A Turn in Sudan’s Fortunes?

Sudan’s pro-democracy movement abandoned plans for marches this week, following mutual agreement to a power-sharing deal with the ruling military councils.

The joint military and civilian council will govern Sudan for three years and three months until the next elections. This follows months of protests, starting on 19 December 2018, which have resulted in the deaths of many civilians.

People celebrate in the streets of Khartoum, Sudan after the military and protest leaders announced a power-sharing arrangement. July 5, 2019.

Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

On 11 April 2019 the Sudanese military successfully removed the former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from power. The coup occurred amidst these civilian-led protests in towns and cities across Sudan which have called for al-Bashir to step down from the presidency which he had occupied for almost thirty years.

Despite the jubilation over al-Bashir’s removal from power, demonstrators affiliated with the Sudanese Professionals Association had vowed to continue protesting until there is a clear move towards civilian rule. This public avowal resulted in encounters between protesters and military personnel becoming deadly.

Over 100 people lost their lives whilst hundreds more civilians were injured. Among the dead is a medical doctor who was targeted while he was attending to injured protesters in the Burri district in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

The transitional military council that was governing Sudan was led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan. The general has vowed to “protect and implement the [power-sharing] deal”. Furthermore, he has said that the military council will work closely with civilian groups to “build and protect” as well “achieve peace and justice” in the war-torn country.

The streets of Khartoum, Sudan, July 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

The announcement of the power-sharing deal was met with celebrations across the country. However, not everyone is happy with these recent developments. Rebel groups have criticised the deal, calling it a “betrayal of the revolution” that led to the ousting of al-Bashir. Although the criticisms of this deal are inevitable, it is concerning that they are being expressed by rebel groups.

These groups may not have much to lose and could trigger conflicts that would threaten Sudan’s new fragile peace. This is not unlikely, as a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement said that a peace deal had to be reached with rebel groups before the planned transition in governance may occur.

The concerns expressed by the rebel groups are valid as recent actions by the military have indicated towards their trying to consolidate their power. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for pro-democracy groups to be co-opted by autocracy military groupings following a successful coup d’etat.

It is critical that we remain cautious as we celebrate these recent developments in Sudan. Democracy is fragile and we need to do all that we can to ensure that our Sudanese brothers and sisters get to truly enjoy the spoils of their hard won victory.

Sudan has experienced a lot of hardship throughout its history. As fellow Africans, we need to ensure that this recent turn towards democracy becomes a true indication of where Sudan’s future is headed.

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