Sudan: Military Council and Oppositions Talks - the Continuous Game

One of the TC and FFc meetings last April

On the calendar today is the 30th anniversary of the Ingaz regime. Yet it is not history that people are celebrating and drawing lessons from. Rather it is about the future and more specifically how to disentangle from the current political mess in which the country is embroiled in since the removal of former Omar Al-Bashir.

In fact it is more than just changing guard at the top. It is now 81 days the country is being run without a functioning government including 28 days with an internet blackout. That in itself summarizes the weakness of the political class and its inability to make some breakthrough leading to a tangible change. The bloody breakup of the sit-in before the army headquarters came to add a new dimension to the state of lack of trust and block the fragile channel of communication between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the main opposition block of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).

In such environment mediation becomes a necessity. It was in the end the Ethiopian initiative on behalf of the IGAD teaming up with the African Union (AU) mediation that was tabled before the two combatants end of last week and received an initial acceptance. Yet a deal is a sealed one only when it is signed, which is yet to happen.

It remains to be seen whether the joint initiative armed with the AU threat to impose more punitive measures will move forward or it will be bogged down on procedural issues. Both TMC and FFC have indicated their acceptance in principle.

But obstacles remain. The joint initiative focused on the practical side that is to push both combatants to work together. And that is why it delayed the controversial issue of setting up a legislative council given the dispute on percentages and its mandate. The TMC harbors worries that the parliament will promulgate laws that will eventually indict them and is arguing that such task should be left to an elected parliament and government.

However, this is just one of the examples that reflect a deeper intentions from the TMC to play an executive role and not to be content with a ceremonial role as suggested for the sovereign council. The set-up of the contact committee with the rebel groups is one salient example. That committee headed by Deputy Chairman of the TMC General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo wasted no time and paid a timely visit to Chad where he met the two Darfur rebel groups of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minnawi (SLM-M) and signed a declaration that reiterated commitment to ceasefire. In fact for more than two years unilateral ceasefires have been announced by both the government and rebel groups in Darfur and the SPLM-North, but the new factor in the last one it was for the first time a ceasefire document is signed by both parties. Moreover, both rebel groups led by Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Minnawi are members of FFC and regardless of any explanation, the move could be seen as weakening of FFC and that motion towards peace has already started away from the FFC.

There are rumors that there is a lot of activity behind the scenes to forge ahead with the peace process through TMC. Rebel groups usually prefer to have their peace agreement with those who fight them. Even in the joint initiative security institutions like the army, the Rapid Support Force and police are left to the TMC including appointing ministers of defense and interior that oversees the police.

Such a move raises the possibility that the initial acceptance of the joint initiative could be used more to test the other side mainly the FFC. Part of the building measures suggested is to avoid taking steps that could be seen as provocative like the call for a nationwide demonstration today to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Ingaz regime and reiterate the call for the TMC to hand over power.

Though political developments move by the hour, but there is enough signals that the expected breakthrough for a deal between the TMC and FFC that will pave the way for handing over power, set up a civilian government is not there yet. And it is more likely that more time will be wasted on continuous game of scoring points.

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