Little progress on Sudan power-sharing talks as opposition group voices concerns

The main opposition cited disagreements inside the group over the constitutional document as well as dissatisfaction with the political paper.

CAIRO - Power-sharing talks between Sudan’s political forces and the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) were staggering a short time after the two sides agreed to form a sovereign council to manage Sudan’s affairs during the country’s political transition.

Officials of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the main opposition group, said a new round of negotiations on a constitutional document that compliments the political paper had been postponed.

They cited disagreements inside the group over the constitutional document as well as dissatisfaction with the political paper.

“The coalition needs to conduct more internal consultations to reach a common vision,” said Omar al-Dagir, an FFC leader.

There was already heightened scepticism over Sudan’s political players’ ability to move beyond the power-sharing deal signed July 17.

“The deal is a good step but the road ahead is very bumpy,” said Ibrahim Ezzeddine, a leader within the Sudanese community in Cairo.

The TMC, which took over after the downfall of the Omar al-Bashir regime in April, signed the deal with the FFC early July 17 after 11 hours of Ethiopian- and AU-mediated negotiations.

The formation of a sovereign council of 11 members, including five army generals, five FFC members and a civilian, was agreed to. One of the generals will lead the Sovereign Council for 21 months and an FFC member will lead it for 18 months during Sudan’s transition.

The agreement opens the door for a peace process in Sudan within six months and calls for the initiation of action by Sudanese authorities to rescue the economy and introduce reforms to state institutions and the military establishment.

There were hopes that the agreement would end tensions between Sudan’s political forces and the TMC, after months of unrest and bloodshed.

The United States supported the deal amid concerns about Sudan’s descent into state failure and violence. “The situation is still fragile. There are still spoilers out there,” Tibor Nagy, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said. The deal was “absolutely a step forward,” he added.

Ethiopia’s representative in the negotiations, Mohamed Dirir, described the deal as “historic.”

“This is a decisive moment in Sudan’s history,” Dirir said.

Two-thirds of Sudan’s population is considered poor, government figures indicate. The country has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the United States since 1993. In October 2017, the United States lifted most economic, trade and financial sanctions it imposed on Khartoum in October 1997 but the Sudanese economy continues to suffer repercussions of the sanctions.

Perhaps that is why most of those present welcomed the deal.

Lieutenant-General Hamdan Dagalo, TMC deputy chairman, said the agreement would open the door for a new partnership.

However, not everybody in Sudan shared this optimism, including some FFC political forces.

The Sudanese Communist Party said the deal gives the TMC more control over Sudan. It said in a statement that the deal overlooks the need for getting rid of the remnants of the al-Bashir regime, bring corrupt al-Bashir-era officials to court and return money stolen by the regime.

The Revolutionary Front also objected to the deal.

The Network of Sudanese Opposition Journalists said the deal had failed to create new realities for the Sudanese people.

Hassan Abdel Zaher is a Cairo-based contributor to The Arab Weekly.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.