Sudan: Bashir, Opposition Opt for Negotiations

Since mid-December, protesters have taken to the streets in towns and cities across the country to protest price increases and to call on President Omar al-Bashir, in power for 29 years, to step down. The protests began in Atbara and have spread to other cities and towns, including Gedarif, Wad Madani, Port Sudan, Dongola, El Obeid, El Fasher, Khartoum, and Omdurman.

After four months of street protests, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and the opposition have reached a deal to negotiate a transitional government.

However, the two opposition sides are yet to agree on the duration of the transitional government and its composition, as well as what forum will be used for negotiations.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) wants a two-year transitional period led by President al-Bashir but the opposition led by the Sudanese Professionals Associations (SPA) want a four-year of transition.

One of the achievements of the protests is that President al-Bashir has dropped his plans to change the constitution and contest for a third term.

However, this means that elections that were scheduled for April 2020 are now in doubt NCP, after the parties struck a deal for a transitional government.

The ruling NCP wants to use the National Dialogue Conference that folded in 2016 to be used as the forum for negotiations, but the challenge is that opposition parties such as the National Umma Party (NUP) and the Popular Congress Party (PCP) were not part of the dialogue.

Mathias Muindi, an independent political risk analyst focusing on the Horn and the Great Lakes, says there is no legal framework for negotiations unless the parties agree to convene another forum outside the Constitution.

"The SPA insists that the Declaration for Freedom and Change that is manifested in the demonstrations be the basis for negotiations and comprise the transitional government and yet nobody elected them. The only way is to go by the precedent set by the 1964 and 1985 revolutions in which the transition was led by a collegiate presidency," said Mr Muindi.

He noted that while the discussion of transitional government is ongoing, nobody is talking about the security forces that are central to the stability of Sudan.

"The opposition is just focussing on the exit of al-Bashir forgetting that he is only the public face of the military that has been behind him since he came to power in 1989," added Mr Muindi.

The other challenge is that what united the opposition is their desire to oust President al-Bashir but otherwise have no common ideology.

Those opposed to President al-Bashir are divided into five groups -- the armed groups mainly in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile represented by Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement -- Minni Minnawi and Southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).

The second group is the urban intellectuals oscillating around SPA that comprise 22 groups led by Sudan Call of Yasir Arman. This group does not want any negotiations and wants President al-Bashir out as soon as possible.

Sudan Call recently withdraw from the African Union Roadmap negotiations led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, which has been mediating for the end of armed conflict in Sudan.

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