New council sparks tug of war between Sudan’s poles of power

Observers point to a deep-rooted crisis of trust between the military and civilian components of the transitional authority.

The formation of the Council of Partners for the Transitional Period (CTPP) in Sudan ignited a sharp dispute between the poles of power, namely the military establishment, the Forces of Freedom and Change and the Council of Ministers. Numerous statements rejected the new body or expressed reservations about it.

The head of the Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced last week the formation of the 29-member CTPP and granted it many powers.

The civilian parties in the transitional authority quickly expressed opposition to the move, while some expressed reservations about the way it was formed and the wide powers it is set to wield.

Opinions differed about the newly-born council. Some described it as a “coup” and others considered it a “hegemonic move” on the known levels of government in the transitional period, namely the Sovereignty Council, ministers and the legislative branch. Yet, a third camp welcomed the initiative as a solution to end conflicts and divisions that have taken place during the first period of the transitional process.

Analysts say that the ongoing dispute goes beyond the issue of the CTPP. In reality, they say, it is a tug of war between two opposed poles of power, each trying to impose itself as the ultimate decision-maker in Sudan.

Observers point to a deep-rooted crisis of trust between the military and civilian components of the transitional authority, saying that each side seems inclined to attack the other at every turn, making it difficult to predict how the remainder of the transitional period will pan out.

On August 17, 2019, the (dissolved) Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change signed a constitutional document on power-sharing during the transitional period.

The document specified the formation of the Legislative Council three months after the start of the transitional phase, that is, last January, but this body has yet to see the light.

On November 2, the Sovereignty Council and the Council of Ministers approved amendments to the original document and issued the “Constitutional Document for the Transitional Period (amendment) for the year 2020,” which stipulated the formation of the Council of Partners for the Transitional Period.

The Forces of Freedom and Change initially supported the council’s formation, even naming civilian representatives within it, but then it retreated from the whole process, expressing scepticism about the intentions of the military component in light of some of the provisions in the formation document that are subject to many interpretations.

The Forces of Freedom and Change considered the real purpose of the CTPP to be to further delay the formation of the Parliament of the Transitional Period (Legislative Council), which is entrusted with enacting laws.

— Dispute about disputes —

In addition to Burhan and the four other military members of the Sovereignty Council, the proposed Council of Partners for the Transitional Period will include one more officer, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the Rapid Support Forces, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. On the civilian side, there will be 13 representatives of the Forces of Freedom and Change (the ruling coalition) and 5 leaders from the Revolutionary Front (armed movements).

On October 3, the government and representatives of the Revolutionary Front signed a peace agreement in Juba.

According to the council’s formation act signed by Burhan, the CTPP will be in charge of managing the transitional period in a way that serves the supreme interests of Sudan, resolving differences in viewpoints between the various parties and mobilising the necessary support for the success of the transitional period and the implementation of its tasks. The decision also included one article stipulating that the Council be granted any other powers necessary to implement its tasks and exercise its powers.

This article sparked broad controversy and was strongly rejected by the Council of Ministers and the Forces of Freedom and Change. On Friday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, the most prominent component of the civilian alliance, totally rejected the formation of the CTPP.

The association issued a statement saying that it represents a “new circumvention step” to delay the formation of the Legislative Council.

On the same day, the Council of Ministers announced in a statement its rejection of the formation of the Council, and called on all parties to revise the decision to form it and its terms of reference in light of the constitutional document in force.

In a statement on Saturday, the Forces of Freedom and Change called for Burhan’s decree to be cancelled until a consensus about the matter is reached, in line with fulfilling the tasks of the revolution. The Resistance Committees, which led daily demonstrations in neighbourhoods until the fall former leader Omar al-Bashir, also announced it rejected the formation of the CTPP and called for protests against the parties to the transitional authority.

With the increasing wave of opposition, Burhan said on Saturday that the Council of Partners for the Transitional Period was agreed upon with the Council of Ministers, and that it was a proposal that came from the Forces of Freedom and Change. He stressed that the Council will work to solve differences between the parties to the transitional authority, saying that it is “not a tool of guardianship over the state.”

Amir Babikr Abdullah, a writer and political analyst, said that the amended constitutional document stipulates that the CTPP will be devoted to resolving disputes between power partners, and not to play legislative or executive roles. “But the question remains: is there a necessity for the presence of a Council of Partners now, or should the importance be given to having the Legislative Council in place?” he said.

“The decision of the President of the Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, regarding this council, encroaches on executive and legislative powers, contrary to the stipulations of the constitutional document, and that is what is rejected by the political parties and the executive authority,” he explained.

Babikr does not expect “the differences between the parties of the authority regarding the council will expand to the point that it (the CTPP) will be cancelled, and it is most likely that its powers will be limited to resolving disputes and it will not be given other roles.”

Shams El Din Daou Al-Bayt, director of the Democratic Thought Project, a non-governmental organisation, believes there was no need for a constitutional clause regarding the council. “There is no need for a coordinating and consultative body between the transitional period partners as a constitutional body … because it (the process) is by its very nature consensual and driven by political will, so there is no need to mention it in the constitutional document in the first place,” he said.

He thinks that “the popular rejection of this council is increasing, and the best option would be to cancel the decision lest this council become a source of tension during the transitional period.”

The amendments to the constitutional document introduced last November, included extending the transitional period by 14 months, to be ended with elections.

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