ICG: ‘Considerable work remains to keep things on track’ in Sudan

The Framework Agreement signing ceremony in Khartoum on December 5 (RSF)


A statement by the non-governmental think tank International Crisis Group (ICG) recommends that signatories of Sudan’s new Framework Agreement should “work to win broader support during the current phase of negotiations, while outside actors should stand ready to offer financing if the agreement sticks.” 

“Considerable work remains to keep things on track in the country’s transition away from authoritarian rule,” said the statement published on Monday.  

Since October’s military coup Sudan has been stuck in political deadlock. Police and security forces frequently clash with ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations and have killed more than 100 protesters, report Sudanese medical groups. 

The conclusion of the first phase of a framework agreement between the military and civilian parties on December 5, “is a major accomplishment, but is facing long odds. It excludes former rebels and others who could undermine the transitional government if not brought on board. Many of those who are against the agreement, including the resistance committees at the core of the protest movement demanding civilian rule, doubt that the generals will honour the deal’s terms.” 

This week, resistance committees in Khartoum announced that they are in the process of forming Legislative Councils in the city’s districts, which is to lead to the formation of a national Legislative Council. In addition, a charter which regulates the work of the resistance committees is almost ready to be signed in its final form. 

“Wider talks among civilian leaders, which began in January to address critical issues not covered by the accord and build a broader constituency for it, are thus critical if it is to garner the legitimacy it will need to succeed,” said ICG. 

Following the June 3 Massacre at the sit-in at the Army Command in Khartoum in 2019, resistance committees “emerged as watchdogs.” Their role is to make sure that other opposition organisations, such as the Sudanese Professional’s Association (SPA), the FFC, and political parties, do not compromise on the ideals of the December revolution in exchange for government power, according to prominent Sudanese political scientist Atta El Battahani. 

The statement notes that “on paper, the agreement unexpectedly fulfils most of the anti-coup parties’ demands.” It ends the military’s formal political role, contemplates a transitional order in which a civilian will become head of state, and gives civilians the right to appoint the prime minister, a transitional legislative council, and an eleven-member interim judicial council. Elections are to take place at the end of the two-year transition period. 

In addition, the prime minister will name the cabinet and state governors and chair the Defence and Security Council. “The agreement also contains other provisions that appear intended to reallocate power away from the security forces,” said ICG, however, critics “complain about both the deal itself and the process behind it.” 

With this in mind, the ICG statement made five recommendations: 

  1. The FFC leaders who stand to form the next government should urgently seek a modus vivendi with other civilian political factions. 
  1. The framework signatories need to better factor into the final agreement the concerns of the Sudanese who live in the vast rural and often restive regions outside Khartoum. 
  1. The FFC elite in particular should reconsider their cold shoulder to Islamists who are not affiliated with former President Al Bashir’s National Congress Party. 
  1. Recognising that outreach to all these groups will be a tall order, and will require a neutral facilitator, the FFC leaders should help empower the UN-AU-IGAD trilateral mediators to step in. 
  1. To create the best odds that the next transitional government will succeed where the last one failed, Phase II negotiations should develop a clear action plan designed to help it avoid the turf battles that beset its predecessor. 

According to the ICG, “finding a path forward in Sudan will require a range of key actors to make compromises, work with those they do not fully trust and agree on a set agenda for pulling the country back from the brink.” 

To read the full ICG statement, click here.