Dec 7, 2022 - World

Skepticism as Sudan's military and pro-democracy group ink deal

Sudan's military and civilian leaders are seen at the signing ceremony of a political framework agreement in Khartoum, Sudan, Dec. 5, 2022.

Sudan's military and civilian leaders are seen at the signing ceremony of a political framework agreement in Khartoum, Sudan, on Dec. 5. Photo: Mohamed Khidir/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Sudanese military and the country's coalition of civilian parties signed a political agreement on Monday, but there is still a lot of skepticism about whether it will truly lead to a transition to democracy in the country.

Why it matters: The agreement could be a first step toward the exit of the Sudanese military from the political system and the establishment of a full-fledged civilian government, though the specific details still must be worked out. The deal also doesn't have the support of several key players.

Catch up quick: The December 2018 uprising, which eventually saw the ouster of 30-year ruler Omar al-Bashir, was followed by a power-sharing agreement between the military and the Forces of Freedom and Change, a coalition of different political parties and factions that demonstrated against al-Bashir.

  • But on Oct. 25 of last year, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan staged a military coup that ended the partnership model and briefly jailed members of the government, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
  • Al-Burhan has struggled ever since to form a government that enjoys domestic and international support. A tripartite mechanism was established consisting of the UN, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development with the goal of brokering an agreement that would see a return to civilian rule.

Driving the news: On Monday, al-Burhan signed what was described as a framework agreement with civilian parties and called for the formation of a civilian government.

  • According to the agreement, the head of state and commander in chief of the military will now be a civilian, which means that al-Burhan may be on his way out, though he is expected to remain as commander of the army.
  • The agreement also stated that the civilian prime minister, who holds executive powers, will preside over the Defense Ministry and security council.
  • The Sudanese Armed Forces “shall be subject to the institutions of the Transitional Authority and shall not be used against the Sudanese people, nor shall they interfere in political affairs," the agreement added.
  • Another significant, yet symbolic, clause in the agreement states that both civilians and military commit "to the criminalization of all forms of resorting to violence, extremism, military coups, or deviating from constitutional legitimacy and undermining the democratic system."
  • The agreement has set a new transitional period that will last 24 months from the date that a new prime minister is appointed after which elections will be held.

Yes, but: So far the major ex-rebel groups, who supported the coup and are seen as allies to the military, have voiced strong opposition to the agreement and warned that it will backfire.

  • It remains to be seen if they will change course, particularly after the agreement received international backing, including from the U.S., EU, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt.
  • Some protesters, including pro-democracy Resistance Committees, have also rejected the agreement.

What they're saying: Al-Burhan has pledged to abide by the agreement and that the military will withdraw from the political scene while urging parties to prepare for elections.

  • The commander of the strongest militia in the country — the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (Hemedti) —who is also Burhan’s deputy, acknowledged in remarks this week that the coup staged last year was a “political mistake” but said it was a result of shortcomings of the transitional period.
  • Al-Burhan however, disputed his deputy’s characterization and insisted that the coup was a "necessity."

What's next: All sides will now continue to negotiate a final deal that will also tackle contentious political issues.

  • It is not clear how long the process will take, but the Sudan Transitional Sovereignty Council suggested it will be a matter of weeks, which many analysts believe is a very optimistic time frame.
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