Sudan's military removed President Omar al Bashir from power on April 11, but the country's stakeholders are only now beginning to shape a new government. Before the country can organize elections or rewrite the constitution, however, authorities must grapple with how to outline a sustainable transition process that facilitates reform, provides effective governance and improves relations with the outside world.
Sudan's opposition is making its presence felt when it comes to determining the country's future direction. On April 28, the Transitional Military Council, which took control of Sudan after overthrowing longtime President Omar al Bashir on April 11, reached an important agreement with opposition parties under which both sides have agreed to form a joint military-civilian council.
The opposition parties, represented by the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, had abandoned negotiations with the military over Sudan's future last week, but the Transitional Military Council renewed its efforts to accommodate their concerns. In the end, three generals resigned from the council amid civilian accusations that several members of the council represent Islamist or al Bashir-era factions. At present, the military council and the civilian coalition are continuing negotiations to determine the composition of the joint panel and whether it will rule for two years, as initially announced by the military, or four years, as demanded by opposition parties.
Why It Matters
The agreement shows that Sudan's opposition parties and protesters possess the strength to sway decisions by the Transitional Military Council, which has proved itself willing to act pragmatically. While the civilian protests in Khartoum helped the military oust al Bashir, these same demonstrations limit the army from exclusively controlling the transition process. In the end, the country's military elites can't govern effectively without the buy-in of the mobilized protest movement. The demonstrators' agitation will likely usher in significant domestic reform and smooth over relations with other countries that expressed concerns with the military's plans to rule for several years before organizing elections, allowing Sudan to perhaps obtain more economic support or convince Washington to remove Khartoum from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The country's military elites can't govern effectively without the buy-in of the mobilized protest movement.
On its own, the Transitional Military Council possesses little sustainable legitimacy, meaning the protest movement is forcing it to confront some of Sudan's more controversial issues. One such issue is the prominence of Islamist factions in the country. At present, the main Islamist party, the Popular Congress Party, has not participated in the negotiations to form a joint military-civilian council, while the military has even been forced to remove Islamist military leaders from its own panel. Still, in an attempt to mitigate potential resistance from religious conservatives, military leaders did stress that they would not make changes to the legal system, which is based on Shariah, before any elections. Nevertheless, disagreements between protesters and the Popular Congress Party may soon come to a head, as evidenced by demonstrators' interference with a party meeting in Khartoum on April 27. Ultimately, Sudan will have to go through a rocky transition process featuring the interests of various stakeholders until elections can install a more legitimate political system.