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Skepticism about Sudanese military's calls for dialogue

Analysts believe the recent call by Sudan’s military leaders for a dialogue to overcome the ongoing political crisis will not lead to any results.
Muslim devotees pray on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in al-Jarif suburb, Khartoum, Sudan, May 2, 2022.

CAIRO — Political deadlock has prevailed in Sudan following the actions of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Transitional Sovereign Council, on Oct. 25, 2021, to dissolve the military-civilian Sovereign Council and the government, impose a state of emergency and suspend work on some provisions of the constitutional document.

Since the army assumed power on Oct. 25, 2021, the Sudanese people have been taking to the streets of Khartoum, denouncing the deteriorating political, social and economic conditions, refusing any negotiation or partnership with the military component of the authorities and demanding a return to the democratic transition of power led by a civilian government. Meanwhile, the security forces resorted to arresting activists and politicians.

Amid the faltering political scene in Sudan, the opposition’s rejection of any partnership or negotiation with the military component, and the failure of all local and international initiatives and mediations to achieve calm, the military leaders in Sudan — represented by Burhan and his deputy Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, generally referred to as Hemedti — have been calling for dialogue with their opponents. 

Most recently, on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr May 3, the leaders called on the need to unify ranks, renounce differences and unify visions in order to overcome the current crisis and reach a solution to the political crisis.

Hussein Haridi, Egypt's former assistant foreign minister, told Al-Monitor that there are no certain foundations and frameworks for a dialogue to be based on. He wondered what the goal of this dialogue would be.

“It is now clear to the whole world that the political forces in Sudan are demanding full civilian rule. But is the military component willing to accept this principle, even in theory? And more importantly, does the military component recognize the entitlement of full civilian rule? When will this be implemented, and can the military council and the political parties agree to manage the transitional phase democratically together?” Haridi asked.

The resistance committees, local groups of revolutionaries leading anti-coup demonstrations in Sudan, have repeatedly announced their refusal to enter into any dialogue with the military component, raising the slogan of the three no’s: no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy.

Haridi noted that the absence of dialogue between the two sides is due to the fact that neither is concerned with the unity and future of Sudan. “Their intentions are not sincere. They do not want Sudan's best interest. There is no unified vision that brings together the civil forces and the army. The armed forces are not the guardians of nations. They are the protectors of nations. As long as the army still believes it is the guardian of Sudan’s future, and that its duty is to protect the constitutional order of the country, we will remain in this vicious circle.”

He added, “The fastest way out of the crisis is forming a constituent body to draft a permanent constitution for the country, the terms of which are agreed upon, and then presented to the people of Sudan in a referendum declared to all local and foreign media. With this constitution, a new stage would be established in the history of Sudan.”

In a May 6 press statement, El-Hadi Idris, head of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella of former rebel groups, said that a partnership between the SRF and the military component will be in a different and new way that preserves the role and tasks of each party without one party usurping the tasks and jurisdiction of another. “The partnership that took place in 2019 led to the situation we are living in now,” he noted.

Idris stressed the SRF’s serious endeavor, through initiative and serious dialogue, to return the power to civilians, noting, “We have no other choice, anything else will lead the country to collapse.”

Former Egyptian Ambassador to Sudan Mohamed el-Shazly told Al-Monitor that Burhan turned against legitimacy and carried out a full-scale coup, be it by dissolving the government or arresting political figures, or appointing members of the current Sovereign Council without any consultations with civil forces. “After all that, he is now calling for dialogue. How would that be possible? Since the coup, Burhan has been facing a dead end. Calling for dialogue is a pointless political stunt; the parties rejecting the military component as head of state will not accept this.”

He called for the need to quickly respond to the wishes of the Sudanese people. “The Sudanese army has led the country to the brink of an abyss. Since the independence of Sudan in 1956, the Sudanese army has contributed to leading the country into many crises, and led to the division of Sudan, the separation of South Sudan from Khartoum in 2011, and created many crises in the Sudanese street, including the crises in the Darfur region and in eastern Sudan. Burhan must thus step aside and make way for efficient civilian [leaders] to manage the next stage and end the state of conflict and division within Sudan.”

Ahmed al-Mufti, a Sudanese political analyst and legal expert, told Al-Monitor that there is no alternative to dialogue. “The only alternative is the use of force, which will lead to fighting between the demonstrators and the military component. The losing side in the power struggle will never surrender, and political instability would prevail in the country in the absence of dialogue.”

Sudan’s Emergency Lawyers Group, which monitors violations against the Sudanese, accused in a May 6 statement the Sudanese authorities of torturing 25 protesters who were recently arrested and imprisoned in unknown locations. “The Sudanese authorities are still detaining some figures of the resistance committees, while Burhan has declared his intention to release detainees and prepare for dialogue,” their statement continued.

Mufti believes that the resistance committees are responsible for the absence of dialogue in Sudan. “This is due to their lack of political experience and raising the slogan of the three no’s, in addition to international parties exploiting their enthusiasm as young people and pushing them toward paths that do not lead to the stability of Sudan, but rather further complicate the political scene,” he concluded.