Sudan: Military and Opposition Talks - Last Round?

Sudanese professionals, military junta brief western diplomats

Today (Saturday) will show whether the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Declaration of Freedom and Change (DFC) forces will engage again in talks to finish negotiations that will, eventually and hopefully, usher the country into a new era.

It is not clear whether the TMC will take the first step in initiating the contacts with DFC since it abruptly announced the 3-day suspension last week. Though it has been declared that more than 80 percent of issues have been settled into the past two sessions including the main structure of sovereign, executive and legislative bodies, their mandate and figures, but the little remains represents the most sticking point: namely the supreme council that represents the country's sovereignty who has the final word in every issue.

DFC wants that council to be manned mainly by its members with a minority for the military as an appreciation for their role in deposing the Ingaz regime. Moreover, it has being emboldened by clear statements from bodies like the African Union, the United States and the European Union that they want to see power transferred to civilians. Ignoring such advice means the continuation of the country's isolation and inability to secure sizeable help be in economic field like moving towards relieving the country's mammoth foreign debt amounting to close to $60 billion or the more serious issue of bilateral relations with the United States and start the process of removing Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism with all its ramifications.

TMC on the other hand sees for itself a more central and commanding position, not only because of its leading role in removing Al-Bashir from power, but because of the security threats facing the country from home grown rebel movements and the turmoil engulfing the region starting with neighboring Libya.

Besides the composition of the supreme council there is the issue of who is going to lead it or whether it will go for rotation as happened before.

However, the scene is not dominated by these two players only: TMC and DFC, though they are the most influential. On the military side and in addition to the army there is the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the National Intelligence and Information Services (NIIS), who put their hands with the army to depose Al-Bashir and see for themselves a stake in coming period.

As for DFC, an opposition is building up against its monopolization of the political process during the 3-year interim period. It comprises those left over either from political groups that were allied with the deposed regime or members of National Congress and the Islamic Movement, who were shunned from any political engagement for the time being.

It is a typical situation replicating what Sudan went through following the second popular uprising in 1985. The Islamists then were seen as political outcast given their alliance with the deposed May regime up to one month before its collapse.

To make a comeback they have positioned themselves as a staunch supporters of the army and a rallying point for the followers of the deposed regime. All under the banner of defending the Islamic sharia.

Though the bitter experience of the Ingaz regime will question any call claiming defending Islamic sharia, but in the political game what counts most is the ability to organize, commitment and resources.

However, the issue is not how credible such move will be, but whether the TMC will go for utilizing such development to stall and retract on its commitment to transfer power fully to the civilians.

If things are to take that course it will represent a challenge and an opportunity for the DFC to step in and fill the power vacuum through implementing the already agreed upon the executive and legislative bodies.

Yet such a step will not be that easy to take without the approval of the TMC, otherwise it will risk either setting a government with no real power or more seriously create competing power centers, an alternative that DFC have already dismissed.

But more important is how DFC is unified in its vision and programs that will govern the interim period. The past few weeks have shown foot dragging in taking decisions and that is understood for an alliance with multi-faceted approaches to various issues. But the current situation requires a more disciplined undertaking.

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