A Sudanese alliance of pro-democracy groups adopted on Wednesday a political declaration to guide the Afro-Arab nation through its bumpy transition to democratic rule after the downfall of dictator Omar Al Bashir.
The declaration, announced in a signing ceremony held at Khartoum’s Chinese-built Friendship Hall, followed weeks of talks between the groups and parties comprising the Forces of Freedom and Change, the alliance that orchestrated months of street protests that led to Al Bashir’s removal in April 2019.
“We are taking a bold step in the right direction,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told the ceremony. “This is a historic and glorious day. Let us build on what has been achieved today.
“Our people expect a great deal from us,” he said, to chants of “Freedom, Peace and Justice!” — the signature slogan of the December Revolution.
The alliance is the civilian component in the transitional administration in office since August 2019, and in which the military is represented. But it has been beset by divisions blamed by many in Sudan for the lack of sufficient progress in dismantling the legacy of Al Bashir’s corrupt 29-year rule, failure to create transitional bodies, like a council of deputies, and reforming electoral laws.
While the declaration appeared designed in part to confirm the Forces of Freedom and Change’s standing as the most potent force during Sudan’s transition, the document read at the ceremony fell short of providing concrete steps to realise some of its more ambitious objectives.
One such goal is reforming the armed forces to, according to the document, enhance its professionalism and redefine its role.
“The mandate of the armed forces is to protect our national interests … it must not be involved in political rivalries and must commit to neutrality,” said the declaration, alluding to complaints by civilian politicians of the army’s tacit support of traditional political parties.
The military has also faced accusations of subtly attempting to sideline the civilian-led government, going it alone on major foreign policy issues, cultivating regional supporters and portraying the armed forces as the engine of the December 2018-April 2019 uprising.
“There must be a serious dialogue between civilians and the military to define the reforms needed for the armed forces,” said the declaration. The document also emphasised the importance of co-operation between the civilian and military components on the road to democratic rule.
The Sudanese military is the nation’s most powerful institution, with expanding economic interests and decades of combat expertise fighting armed rebellions in the west and south of the vast nation. Its generals ruled Sudan for most of the 65 years since independence in 1956.
“The ultimate aim of the alliance is arriving at a civilian and democratic state based on citizenship without discrimination,” said the declaration.