After seven months, give or take, it is way too early to say Sudan’s experiment in democracy has failed. Sudan’s SNC (Sovereign National Council or Sovereign Council) first officially convened on August 20, 2019. On September 8, 2019, SNC chairman General Abdel-Fattah al Burhan and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok swore in Hamdok’s cabinet ministers, forming the new transition government. Hamdok, a civilian chosen by the FFC (Forces for Freedom and Change) democratic coalition, took office under immense pressure and then he had to select a cabinet military and civilian members of the SNC would approve. August 20 was supposed to mark the beginning of Sudan’s 39 month-long transition to civilian governance, but the civilian government didn’t form until mid-September. When did it begin to function? Good question. Given the array of difficulties and uncertainties, when the government failed to form a transitional parliament (with appointed members) before the end of 2019, most Sudanese were willing to give Hamdok more time. Besides, the distribution of appointed seats depended on settling the internal insurgencies that afflict Sudan (Darfur, the Two Areas, eastern Sudan, etc.). Hamdok has made some progress in those negotiations. He has used parliamentary representation is a diplomatic tool. The problem is that regional conflicts involve distinct local issues that require time to resolve.
The usual elite suspects are saying so far, so good and more time is needed. We do know the SNC’s military officers continue to exercise considerable power, both overt and covert. The SNC generals all served under former dictator Omar al Bashir and at least one of them, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (nom de guerre Hemedti) is implicated in Bashir-era corrupt business practices. He also commanded the Rapid Support Forces militia, which traces its roots to the Janjaweed militias which waged genocidal war in Darfur. His career is marked by corruption and genocide. Yes, Prime Minister Hamdok faces complicated problems and complicated people. He also confronts assassination. That’s the past month’s big news, the March 9 attempt on Hamdok’s life. The attempt failed but it sent the message that Hamdok must rely on the security forces for his own protection. Meanwhile, Sudan’s economy continues its steep decline, its remains on the U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism list, and the covid19/Wuhan virus has struck. (Austin Bay)
March 20, 2020: Sudan’s transitional government announced it has abolished the “Islamist committees” created during the Bashir dictatorship. The committees were used to persecute Christians and other non-Muslims. Persecution included confiscating Christian church properties and property belonging to Christians.
March 19, 2020: The South Sudan “troika” of Britain, Norway and the U.S. issued a joint statement praising the formation of the executive branch of South Sudan’s RTGONU (Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity). The statement also praised the renewal of the UN peacekeeping operation.
March 18, 2020: South Sudan’s new transitional government held its first cabinet meeting. President Kiir called on ministers to help root out corruption and warned them to personally avoid stealing public money. Vice President Machar (the former chief rebel leader) reinforced Kiir’s warning by calling corruption a stigma. He pointed out that unless corruption is eliminated the people of South Sudan and the world will not trust the new government. The new cabinet includes a female defense minister, Angelina Teny. She happens to be Machar’s wife. The new petroleum minister, Puot Kong, served as one of Machar’s chief aides.
The Sudanese government announced that it has reached an agreement with the SRF (Sudan Revolutionary Front) rebel alliance on several Darfur-related issues. Darfur will be reorganized as one state (again). Another key issue is allowing the state to use its own tax revenues for services to local communities. Sharing funds generated by the sale of Darfur’s natural resources is another issue.
Sudan and Turkey are in a diplomatic squabble ignited by fear of the covid19 virus. Sudan is now refusing to let Turkish Airlines flights to land in the capital (Khartoum).
March 17, 2020: In eastern South Sudan (Jonglei state), several thousand people have fled fighting between the Lou Nuer tribe and Murle tribe. Fighting is also occurring next door in Boma State, recently renamed the Greater Pibor Administrative Area. The Pibor area has oil fields. Peacekeepers are protecting some 8,000 civilian refugees at its base in Pibor. The towns of Likuangole and Manyabol have suffered heavy damage from the tribal warfare.
March 16, 2020: In southern Sudan (Two Areas or South Kordofan and Blue Nile states), the SPLM-N/Agar rebels signed a memorandum with the government that could serve as the framework for a peace deal in the Two Areas.
March 15, 2020: In Sudan general Dagalo, the SNC Deputy Chairman said that Sudan will mediate discussions between Egypt and Ethiopia with the goal of reaching an agreement on how to fill and operate GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam). The dispute over the GERD involves Nile River water rights, which Egypt considers an issue of national survival. Officials say the GERD is about 75 percent complete.
In southern Sudan (South Kordofan), unidentified gunmen shot and killed a senior leader in the local Islamic Daawa organization. The Islamist organization had close ties to the Bashir dictatorship. It was allegedly involved in the harassment of non-Muslim religions.
March 14, 2020: In southern Sudan (Blue Nile state) the government closed local kindergartens, schools and universities due to concerns that the covid19 is spreading.
March 13, 2020: Sudan has rejected an Arab League resolution that supports Egypt’s position on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The rejection amounts to a statement by Sudan that it supports Ethiopia. Ethiopia has promised to provide Sudan with hydro-electric power generated by the GERD.
March 12, 2020: South Sudan announced the official establishment of its unity government. The negotiated terms of this new government mean president Kiir will control 20 government ministries. First Vice President Machar and his SPLM-IO rebel coalition will control nine. Two of the nine under SPLM-IO control are two of South Sudan’s most important ministries, the Defense Ministry and the Petroleum Ministry.
March 11, 2020: In Sudan members of FFC (the largest reform group) told the transitional government that Sudan does not need outside aid from donor nations and the IMF. Rather, the transitional government should concentrate on recovering money stolen by corrupt officials and military officers.
March 10, 2020: In eastern South Sudan (Pibor region), UN peacekeeper commanders criticized government officials for failing to take action to stop tribal violence there.
March 9, 2020: In Sudan (the capital), prime minister Hamdok survived an assassination attempt. The prime minister described the incident as a “terror attack”. An explosion stopped Hamdok’s motorcade and gunfire targeted his SUV. One bodyguard was wounded. Senior Sudanese justice officials called the assassination the work of professionals.
March 6, 2020: In Sudan, gasoline and bread shortages are once again causing political outrage in. On the black market, a gallon (four liters) of gasoline cost around $23.00. According to one recent estimate, Sudan has an annual inflation rate of 60 percent.
March 5, 2020: In Sudan members of FCC are frustrated with the way the new government has selected and organized the Anti-Corruption Committee (officially the National Empowerment Elimination, Anti-Corruption, and Funds Recovery Committee). The committee is supposed to investigate Bashir regime members and their associates who stole public funds or used their power to acquire business concessions. Critics contend that the Committee’s powers are being “devolved” to state committees that will be less effective. To be fair, the Committee has a tough job but has taken on some very formidable foes. In early February the Committee dissolved the administrative board of the Central Bank on Sudan and 11 other banks. The senior leaders in all of the banks had close ties to the Bashir regime.
March 4, 2020: In South Sudan, a UN study reported that local leaders have been creating conditions that can lead to a “sustainable peace.” The February 22 swearing in of rebel leader Machar as First Vice-President was a major step. However, major problems remain. There is an urgent need to increase the ability of UN peacekeepers to protect returning refugees. The police components of the peacekeepers are sending police experts to work closely with the South Sudan National Police Service in order to upgrade the service’s policing capabilities.
March 1, 2020: South Sudan has a starvation problem because six million people lack adequate food supplies between February and April 2020. This hunger problem is complicated by the presence of 1.47 million internally displaced people and a total of 2.2 million refugees.
February 29, 2020: The EU (European Union) agreed to give South Sudan $108 million to support the transition to democracy.
In western Sudan (Darfur), the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) militia took control of another local gold mine. The RSF is still commanded by accused war criminal Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and already controls several gold mines in the country. The RSF sells the gold without government supervision or proper contracting and accounting procedures. In 2017 the RSF seized North Darfur state’s Jebel Amer gold mine. Critics claim the RSF and Dagalo exert significant control over three other goldmines in Sudan and illegal gold sales have made Dagalo a wealthy man. Reformers contend the outlaw gold mining operations are examples of how the RSF, and other security services, run a “parallel economy.” Dagalo continues to serve on the SNC. Reformers believe Dagalo’s economic and political power confirms the deep-seated corruption tolerated and encouraged by former dictator Bashir, has not been eliminated.