Osman Mirghani

How Can Sudan Reach the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

In a few days, the Sudanese war will have begun five months, and we are still busy quarreling, which is what led us to the wretched situation we now find ourselves in. Each party claims that the other is to blame, and all factions remain embroiled in debates over who fired the first shot. Divisions and the discourse of exclusion are intensifying as the suffering of the Sudanese worsens by the day. None of the belligerents want to acknowledge that everyone bears responsibility for sparking this war or the circumstances that led to it.

At this crossroads, Sudan does not need more Byzantine debates. To move forward and reach the light at the end of this dark tunnel, we must move beyond these debates and search for solutions that will end the war first. In these dark circumstances, efforts should be focused on facilitating a return to normality, after which work on building a national consensus through an inclusive conference should begin - a conference that sets a road map for the democratic transition, the future of governance in Sudan, and solving its chronic problems.

There can be no avoiding recognition that the previous transitional period failed because of its contradictions, and failed to resolve the disputes that had plagued it. Thus, talk of resuming it as though nothing had happened seems like a fantasy. Indeed, the war changed everything and deepened the disagreements. Sudan needs a new path that averts the pitfalls of the previous stage if the country is to avoid repeating its failures.

To this end, the conflicting parties must abandon their ambitions for shares of power in any new transitional period. indeed, neither can the military monopolize power or garner sufficient support to ensure stability, nor will the civilians manage to persuade the Sudanese people that they can lead a second transitional period amid the persistence of their disputes, contradictions, and conflicts, especially since they have lost much of the legitimacy they had once enjoyed because of the war and the polarized opinions and positions it has given rise to.

No one can claim the legitimacy or a popular mandate needed to rule and lead the country in a new transition. The December 2018 revolution toppled the regime of Omar al-Bashir and the National Congress Party, but it did not grant any party a mandate to rule the country. There were hopes that a civilian government composed of independents would be formed to lead the country during a brief transitional period in preparation for a democratic transition and elections, through which a government with a popular mandate and electoral legitimacy would emerge.

Without going into the details that the people are well acquainted with, the disputes of politicians and the disagreements between the civilians and the military killed the revolution, its dreams, and slogans, leading the country to its ongoing catastrophic crisis.

Thus, we must initiate the process differently, we need a new path that re-arranges priorities and roles. Transitioning to a democratic system is important, but it is not necessarily the priority of these people, given the current circumstances. People want the war to end and security to be restored, allowing them to return to their homes, go back to their normal lives, and begin rebuilding after the war, which has been extremely by all standards.

Any new transitional period must start off from this premise. Consensus between the various parties involved is thus a necessary prerequisite. This consensus can only be built by the Sudanese themselves, and they can only succeed if they put the interest of the country above any partisan or personal considerations.

A broad segment of the population believes that the transitional period should not last more than two to three years. Based on past experience, a civilian would be best, one that is composed of independent and experienced technocrats. Such a government, led by a consensus figure and with the economy and reconstruction as its priority, would be best placed to manage the country’s affairs.

During this period, the army assumes responsibility for security and defense through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and one of its tasks is also to implement the issue of integrating the forces of the armed movements in accordance with controls and procedures and within a period of time not exceeding the period of the transitional period.

During this period, the army should be tasked with safeguarding security and national defense through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Added to regular duty, it would be required to integrate the fighters of the armed factions before the transitional period ends.

After developments rendered it obsolete, the Transitional Sovereignty Council, with its contradictory positions on the war of its members, must be dissolved before the transition begins.

A committee of five or seven advisors, including both civilian and retired military personnel, could be formed to replace it. This new committee would be tasked with advising the transitional government on political, economic, security, and foreign relations questions.

Its formation would resolve the issue of the army calling the shots on its own in these critical circumstances, and it would help broaden participation and visions for the future.

A transitional period amid this state of affairs also requires the formation of commissions delegated to undertake precise tasks and responsibilities under government supervision, including, but not limited to:

A Humanitarian Relief Commission that oversees and coordinates the distribution of relief work, such as the distribution of food, and medicine, and is responsible for ensuring that relief is given to those who need it.

A Reconstruction Commission tasked with rehabilitating the infrastructure that had been damaged, restoring the provision of basic services, and forming a roadmap for the compensation of victims.

A Health and Rehabilitation of the Health Sector Commission.

An Education Commission tasked with coordinating the restoration and rehabilitation of damaged educational institutions and expediting the resumption of education at all levels.

A Peace Commission tasked with reassessing the Juba Peace Agreement and making recommendations on how to develop it for the transitional government and the committee of advisors.

A Constitutional Commission composed of legal experts tasked with drafting a constitution to be presented to the elected parliament and ratified through a referendum.

An Electoral Commission tasked with drafting the elector law, reviewing voter lists, and soliciting the assistance of international bodies to ensure fair and transparent democratic elections by the end of the transitional period.

The transitional period also requires civic and political forces to engage in a comprehensive national dialogue that builds the consensus needed to launch discussions on the establishment of a system of governance that heralds a new Sudan. They must create a roadmap for how we are to avoid all the disappointments, pitfalls, injustices, and conflicts that led to this darkness.

Several proposals and papers on these matters have already been published. They can be built upon to crystallize the vision of the transitional government and build a national consensus that puts the country on the path of stability. However, the cessation of hostels should not be tied to the revitalization of the Sudanese state, the resumption of public utilities and services, and the formation of a government that runs the country's affairs appropriately. Indeed, the losses and repercussions resulting from the deterioration of living conditions and state services are no less devastating than those of the war itself.