Dehai News

ChathamHouse.org: A strong civilian coalition is vital to avert Sudan’s disintegration

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Friday, 21 June 2024

While the anti-war, pro-democracy Taqaddum coalition offers a glimmer of hope, the main challenge for its members will be to remain united and act decisively in negotiations over ending the war and Sudan’s political future.

The war in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shows no sign of stopping, amid grave human rights violations against civilians by both sides and a growing number of external actors fuelling the conflict. The UN has warned of humanitarian catastrophe, with millions of people at actual or imminent risk of famine. With escalating fighting and ethnically targeted violence, particularly in Darfur, neither side is likely to be able to achieve a decisive victory, which could lead to a protracted conflict and the de facto partition of the country. 

 

To date, the shining light for Sudanese civilians has been youth-driven emergency response rooms and other front-line responders who are risking their lives to help their communities.

At the same time, Sudan urgently needs an alternative to the warring parties and their supporters – a credible and broadly representative civilian body that articulates a vision for peace, presses for an end to the war and provides an alternative point of engagement for the international community. 

The first conference of the Coordination Body of Civilian Democratic Forces (known as Taqaddum), the largest coalition of Sudanese civil society and political actors, provides a glimmer of hope. 

Towards a vision for Sudan’s future

Taqaddum was established in October 2023 and held its founding conference in Addis Ababa in late May, bringing together nearly 600 participants from all 18 states in Sudan – despite arrests of some invitees in SAF-controlled areas. Although Taqaddum has been criticized for being disconnected from grassroots activists, it has worked hard to become more inclusive. People from 24 countries were present, women and youth representatives held their own preparatory conferences, and thousands of Sudanese citizens contributed online. 

Some political and military groups also participated as observers, including the SPLM-North led by Abdel Aziz Al Hilu (an armed movement that controls significant territory in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile), which received a particularly warm welcome. The inclusion of the Popular Congress Party as an observer was also intended to signal that Islamists who support civilian rule can also join the anti-war camp. 

The articulation of a vision for a peaceful and inclusive Sudan provides hope for its citizens and stands in stark opposition to the naked self-interest of the military actors currently overseeing the country’s fragmentation.  

The conference approved a political vision for Sudan’s future, which stressed that the most urgent priorities are an immediate cessation of hostilities, scaling up efforts to address the humanitarian catastrophe, establishing mechanisms for the protection of civilians and enabling their return home through a monitoring mission on the ground. 

But to avoid the de facto partition of the country, it is also necessary to accelerate efforts to reach a political solution by establishing democratic civilian rule based on equal citizenship without discrimination on the grounds of religion, identity or culture. Such efforts would include establishing a single national professional army, improving justice and accountability, and empowering women and youth. 

Though yet only aspirational, the articulation of a vision for a peaceful and inclusive Sudan provides hope for its citizens and stands in stark opposition to the naked self-interest of the military actors currently overseeing the country’s fragmentation.  

Challenges of inclusion and coordination

Following the conference, Taqaddum has an elected leadership, headed by former prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, and a more diverse political, geographical and social base, enabling it to play a higher profile advocacy role in international and regional capitals. 

But it needs to continue to broaden alignment with others in the anti-war civilian camp, putting political or ideological differences to one side and deepening outreach to grassroots civil society actors, including youth-led resistance committees, women’s rights groups, unions and professional associations, as well as other political groups who want to end the war and support democratic transformation.

Men rallying with rifles in Wad Madani, Sudan, in December 2023.
 
 

To this end, Taqaddum is seeking to organize a roundtable for all Sudanese democratic forces to prepare for a comprehensive political process.

This roundtable will demand careful coordination with other peace initiatives in an increasingly crowded terrain. 

In addition to the currently stalled US/Saudi-sponsored Jeddah ceasefire talks, the African Union (AU) is planning to launch a preparatory process for convening a Sudanese civilian political dialogue in the coming weeks, while Egypt has announced its own conference for Sudanese civilians. 

Ensuring a coherent strategy and sequencing these efforts in close consultation with Taqaddum and other anti-war civilian voices will be critical, alongside a greater diplomatic push to halt the fighting.

International statements and condemnations are not enough – urgent concrete action is needed.  

UN Security Council Resolution 2736 (demanding an end to the siege of El Fasher, protection of civilians, unimpeded humanitarian access, an immediate cessation of hostilities and the end of external interference), as well as similar calls by G7 leaders, an AU Peace and Security Council summit on Sudan on 21 June, and plans for Djibouti to host a retreat for mediators next month are important, if belated, signs that Sudan is receiving more diplomatic attention. But international statements and condemnations are not enough – urgent concrete action is needed.  

Navigating the political quagmire

Both warring parties have sought to drag Taqaddum into the politics of Sudan’s conflict. Its leaders have been subject to constant attacks by SAF for being the political wing of the RSF. Taqaddum has also been relentlessly demonized by Islamist propagandists and Bashir regime supporters who regard them as the main threat to their ambition to return to power. These accusations have gained traction among many Sudanese in the context of heinous atrocities committed by the RSF and growing social polarization between supporters of SAF, RSF and the anti-war campaign.

Hamdok addressed accusations of bias at the Addis conference, emphasizing Taqaddum’s neutral stance, and the final conference statement strongly condemned both sides for their abuses. To counter such criticisms and build wider support among civilians, Taqaddum’s leadership will need to be louder in calling the warring parties to account for their crimes.

The biggest challenge is likely to be whether Taqaddum coalition members can remain united and act decisively as negotiations over ending the war and Sudan’s political future unfold. 

Countering accusations of bias and maintaining consistent messaging in condemning violence by both sides is one of several key challenges Taqaddum faces. But genuine efforts to recognize humanitarian and human rights concerns and hold perpetrators of atrocities to account could enable the emergence of a stronger and more representative body that can legitimately and robustly engage in future mediation efforts, alongside other democratic forces.

Ultimately the biggest challenge is likely to be whether Taqaddum coalition members can remain united and act decisively as negotiations over ending the war and Sudan’s political future unfold.  


Mathematics From 1665 For 359 years

Dehai Events