Sudan: Talks, Talks... and More Talks

The delay in the much anticipated constitutional accord between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) that was scheduled for Friday, shows yet again how bumpy the partnership between the two will be, but more how the FFC needs to streamline its positions regarding a long list of issues that needs to be handled.

FFC asked for a 72 hours delay to help it work on two tracks: overcome reservations from some forces within its camp led by the Communist Party and allow more time to its delegation in Addis Ababa that was negotiating with the Revolutionary Front to take it on board and be part of the interim arrangements being negotiated.

This last round of delays that adds to the three months spent so far since former President Omar Al-Bashir was deposed shows clearly the level of the uphill battle experience that FFC has to go through. That should not be a surprise given the very composition of the FFC. It is a rainbow coalition of professionals, political parties, rebel groups and NGOs that have been unified by their willingness to work towards removing the Ingaz regime from power.

Though there is a general agreement on resorting to peaceful means, but outlooks on how to negotiate and strike deals remains a divisive issue. And will continue to be so. The other factor is that the main credible force within this rainbow coalition is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which can't be by its very nature a political force. SPA has been spearheading the fight against Ingaz regime, where its calls for anti-government demonstrations were met with good response from the popular base. But what started as a call for improving professionals working and living conditions has escalated into a call for the regime to step aside. And that is why it does not have a political future as every one of its professional components has its own political agenda and program.

This signals to a potential problem down the road regarding the role of the political parties in the forthcoming democratic experience as those young generation, who played the leading role in toppling the regime seem to be more apolitical, at least in its current form of conventional political parties. However, that is an issue to be dealt with later. Now the main issue is how to bring the rebel groups on board and sign in for an interim period that ends the current state of political and economic impasse.

Interesting enough to note that those rebel seems close to join are the very one grouped under the Revolutionary Front, namely the SPLA-N faction led by Malik Agar, the two Darfur rebel groups Justice and Equality Movement and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minnawi faction. They are the ones involved in talks with former regime through Mbeki's AUHIP making little headways over the years.

Yet in terms of real influence they are overshadowed by the group led by Abdel Wahid Nur in terms of substantial presence in the IDP camps in Darfur, or SPLA-N-Alhilu, who has a relative arms power. Both were not involved in former or current peace talks. But may come under pressure to join now that the Ingaz regime has been toppled and it is better to give peace a chance.

The regional and international mediation has been pushing both TMC and FFC to join hands and work together since the alternative will be push the fragile conditions in the country to the brink of chaos that nobody wants.US assistant secretary Tibor Nagy has been warning both Egypt and Ethiopia that it is not in their interest to have another Libya and Somalia on their borders and even went as far as engaging Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, known for their sympathy towards TMC.

All this stems from Sudan's geostrategic position. It is this very strategic concern that pushed Britain back towards the end of the 19th century to reconquer Sudan to secure the Nile waters and its interests in Egypt.

The agreed upon three years period will have host of issues to deal with them and guarantee the very existence of the state. Better add how to enhance the country's strategic value that have pushed neighbors and international players to lend a helping hand. The main concern will be how to turn this into an indigenous ability to stand up to the difficult task of laying the ground for democratic transformation.

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