June 5, 2019
At least 35
protesters were shot and killed by the Sudanese army in Khartoum on Monday. The
military was responding to protests against the interim military council
established after the toppling of Omar Al Bashir's government. The movement
that brought about Bashir's ouster has created a tenuous alliance between the
country's different regional, ethnic, and political groups, including the armed
groups in Darfur, Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains. This is the first time
such a level of unity has existed since the colonial era in Sudan, and given
the history of ethnic, religious and regional fragmentation that followed and
today's military response, it is important that there be dialogue on the issues
that can further impede stability and peace in Sudan. Sudan's army ruler
General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan said on Tuesday the country's military rulers
had decided to cancel what they had previously agreed with protesters about the
country's transition and hold elections within nine months.
important issue is dealing with what is left of Bashir's regime. The vast
majority of Sudanese agree on the necessity of dismantling the remnants of the
government and security institutions established over the past three decades.
attack on protestors will only strengthen this majority view. Dismantling the
remnants is something that, if not carried out, will make any transition
impossible, however the approaches taken in other countries where those
involved in government were effectively banished should be avoided. A
distinction should in this regard be drawn between those who were ideologically
affiliated with Bashir's regime or were promoting and implementing its agenda,
and those who were working as civil servants carrying out their duties as such.
It is the former group that should be banished.
Bashir ruled and the actions of the military today, the majority of Sudanese
also agree that the system of governance in post-Bashir Sudan should be based
on fundamental freedoms. The Declaration of Freedom and Change, which was
signed by the Freedom and Change Forces that led the uprising, and the chants
of protesters espouse freedom as a central notion.
and respecting these declarations of freedom requires a swift and full
transition to democracy. Without a democratic system, few Sudanese will trust
that the future state will not, at some point, arbitrarily interfere with their
choices, or that decisions made on a political or social system will be fully
respected. A democratic system will also ease the tensions between various
regions and groups - a longstanding issue in Sudan - and will provide a process
through which displeasure with the government could be translated into changed
policies or a new leader.
dismantling Bashir's deep state and establishing democracy are important, they
are not sufficient to maintain unity among the Sudanese and achieve peace.
There are issues, including the question of identity, related to the nature of
the Sudanese state, the recognition of differences, and the way the
relationship between the capital and the peripheries - especially war-affected
marginalised areas - has been structured.
heart of the question of identity is that, despite Sudan's tremendous ethnic
and religious diversity, the Islamic and Arab components of society have
largely defined who is considered Sudanese. Those from eastern Sudan, Darfur,
the Nubians of northern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and what is now
southern Sudan have historically been marginalised as a result. The question of
identity also arose in recent negotiations between the Nuba Mountains-based
Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army and representatives from Khartoum-based
Sudanese opposition groups who were in the process of forming the Freedom and
Change Forces alliance. The former demanded that a clear position on the issues
of identity and self-determination be made and included in the founding
document of the alliance (the Declaration of Freedom and Change), but the
latter could not do so. As a result, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement
refused to join the Freedom and Change Forces.
organising the relationship between the peripheries and the centre will be one
of the deepest points of disagreement. Since independence, Sudan has been a
highly centralised government. This raises the question of how far efforts to
constitutionally mitigate the control of the central government over the
peripheries (or ending its domination) should go. Some of the questions
informing discussion in this interim period are: to what extent should the
periphery states be enabled to determine and control their political, economic,
and cultural destinies? Should the country adopt a system that recognises
self-government or autonomy for each region or just for some regions? Should
there be a federal system of government? If yes, should it be symmetric
federalism or asymmetric federalism?
to these questions will depend largely on how the other issues will be
addressed or settled. Armed and political groups from the peripheries will
argue that federalism with strong and wide powers for peripheries is the most
practical system of governance.
for the Sudanese to build on the fragile unity their historic uprising has
created and achieve sustainable peace and stability, the aforementioned issues
must be addressed. Political wisdom dictates that discussions on them start
immediately, to avoid another era of fragmentation. At the very least, there
should be an agreement on the mechanism or process through which solutions can
be reached for them.
Nasredeen Abdulbari is a doctoral researcher at
the Georgetown University Law Center and was Stoffel Scholar and a Satter
Fellow at Harvard Law School