Double crise au Soudan: se reconcentrer sur l'IGAD
Double crise au Soudan: se reconcentrer sur l'IGAD
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Sudan’s Imperilled Transition: Policy Recommendations for the U.S.
Briefing 19 / Africa

Double crise au Soudan: se reconcentrer sur l'IGAD

Alors que la crise au Darfour préoccupe de façon compréhensible la communauté internationale, le dénouement de 21 ans de guerre civile au Soudan opposant le gouvernement de Khartoum à la principale force rebelle du Sud, la SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army) ne recueille pas l'attention requise.

Résumé

Alors que la crise au Darfour préoccupe de façon compréhensible la communauté internationale, le dénouement de 21 ans de guerre civile au Soudan opposant le gouvernement de Khartoum à la principale force rebelle du Sud, la SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army) ne recueille pas l'attention requise. Le processus de paix conduit par l'IGAD (Autorité Intergouvernementale pour le Développement), sur le point d'aboutir en juin 2004, est désormais en danger. Le projet d'accord négocié à Naivasha contient des dispositions pouvant concourir à une solution politique au Darfour. Les deux processus sont étroitement liés et doivent être traités sans faire de différence et en urgence. Toutefois, à moins d'un changement des dynamiques actuelles et d'une pression plus forte de la part des Nations Unies sur Khartoum pour conclure l'accord de l'IGAD, la guerre pourrait bientôt resurgir à travers le pays.

Si le gouvernement choisit de retarder la conclusion de l'accord de paix au moment de la reprise des négociations de l'IGAD le 7 octobre, les six protocoles déjà signés mais pas encore en vigueur pourraient bien être remis en question (sous la pression des partisans de la ligne dure du régime et des intellectuels du Nord qui soutiennent que trop de concessions ont été accordées à la SPLA, et celle d'éléments au sein de la SPLA qui n'ont jamais cru en la parole du régime et pensent qu'il est affaibli par le Darfour. Si cela se produit, de nouveaux fronts peuvent s'ouvrir dans les Monts Nuba, la région méridionale du Nil Bleu ainsi que dans l'Est, dans une guerre qui a déjà coûté la vie à deux millions de personnes.

Si le gouvernement opte pour la coopération, la paix au Soudan pourrait voir le jour avant la fin de l'année. Conclure l'accord mené sous l'égide de l'IGAD (Naivasha) pourrait servir de base à une meilleure entente avec les mouvements de l'opposition regroupés au sein de l'Alliance Nationale Démocratique (NDA), et surtout, fournir un modèle de résolution à la crise du Darfour et mettre en marche le processus conduisant à une démocratisation et des élections nationales.

Cependant, il semblerait que le régime penche en faveur de plus d'intransigeance. Les signaux qu'il envoie à propos de l'IGAD sont au mieux mitigés et suggèrent qu'il ralentit le processus afin de persuader la communauté internationale d'assouplir ses exigences sur le Darfour. Khartoum a également empêché le déploiement d'une force de l'Union Africaine (AU) assez importante avec un mandat spécifique de protection des civils au Darfour, tandis que ses efforts visant à lier le désarmement des milices Janjaweed au cantonnement des rebelles du Darfour ont fait avorté les récents pourparlers menés par l'UA. Alors que le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Mustafa Osman Ismail, avait adopté une approche conciliante devant le Conseil de Sécurité le 29 septembre 2004, promettant coopération avec la force de l'UA, il n'en demeure pas moins une grande ambiguïté sur sa mise en œuvre concrète.

Khartoum semble miser sur le fait que les considérations commerciales et de souveraineté dissuaderont la plupart des pays et institutions internationales à aller au-delà d'une simple pression d'ordre rhétorique. Cela encourage la perception selon laquelle l'exercice d'une forte pression serait contreproductif, conforterait les soi-disant "hardliners", ou causerait des fissures dans le régime, laissant un Etat à la dérive dans son sillage. Ces tactiques ont parfaitement servi le régime depuis son accession au pouvoir en 1989.

Ces quinze dernières années nous enseignent cependant que lorsque le gouvernement a été l'objet de pressions sérieuses et précises, il a modifié son comportement. Il s'agit d'un régime pragmatique qui fera ce qu'il a à faire pour survivre, notamment en choisissant plutôt de coopérer que d'essayer d'imposer des solutions unilatérales.

La communauté internationale devrait agir sur plusieurs fronts afin de parvenir à une solution globale aux problèmes multiples et interconnectés du Soudan, qui prenne en compte à la fois le processus de paix de l'IGAD et le Darfour. Le Conseil de Sécurité devrait se doter de plus de leviers d'action sur le Darfour en ordonnant rapidement le déploiement des premiers éléments de la Commission d'enquête internationale conformément à sa résolution du 18 septembre 2004. Si aucun progrès concret n'est constaté avant la fin octobre, surtout en ce qui concerne la force de protection de l'UA, le Conseil devrait imposer un embargo sur les armes au gouvernement soudanais, un gel des avoirs financiers des compagnies appartenant au parti du pouvoir qui réalisent des affaires à l'étranger, ainsi qu'une interdiction de voyager aux hauts responsables de l'administration soudanaise.

La pression diplomatique doit être simultanément intensifiée pour obtenir une conclusion rapide du processus de l'IGAD. Le Conseil de Sécurité doit clairement stipuler que sans progrès de la part des parties lors de la reprise des négociations le 7 octobre et en l'absence de conclusion d'un accord final avant la fin de l'année, il évaluera les responsabilités de cet échec et prendra les décisions qui s'imposeront. D'autres questions doivent également être abordées, en particulier les complications que pose l'Armée de Résistance du Seigneur (Lord Resistance Army - LRA) à la tête de la violente insurrection ougandaise responsable de dommages auxquels Khartoum n'est pas étranger et qui s'inscrivent dans la poursuite de ses objectifs guerriers dans le Sud.

Enfin, le régime doit comprendre que ce n'est qu'en agissant de façon rapide et constructive sur le processus de l'IGAD et le Darfour qu'il peut éviter ou se débarrasser de sanctions significatives. Il ne devrait pas être autorisé à choisir les points sur lesquels il souhaite avancer, les jouant ainsi les uns contre les autres. Le moment est venu pour lui de choisir son chemin, et une certaine fermeté à New York et de la part des principales capitales est nécessaire pour éclairer sa décision.

Nairobi / Bruxelles, le 5 Octobre 2004

I. Overview

As the Darfur crisis understandably preoccupies the international community, inadequate attention is being paid to ending Sudan's 21-year old civil war between the Khartoum government and the mainly southern insurgency led by the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army). The peace process mediated by the regional organisation IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), looked close to finality in June 2004 but is now at risk. The draft agreement negotiated at Naivasha contains provisions that can assist a political solution in Darfur. The two sets of issues are closely related and need to be dealt with equally and urgently. However, unless current dynamics change, and the UN Security Council puts more pressure upon Khartoum to conclude the IGAD agreement, war could soon resume across the country.

If the government chooses to delay conclusion of the peace agreement when the IGAD negotiations resume on 7 October, the six protocols already signed but not yet in force may well begin to unravel -- under pressure from regime hardliners and intellectuals in the North who argue that too many concessions were made to the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army), and from elements within the SPLA who never trusted the regime to keep its word and believe it has been weakened by Darfur. If this happens, new fronts in a war that has already cost two million lives are likely to emerge in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and the east.

If the government chooses cooperation, peace in Sudan could be secured before the end of the year. Wrapping up the IGAD (Naivasha) agreement would lay the groundwork for further understandings with the umbrella opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and, more importantly, provide models for a Darfur resolution and begin the process towards democratisation and national elections.

However, indications are the regime is leaning toward further intransigence. The signals it is sending on IGAD are mixed at best, suggesting it is stalling in an effort to persuade the international community to relax its Darfur demands. Khartoum also has obstructed the deployment of a sizeable African Union (AU) force with a specific mandate to protect civilians in Darfur, while its effort to link disarmament of Janjaweed militia to the cantonment of the Darfur rebels helped stymie recent AU-mediated talks. While Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, adopted a conciliatory approach before the Security Council on 29 September 2004, pledging cooperation with an AU force, there remains much ambiguity about what that will mean in practice.

Khartoum appears to calculate that commercial and sovereignty considerations will ensure that most countries and international institutions will apply no more than rhetorical pressure. It encourages the perception that if serious pressure is applied, it would be counter-productive, giving advantages to putative "hardliners" or even causing the regime to crack, leaving a failed state in its wake. These tactics have served the regime well since it seized power in 1989.

The lesson of those fifteen years, however, is that when the government has been the target of serious pressure with a specific objective, it has modified its behaviour. It is a pragmatic regime that will do what it has to in order to survive, including choosing cooperation rather than attempting to impose unilateral solutions.

The international community should act on a number of fronts to achieve a comprehensive solution to Sudan's multiple and interconnected problems, one that deals equally with the IGAD peace process and Darfur. The Security Council should give itself further leverage on Darfur by moving quickly to deploy the first elements of the International Commission of Inquiry it established by its resolution of 18 September 2004. If there is not concrete progress on its Darfur demands by the end of October, especially the AU protection force, the Council should impose an arms embargo on the Sudanese government, an assets freeze on companies owned by the ruling party that do business abroad, and a travel ban on senior Sudanese officials.

Diplomatic pressure must simultaneously be escalated to produce a swift conclusion on the IGAD (Naivasha) process. The Security Council needs to state clearly that if the parties do not make progress when they resume the IGAD negotiations on 7 October and fail to conclude a final agreement by the end of the year, it will assess responsibility and take appropriate decisions. Other issues must also be addressed, particularly the complications presented by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the brutal Ugandan insurgency whose depredations have often been supported by Khartoum in pursuit of its war aims in the South.

Ultimately, the regime must understand that meaningful penalties can only be avoided or removed if it acts quickly and constructively on both the IGAD agreement and Darfur. It should not be allowed to pick and choose which issues, or parts of issues, it wishes to move on, playing these off against others. This is the moment for it to decide its path -- and firmness in New York and key capitals is necessary to inform its choice.

Nairobi/Brussels, 5 October 2004

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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