On the evening of the 3 October, the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) hosted a public symposium entitled "Sudan in Transition: Charting a Pathway to Renewed Civilian Rule".
CHS's Multi-track National Dialogues Facilitation
The first session of the symposium began with welcome remarks delivered by Dr. Ghassan Elkahlout, Director of CHS. He began by emphasizing that CHS is as an independent research institution in the production of knowledge in the areas of conflict management and humanitarian response. CHS aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and supports efforts of constructive dialogue including through facilitating multi-track national dialogues that seek to serve peace processes by building common ground.
Dr. Elkahlout indicated that according to the Arab Opinion Index (API) 2019-2022, an annual survey conducted by the Arab Center, there is a state of popular dissatisfaction with the political situation in Sudan. The API finds that 67% of respondents evaluated the situation in Sudan as bad to very bad. This finding was during the more optimistic transitional period after the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir. Since then, the October 2021 coup and subsequent deviation from the widely hoped for civilian transition has occurred, and the situation today can be judged to be worse and more complicated. This is particularly the case given the failure in establishing the government, which was expected at the beginning of 2022. This impediment to the democratic transition process confirms the urgent need to formulate a comprehensive and integrated peace process that will ultimately lead to stability, development, and transition.
The Sudanese Political Structure and the Absence of a National Project
The first session of the symposium began with short remarks by the moderator, Mrs. Nafisa Hajar, Vice President of the Darfur Bar Association. The first speech was presented by Dr. Mohamed Yousif Ahmed Almustafa, Professor at the University of Khartoum, followed by an intervention by Ms. Hala Yassin Elkarib, Executive Director of the Horn of Africa Women's Network.
Dr. Mohamed Yousif indicated that it is important to describe the current crisis in Sudan in a certain way, so one can set rules for launching a productive dialogue. He explained that at the present time a state of recognition of the crisis has emerged amongst some Sudanese social groups, while others in Sudan did not recognize the existence of a crisis, and a third group saw it as a temporary crisis. He believes that there is a need to recognize that the crisis in Sudan is deep and continuous and can be prolonged, and in order to move forward, it is necessary to think deeply about the crisis. This calls for leaving the stultifying discourse of the crisis and starting to think seriously and make real efforts to address the crisis.
The speaker emphasized that dialogue does not take place through the majority of the powerful or by force, but rather by consensus among all people. It is very important - according to Dr. Mohamed Yousif - to point out the sources of the current crisis that the Sudanese state is experiencing. The first of these is the continuous absence of an agreed upon national project. There has always been a project, but it is not agreed upon, and this is the source of the crisis. He explained that Sudan was formed through a process whose essence was military coercion. He indicated that it is very important to carry out the national project in a conscious way to ensure the satisfaction of the Sudanese and that it is possible to convince the Sudanese to be part of this project, because it unites all people and defuses the hostility and separation between them.
In turn, Mrs. Hala Al-Karib pointed out that since 1955, Sudan has been captive to the syndrome of civil war, and for more than sixty-five years, the Sudanese have not been able to develop a vision to define the nature of the Sudanese state that was inherited from colonialism. Perhaps the secession of the south and the failure to deal with its cause was a blow to the structure of the state and exposure to corruption. She insisted that the 'project to govern' has never existed in Sudan, and all that exists was an attempt to control. She pointed out that since the December 1955 revolution, the moment the rule was handed over to the political elites, the ambitions of the politicians focused on seizing the master's house (the colonizer), and they did not think of building a house for the Sudanese. She explained that, with the exception of the aborted attempts of individual political leaders to find foundations for the national state, the post-independence political process remained dependent on the struggle for power and who controls the master's house.
The December revolution with its wide scope - according to Al-Karib - represented an opportunity for Sudanese politicians to think about the project of rebuilding the state. However, it was difficult to continue the process, as neither the Sudanese parties nor civil society received sufficient support, and there was no investment in the political structure of Sudan. Despite the bleakness of the current landscape in Sudan, Al-Karib affirmed that there is hope, but with caution, that the Sudanese might have an influence on the situation or change the course of things. She pointed out that the current structure does not want to create a good relationship with the people, and its main concern is to exploit resources and control people only. The speaker added that the demands of the Sudanese people are not absurd, but rather sincere aspirations and legitimate demands. They are the result of long experience and deep knowledge of the limitations of the military institution and its quest to plunge the country into the abyss.
Coalition of October 25th Coup and Democratic Transition
The second session of the symposium was moderated by Mrs. Sarah Issa, an activist on issues of democratic transition. The first intervention was delivered by Ms. Racha Awad, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Tagheer electronic newspaper, in which she confirmed that Sudan is now living in a truly existential political impasse, and therefore, to get out of this impasse, an accurate diagnosis to what is happening is essential. She opposed the claim that the coup occurred because of the civil component's divisions. She is of the belief that the coup has its own fundamental reasons, just as the October 25 coup was not the first coup of the military component against the transitional period. There was a coup after the massacre of the dispersal of the sit-in before the General Command on 3 June 2019, when the military component seized power.
The spokeswoman affirmed that the main reason for the coup is the existence of the old regime that wanted to flesh the change out only in the removal of Al-Bashir from power and then continuing the system as it is, or with minor reforms that do not affect the essence of the authoritarian structure of the ruling regime. She added that the civil alignment of the Sudanese is what produces the vision to address the world and regional community and to control and formulate the discourse directed to the Sudanese inside Sudan at first. She stressed that there are steps being taken now in this direction. She believes that this requires accelerating the pace of dialogue now because there is a political vacuum at the moment that may lead the coup's parties to take tyrannical options to advance. In this context, any adventure with uncalculated results may lead to an armed clash between the parties to the military component, which may lead Sudan to an ominous civil war.
Mr. Ahmed Alhaj, political and civil activist for the Democracy Initiative, proceeded to provide an overview on the issue of the failure of democratic forces in Sudan to manage their disputes in a democratic way as long as they seek democratic rule. He mentioned that any analysis of the political, social, and economic context in Sudan must address the many social, political, and economic forces that are fiercely contesting the redistribution of power and wealth in Sudan. He explained that there are different and multiple approaches in Sudan that make consensus difficult. He pointed out that the armed movements in Sudan are currently undergoing a major social reconsideration process, unlike the previous situation.
The symposium comes in line with the CHS's commitment and role in the promotion of constructive dialogue, collective participation, and achieving peace. CHS is currently engaging with a large group of actors in Sudanese affairs to develop a coherent vision to support the return of Sudan's transition to a democratic path under civilian rule.
The symposium was held at CHS in the Cultural Building. It was live-streamed on CHS social media platforms. Simultaneous interpretation between English and Arabic is attached.