can discuss the framework of the transitional phase and what follows. Political forces pivoting away from their exclusionary mindset is a necessary prerequisite for this. This means broadening dialogue, whereby the Islamists who have seriously reevaluated their dismal governance should be allowed to contribute to building consensus with other forces. Such a consensus would stabilize the country and lead it to governance through the ballot box and nothing else.

Broadening the dialogue also means directly communicating with the military and understanding their vision for how to end the war. At this point, any attempt to bypass the army will only complicate matters. Indeed, if the Forces of Freedom and Change are willing to meet Rapid Support Forces officials, why shouldn’t they hold talks with the military top brass to discuss the country’s problems and potential solutions?

It’s clear that the relationship between the Forces of Freedom and Change is a tense one. They never trusted one another, which undercut the transitional period. They have become even more wary of one another since the war broke out. Indeed, under the slogan “no to war,” the Forces of Freedom and Change see the military and the Rapid Support Forces on an equal footing; they have even been accused of favoring the Rapid Support Forces. Some have even gone further, alleging that some of its leaders have been colluding with the Rapid Support Forces and encouraged them to launch their coup.

The truth is that FFC’s stance cost the coalition a lot of its support. After having enthusiastically supported them in the past, many Sudanese are now openly criticizing them on social media. For these people, the equation is simple. On one side, there are forces targeting civilians and resorting to abhorrent tactics: bringing the conflict to their neighborhoods, using them as human shields, violating the sanctity of their homes, and wreaking havoc on the country. On the other side, there’s an army fighting to drive them out, demanding that the Rapid Support Forces leave citizens’ homes and public facilities alone. Indeed, citizens feel safe whenever they see the army forces in their streets and cheer for its victories.

In an attempt to push back against widespread criticisms and accusations that they are biased in favor of the Rapid Support Forces, and have remained silent about RSF human rights violations, the Forces of Freedom and Change included a “timid” condemnation of the “murders, looting and theft committed by the (Rapid Support Forces)” in their final statement in Cairo. I say it is “timid” because the statement condemns, in the same sentence, the armed forces for “crimes of aerial bombing, arbitrary arrests of activists, and protecting the activities and events of remnants of the overthrown regime.”

Moreover, the proposal to merge the warring armies put forward in the statement of the Forces of Freedom and Change complicates its relationship with the military. In fact, it pits the FFC against a large segment of the Sudanese population, who are not completely opposed to the Rapid Support Forces and are praying for their defeat after being subjected to their crimes.

All these complexities and contradictions bring us back to the necessity of holding transparent dialogue. All the issues facing the country today in light of this war, and how it can move forward, should be discussed. This won’t be achieved by traveling between capitals, holding meetings here and there, or issuing statements to score political points, and it certainly won’t be achieved not by soliciting foreign solutions.

The suffering of the Sudanese people is aggravating. Their hardships have tested their ability to go on, and this drastic situation demands that all forces broaden their perspectives and the scope of dialogue. All parties must move beyond their disagreements, which have wreaked havoc on Sudan. The goal should be to crystalize a clear vision and a joint roadmap that leads to radical solutions to chronic problems and ongoing conflicts, thereby safeguarding the country’s security and stability.