Can Peace, Stability be Restored in Sudan?


By Solomon Dibaba (ENA)

The political jigsaw puzzle and the total crisis that griped the Republic of Sudan much earlier during the Presidency of Hassen Oumer Al-Bashir culminated in a coup that swiftly toppled government on the 11th of April and a takeover of power by a Transitional Military Government (TMC). 

Although the demise of Al- Bashir’s regime was most expected and welcomed among the Sudanese people, the joy was short-lived by the bloody collusion that flared up between the TMC and Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change. This resulted in the death of some 100 Sudanese who encamped in front of the country’s Ministry of Defense followed by the decision of AU’s Peace and Security Council to suspend Sudan from AU membership “until the effective establishment of a civilian led Transitional Authority”.

While an unprecedented tragedy is looming in its neighboring country, Ethiopia did not opt to sit on the fence. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed traveled to Sudan to mediate between the TMC and the Sudanese opposition.

Later on AU and the USA had sent delegations to Sudan in an effort to find a solution to the stalemate in the country.

Earlier reports indicate that the TMC and the opposition had tentatively agreed to resume talks while the demonstrators have agreed to cease the civil disobedience campaign as the result of efforts made by Special Envoy of the Prime Minister Abiy, Ambassador Mohammed Dirir.

Repercussion for the Horn Geo-politics:

The Horn of Africa denotes the region containing the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Historically, Greater Horn of Africa also includes The Republic of Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya.

Ever since the advent of the Berlin Conference in 1884-85 and the opening of the Suez Canal, the regional has always been a bone of contention between rival European colonial powers over the previous century. History seems to repeat itself.

Quite a few countries including the U.S., France, Italy, Japan and China have established military basis in Djibouti with an apparent attempt to contain the Iranian dominance in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East and to protect their economic interests in East Africa and the rest of Africa as well. The area became a potentially volatile bone of contention.

The political and economic crisis that cropped up between the Saudi led coalition in the Persian Gulf and Qatar coupled with the apparent quest from Iran to pause as dominant power in the region creating a bi-polarity of competing forces is gradually spilling over to the Horn of Africa.

This is further complicated by the recent resurgence of terrorist organizations in the Sub-Region. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Peace and Security Sector Director, Commander Abebe Muluneh recently told ENA that “terrorist organizations are trying to exploit the state of instability in some countries of the region. The situations are being exacerbated by the fact that these terrorist organizations are already employing drone technology for their terrorist actions.”

As stated earlier, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been taking initiatives of restoring peace and stability in Sudan in line with the spirit of African Union Peace and Security Council’s (PSC) decision that “the Sudanese stakeholders are the sole authors of their destiny.” The Council decisively opposes the interference of other forces in the issue given the allegation that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Arab Emirates are supporting the TMC. The Council banned Sudan from AU membership “as it is the only to allow the Sudan to exit from the current crisis.”

While is so natural that Prime Minister Abiy could take the peace initiative in line with Ethiopia’s foreign policy objectives and AU Council decisions, a number of media outlets have attempted to link the arrest of the leadership of SPLA north with the visit of the Prime Minister which in fact was appreciated by all those who wish to see peace and stability in Sudan. Ethiopia is already committed to resolving the crisis in Sudan and parties to the conflict will soon continue negotiations.

Prospects for Sudan Crisis:

Sudan has experienced protracted social conflict, civil war, and, in July 2011, the loss of three-quarters of its oil production due to the secession of South Sudan. Ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Darfur, and the Blue Nile states, lack of basic infrastructure in large areas, and reliance by much of the population on subsistence agriculture, keep close to half of the population at or below the poverty line.

Any internal crisis in Africa leads to huge displacement along with major food and health crisis. Sudan’s economy is already in a state of fragility.

Given the galloping rate of inflation in the country, the skyrocketing food price including bread led to a series of demonstrations and finally Sudan fell to the intervention of the military and the resultant takeover of power.

With negotiations still in a state of limbo and with the apparent interest of several countries to gear the situation towards their own national interest, it would not easy to accurately predict the outcome of the situation.

On the other hand, the situation in Sudan can create a safe-haven for mushrooming of terrorist groups that are already operating in the Maghreb Sub-region. Finding a sustained solution to the current crisis in Sudan is the only option to ascertain peace and stability in the Greater Horn of Africa.

It is clear that Sudan is still in an emergency crisis. There is a profound divide between the Sudanese protest movement, which is led by the Alliance for Freedom and Change. However, a lot of breathtaking work has been done already to restore peace and tranquility in the country. As a result, African Union-Ethiopian brokered initiative has opened now a window of hope to cease the catastrophe in Sudan.

“The Alliance for Freedom and Change received the draft AU-Ethiopia peace proposal. The new proposal calls for a civilian-majority ruling council as demanded by protesters, but it fails to mention the make-up of a new transitional parliament.

The move comes after Sudan’s ruling generals requested the mediators from the AU and Ethiopia to unify their efforts and come up with a joint proposal on the country’s transition. An earlier proposal drafted by Ethiopia had stipulated a transitional parliament of 300 lawmakers, with 67 percent of them from the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The remaining 33 percent were to be from other political groups, excluding now ousted Ethiopia’s initiative was built on previous agreements between the military and the protesters. It also tackled the disputed makeup of the sovereign council, proposing a 15-member body with eight civilian and seven military members, with a rotating chairmanship.

The Ethiopian proposal also stipulates that the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.

Restoring Peace and stability in Sudan is a must not only for the country but also for the entire Greater Horn of Africa and beyond. Efforts need to continue until peace prevails in the country.