Sudanese talks stumble over security reform

The discussions were supposed to reach a final agreement on a civilian government that is supposed to take over in April

Sudanese demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in the capital, Khartoum. AFP
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Talks in Sudan aimed at reaching a final agreement to name a civilian government next month and launch a new transition towards elections have hit a roadblock over the thorny issue of restructuring the military, political and military sources have said.

Disagreements surfaced this week over the timetable for integrating the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces into the military, a move called for in a framework deal for the new transition signed in December.

Integrating the RSF and placing the military under civilian authority are core demands of a protest movement that helped topple long-ruling autocrat Omar Al Bashir four years ago.

Analysts regard security sector reform as crucial to Sudan's chances of evolving into a democracy.

Talks in Khartoum this week were meant to provide guidance on how and when the RSF will be integrated, but concluded late on Wednesday without issuing recommendations.

The army, police and intelligence agency withdrew from the talks in protest against the lack of any timetable for integration, two political sources and one military source told Reuters. Pictures of the conference's closing session showed that their seats were empty.

While the army prefers a two-year timetable for integration, international mediators have suggested five years, the sources said, while the RSF proposed 10 years.

Both forces said on Thursday that they were committed to the talks and awaiting the results of a technical committee discussing details of integration.

The army and the RSF staged a coup in October 2021, ending a previous transition towards elections that had been launched after Al Bashir's removal.

The new transition is meant to turn the page on the takeover, although negotiations ahead of an expected signature of a final accord on Saturday had already stoked tension that led both the army and the RSF to deploy forces in the capital.

A more formal constitutional declaration is meant to be signed on April 6, with a civilian government due to be named on April 11.

Updated: March 31, 2023, 5:42 AM