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Sudan Elections - 2020

Sudan's ruling generals and an alliance of opposition groups signed an accord 17 July 2019 creating a transitional power-sharing body, after weeks of negotiations aimed at breaking the political deadlock that has gripped the country since the toppling of President Omar al-Bashir 11 April 2019. Protesters had remained in the streets following al-Bashir's toppling, fearing the generals intended to cling to power or preserve some form of authoritarian rule. Long-stalled talks between the TMC and the opposition alliance collapsed after the deadly dispersal of a protest camp in Khartoum on June 3. Direct talks were later revived after mediation efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia.

The 22-clause accord said the 11-member governing body will rule the country for just over three years, after which elections will be held. It will have a total of six civilians, including five from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and five soldiers from the Transitional Military Council (TMC). The body will be headed by a general during the first 21 months of the transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months. The umbrella protest movement will nominate the prime minister, who will name a cabinet of 20 ministers, excluding the interior and defence ministers, the accord said. Soldiers on the council will appoint the two officials.

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, who was wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for gross human rights violations in Darfur, had ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades. Lawmakers amended the constitution to allow him to run for another term in 2020.

Al-Bashir repeated 30 September 2018 that his government was ready for the 2020 elections and would not postpone it, while the opposition Sudan Call launched a campaign against his re-election for a third term. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Saturday quickly denied reports about the possible postponement of the elections to give the party the needed time to improve the economic situation in the country and better prepare for the popular vote.

In remarks before an NCP youth meeting in Khartoum, al-Bashir who is also the NCP leader said elections will be held as scheduled, pointing out there is no reason to postpone it. "The Sudanese people have the right to vote. We respect their opinion and have prepared ourselves for the elections," he said. Also, the president did not exclude any alliance with the other political forces during the upcoming elections, adding that alliances could be formed to reduce the large number of political parties.

The Sudan Call alliance in Khartoum launched a campaign against any attempt to abolish presidential term limits in the constitution. The opposition umbrella said they reject scrapping term limits for the president because al-Bashir and his regime are responsible for the dismemberment of the country and collapse of its economy. "It is the duty of all of the Sudanese, to confront him and his regime through various means of peaceful resistance," stressed the statement. The alliance called on all the Sudanese to take part in this campaign and to support it, adding it would be a nationwide campaign in order to "awaken the culture of resistance and to blow up the energies of the revolution".

A UN human rights expert described as deplorable the Sudanese government’s continued repression of fundamental freedoms and abuse meted out to women to keep them in line. The findings were presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council on 01 October 2018 in a new report by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi.

Nononsi said while he welcomes positive steps taken by the Sudanese government toward reducing tensions and military operations in conflict-ridden parts of Darfur – including the collection of weapons used by various armed militia and criminals, and granting greater access by humanitarian agencies to people in need – he said he was very concerned by the large number of reports he received regarding restrictions on political rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, assembly, the press and freedom of religion.

He said Sudanese security forces reportedly use violence, intimidation and other forms of abuse to particularly silence women across the country. “Public morality offenses, including ‘indecent dress,’ discriminate against women and are limiting their movement and role in public life. Humiliating corporal punishments of lashing violate international human rights norms.… In Darfur, sexual and gender-based violence remained a serious concern during the reporting period.”

Nononsi said displaced women and girls are most victimized by conflict-related sexual violence. He said a climate of impunity in the country allows these crimes to flourish. The independent expert also criticizes government austerity measures, which led to a deterioration of economic and social rights. He said it was critical for Sudan to address the root causes of poverty and inequalities to achieve long-term stability in the country.

Bashir on 11 February 2019 called on parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for another term in a presidential election in 2020. Facing the biggest popular protests since he came to power 30 years earlier, Bashir also declared a state of emergency for one year and said he would dissolve the central government and state governments. Sudan's intelligence chief Salah Abdallah Gosh said Bashir will also be stepping down as the chairman of the ruling National Congress Party.

Bashir quit his position as chairman of the ruling party after more than two months of protests against his nearly three-decade rule, the party said. According to a party statement released on 01 March 2019, al-Bashir delegated his powers as chairman of the National Congress Party to its deputy chairman, Ahmed Harun, until the party's next general conference. No date had been set for the conference. Local media quoted Harun as saying al-Bashir took this step in order to "devote himself to the national tasks" as the country's leader.

Freedom and Change Forces [which are mainly leading protests] announced on 18 April 2019 that they will not continue to communicate with Transitional Military Council (TMC) because of the approach of the political committee of the council. the main reason for the interruption in the communication is the council’s attempt to merge the concerns of the Freedom and Change Forces with the interests of dozens of other parties, which have a long history of collaboration with the former Bashir regime. Many were actually nominal partners in the ruling coalition of the former regime.

Saudi Arabia has shown support for the transitional military government in Sudan since the ousting of the country's longtime president, increasing their influence over Khartoum. Shortly after the deposition, the governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia declared their intention to support the Sudanese military. Over the weekend, they agreed to send $3 billion (€2.6 billion) worth of aid to Sudan, including a cash sum of $500 million to be deposited directly into the Sudanese central bank. The Riyadh government also supported the former regime. They have always managed to buy followers there. Sudan and Saudi Arabia are also economically and militarily linked by the ongoing Yemeni Civil War. By 2018 around 14,000 Sudanese mercenaries were involved in battles against the insurgents.

After the communication between protesters and the council broke down, the ruling generals sent an invitation on April 24 for fresh meetings to reach a common understanding about the country’s political direction. After the crucial meeting, three prominent members of the council, which Freedom and Change Forces particularly wanted out, resigned. They included the powerful head of the National Police, the deputy director of the National Intelligence Security Services and the head of the political committee of the council. It appeared to be a win for the Freedom and Change Forces.

By 25 April 2019 Sudan’s military council, which came into power after ousting former president Omar al Bashir, seemed to have reached an understanding with the leading opposition group Freedom and Change Forces. The protesters’ main demand was the immediate transfer of power to a civilian government, which should have a full executive mandate to implement reforms proposed by Freedom and Change Forces. They also a demand for the formation of a kind of legislating body for lawmaking during the transition.

Sudan's army rulers and opposition reached a breakthrough 27 April 2019 in talks to form a joint civilian-military council. Sudan's army rulers and an opposition coalition agreed on Saturday to form a joint civilian-military council to lead the country's transition. An agreement was reached in principle to form a joint civilian-military council, but not on the division of seats in the new body.

Western governments backed the opposition's demands for civilian rule, but Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have provided economic aid to the military council led by Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Turkey and Qatar, both rivals of the Gulf Arab states, are also seeking to protect their influence in Sudan in the wake of the political shakeup.

The Transitional Military Council agreed to a three-year transition period for transferring power to a civilian administration, with parliament be composed of 300 members for the transition Around two-thirds would be from the protest alliance and the rest drawn from other political groups.

Talks broke down on 20 May 2019 over whether civilians or generals would have control of a sovereign council meant to run the country for the next three years before elections. Talks between a coalition of protesters and opposition parties ground to a halt amid deep differences over who will lead a transition to democracy that both sides had agreed will last for three years.

A shift toward iron-fisted repression immediately followed a tour in late May 2019 conducted by the head of the TMC, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Dagalo, of the three countries that had been the main backers of the military regime: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE’s ruling crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, pledged to help the Sudanese generals “preserve Sudan’s security and stability.” Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known by his nickname Hemedti, assured the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Sudan's continued participation in the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen's government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Hemedti led the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) — a group which has their origins in the Janjaweed militia. They are accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2004.

A Canadian firm signed a $6m deal with the Sudanese military council to help lobby foreign governments on behalf of the TMC. A lobbying contract signed in May 2019 between the Montreal-based Dickens & Madson Inc. and Sudan's military council says the company will help lobby the governments of the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation and others for "the beneficial development of your political aims". "We shall use our best efforts to ensure favourable international as well as Sudanese media coverage for you and we shall further undertake to obtain financing for you from the United States, the Russian Federation and other countries," the document said. "We shall also strive to obtain funding and equipment for the Sudanese military." The document was signed by Rapid Support Forces's (RSF) commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, and Ari Ben-Menashe, the company's president and a former Israeli intelligence officer and arms dealer.

The Ethiopian proposal includes a Sovereign Council that consists of 15 members. Seven of them are to be civilian, seven military and the 15th member is to be an impartial civilian that both sides must agree upon. Also, the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) would get two-third of the seats in a transitional parliament. Parliament would then be allowed to nominate a cabinet. The African Union initiative reduces the representation of the AFC in the transitional parliament to 55 per cent. Many details about the AU proposal were still unclear.

On 24 June 2019 the AFC accepted the Ethiopian mediation proposal on an interim government for Sudan. The Transitional Military Council (TMC) has reservations and wants the proposal to be integrated with the mediation initiative of the African Union. The spokesman for the AFC, Babikir Feisal, said that the AFC accepted all the points of the mediation proposal of the Ethiopian mediator. The military junta and its deputy chairman Hemeti always rejected the two-third representation of the AFC in parliament. This explained the junta’s reservations about the Ethiopian initiative and its demand to integrate it with the African Union initiative.

The plan by Ethiopia to give civilians the majority in a new Sudan transitional government was flatly rejected by the ruling military council. The junta accused the Ethiopian initiative - in which the military and the protest movement would have seven seats each and independent head - of attempting to impose a specific proposal on the parties. "That is unacceptable because its violates the sovereignty of Sudan. Sudan is not accepting any external intervention that is trying to impose any kind of solutions without our opinions and consultations," Transitional Military Council (TMC) spokesman Shams Aldin Al-Kabashi said.

The 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur was currently suspended given the absence of a legitimate government and the suspension of the national constitution by the Transitional Military Council. This further complicates matters. The situation in Darfur was therefore linked to the political process currently taking place in the country.

Sudan's ruling military council said 29 June 2019 the proposal submitted by the African Union (AU) and Ethiopia received on June 27 is suitable for the resumption of talks with the opposition on a transition to democracy. "A number of points have emerged around it, but in general it is a suitable proposal for negotiations to reach a final agreement leading to the establishment of the institutions of a transitional rule," TMC spokesman Lieutenant General Shams al-Din Kabashi said. The make-up of a legislative council would only be decided after the agreement was signed. In previous drafts, the Freedom and Change opposition alliance was to make up two-thirds of that council.

Sudan's ruling generals and a coalition of protest and opposition groups have reached an agreement to share power during a transition period until elections, in a deal that could break weeks of political deadlock since the overthrowing of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April. Both sides agreed to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council that will rule the country by rotation "for a period of three years or slightly more", Mohamed Hassan Lebatt, African Union (AU) mediator, said at a news conference on 05 July 2019. Under the agreement, five seats would go to the military and five to civilians, with an additional seat given to a civilian agreed upon by both sides.

"We would like to reassure all political forces, armed movements and all those who participated in the change from young men and women … that this agreement will be comprehensive and will not exclude anyone," added Dagalo, who also heads the feared paramilitary unit Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accused by the demonstrators of crushing the sit-in outside the military headquarters.

Omar al-Degair, a leader of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), an umbrella organisation of opposition groups, said the agreement "opens the way for the formation of the institutions of the transitional authority, and we hope that this is the beginning of a new era".

A purported coup attempt in Sudan on 11 July 2019 coincided with further talks between the country's military council and pro-democracy movement on a power-sharing deal in the wake of April's military ouster of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir. In a statement, General Omar (pictured center) said: "Officers and soldiers from the army and National Intelligence and Security Service, some of them retired, were trying to carry out a coup." He said the bid was put down by "regular soldiers."

Sudan’s protest umbrella group, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, agreed on 15 August 2019 to nominate veteran economist Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister of the three-year transitional government. Hamdok was expected to be formally appointed on August 20 and take a constitutional oath the following day. Hamdok was deputy executive secretary of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (UNCEA) from 2011 until October last year when he stepped down. Hamdok had also previously worked at Deloitte & Touche, the International Labour Organisation and the African Development Bank.





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Page last modified: 31-10-2019 16:46:51 ZULU