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Moves of the Silent Majority and Shifts in the Sudanese Domestic Scene

Ambiguity overshadows the political scene in Sudan amid the current political stalemate and failure of initiatives for settlement, including the UN initiative which some political forces considered as a flagrant interference in Sudan’s internal affairs that is inconsistent with concepts of national sovereignty. At the same time, the political forces are calling for an intra-Sudanese resolution that would help the Sudanese state restore its standing.   

However, with the silent majority supporting the military in pursuit of stability and avoiding chaos, the distinct divisions among civil forces, and the zero-sum initiatives undertaken by some actors, Sudan’s political scene looms of uncertainty, particularly given the current international and regional shifts.

Popular Pro-Military Mobility 

The reality on the ground suggests that the political deadlock is on the way to détente, especially in the light of the decreasing incidence of protests and the agreement on the need to resolve the crisis within a Sudanese framework to overcome the impasse Sudan has been facing since the fall of ousted President Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.

This orientation was supported by the decisive movement of the silent majority in Khartoum, staging demonstrations on 26 January 2022, in support of the steps taken by the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which gave legitimacy to the TMC and its policies. At large, the percentage of opposition protestors who have been going out to demonstrations does not go beyond 1 percent of total protesters, a small percentage compared to previous years. Those protestors adopt illegal and subversive agendas and some of them reverted to violence as a means to fuel the already deadlocked scene against the police, which resulted in the injury of more than 100 police officers in the recent protests. Serving agendas of some regional actors, those protestors seek creating more havoc and instability by defacing public and private property.

Civil Forces’ Impasse

Meanwhile, the Sudanese Popular Resistance Committees (PRCs) postponed the announcement of the People’s Authority Charter, a new political pact that brings together all resistance committees from the different states of Sudan. Resistance Committees are popular organizations that led the popular movement in protests and demonstrations in the previous period, amidst the divisions that affected the Forces of Freedom and Change. By drawing this Charter, resistance committees aim at ending the current political crisis and reaching an agreement on constitutional arrangements that lead to the formation of a transitional technocratic government in preparation for presidential and legislative elections. Early on, PRCs declined an invitation of the head of the UN mission in Sudan for a meeting to resolve the political crisis, seeing it perpetuating internal divisions and exacerbating disputes. Basically, PRCs adhere to the principle of national sovereignty, seeing that the Sudan crisis should be resolved through Sudanese dialogue without external interventions.   

On the other hand, Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) proposed the establishment of a top-level mechanism, with the engagement of international, regional and Arab actors to support the UN initiative geared towards defusing the Sudan crisis. Additionally, the FFC is calling for eliminating the constitutional document concluded in August 2019 and promulgating a new constitution that expressly states institutions of the transitional regime and provides that the military will not engage in political activity. To that end, the FFC called upon PRCs and all the political forces in Sudan to establish a unified alliance to end the role of the military in political life. As such, it disassociates itself from the UN initiative that engaged the military and other organs of state sovereignty in consultations on the peace process.

Seemingly, the FFC is dimming after playing its significant role during the 2018 Sudanese Revolution, to become an entity of interim alliance, particularly after the defections it suffered due to conflicts among its components and affiliated organizations.    

On 17 February 2022, over 20 organizations announced their defection from the FFC under the name of the National Forces of Freedom and Change, the third defection within the FFC. The new alliance seeks to contribute to resolving the current political crisis in Sudan without exclusion or marginalization of any party.

The UN Initiative Loses Legitimacy 

This public movement delegitimized the UN initiative, with demonstrators calling on the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) to leave the country. These demonstrations coincided with a special meeting of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan in which the Minister of Foreign Affairs in-charge presented a report on the activity of diplomatic missions falling outside their universally recognized functions, which potentially suggested a sort of coordination with the military to put an end to external interventions and relieve pressures on the Military Council.

In line with these tendencies, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a report stating that some activities of diplomatic missions infringe on the sovereignty of the Sudanese state. The security and intelligence services spotted movements of some diplomats that were inconsistent with international norms and laws and violated the Rome Charter, which prompted the Sudanese Security and Defense Council to notify the UN mission to set the course of its members in Sudan.

In turn, protests and demonstrations supporting the civil forces receded, amid profound differences between components of the FFC and resistance committees, with the rise of new actors. In many respects, the division among civil forces has paved the way for the Military Council to stage the scene and restore its influence, backed by its regional relations that support its political role and maintain its leadership over the Sudanese scene, as has been evidenced by the visit of senior Sudanese military officials to some countries in the region.

The UN initiative led by the UN envoy for Sudan came to an end after its work was brought into question, considered as working against the national will. Understandably, the UN mission is seen negatively by the Sudanese as it failed since its arrival to carry out its functions and support national reconciliation. Throughout two successive governments headed by resigned Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, it didn’t provide support or advice to the aggravating crisis, despite Sudan’s approval of the Abraham Accords and the many concessions made by previous governments. This Sudanese position will undoubtedly be supported by Sudan’s friendly countries, including Egypt, Russia, and China, that may put forward new initiatives that would be welcomed and embraced by the Sudanese.

Rejection of Foreign Interventions 

There is widespread public clamor for the foreign intervention of rival international and regional actors. Those actors seek to exploit the domestic situation in Sudan in their favor through new political forces emerging in the political scene, acting as new players in the political equation. This has been manifested in the protests that took place in northern Sudan, blocking the Artery of the North road linking Cairo and Khartoum, a step that would be exploited by those actors to damage the relationship between Cairo and Khartoum, at a time Ethiopia is seeking to initiate the third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without returning to negotiations with Egypt and Sudan.

In short, the fragmentation of FFC, the divisions that ravaged it, and its emergence from the political equation in Sudan left the Sudanese political map with no influential actors that could exert pressures on the military component, after the momentum of protests slackened as a result of the internal divisions within the influential forces. Now, more than three years after the crisis, there looms in the horizon endeavors of the Western society, including some EU countries and the UN, to address the crisis, supporting the military and other organs of sovereignty towards making Sudan a stable state.

Salah Khalil
A researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Social and Historical Studies

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