السودان: إصلاحات رئيسة أو مزيد من الحرب
السودان: إصلاحات رئيسة أو مزيد من الحرب
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Report 194 / Africa

السودان: إصلاحات رئيسة أو مزيد من الحرب

الملخص التنفيذي

يبدو أنَّ "مشكلة السودان" لم تذهب مع انفصال الجنوب إذ لا تزال لعنة النزاع المزمن – المدفوع بواسطة تركز السلطة والموارد في المركز – تُطارِد البلاد. يَقْبعُ الحل في تشكيل حكومة أكثر شمولاً، تُخاطب، على الأقل، بعض مظالم الأطراف. بيد أنَّ الوعود بإصلاح الحُكم لم يتم الوفاء بها. العقبة الرئيسة - وإن لم تكن الوحيدة - هي: الرئيس البشير، الذي تمادى في تركيز السلطة في دائرة صغيرة من المسؤولين الموثوق فيهم، وهو غير راغب في التنحي. وإذ يأمل كثيرون في تغيير النظام عن طريق انقلاب، فإنهم لم يأخذوا بعين الاعتبار المخاطر المترتبة على ذلك. ينبغي، إذن، أن يكون الهدف هو انتقال متحكَّمٌ فيه نحو حكومة تضم، ولكن لا يُهيمِن عليها حزبه، المؤتمر الوطني. قد يرغبُ البشير في سلك هذى الطريق إذا ما خلص إلى أنَّ احتمال تزايد الاضطرابات، أو حتى وقوع انقلاب، بات وشيكاً، ولكن فقط إذا ما قُدِمت الحوافز المناسبة إليه. على المجتمع الدولي أن يُساهم في هذا شريطة أن يشرع البشير - أولاً وبنحوٍ راسخ - في تشكيل حكومة انتقالية شاملة وجديرة بالثقة، واطلاق حوار وطني هادف حول دستور جديد وخارطة طريق لتغيُّرٍ دائم في كيفية حكم السودان.

يُعاني النظام في الخرطوم من أزمة، وهو مواجهٌ بتحدياتٍ متعددة، تُهدِّدُ، مجتمعةً، وبشكل كبير، وجوده واستقرار السودان. فحال الاقتصاد في تدهورٍ مستمر، وأي صفقة نفطية مع جنوب السودان لن تؤدي إلا إلى إبطاء ذلك التدهور، لكنها لن توقفه. منسوبو حزب المؤتمر الوطني غير راضين عن القيادة، وسياساتها، والفساد المستشري. الفصائل المتصارعة داخل الحزب الحاكم والحركة الإسلامية تتسابق من أجل تقديم بديلٍ مقبول لحكومة المؤتمر الوطني. وفي الوقت عينه، اضحت قوى المعارضة السياسية أعلَى صوتاً بينما انهكت الحرب المتنامية مع الجبهة الثورية السودانية قوى الجيش واستنزفت خزينة الدولة.

وإذ يأمل كثيرون في وقوع انقلاب، أو اندلاع انتفاضة شعبية، لإبعاد البشير وحزب المؤتمر الوطني عن الحكم، فإنَّ هناك مخاطر كبيرة لجهة أن تفضي كلا الحالتين إلى اندلاع مزيدٍ من العنف. فمنذ وصوله إلى السلطة، في العام 1989، عمل البشير، عن عمد، على تجزئة الأجهزة الأمنية وكثيراً ما قام بتبديل القادة لجعل استيلاء الجيش على السلطة أكثر صعوبة. فمالم يكن القادةُ متحدين، فإنَّ من السهل انقسام الجيش إلى فصائل متنافسة. ثمة حشدٌ آخرٌ من القوات الأمنية والمليشيات المسلحة الموالية لمختلف قيادات حزب المؤتمر الوطني. تنضافُ إلى هذا المزيج القابل للاشتعال العديد من القبائل المسلحة خارج الخرطوم والتي تسعى للاستفادة من حدوث اضطراب في العاصمة لخلق حقائق على الأرض يصعب على أي نظام جديد تغييرها.

لعلَّ البشير وحزب المؤتمر الوطني يدركون أنَّ مخاطر المرحلة الراهنة أكبر من المشكلات الاجتماعية والاقتصادية التي أفلحوا في تخطيها سابقاً؛ إذ تُملي عليهم غرائزهم إبرام صفقة مع المعارضة المتشرذمة (التنازل عن بعض من السلطة والثروة لواحد أو اثنين من الأحزاب السياسية، و/أو إحدى المجموعات المسلحة الرئيسة)، والاستفادة من التسوية الجزئية مع جنوب السودان كيما يضمنون تدفق النفط مرة أخرى. بيد أنَّ من شأن ذلك أن يقود إلى كسب مزيدٍ من الوقت، لكنَّه لن يؤدي إلى حل أسباب النزاع المزمن أو وقف الحرب الأهلية المتسعة.

على المجتمع الدولي أن يعي دروس مبادرات التسوية السابقة الفاشلة: يحتاج السودان إلى اتفاقية سلامٍ شامل حقاً، وليس تسوية جزئية تخدم تكتيكات "فرِّق تسد" التي تتبعها الحكومة، وتُطيل من أمد الوضع القائم غير المقبول. وفي الوقت عينه، يحتاج حزب المؤتمر الوطني لأن يكون جزءً من أي عملية انتقالية. ذلك أنَّ ثمن إبعاده تماماً سيكون مُكلفا. فنخبة الحزب أقوى من أن يتم تجاهلها، والمعارضة منقسمة على نفسها وتفتقد الخبرة اللازمة كيما تَحكُم منفردة. وهكذا، يكون السبيل الوحيد للخروج من مصيدة النزاع الدائم هو ايجاد حلٍ شامل واصلاح سياسي حقيقي، بما في ذلك مصالحة وطنية مقبولة لجميع الأطراف، بما فيها حزب المؤتمر الوطني.

على الرئيس ورفاقه أن يدركوا أنَّ الأزمة الراهنة تتطلَّب تعديلات أكثر جذرية من تلك التي كانوا يستخدمونها من أجل البقاء سابقا. إن فعلوا ذلك، يُمكن للمجتمع الدولي، من خلال تقديم الحوافز، أن يساعدهم على تحقيق تلك التعديلات تباعاً وبمسؤولية. ينبغي ربط ذلك، بعناية، بما يفي به عمر البشير وحزب المؤتمر الوطني من استحقاقات محددة غير قابلة للنقض، كتلك التي اوصت بها مجموعة الأزمات الدولية، بواكير العام 2009، ومواصلة العملية الانتقالية بشكلٍ يُمْكِنُ التحقُّقُ منه. قد يكون مثل هذا التعاون غير مستساغ لكثيرين ممَّن يُحمِّلون البشير مسؤولية جرائمٍ وحشية، لكنَّه سيكون ضرورياً للحيلولة دون احتدام النزاع والأزمات الإنسانية في السودان وجنوب السودان على السواء. إنَّ البشير مُهِمٌّ جداً لفترة انتقالية مُتحكَّمٌ فيها تَضُم كلاً من قيادات المؤتمر الوطني والمعارضة – المدنية والمسلحة – والتي يُمكنها وضع السودان على طريقٍ أكثر شمولاً واستدامة. عدا ذلك، سيكون البديل هو استمرار الوضع الراهن، مع تَشَبُّثِ المؤتمر الوطني بالسلطة مهما كانت الكُلفة الإنسانية، في الوقت الذي تُتابع فيه المعارضة استراتيجية عسكريةً تُنذر بمزيدٍ من التشظي الوطني.

 يُدرِكُ جلُّ السودانيين ما هو ضروري لإنهاء عقود من النزاع. فقد كان واضحاً – حتى قبل الاستقلال في العام 1956 – أنَّه ينبغي تقاسم السلطة والموارد مع المناطق المُهمَّشة على نحو أكثر عدلا. تاريخياً، كان التركيز، في الغالب، على جنوب السودان، لكنَّ مناطق أخرى عانت كذلك. ففي أوقاتٍ مختلفة، هبَّت جُلُّ المناطق الطرفية في ثوراتٍ مسلَّحة كيما تطالب بتمثيل أكبر ومزيد من التنمية. لن تتغير هذه الديناميكية ما لم تكن هناك اصلاحات هيكلية أساسية لكيفية حكم البلاد، وأن تعمل قواها السياسية كافة – المؤتمر الوطني، والأحزاب التقليدية، والجبهة الثورية السودانية، ومجموعات الشباب – معاً لتشكيل حكومة أكثر شمولاً وتمثيلاً؛ تقبل وتحترم التنوع الهائل للشعب السوداني.

نيروبي/بروكسل، 29 نوفمبر 2012

Executive Summary

The “Sudan Problem” has not gone away with the South’s secession. Chronic conflict, driven by concentration of power and resources in the centre, continues to plague the country. The solution is a more inclusive government that addresses at least some of the peripheries’ grievances, but pledges to transform governance remain unfulfilled. A key hurdle – though not the only one – is President Bashir, who has further concentrated authority in a small circle of trusted officials and is unwilling to step aside. Many hope for regime change via coup but have not considered the dangers. The goal should be managed transition to a government that includes, but is not dominated by his National Congress Party (NCP). He might be willing to go along if he concludes greater disorder or even a coup is growing more likely, but only if the right incentives are in place. The international community should contribute to these provided a credible and inclusive transitional government, a meaningful national dialogue on a new constitution and a roadmap for permanent change in how Sudan is governed are first put firmly in train.

The regime in Khartoum is in crisis, faced with multiple challenges that, combined, profoundly threaten its existence and Sudan’s stability. The economy is in a freefall that any oil deal with South Sudan will only slow, not arrest. NCP members are deeply unhappy with the leadership, its policies and massive corruption. Feuding factions within the ruling party and the Islamic movement are jockeying to present an acceptable alternative to the NCP government. At the same time, political opposition forces are growing more assertive, and the war with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) is slowly expanding, bleeding the military dry and draining the treasury.

Many hope a coup, or popular uprising, could force Bashir and the NCP regime out, but there is a great risk that either event could trigger more violence. Since he came to power in a military coup in 1989, he has deliberately fragmented the security services and frequently rotated commanders to make an army takeover more difficult. Unless commanders are united, the army could easily split into competing factions. There are also a host of other security services and armed militias loyal to different NCP leaders. Added to this combustible mix are numerous armed tribes outside of Khartoum that would seek to take advantage of turmoil in the capital to create facts on the ground difficult for a new regime to reverse.

Bashir and the NCP likely recognise that the dangers of the present phase are greater than the social and economic troubles they have survived in the past. Their instincts are to cut a deal with the fractured opposition (ceding some power and resources to one or two of the political parties and/or a major armed group) and take advantage of the partial settlement with South Sudan to get the oil flowing again. But that can only buy more time, not resolve the causes of chronic conflict or stop the spreading civil war.

The international community should learn the lessons of past failed settlement initiatives: Sudan needs a truly comprehensive peace agreement, not a partial settlement that serves the government’s divide-and-rule tactics and perpetuates the unacceptable status quo. At the same time, the NCP needs to be part of any transition. Leaving it out in the cold would be costly. Its elites are too powerful to ignore, and the opposition is too divided and inexperienced to rule alone. A comprehensive solution and genuine political reform including national reconciliation acceptable to all, with the NCP on board, is the only way out of the trap of endless conflict.

The president and his colleagues will have to reach their own conclusion that the present crisis requires more radical adjustments than those they used for survival previously. If they do, however, the international community, by providing incentives, can help them to act on that conclusion consequentially and responsibly. These should be carefully tied to Bashir and the NCP meeting specific, irreversible benchmarks, such as those Crisis Group set out as early as 2009, and verifiably continuing the transition process. Such cooperation might be unpalatable to many who hold Bashir responsible for atrocity crimes, but it would be necessary to prevent further conflict and continued humanitarian crises in Sudan as well as South Sudan. He is crucial to a managed transition that incorporates both the NCP and opposition leaders – civil and armed – and that could put Sudan on a more inclusive, sustainable path. The alternative would be continuation of the status quo, with the NCP desperately clinging to power at whatever humanitarian cost, and the opposition pursuing a military strategy that risks more national fragmentation.

Most Sudanese know what is necessary to end decades of conflict. Even before independence in 1956, it was clear that power and resources should be shared more equitably with marginalised regions. The historical focus was often on South Sudan, but other areas have suffered as well. At different times, most peripheral regions have risen in armed revolt to demand greater representation and more development. This dynamic will not change unless there is fundamental structural reform of how the country is governed, and all its political forces – the NCP, the traditional parties, the SRF and youth groups – work together to create a more inclusive and representative government that accepts and respects the tremendous diversity of the Sudanese peoples.

Nairobi/Brussels, 29 November 2012

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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