Visuals that captured the euphoria on the streets of Khartoum on Friday were testament to the overwhelming anxiety for peace after a prolonged bout of turmoil that has roiled Sudan for the past six months.
It is fervently to be hoped that the power-sharing deal concluded by the military rulers with the Opposition will be abiding in a frequently tormented swathe of Africa, at any rate for the next three years until elections are held. Well might the average Sudanese lament the fact that the year 2019 has been lost or virtually so.
If the experience of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya is any indication, it shall not be easy either for the army or the people to restore normal conditions anytime soon. Quite the most critical feature of the agreement is that power will rotate between civilian and military members of the governing council. The inherent consensus on rotational governance between the military and the political class ~ two very different entities ~ has rarely been achieved in the continent of Africa or for that matter in the almost chronically unsettled Arab world.
On closer reflection, the upheaval in Sudan has been riveted to the fundamentals of governance. Hence the spirited demand for democracy, freedom, justice, and an end to human rights violations. It was verily a people’s movement that was marked by the removal of the country’s long-term President, a military takeover and the brutal killing on 3 June by heavily armed paramilitary forces of at least 128 protesters who were staging a peaceful sit-in, as well as the rape of many more. The resonant shrill for democratic certitudes was sought to be muffled by a brutal crackdown. Notably, the African Union suspended Sudan’s membership after the attack.
There is no indication yet that the military will dilute its agenda, as often as not a thread that runs through the cantonments. The idea of rotational governance is, therefore, intended to stave off further escalation of ignoble strife. Fears of a renewed crackdown in the moment of transition are dangerously real not the least because the army will continue to play a dominant role under the new terms of engagement. Under the agreement, the military will lead the council first, with the head of the junta, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, as its chair, and then civilians will take over.
The sovereign council will consist of five military and five civilian members, as well as a sixth so-called civilian agreed upon by both sides. He will actually be a retired military officer. As in France in 1789, the unrest in Sudan has been ignited by a rise in the price of bread. There is little doubt that the system of rotational governance will be in place on the military’s terms. According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s armed forces have a “history of broken promises, atrocities and impunity”, and the UN should carry out an inquiry into the abuses. There are no winners or losers in this internal conflict. At best, a patchwork quilt has been woven.