Sudan is undergoing a major transition following the 11 April ouster of Omar al-Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders. The strongman’s toppling, prompted by a sustained, peaceful campaign by a diverse and well-organised protest movement, raised hopes that the country might make a transition to more inclusive, civilian-led rule. That transition has been halting and is fraught with risk, with the old military regime showing little appetite for real change. Sudan matters not least because it sits in one of the most geostrategic locations on the continent, straddling the Horn and North Africa, with a long Red Sea coastline, and serving as a historical bridge between North and sub-Saharan Africa. Through field research and advocacy with Sudanese and international actors in the region, we aim to reduce the likelihood of conflict inside Sudan and encourage a genuine transition to more inclusive governance by Khartoum and an attendant shift toward positively engaged regional and international relations.
Sudan's transition is in deep trouble, and Crisis Group’s Sudan expert Jonas Horner explains why on this week’s episode of the Horn. President Trump’s recent promise to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism may not be enough to mitigate the spiralling economic crisis.
U.S. removed country from State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list, govt and rebel groups formalised Aug peace deal, and violence erupted in east. U.S. President Trump 23 Oct signed order to remove Sudan’s SST designation after Sudan transferred $335mn to escrow account for victims of al-Qaida’s 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; Trump same day announced Sudan and Israel had agreed to normalise relations. In South Sudanese capital Juba, govt, rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front and Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi 3 Oct formalised Aug peace deal; Sovereign Council and cabinet approved deal 12 Oct and its incorporation into constitutional declaration 18 Oct. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu 29 Oct began talks with govt aimed at bringing group into deal. In east, ethnic Beja 3-6 Oct demonstrated in Port Sudan, Suakin and several other towns in Red Sea state against peace agreement’s “eastern track” and called for self-determination for eastern Sudan; protesters 5 Oct killed police officer in Haiya town. PM Hamdok 13 Oct dismissed ethnic Beni Amer governor of Kassala state after months of Beja protests opposing his Aug appointment; in following days violence erupted in Red Sea and Kassala states leaving at least 30 dead by 20 Oct; notably, clashes between Beni Amer and Beja 14 Oct killed six in Suakin; security forces 15 Oct confronted Beni Amer protesters in Kassala city, leaving seven protesters and one soldier dead. In South Darfur state, fighting between factions of holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur displaced more than 4,500 in Sharg al-Jabal area throughout month; clashes between ethnic Fellata and Masalit 20-22 Oct left at least 14 dead in Gireida locality. In capital Khartoum and other cities across country, thousands 21 Oct demonstrated against dire economic situation and poor living conditions; security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Khartoum, reportedly killing two.
Mounting economic turbulence is rocking Sudan’s delicate political transition. Without urgent donor assistance to provide economic relief to a suffering population, public support for the cabinet’s reform agenda could collapse. Any failure in the civilian-military government could have tragic consequences for Sudan and the region.
Sudan’s post-Bashir transition holds the promise of civilian rule but also perils, among them renewed insurgency, economic stagnation and backsliding into autocracy. Outside powers should press the military to adhere to its power-sharing pact with the opposition. Authorities in Khartoum should pursue peace with rebels.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
Ethiopia is building a mighty dam on the Blue Nile, promising economic benefits for both itself and Sudan. But Egypt fears for its freshwater supply. The parties should agree on how fast to fill the dam’s reservoir and how to share river waters going forward.
Popular protests are rumbling across Sudan, shaking President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year grip on power. The authorities have cracked down hard and, as the demonstrations intensify, they may ratchet up the repression. External powers should urge restraint and offer Bashir a way to the exit.
By 12 October, Washington will decide whether the steps Sudan has taken qualify it for lifting some U.S. sanctions. But to push forward afterwards will require a new roadmap that ties further sanctions relief and improved bilateral relations to political reform and human rights.
The military [...] simply has not had the time nor shown the will to address violence in the way that many rural Sudanese would need to see in order to put down their weapons.
Sudan’s economy is in freefall and there has been limited international assistance.
Sudan has been pretty isolated for a long time. It is very keen to get off this [terror] list. This is the carrot.
The violence [in Sudan] has triggered a wave of sit-ins across the region, demanding authorities protect civilians from the militias, who are scrambling to secure their gains now that Bashir has gone.
The transitional government and the international community [in Sudan] must move quickly to avert an economic collapse and accompanying disintegration of the transitional dispensation.
The attack [in Sudan] may have the effect of increasing the solidarity between the civilian and military components of the transition.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell and William Davison, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, discuss Ethiopia's plans to start filling the massive dam it is building, including the complex dynamics at play, negotiations, and the parties' varius concerns.
With rains swelling the Blue Nile, Ethiopia is just weeks away from beginning to fill the massive dam it is building. Egypt and Sudan demand that it not do so without an agreement. All three countries urgently need to make concessions for a deal.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell and David Mozersky, co-founder of Energy Peace Partners and a former Crisis Group project director for the region, discuss the conflict in Darfur, UN climate goals and the international community’s carbon footprint.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell joins five Crisis Group analysts to analyse the pandemic's political and economic implications.