On Saturday 2nd September 2023, the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) organised a public symposium, titled "Sudan: The Pathway to Stability, Peace, and Democratic Transition." The symposium agenda included three segments presented by members of the Executive Board of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC): Mr. Elwathig Elberir, Secretary-General of the National Umma Party; Mr. Babiker Faisal, Head of the Executive Office of the Unionist Alliance; and Eng Omer Eldigair, Chairman of the Sudanese Congress Party. The event took place in the Main Auditorium of the Cultural Foundation at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS). It was moderated by Dr Ghassan ElKahlout, the Director of CHS, and was attended by a wide range of Sudanese and non-Sudanese figures from different intellectual and political backgrounds, including academics, diplomats, researchers, and journalists interested in Sudanese affairs.
In his opening remarks, Dr Ghassan ElKahlout emphasised that CHS is an independent research institution that provides cross-disciplinary academic studies that address the causes and effects of conflicts, humanitarian crises, state fragility, and conflict resolution in the Arab world and beyond. He also reaffirmed the Center's support for the efforts aimed at ending the devastating war in Sudan, indicating that the only solution to this crisis lies in consensus and achieving a democratic transition that establishes a democratic civil government system in a state governed by law, in which human rights and basic freedoms are protected.
In his first intervention, Mr Elwathig Elberir provided specific insights into the future of Sudan after the eruption of war on April 15, 2023, noting that this war has exhausted the country, destroyed the infrastructure and the economy, and created catastrophic humanitarian conditions, which requires an urgent political solution that can end the war, restore stability, and rebuild what has been destroyed. Elberir explained that the efforts of FFC and the other political and civil forces are focused on two main paths to address the crisis.
The first path is to accelerate the achievement of a permanent ceasefire and hostilities, address the humanitarian crisis, open corridors for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and facilitate the return of the displaced to their homes, which requires intensifying diplomatic efforts, mobilising internal and international support, unifying initiatives, and supporting the Jeddah negotiating platform, which has reached advanced stages and is gaining acceptance from both sides of the conflict. In this context, he referred to the efforts of FFC in communicating with both parties to the conflict, the Saudi and American mediation delegations, and other regional and international parties in support of reaching an agreement that ends the war.
The second path is to work on establishing a broad civil front that includes all political, civil, and societal forces demanding an end to the war, supporting democratic transformation and institutional reform, and agreeing to design an inclusive political process to reach a clear national project to save the country from disintegration and address all the roots and causes of the conflict to move the country to a stage in which democracy can be realised.
The second intervention, presented by Mr Babiker Faisal, focused on the framework agreement and the extent of its contribution to the outbreak of the current war and the role of FFC in this context. Mr Faisal also explained that the FFC leadership was under pressure due to its refusal to align with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) against the army, whilst reiterating their willingness to cooperate with both sides of the conflict "to save Sudan." The speaker continued his intervention by pointing out that the FFC leadership decided to come up with a transitional constitution draft through the Steering Committee of the Sudanese Bar Association. He said that the constitution draft was not agreed on by the FFC only, but rather by all movements that signatories of the "Juba Agreement for Peace in Sudan"—the Popular Congress Party, the Original Democratic Unionist Party, the Republican Party, and the Ansar Sudan group.
He added that the framework agreement did not grant the Rapid Support Forces independence, as some claim, as they were forces founded and empowered by the previous regime through a 2017 parliamentary law with the approval of the National Congress Party, which was the ruling party for thirty years. He also pointed out that the FFC disagree with the fact that there is more than one army in Sudan, emphasising that the framework agreement stipulates that the Rapid Support Forces be integrated into the armed forces within a wider security and military reform effort in the country. He stressed that the FFC condemned the grave crimes and widespread human rights violations committed by the Rapid Support Forces.
The third intervention came from Mr Omer Eldigair and highlighted the way forward towards stopping the war and restoring the path of democratic civil transformation, during which he explained that the war represents an existential threat to Sudan. Mr Eldigair expressed his belief that the only solution to "get out of the crisis" is to stop the war, complete the Sudanese revolution, and begin political, economic, and institutional reforms. He pointed out that the peacebuilding process requires a unified will on the part of the Sudanese people and collective action to get out of this crisis.
The symposium was followed by a question-and-answer (Q&A) session with the audience, where they highlighted a variety of topics, which generally revolved around responding to the different viewpoints of the FFC's positions on the current crisis, their diplomatic efforts to stop the war, the future of the war, and the political process in Sudan. The speakers listened to diverse viewpoints on the political proposals and initiatives on the Sudanese scene and their prospects.
To this end, we acknowledge and understand that emotions are running high in brotherly Sudan whilst the war is ongoing and that public discourse is highly polarised at the present moment. The Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) reiterates its commitment to the principles of open dialogue and discussion and respecting divergent opinions on various issues.
CHS has previously hosted many dialogue sessions related to Sudan with the aim of bridging and convening a pluralistic range of political viewpoints. This session was the first in a newly launched series of planned events organised by the Center to bring together other active Sudanese parties and convene dialogue on the possible pathways to ending the war and supporting civilian transition. The platform offered by this symposium is an independent academic initiative, and it is an opportunity to open a dialogue between academics, politicians, and experts to present ideas related to Sudan's future.