Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces and leader of the October 2021 coup d’état, Abdelfattah El Burhan, confirmed that meetings about a new political framework for the country are being held on Sunday, provoking strong reactions.
He warned the former ruling National Congress Party (NCP) not to interfere with the army or in politics, explaining that “the army has no faction or party, and it will never defend a faction or party.”
His speech, in front of hundreds of leaders and members of the army at the Hattab military base, near Khartoum, was held without special occasion and used sharp language.
He said he is ready to fight for Sudan and claimed to be carrying his own personal weapon, a “pistol,” loaded with bullets and ready for any emergency.
El Burhan continued, “To those who want to hide behind the army, especially the NCP or the Islamists, we say to them: Keep your hands off the armed forces.” He further expressed the autonomy of the army, saying that he “will not allow any group to return to power through it, whether the National Congress or the Islamic Movement or others… We are the army of Sudan.”
‘Smoke and mirrors’
According to lawyer and leading member of the Communist Party of Sudan, Saleh Mahmoud, El Burhan’s speech was an attempt to mislead public opinion. He described El Burhan’s talk about preventing the dissolved NCP of ousted President Omar Al Bashir from returning to power through the army as contradictory.
“The members of the Military Council, headed by El Burhan, are part of the NCP regime,” Mahmoud told Radio Dabanga in an interview yesterday. “They themselves allowed members of the NCP to re-appear in the political arena, staging demonstrations, and reinstalled elements of the former regime to important state positions.”
Kholood Khair, broadcaster and managing partner of Insight Strategy Partners, a think-and-do tank in Khartoum that works on transitional policy priority areas, tweeted on Sunday evening her indignation at El Burhan’s speech.
“It’s worth asking why Burhan would make this statement. But a better question is why not? He’s posturing in front of all his nay-sayers,” she said. “Sudan’s political parties have learned very little and are blindly heading towards another elite deal that will not serve them. The tragedy of Sudan’s politics is that its parties remain caught up in a political system that was designed and is maintained by the military to fail them.”
According to the researcher, Sudan’s negotiations continue to be concerned with positions and transitional structures, rather than transformative change, because its parties remain caught in a system which favours the military.
“This upcoming deal does nothing to break the mould and therefore is no real challenge to the military’s domination of Sudan’s politics, in fact, its very much the opposite. So, El Burhan – and his new Ray-Bans – can rest easy,” said Khair.
Khair’s comments are reminiscent of those of Abdelaziz El Hilu, head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N El Hilu), who maintains that the root causes for the Sudanese crises, caused by a complex mix of power struggles, in particular over the control of natural resources, poverty, religion and politics, the racial divide between Arabs and Africans, and clientelism need to be addressed before agreeing on the country’s governance.
Adel Khalafallah, spokesperson for the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, also called El Burhan’s “attacks on the Islamists” political manoeuvring.
The speech “is a message for the outside, especially other countries in the region, in light of Sudan’s participation in the COP27 climate summit. He is facing a lot of pressure from the region and the West regarding the expansion of Islamists after the October 2021 coup,” Khalafallah told Radio Dabanga.
He continued, “El Burhan himself issued a decision a few days ago, through committees that he has formed, to dissolve the steering committees of the democratically re-established unions.”
Khalafallah also referred to the stark contrast of treatment of the Sudanese judiciary, the Prosecution, and the Central Bank compared to unions and civil society organisations. “Former NCP members are empowered economically and functionally, while all achievements of the Empowerment Removal Committee* have been annulled and its members detained.”
On Friday, the police cracked down on SBA lawyers after the organisation announced its rejection of the decision by the Supreme Court’s Appeals Committee to reject their appeal and thus reinstate Bashir-allied trade unions. Contradictorily, the Humanitarian Aid Commission in Sudan allowed the re-registration of 23 “Islamist” non-governmental organisations and associations in September.
In an interview with Radio Dabanga last week, Lawyer El Sadig Ali Hasan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), said “no deals will arise” from rumoured conversations being held behind closed doors between the military and civilian parties. He explained that “El Burhan speaks with several tongues. He cannot be trusted, and the street knows this all too well.”
The most prominent points of contention between the mainstream Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) and the military junta are the military’s request for guarantees of immunity from prosecution for the abuses after the 2019 and 2021 coup d’états, said Mohamed El Mahdi Hasan from the National Umma Party on October 26.
The proposed agreement, which does not deviate from the old model favoured by the international community, a military-civilian partnership, is “strongly pushed by the US, which is racing against time to reign in the Russian expansion in Sudan and some African neighbouring countries,” according an article by journalist Shamayel El Noor last week.
* The full name of the committee is the Committee for Dismantling the June 30, 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds. It was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, ownership of various companies, and tax exemptions.