Whither Sudan?

The prospects for Sudan brightened considerably last Friday. The military and pro-democracy forces reached a power-sharing agreement that should end a three-month political crisis that has paralyzed the country and led to dozens of deaths following a brutal assault on peaceful protesters by the authorities.

The two sides will form a joint sovereign council to lead the country during a transitional period of three years and three months. The council will include five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An eleventh seat will go to a civilian chosen by both parties. One of the military members will (Read more…) over the council during the first 21 months, followed by a civilian. The protest leaders will choose the members of a cabinet to be formed independently of the military.

The Sudanese suffered 30 years of dictatorship under Omar Hassan al-Bashir until he was ousted in a military coup in April after massive protests. Unfortunately the military, as is their custom, indicated the government would remain in their hands. Protests continued and the military began a brutal crackdown. After tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Sudan’s main cities, the generals backed down and rejoined negotiations that resulted in the deal.

The pro-democracy forces did make concessions, for example leaving a general as head of the council for 21 months, however they achieved a cabinet that will be independent of the military and an investigation into the killing of protesters.

Cynics suggest the agreement will just give the military time to consolidate their power, particularly as they retain control of the security forces. And no doubt the ultimate result will depend on whether or not the generals behave themselves. Nonetheless, the people are optimistic. “Today, our revolution has won and our victory shines,” read a statement by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, the group that has led the protests. Let us hope that the revolution has indeed won, the victory will continue to shine, and we may soon welcome Sudan into the community of democracies.