Stopping the Spread of Sudan’s New Civil War
Stopping the Spread of Sudan’s New Civil War
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Alert / Africa

Stopping the Spread of Sudan’s New Civil War

Civil war is spreading in Sudan, and concerted international action is needed to stem the violence and prevent it from engulfing the entire country and the wider region.

Khartoum’s most recent military offensive -- this time in Blue Nile state -- adds to fresh fighting between government and opposition forces in Southern Kordofan and recent hostilities in Abyei. With hundreds of thousands of people displaced, at least 20,000 of whom have fled into Ethiopia from Blue Nile in recent days, the growing war on multiple fronts poses serious dangers for the country, for its future relationship with the Republic of South Sudan and for the stability of the region as a whole.

The recently renewed conflict in these three areas is rooted in unimplemented provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Khartoum’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which ended a two-decade-long north-south civil war in Sudan that cost millions of lives. Those lagging issues include the failed democratic transformation of Sudan, stymied popular consultations, and the unresolved status of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces indigenous to the North.After the end of the CPA, rather than negotiate with Sudanese opposition forces, NCP hardliners have opted for a military solution -- not an unusual policy response for the regime when confronted with opposition. This, however, is pushing Sudan’s disparate rebel movements and opposition forces together and could trigger a wider civil war for control of the country.

The CPA

The CPA was intended to lay the foundation for a new reality in Sudan, end chronic conflict and make continued unity attractive. It was premised on three major principles: fairer distribution of power and wealth between the centre and the peripheries, democratic transformation and the right of southern Sudanese to determine their own future. The CPA also granted the people of the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to conduct popular consultations to rectify the document’s shortcomings on their areas and to redefine their relationship with Khartoum.

General elections were scheduled half way through the six-year interim period (ie, by 2008), so as to widen participation in governance. In the period after the elections, the new representative government was to build on those foundations in order to consolidate reconciliation, start the popular consultations, continue review of constitutional arrangements and establish conditions that would affirm the rights of all the people of Sudan and encourage Southerners to choose continued unity of their own free will.

This never happened. The NCP and SPLM failed to hold elections as scheduled and manipulated them when they were eventually conducted, two years late in April 2010, so as to ensure majorities in their regions. Consequently, they wasted the period that had been intended to consolidate peace and unity, and the democratic transformation agenda was dropped.

The situation became volatile in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where many sided with the South during the civil war, but which remained in the North after Southern secession.  The promised popular consultations were repeatedly delayed, and even when they started in Blue Nile state on September 2010, SPLM supporters and leadership lost confidence that their demand, namely the right to self-rule, would be met by Khartoum. The situation deteriorated further when Ahmed Haroun, a man indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, was re-elected governor of Southern Kordofan in July 2011, in elections the SPLM-North candidate, Abdel Azzizal-Hilu (also Deputy Chair of the SPLM-N and former Deputy-Governor of Southern Kordofan), claims were manipulated.

Lacking real political power, the leaders of the SPLM-North were reluctant to relinquish their military forces, the former 9th and 10th SPLA divisions composed of troops from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, despite the CPA requirement that these units be demobilised or redeployed to south of the 1956 North-South border. With the CPA coming to conclusion after the South seceded, and failing popular consultations, they asked instead that a new security arrangement be negotiated that would allow for a more gradual integration of their forces into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).The NCP, weakened by the impending separation of the South, refused any further political accommodation, and Khartoum opted to remove its opponents militarily. This began with the SAF invasion of Abyei in May 2011, followed quickly by the attempt to take control of Southern Kordofan in June, and now Blue Nile state.

Internal Sudanese Dynamics

The loss of South Sudan has had a profound effect on the NCP, and senior generals led a soft-coup within the party. They have outflanked more pragmatic elements in the NCP who seek a negotiated strategy. Encouraging progress in the post-separation arrangements between North and South was blocked. More importantly, hardliners in Khartoum -- including SAF generals -- immediately rejected a 28 June framework agreement, which includes a political and a security agreement for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, facilitated by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, and signed by Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, Co-deputy NCP chairman and a presidential adviser. A few days later, President Omar al-Bashir publicly disavowed the agreement.

After conflict broke out in the Blue Nile on 1 September, Khartoum formally banned the SPLM-N, arrested a number of prominent opposition leaders and declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile state and replaced its governor, Malik Agar.

Now, the rebel forces are openly attempting to unify and pursue a policy of regime change. On 8 August 2011, Abdel Azziz al-Hilu met with the leaders of the Darfur rebel movements who rejected the Doha peace process in Kouda (an SPLM-N controlled area in Southern Kordofan), and afterwards, they announced a new alliance with a common objective: to change the regime in Khartoum by the use of force and popular uprising. Two thousand armed men linked to the Democratic Unionist Party and led by Al-Tom Hago joined this alliance. The Beja Congress of East Sudan likewise issued a statement vowing to rejoin the military opposition.

In an effort to defuse the situation, Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi met with Malik Agar and Al-Hilu in Addis Ababa on 21 August, and on the same day, he took Malik to Khartoum to negotiate a way out of the danger. However, President Bashir responded by saying his government was unwilling to engage in further external negotiations and would not commit to the rejected framework. The door for direct SPLM-NCP talks was closed.

On 8 September, the SPLM-N officially split from the SPLM, formed a new leadership structure under Agar and vowed to continue war against Khartoum. On 16 September, the SPLM-N submitted a “road map for political transformation” to Zenawi to discuss with Bashir. It lists six conditions to be met by the government before the SPLM-N would accept a cessation of hostilities, including reinstituting Governor Malik Agar, allowing humanitarian access to affected people and agreeing to international investigations into crimes committed in both Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. If Khartoum agrees to its proposals, the SPLM-N would want a mediator to negotiate the road map. Since Zenawi’s 17 September trip to Khartoum, there has been no reaction from the NCP. Hundreds of thousands are now displaced, fighting has intensified in both states, and the rainy season ends in three weeks, foreshadowing increased conflict.

The Risk of Conflict Contagion

There is a real possibility of a new era of protracted civil war in Sudan if key international actors are not able to contain it. Fighting could quickly expand both within Sudan and spill over into South Sudan. To the resurgence of war in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile will likely be added an escalation in Darfur, especially now that the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has returned from Libya and rejoined forces in Darfur.

In addition, both Sudan and South Sudan have intensified rhetoric that each country is supporting its rival’s insurgents. The government of Sudan claims that the military action by the SPLM-N is a grand plan to topple the regime in Khartoum, an agenda supported by external elements including the government of South Sudan. Juba claims the war is a northern affair and accuses Khartoum of supporting South Sudan rebellions.

The situation will escalate if the international community is delayed or disjointed in its response.

Unfortunately, the NCP no longer trusts the key interlocutors who engaged previously, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the European Union. Khartoum suspects them of indirectly encouraging regime change, including by calling for additional investigations into crimes committed in Southern Kordofan, complicating if not derailing the Darfur Political Process (a key process towards settlement of the Darfur problem after the Doha agreement), and refusing to invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute for the deferral of the ICC cases against Bashir and others. Khartoum is also sceptical of the U.S. offer to normalise relations. After Southern secession these perceptions have deepened.It is becoming apparent that the only acceptable interlocutors are the African Union High-Level Implementation (AUHIP) team supported by the regional actors and the United Nations envoy, Haile Menkerios, as well as key partners such as China and other major investors.

Two Sudans: The Need for a New Approach

The CPA period is over, and there is no coherent political framework to deal with the many remaining challenges in Sudan. Unfortunately, international attention focused on safeguarding South Sudan’s referendum and independence, and largely underestimated the impact of secession on the North.

New thinking is required to take into account a Khartoum regime now in the hands of SAF generals, a unifying opposition that seeks regime change, and an international community that seems to be losing the ability to engage coherently on Sudan’s problems. Continuing with the current ad hoc approach to negotiations and short-term arrangements to manage crises will not address the underlying causes of conflict. The various issues -- North-South negotiations, Abyei, Darfur Peace Process, and Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile -- are interrelated and efforts should be made to ensure coherence in resolving them.

What is urgently needed is a new approach -- supported by the key external actors, including friends of Khartoum -- to deal with the internal crisis in the North and the conclusion of post-CPA agreements between the North and South. The AU and UN should continue to support North-South talks, and both parties should be brought back to focus on the key agreements that must be reached, most immediate being economic arrangements.

Meanwhile, the international community should unite behind a single approach to begin addressing internal Sudan crises. A sustainable solution to these must focus on a cessation of hostilities and an inclusive national dialogue consisting of renegotiating the relationship between the centre and peripheries, and agreement on decentralisation and a redistribution of power leading to a new constitution, on the basis of which a referendum and new elections should be held.A negotiated settlement of disputes is in the interest of all parties. Neither the SAF nor the SPLM-N can achieve an outright military victory. Bashir and SAF generals must be made to understand that the current military strategy of using tribal militias, ethnic cleansing and allowing insurgencies to fester, only increases the risk of fragmentation and prolongs international interference. Likewise, the newly aligned opposition will face similar military challenges; the NCP regime is weakened but not powerless, and an alliance of the disparate opposition groups is unsustainable in the long-term. Widespread instability in North Sudan would not only exact a great toll on the Sudanese people but jeopardise the future of South Sudan. The parties should be helped by their international partners to recognise the imperative of a non-military solution.

Immediate Steps

To begin implementing the approach outlined above, mediation efforts must be streamlined, and key actors must agree on a common international strategy on Sudan. The AUHIP is facilitating the post-secession negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan (with support from the UN and US special envoys). These efforts should continue, but new leadership and the involvement of friends of Sudan are needed to convince the parties to step back from war and engage in a genuine national dialogue and key reforms.  The AU, UN and Ethiopia can be helpful, but are unlikely to deliver a comprehensive process without active engagement by others, including efforts by some key actors to re-engage the regime in Khartoum. The following steps could help build much needed consensus on the way forward:

  1. Define a new strategy: The AU, UN and Ethiopia should develop a strategy in line with the new approach articulated above: an immediate cessation of hostilities in the three disputed areas, and commitment by the parties to hold an inclusive national dialogue leading to decentralisation, a new constitution and free and fair elections. The AU, UN and Ethiopia should work to build support amongst international partners and friends of Sudan on the new way forward. This will require renewed engagement from key actors.
     
  2. Streamline the mediation: The roles of the AUHIP, the UN envoy and regional efforts under Prime Minister Zenawi should be clearly defined and the processes streamlined. The mediation efforts should have clear objectives and define a set of benchmarks to underpin resolution of the conflicts and a genuine transition to an inclusive government.
     
  3. Achieve consensus: Convening of an international conference under the auspices of the AU to build consensus on a new international strategy for Sudan. The conference should comprise a group of people representing all different blocs with a stake in Sudan and should include the AU, IGAD, Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the following countries: Egypt, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Turkey, China, India, Malaysia, India, Brazil, South Africa, Ethiopia, as well as the EU, UN and members of the troika (US, UK and Norway).

Now is the time for Sudan’s key external actors to speak in a single voice in support of a political strategy that comprehensively deals with Sudan’s spreading conflicts and that is underpinned by a clear set of principles on genuine political transformation rather than the current fire fighting approach. 

President Bashir will undoubtedly resist any further external efforts to pursue a more peaceful outcome for Sudan, but given the increasing fragility of the regime, not least its growing economic weakness, he may be persuaded to engage with a coordinated international approach.  International actors must come out with a strong voice to support a national agenda for a transition to an inclusive government. In the absence of a national political framework, and without clear international consensus to encourage and support a national peace process, the conflict in Sudan may spiral out control and engulf the region.

Nairobi/Brussels

Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.

In a 1 February 2022 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Crisis Group’s President & CEO Dr. Comfort Ero testified on the escalating situation in Sudan and outlined four main recommendations for the U.S. to help restore the civilian-led transition to democracy.

Good morning/afternoon, Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch and distinguished members of the Committee. My name is Dr. Comfort Ero, and I am the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Previously I served as the organization’s Africa program director and I have spent my professional and academic career focusing on peace and security issues in Africa. The International Crisis Group is a global organisation committed to the prevention, mitigation and resolution of deadly conflict. We cover over 50 conflict situations around the world and our presence in Sudan dates back more than two decades.[fn]Crisis Group Africa Report N°281, Safeguarding Sudan’s Revolution, 21 October 2019; Jonas Horner, “After the Coup, Restoring Sudan’s Transition”, Crisis Group Commentary, 5 November 2021; Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°168, The Rebels Come to Khartoum: How to Implement Sudan’s New Peace Agreement, 23 February 2021.Hide Footnote

I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about the deteriorating situation in Sudan today. The country is at a dangerous crossroads. Not for the first time in its history, the military has turned its back on the demands of the Sudanese people for more just and representative rule by violently seizing power. The coup on October 25 brought a sudden halt to a civilian-military coalition that since 2019 has been charged with steering Sudan toward elections and full civilian rule.[fn]Crisis Group Report, Safeguarding Sudan’s Revolution, op. cit.; Horner, “After the Coup, Restoring Sudan’s Transition”, op.cit. It was a major reversal in a transition that had brought hope to so many in the Horn of Africa and beyond. I will share with you my analysis of the current situation in Sudan and recommendations for steps the United States might take to help guide it back on the path toward greater democracy and stability.

Background

By way of background, the transition that was interrupted on October 25 followed 30 years of rule by the notorious strongman Omar al-Bashir.

  • After coming to office in a coup in June 1989, Bashir maintained his hold on power by repressing political opposition, fighting costly counter-insurgencies in the country’s peripheries and underwriting his factious security sector with patronage-driven expenditure that ate up, by some estimates, 70 per cent of the national budget.[fn]Shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was mandated to lead the civilian-military transition in August 2019, listed as an ambition driving down military expenditure to 20 per cent of the national budget. He said in some years, that budget line had stood at 80 per cent. “Sudan PM seeks to end the country’s pariah status”, AP, 25 August 2019.Hide Footnote
     
  • The patronage system that Bashir built eventually bankrupted the country and contributed to the strongman’s ouster. A small cabal of favoured cronies including Bashir’s Islamist allies from the National Congress Party, senior military officers (many of them drawn from the tiny riverine elite that has dominated Sudan’s military and politics for decades) and newly minted allies such as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which was blamed for some of the worst violence in the western region of Darfur, benefited substantially from Sudan’s rigged, lopsided economy.[fn]“Who are Sudan’s RSF and their Commander Hemeti?”, Al Jazeera, 6 June 2019.Hide Footnote These same actors continue to try to preserve their privileges atop Sudan’s political, economic and security establishment.
     
  • Popular frustration over political repression, rising prices and a sclerotic economy that could not absorb Sudan’s ranks of unemployed youths helped trigger the protests that eventually drove Bashir from power. The uprising began in the south-eastern towns of Damazin and Sennar, where crowds took to the streets on 13 December 2018 in response to a tripling of bread prices. By the time the protests reached Atbara, the historic bastion of unionism in Sudan, demonstrators were demanding regime change. Against long odds and despite heavy repression, the protesters eventually overwhelmed the security forces, who staged a palace coup against Bashir on 11 April 2019.  
     
  • The military tried to maintain the upper hand but was forced under pressure both from the protest movement and external actors to compromise and accept to share power with civilians. International revulsion over a 3 June 2019 massacre of protesters encamped outside the military headquarters was particularly important in forcing the generals to cede to the will of the Sudanese people.[fn]“Sudan commemorates the June 3 Massacre”, Dabanga Sudan, 3 June 2021.Hide Footnote Under the terms of a 17 August Constitutional Declaration, the country would be governed by a hybrid civilian-military coalition for 39 months leading up to elections.
     
  • The task before that coalition was enormous. The new cabinet headed by the technocrat and diplomat Abdalla Hamdok was charged with breathing new life into Sudan’s anaemic economy, reforming political institutions to lay the ground for elections and delivering justice to the many Sudanese victims of atrocities during Bashir’s rule – and in the weeks following his fall. Despite the formidable obstacles the authorities faced, that coalition represented the country’s best hope for emerging into a stable, prosperous and democratic future and was a source of hope for those supporting democratic renewal in other countries in the region.
     
  • Always reluctant participants in the alliance, the generals barely disguised their opposition to the Hamdok administration’s reforms and were particularly opposed to efforts to deliver justice and to reshape the country’s economy. In defiance of the United States government and others who warned them against doing so, they seized power and ousted the civilians.

The October 25 Coup and Its Aftermath

Today, unfortunately, the picture looks grim. The military violently applied the brakes on the transition in the early hours of October 25 when they placed Hamdok under house arrest, rounded up numerous other civilian officials in the administration, declared a state of emergency and dissolved key institutions including the cabinet. Since then, Sudan’s military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has taken a series of steps to reverse the reforms the civilian-led administration had rolled out, including by disbanding a committee charged with reclaiming public assets, by packing the Sovereign Council, which serves as the country’s executive, with his allies and by appointing Bashir-era figures into key posts including in the judiciary and security forces.[fn]Crisis Group EU Watch List 2022, 27 January 2022.Hide Footnote The military attempted some window dressing when it reinstated Hamdok on 21 November, a move Sudanese protesters rightly dismissed as an effort to legitimise their power grab. Some efforts to stimulate talks among Sudanese actors to find a way out of the crisis continue although the prospects of a resolution appear dim.

[Sudan] has been on a downhill trajectory since the coup.

Overall, the country has been on a downhill trajectory since the coup. On 2 January, Hamdok resigned in frustration after failing to persuade the generals to stick to their commitments under the August 2019 constitutional charter, and in particular to give him a free hand to appoint a new cabinet. In the meantime, the public’s frustration has been growing. For the past few weeks, Sudanese people across the country have taken to the streets to signal their revulsion at the military’s power grab. The general’s response to the protests has come right out of the Bashir playbook. The security forces have repeatedly fired into crowds, killing dozens, according to human rights groups and the UN.[fn]“Bachelet condemns killings of peaceful protesters in Sudan”, UN, 18 November 2021.Hide Footnote A late December decree by military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan gave the police effective immunity for their actions. Still, the Sudanese people continue to risk their lives by staging protests, work boycotts and other strike actions.

While it is not yet clear who will come out on top in this contest between the security forces and the street, there is evidence to suggest that the generals have gravely miscalculated the strength of their hand. This is a different Sudan from the one in which the army captured control of the state at least five times in the past, including in 1989 when Bashir took office.[fn]"A history of Sudan coups”, Statista, 25 October 2021.Hide Footnote Sudan has one of the youngest populations in the world.[fn]“After the Uprising: Including Sudanese Youth”, Chr. Michelsen Institute, 2020.Hide Footnote Six in ten Sudanese are aged between fifteen and 30 – and the current generation rejects the notion that the country should go back to being governed by an unaccountable, out-of-touch elite.[fn]Sudan’s Political Impasse”, The Horn (Crisis Group podcast), 26 January 2022.Hide Footnote This mobilised, youthful population showed its power at the end of 2018 when it rose up in protest at Bashir’s repressive, kleptocratic rule. The protest movement captured the imagination of pro-democracy campaigners well beyond Sudan with its diversity, with the prominent role that women played – sometimes outnumbering men in demonstrations – with its tenacity, and ultimately with its success. Against what many viewed as tall odds, it brought a halt to Bashir’s rule. Since the coup, this movement has again shown its strength by mobilising millions of Sudanese to take to the streets and send a clear signal to the generals that they will not, as past generations of officers did, get away with imposing their will on the Sudanese people.[fn]“Deaths Reported in Sudan as ‘March of Millions’ Demands Restoration of Civilian Rule”, Voice of America, 30 October 2021.Hide Footnote

Getting the transition back on track would serve both the people of Sudan’s democratic aspirations and the interests of the United States.

Getting the transition back on track would serve both the people of Sudan’s democratic aspirations and the interests of the United States and other regional and international actors in the strategically important Horn of Africa – where Sudan sits between major regional powers Ethiopia and Egypt and shares a border with seven countries, several in the throes of conflict themselves. Support for Sudan’s transition would comport with the U.S. government’s stated commitment to champion democratic values and to “demonstrate that democracies can deliver by improving the lives of their own people”[fn]“President Biden to Convene Leaders’ Summit for Democracy”, White House, 11 August 2021.Hide Footnote . It would also be the surest pathway to medium- and long-term stability in the country.

Recommendations

The United States is one of Sudan’s most important external partners. It provides about half a billion dollars in assistance annually and was a champion of efforts to reconnect Sudan’s economy with international financial institutions. Given these ties and the United States government’s relations with all the main regional actors, the U.S. is well positioned to support efforts to reverse the military’s power grab and set Sudan back on a path toward elections and representative government. Specifically, it could:

  • Press the generals to immediately halt violence against protesters and coordinate targeted sanctions to hold them to account: As outlined, Sudan’s security forces have responded to peaceful protests by indiscriminately shooting into crowds and sometimes reportedly even pursuing fleeing and wounded demonstrators into hospitals.[fn]“Sudanese security forces ‘hunt down’ injured protesters in hospital”, France 24, 25 January 2022.Hide Footnote This pattern of behaviour, on top of its grave human cost, threatens to poison relations between the parties and render a resolution even further beyond reach. In coordination with partners including the African Union (AU) and the European Union, the United States should make clear that the generals will face consequences including asset freezes and travel bans if they continue to kill unarmed demonstrators. The White House should simultaneously convene an interagency process to design a targeted sanctions programs aimed at key figures in the military and outline that it is willing to deploy these against individuals that continue to sanction the killing of protesters or obstruct progress toward elections more broadly.
     
  • Support Sudanese-led efforts to rerail the transition: The United States has already signalled its backing for efforts to stimulate negotiations among the generals and civilian groups including the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the coalition that spearheaded the protest movement and neighbourhood resistance committees, which play an integral role in the day-to-day organisation of protests and have proved a particularly effective channel of resistance to the military coup. The United States should warn the generals against taking precipitous measures that could derail these potential talks, including refraining from unilaterally appointing a new prime minister. It should further insist that these talks are maximally inclusive and in particular that they should take on board the views of the resistance committees. The 2019 power-sharing agreement should be the blueprint for a compromise that could restore civilian-military governance and lead to elections.
     
  • Withhold financial assistance until the military reverses its coup: In the immediate aftermath of the military takeover, the United states suspended $700 million in assistance to Sudan. This was the right step given the generals’ brazen decision to terminate the power-sharing agreement. The United States should make clear to the generals that this support will not resume unless they accept to return to the path toward elections laid out in the 2019 power-sharing agreement. In the meantime, the United States should advance with efforts to repurpose some of its support to civil society groups and also to work with partners including the UN to offer direct assistance to Sudan’s long-suffering people.
     
  • Urge all regional actors to back a return to a civilian-led dispensation: Many on the Sudanese street perceive some external actors, namely Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as tacitly backing military rule.[fn]Sudan’s Political Impasse”, op. cit.Hide Footnote Such perceptions will ultimately be damaging to those countries’ standing in Sudan if it is able to reinvigorate its transitional process. But it is still possible for these key regional actors to play an important role in helping Sudan return to a civilian-led transitional process, thereby protecting their relations with the Sudanese people. Given his strong background in regional diplomacy, Special Envoy Satterfield should be well positioned to engage these actors and urge them to use their privileged relations with Sudan’s generals to convey to them that the power-sharing agreement they torpedoed remains Sudan’s best and perhaps only chance for stability, a goal they all profess to share. With the welcome appointment of a new ambassador to Khartoum, the United States could play a key role in marshalling a coalition of actors within and outside Sudan that can help steer the country back toward the path to elections.


Sudan is at a historic hinge-point. The military’s power grab has derailed a transition that was an inspiration well beyond Sudan, and still could be, if the generals step back and allow Sudan’s civilians to steer the country to elections. With a piling set of challenges – not least an economy in deep distress, resurging violence in Darfur and elsewhere, and a tottering peace deal with armed groups – the generals can hardly afford to stonewall the Sudanese people’s demands for change. The world – and the United States – should stand with Sudan’s people in their quest for a more democratic and accountable government, an outcome that represents the country’s best hope for achieving long-run political, social and economic stability.

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