Former Sudan FM calls for a civil-led ‘third way’ to end the war

The war between the army and the RSF is dividing Sudan (Cartoon by Omar Dafallah / RD)

Maryam El Sadig, former Sudanese minister of foreign affairs and vice president of the National Umma Party (NUP), has called for intensified efforts to unite Sudanese civilians and create a ‘critical mass’ to end the ongoing conflict in Sudan.

After more than 430 days of war, El Sadig argues that a united civilian front, referred to as the third way’, is essential to compel the warring factions to cease hostilities.

El Sadig wrote a ‘reflection paper’, a copy of which was seen by Radio Dabanga, in which she denounces the escalating polarisation among civilian groups following the 2019 revolution, which she identifies as a key factor enabling the forces of the previous regime to reassert themselves.

This polarisation, she asserts, “has been the ‘father of all evil’ that […] created the best atmosphere to defeat the slogans of the revolution and diminish the hopes of the youth by the coup of October 2021”.

The conflict between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Commander-in-Chief Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Commander Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo, which culminated in a full-blown war, has exacerbated divisions among civilians.

The politican criticises the major civilian groups at the time before the outbreak of war, the Forces for Freedom of Change Central Council (FFC-CC) and Democratic Bloc (FFC-DB), for aligning themselves with the warring generals, which, she believes, made them complicit in the conflict’s continuation. “In fact, it made them one of the factors that made the war inevitable.”

Unification efforts

The former FM of Sudan explains that since the outbreak of war, various Sudanese initiatives have aimed to forge alliances to end the conflict. These efforts resulted in the formation of major coalitions like Tagadom and the Charter groups, along with several smaller ones, including radical and Islamist factions. However, these initiatives have yet to achieve the critical mass necessary to halt the war, she argues.

Recognising that overcoming past failures would require prioritising a unified and prosperous Sudan, she calls for a concerted effort to build trust, eliminate mutual exclusion, and address deep-seated mistrust and hatred among civilian groups.

Numerous international and regional actors have shown interest in unifying Sudanese civilians. Efforts by the African Union, Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union, Troika (USA, UK, and Norway), Switzerland, and various NGOs are ongoing. Despite these efforts, the war continues unabated, and humanitarian aid remains insufficient.

‘Third way’

El Sadig advocates for a ‘third way’ that transcends polarisation and pragmatically addresses the needs of Sudanese civilians. This approach, she argues, would “restore civilians to their rightful role in governance, promote unity across Sudan’s regions and tribes, and end the war”. Key to this strategy is a comprehensive process that includes inclusive participation, transparency, trust-building, and cooperation among all initiatives.

Several principles guide her vision for the unification process, including inclusivity, transparency, addressing points of difference candidly, and building trust. She stresses the importance of a holistic approach and clarity in roles and responsibilities. Prioritising the end of the war and focusing on future planning are crucial. A proposed charter should articulate commitment to a united and democratic Sudan. “An inclusive process involving all stakeholders, with a representative advisory group to ensure the process stays on track.”

Addressing taboos

El Sadig identifies several taboo issues that must be addressed to achieve unity. These include dealing with Islamists, formulating an exit strategy for the warring generals, and organising civilian groups. She suggests workshops to strengthen political parties, civil society organisations, trade unions, and pressure groups, fostering cooperation and clear decision-making mechanisms.

By addressing past failures and fostering a ‘third way’ out of the ongoing war, “Sudanese civilians can become a formidable force for peace and democracy”. Without such efforts, El Sadig warns, the war will continue, and the hopes of the Sudanese people will remain unfulfilled.