Updated briefing on the situation in Sudan

Updated briefing on the situation in Sudan

Date | 6 February 2023

Tomorrow (6 February), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1137th session at a ministerial level to receive updated briefing on the situation in Sudan.

Opening remarks are expected by Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of February, followed by a statement from Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS). The representative of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as well as the representative of the United Nations (UN) are also expected to make statements.

The last time PSC met to discuss Sudan was during its 1117th session, held on 2 November last year. In that session, PSC took note of the draft constitutional document initiated by the Sudan Bar Association (SBA) and urged stakeholders that were not part of the SBA’s constitutional document to join the process and for the document to serve as basis for negotiations. PSC further stressed the need to ensure the inclusiveness of the political process for full ownership and legitimacy of the outcome by every segment of the Sudanese society.

Since then, encouraging progress has been made towards resolving the confrontation between the military that staged the 25 October military coup and the various sectors of the civilian population who led and took active part in the mobilization of mass peaceful protests demanding the end of military rule and establishment of a civilian transitional authority. On 5 December 2022, the military and the section of the civilian population organized under the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) signed a Political Framework Agreement (PFA). The Agreement was signed by more than 50 political and civil groups, including Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, his deputy and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and non-FFC professional associations and civil society groups, as well as Malik Agar, an ex-rebel and former governor of Blue Nile State.

The signing of the PFA has been lauded by many partners including the AU, IGAD, and UN as a critical first step towards the restoration of a constitutional order and the formation of a credible civil, democratic, and accountable government. In a communique issued on 5 December 2022, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, welcomed the agreement while calling upon ‘the signatory parties to remain open to the political forces that have not signed the said Agreement’. The 8 December press statement by the UN Security Council also highlighted the singing of the Agreement as ‘an essential step towards the forming of a civilian-led Government and defining constitutional arrangements to guide the Sudan though a transitional period culminating in elections.’

Not withstanding the progress, the PFA marks towards achieving agreement on civilian led transitional process among Sudanese actors and the warm reception it attracted on the part of regional and international actors, it did not garner the support of all the major stakeholders. Most notably, it was greeted with opposition from the resistance committees, who organized successful protests campaigning for a civilian led transitional process and a democratic dispensation in which the military is reformed and under civilian control. The core of their grievance lies in the lack
of consultation and transparency on the part of the FFC who negotiated the PFA with the military. Additionally, some of the key former rebel leaders signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement did not extend their support to and were not also part of the PFA.

The PFA however was the framework agreement that came out of the first phase of a two phase negotiation process. The second phase of the process started on 8 January 2023 with the facilitation of the AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism. As this second phase, which deals with very delicate issues, presents an opportunity for building on PFA and avoid the pitfalls of the first phase of the negotiations. If the PSC’s decision for ensuring inclusiveness of the process and legitimacy of the outcome by every segment of Sudanese society is to be realized as key guarantee to avoid recurrence of the collapse of the previous transition, the second phase needs to galvanise broader consensus among the key national forces and bringing non-signatories to the PFA on board. Without such consensus and full participation of non-signatories, the outcomes resulting from the process such as the creation of a new civilian government would face a legitimacy crisis and raise risk of collapse of another transitional process.

The focus of the second phase of the negotiations is the five contentious issues: the reinstatement of the Dismantling Committee (a committee established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 – with the aim to dismantle the June 30, 1989 regime and retrieve public funds – but was suspended after the 25 October military coup), security sector reform, transitional justice, implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, and the question of Eastern Sudan. In that context, different workshops and conferences are taking place with the participation of both signatory and non-signatory parties to the PFA under the facilitation of the Trilateral Mechanism. The recommendations emerging from these engagements are expected to feed into the direct negotiations between different stakeholders to reach a final deal, which leads to the formation of a civilian government.

One of the issues for the PSC is accordingly how to support the ongoing negotiation process. Building on its decision from the November session on inclusiveness and wider public legitimacy of the outcome, the PSC may seek to find out from the briefers on what needs to be done to consolidate the gains from the PFA and expand wider public buy in the second phase of the process. This is not simply about the resumption of financial and economic support by bilateral and multilateral bodies but it is also about lifting of sanctions currently imposed on Sudan.

The other issue that would be of interest for members of the PSC to properly examine is how to mobilize organized regional and international support towards ensuring an agreement with sufficiently wide public buy in and able to produce a sustainable civilian led transitional process. Related to this is also the threat of the negotiations being entangled into regional and global geo-political rivalries and how to avoid ongoing contestations among various powers vying for dominant influence in Sudan from impeding or frustrating the negotiation process. It is thus important for PSC members to know the implications – on the willingness of the military actors to handover to the civilian led government the level of authority for it to make decisions without threat of eviction by the military – of recent initiatives such as the announcement by Israel after meeting President of the Sovereign Council Burhan that the two sides have agreed to normalise relationships between Sudan and Israel.

Regarding PSC’s sanction on Sudan, the lack of clarity and consistency in AU’s norm over the conditions that need to be fulfilled for the lifting of sanctions poses a challenge. In this connection, it is worth noting that Mali also made the request for the lifting of sanction during the 3rd meeting of the Monitoring and Support Group for the Transition in Mali (GST-Mali) last September after reaching an agreement on acceptable transition timeline. In the absence of consistent practices and lack of clarity on conditions for the lifting of sanction, developing clear benchmarks and guidelines on the matter is of strategic importance instead of responding to the requests on a case-by-case basis, that may open the PSC to inconsistency and accompany legitimate charges of double standards.

With specific reference to Sudan, it is to be recalled from the 2019 experience that at the promise of progress towards achieving agreement on establishment of a civilian led transitional authority is not enough. Even the signing of such agreement would not be enough. At a minimum and in fulfilment of PSC’s various relevant decisions since the 25 October 2021 coup, the signing of such agreement needs to be accompanied by the establishment of the civilian transitional authority that enjoys wide public support before the lifting of the suspension. Pending the establishment of common criteria on lifting of suspension from the AU, having such a minimum progress also helps to ensure consistency in how PSC deals with the transitional processes in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso & Chad.

The expected outcome is a communique. PSC is expected to welcome the 5 December 2022 Political Framework Agreement signed between the military and some political and civil groups including the FFC as the first critical step towards the establishment of a civilian transition government and ultimately the restoration of constitutional order. While also welcoming the launch of the second phase of the political process, PSC is likely to emphasize the importance of ensuring the participation of non-signatories of the PFA in the process that is aimed at reaching consensus around the five key national issues. In that regard, PSC may urge those parties that were not part of the PFA to join the second phase of the process and ensure that their concerns are fully taken on-board.  In relation to the facilitation role being played by the AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism, the PSC may once again express its strong support to the Mechanism as the lead facilitator of the political process. It may further call up on the international community to back the Trilateral Mechanism’s facilitation role and to refrain from undertaking parallel initiatives that could undermine the negotiation process. Regarding its engagement on Sudan, it may reiterate its decision, agreed at the 1041st session, to receive a monthly update on the evolution of the situation in Sudan. Further to that it may also reiterate its decision to undertake a field mission to the country with the view to expressing its solidarity with the people of Sudan in their quest for a successful transition towards democratic, stable, and prosperous country as well as encouraging Sudanese stakeholders to successfully complete the efforts towards the restoration of constitutional order so as to pave the way for country’s reinstalment of its membership in the AU. In light of lack of clarity on conditions for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the PSC in relation to unconstitutional changes of government, PSC may take the opportunity to request the AU Commission to prepare standard guideline on the lifting of sanctions imposed on Member States that have experienced unconstitutional changes of government. The PSC may also express its wish to see the second phase succeed and culminate in the establishment of a civilian led transitional authority  in order to enable it to consider the lifting of the suspension of Sudan and to mobilize support for the transitional process under popularly supported civilian led government.

Update briefing on the situation in Sudan

Update briefing on the situation in Sudan

Date | 2 November 2022

Tomorrow (2 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1117th session to receive update briefing on the situation in Sudan.

Permanent Representative of Namibia to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of November, Emilia Ndinealo Mkusa, is expected to make opening remarks. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to deliver statements while the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission to the Sudan, Mohamed Belaiche, will brief the Council during the closed segment of the session. The representative of the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) may also deliver statements as the relevant regional mechanism.

PSC has considered the situation in Sudan only in four instances (1041st, 1050th, 1060th, and 1076th sessions) since the 25 October 2021 military coup despite its decision, at its 1041st meeting, to receive monthly update on the evolution of the situation in Sudan. Sudan gave the AU and its PSC cold shoulder after the latter suspended Sudan on 26 October last year, which, to an extent, seems to have constrained PSC’s active engagement in resolving the political crisis in the country. It is to be recalled that PSC’s planned field mission to Sudan, which was slated for February, could not take place as Sudan’s military authorities were reluctant to receive the delegation.

25 October marked first anniversary of the coup, which derailed the civilian-led transition process and plunged the country into a protracted political instability. Tens of thousands of protesters marched on the anniversary of the coup, demanding a return to civilian rule. The 25 October 2021 coup was staged just a few months before the military’s handover of the chairship of the Sovereign Council—a body composed of the army and civilians with the task of overseeing the transition—to the civilian leadership as agreed in the 2019 Constitutional Declaration. It apparently aimed at pre-emptively averting both the risk of security sector reform and the concomitant potential loss of the military’s role and influence in the economy & politics of the country and the risk of accountability for alleged human right violations – past and present. The military authorities led by al-Burhan justified the 25 October seizure of power as a necessary step to put the transition back on track and improve the worsening conditions of the country.

One year after the coup, the socio-economic, political, security and humanitarian situations of the country indicate a downward spiral. In his 2 September 2022 report to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General noted that ‘the lack of political agreement and of a fully functional Government contributed to insecurity in various parts of the country, as well as to the deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation.’ Intercommunal conflicts and armed banditry in West, North and South Darfur, West Kordofan, Kassala, Blue Nile States have spurred with the latest intercommunal violence in Blue Nile State reportedly killing over 220 people. International partners and financial institutions have suspended their financial assistance until the restoration of civilian transition. The ongoing political impasse and rising insecurity coupled with global dynamics as marked by food price spike, as well as the suspension of financial assistance by international partners and financial institutions on account of the Coup have sent Sudan’s economy into free fall. The year-on-year inflation in 2022 is estimated to remain high at 245.1 per cent, according to UN Secretary-General’s 2 September report. The socio-economic condition is further compounded by natural disasters, including flash floods.

On the political front, the military coup has also continued to face stiff resistance from the streets despite a heavy crackdown that reportedly killed hundreds of protesters since 25 October 2021. Despite some hopes in recent times, breaking the political deadlock on some of the sticky points on how to restore a civilian transition remains as elusive as before. In a televised speech on 4 July 2022, al-Burhan announced army’s withdrawal from the political dialogue facilitated by the UN-AU-IGAD trilateral mechanism to ‘allow space for political and revolutionary forces to form a government of national competencies’ to lead the transition period. He further pledged to dissolve the Sovereign Council, following the formation of an interim government, and establish a Supreme Council of Armed Forces composed of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, which will be responsible for security and defence tasks and ‘related responsibilities’, in consultation with the government. This is seen as an attempt to keep the security forces from required reforms and there is still lack of clarity and disagreement among different actors over the exact mandate & composition of the envisaged Council as well as the need for civilian oversight.

Meanwhile, military’s announcement of withdrawal from the political negotiation has placed the ball in the court of the civilian actors to reach on a consensus for an interim government and the way forward to the transition. Currently, efforts are underway to forge unity, the drafting of constitutional declarations by the Sudan Bar Association (SBA) being an encouraging step in this regard. In August, the SBA unveiled a final draft of a new transitional constitution, which saw the participation of wide range of stakeholders from the Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC), resistance committees, the Communist Party of Sudan, as well as rebel groups. The draft constitution is hoped to replace the August 2019 constitutional document if it succeeds in garnering support from majority of Sudanese stakeholders. Around mid-October, the FFC, which was part of the 2019 power-share deal and continued to remain an important political actor, rolled out its political vision for the restoration of the transitional civilian government based on the SBA’s draft constitution. The vision reportedly proposes to, among others, form a technocrat cabinet, amend the Juba Peace Agreement, and a Security and Defence Council under the chair of a civilian Prime Minister. However, nature of the cabinet (technocratic versus party cabinet), the role of the military in the transition, status of the Juba Peace Agreement and duration of the transition remain contested issues.

In the short term, appointing an agreed Prime Minister and establishing an interim civilian government seem priority in the move towards the restoration of a civilian transition. However, getting the country on a path toward sustainable peace and democracy requires reckoning with longstanding issues that have become divisive and continued to shape the political state. This would necessitate reforms in the governance architecture of the state under a new constitution, civil-military relationship including security sector reform, transitional justice and accountability and reforms in the economic sector.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. Among others, Council may express its concern over the growing insecurity and deterioration of socio-economic and humanitarian conditions of Sudan amid the ongoing political deadlock. It may call on Sudan authorities to urgently address sources of insecurity and take appropriate measures to ensure peace and stability of conflict hotspots, including the full implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement. It may also highlight the importance of breaking ongoing political deadlock and bring the transition back on track to resolve multidimensional challenges facing Sudan. Council may express concern over the slow pace of progress towards the restoration of a civilian transition for whose disruption the military coup is to blame. Council may urge civilian actors to expeditiously agree on the appointment of a Prime Minster and establishment of a civilian interim government and urge the de facto military authorities to commit to the principles on civilian oversight on the defence and security forces and civilian leadership over defence and security decision-making. Council may commend the UN-AU-IGAD tripartite mechanism for its effort to facilitate the Sudanese-led and Sudanese-owned consultations among the various actors. Council may encourage these actors to engage in a political dialogue to build consensus on the outstanding issues to restore the civilian transition, including the transitional bodies, role of military in the transition, and duration of the transition. Regarding the status of the Juba Peace Agreement, Council may welcome the recent training of the first batch of nearly 2000 troops from the signatory armed groups to the peace agreement and may further call on Sudanese authorities to expedite the training and integration of the remaining forces of the armed groups. Against the background of the violent responses of the military authorities toward peaceful protests, Council may call on the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly and ensure the non-use of disproportionate force against peaceful protests and to reiterate its previous call on Sudanese authorities to undertake a credible investigation into the killings of protesters and other violations since 25 October coup and held perpetrators accountable.