November 23, 2019

Sudan after al-Bashir: the U.S. supports a civilian-led transitional government

By Guido Lanfranchi.

After the forced resignation of former Sudanese ruler Mr. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan is in the midst of a delicate political transition, with civilian and military entities competing for power. In this context, the United States voiced its support for a civilian-led transitional government, set to put the country on the path of democracy.

“We support the formation of a civilian-led transitional government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people”. These were the words – loud and clear – repeated several times by Ambassador Donald E. Booth, the United States’ Special Envoy for Sudan. Speaking after a meeting of the Friends of Sudan group – a group of countries interested in supporting the Sudanese people to meet their goals – the U.S. Special Envoy sent a clear message: civilians, rather than members of the military, should lead Sudan’s transition towards democratic elections.

Over the last few months, Sudan has been confronting a complex political transition. In April 2019, facing pressure from demonstrations across the country, Sudan’s longtime ruler Mr. Omar al-Bashir relinquished power. In the wake of al-Bashir’s fall, however, civilian organizations and the military started to compete for leading the country’s transitional government – which is supposed to set Sudan on the path towards democratic elections. In this competition, tensions have at times run high, with Sudan’s security apparatus using the force against the civilian demonstrators. Successful mediation efforts – led by Ethiopia and the African Union – eventually led to the signature of a joint political declaration on July 17th. 

Commenting on the wake of these events, Ambassador Booth noted that while the political declarations offers a good base for further dialogue, “there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted”. He mentioned the importance of open issues such as the relative roles and powers of the Sovereignty Council, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and the Legislative Council – thorny issues that will have to be addressed in order to successfully manage the country’s transition towards democratic elections.

While voicing the U.S.’s position on Sudan’s transition, Ambassador Booth also clarified that drafting a solution to these challenges remain a prerogative of the Sudanese people. “The U.S. reaction will depend upon what the Sudanese actually agree upon, and then also, as we say, the broad support of the Sudanese people for any such agreement”. At the same time, however, Mr. Booth clarified that the U.S. will continue its engagement in support of freedom in the country – for instance by supporting the journalists and humanitarian actors active in Sudan.

Ambassador Booth also voiced U.S. concerns over a number of human rights violations, including the use of force against the demonstrators during the June 3rd events – when the military violently dispersed civilian gatherings in the country. In this regard – he noted – negotiations are still ongoing on the establishment of a credible investigation on the events, as well as on the potential provisions of immunity for members of the Sovereignty Council.

Therefore, while progress has indeed been achieved in Sudan, much remains to be done yet – Ambassador Booth stressed. “The sooner that Sudan can establish a civilian-led transitional government, it can begin then to address issues of reform and moving forward to a better future”. 

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