By Dr. Elwathig Kameir
Toronto, 11th January 2024
In this brief piece, I address an open letter to my friend Dr. Abdullah Hamdok, former Prime Minister of Sudan’s transitional government, and the chairperson of the Civil and Democratic Forces Coalition (Taqaddum), against the backdrop of the extended dialogue that we engaged in on the topic of Sudanese national affairs, especially the issue of war and peace. The pivotal importance of our engagement obliges me to move the dialogue to the public space, thus contributing to attempts to identify solutions to the current crisis so that our people can enjoy sustainable peace and rescue our country from a dark future.
Over the past weeks, we have engaged in an extensive and deep dialogue on the ways and means of ending the war in Sudan through achieving the objective of forming a single professional national army with a unified command based on a vision that promotes dialogue on the foundational issues confronting the Sudanese state, a vision that goes beyond polarization and disagreements over transitional governance bodies. This is the only viable approach to overcome the obstacles that have repeatedly delayed the realization of building a Sudanese state and which resulted in hindering the prospects for a democratic transformation. All this reveals that we are yet to learn the lessons of three failed transitional periods in our modern history (1964, 1985, 2019), in addition to the transitional period following the CPA 2005, which led to the independence of the South and the consequent failure to establish two viable and thriving states. This, with an emphasis on the participation of all political, societal, and civil forces in this founding political process without exclusions, except for the National Congress Party (NCP), which was the ruling party of a totalitarian regime that was overthrown by the December Revolution, and criminal and corrupt elements who contributed to the oppression of the Sudanese people. This vision would pave the way for the transformation from revolutionary legitimacy to constitutional electoral legitimacy through the endorsement of a legitimacy of consensus during the foundational period.
We agreed that despite this challenge, it remains imperative that you, Hamdok, continue your efforts to bring together the parties and adversaries, and that the ball will remain in your court as long as you have the opportunity to lead the “Civil and Democratic Forces Coalition (Taqaddum), and do not have any intentions to participate in any future political authority. It is important for Taquaddum and the FFC’s Central Council to realize that they do not in any way possess the legitimacy to represent the Sudanese people. You accepted the assignment to head the coalition after a long dialogue with its components, and you even frankly told them that although “Taqaddum” represents a good step forward, it does not reflect the true face of Sudan and that it requires patience and flexibility to reach out to others. Thus, you left before the end of Taqaddum’s preparatory meeting of (Addis Ababa, 23-26 October 2823), and commenced a series of meetings with other forces outside the umbrella of “Taqaddum”, e.g your meetings with Minni Arko Minawi, Abdul Wahid Nour, and with Jaafar Al-Mirghani, in order to achieve the greatest measure of political consensus. You mentioned to me that you had told these leaders, in your own words: “No one is asking you to come and join “Taqaddum” or just occupy a back seat, so let us all work flexibly and through parallel channels so that we converge at the end, and this convergence will be achieved through a national body whose objective is to handle the foundational issues of the Sudanese state. Let us postpone our differences and agree to solve the country’s problems leaving partisan politics to the elections. All of this will only happen through a broad consensus. If you exclude any group, no matter how small, in the end, they will turn into spoilers”.
Also, in this context, you agreed with me to meet with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Abdelfatah Al-Burhan (with whom you were already in contact through proxies), and the Commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), if feasible (since at the time of our discussion rumors had spread about his demise) to sit together and discuss a ceasefire, to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to agree on security arrangements leading to the formation of the one army with a unified command, paving the way for the initiation of a foundational political process. This is especially so, since you, Hamdok, had a phone call with both leaders on the eve of the war, in which you asked them to solve their differences and consider the country’s larger interest.
We both arrived at the conclusion that it is important to continue to exert all efforts towards the formation of a “national body or assembly focused on foundational issues and, as you put it, “to do what we can so that we do not lose this idea as it represents a historical opportunity. Although the war is devastating, it has created an opportunity to address problems that we failed to address for over 60 years. In order not to repeat this failure, we need to talk to all parties, form this ‘inclusive’ national body for debating foundational issues, and remove the obstacles that may stand in its way.”
Addis Ababa Declaration
Another opportunity to talk has not presented itself since December 3, 2023, until I was surprised by your signing of a political declaration, in your capacity as chairperson of “Taqaddum”, with the Rapid Support Forces Commander in Addis Ababa on January 2, 2024. This declaration between two parties, one of which is military and the other political, confuses and contradicts the entirety of what you and I had agreed upon in seeking to bring together all Sudanese parties in a national assembly to decide on the foundational and constitutional issues. Rather, the meeting of the “Taqaddum” delegation, the majority of whom are members of the FFC-Central Council, with the RSF commander reflects a departure from, and is not consistent with, your efforts to expand the base of “Taqaddum” by reaching out to others. Indeed, you had previously expressed to me your dissatisfaction with the meeting of the Executive Office of the FFC-Central Council in Cairo and their delegation’s visit to Juba, following the preparatory meeting of “Taqaddum” in Addis Ababa, October 23-26, 2023, while they represented only a small part of “Taqaddum”.
In my opinion, as long as your meeting with the RSF’s Commander happened first, it would have been more appropriate for you to present to him the idea of the national assembly which you endorsed and convince him that it represented a way out of the crisis, until such time that the meeting with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army could be scheduled, and the joint meeting of both parties could take place. However, since objective circumstances dictated your meeting, accompanied by a delegation from “Taqaddum”, with the RSF Commander first, it would have been more worthwhile to address all of them about the necessity of reaching a common understanding and that moves beyond the concept of “transition” and the struggle over power, will never move our country forward, but rather take us back to the vicious cycle and may lead to a more horrific and destructive war. Alternatively, the meeting could have ended up with only a brief press statement reflecting that the consultations that took place to be considered as a first step in the path towards bringing together all the parties to form the national body for constitutional issues, instead of signing a political declaration, thus inaugurating a new “political incubator” that entirely defeats the idea of founding the state through wider political and societal participation! As I conveyed to you, many individuals and groups had pinned their hopes on your leadership of “Taqaddum” thinking you would utilize your “symbolic capital”, derived from being the Prime Minister of the post-December revolution government, to take forward the colossal task of gathering political opponents and expanding participation in a foundational political process, instead of allowing that capital to be exploited by certain political forces to serve their interests in seeking power by going back to the pre-April War era.
It is clear that the political declaration between “Taqaddum” and the RSF’s commander only increases the intensity of political and military polarization and pushes the political and societal adversaries of “Taqaddum” to seek, in turn, an alliance with the armed forces, thus consolidating SAF’s existence as a political party. The preferred step would have required you to proceed with your call for a meeting between Al-Burhan and Hemedti in their capacity as leaders of both sides of the war to reach decisions on ending it, and not to sign a political agreement prepared in advance between only two groups of the old partnership while calling (paragraph iii. 4) the Commander-in-Chief of the Army to sign the Addis Ababa Declaration without his having participated in the process leading up to it, nor in its drafting, unlike what was the case with the negotiations on the political agreement and the Transitional Constitutional Document in 2019, or even the Framework Agreement on December 5, 2022, which included the three parties together. What difference does will the Addis Ababa Declaration make that would ensure its success in ending the war?
I sent you an open letter entitled “To the Prime Minister: The Secret to Success!”, in August 2019, before the formation of your first cabinet, stating that the secret to guaranteeing your success in leading the transitional period depended on the extent of your ability to build the largest measure of political and societal consensus/agreement/satisfaction. In fact, it did not take long until the rifts escalated and divisions continued in the political “base” of the transitional government, which prompted you to launch the “National Crisis and Transition Issues Initiative: The Way Forward,” to consolidate the principle of open, clear, and transparent dialogue, and its management among the components of the Sudanese people to achieve the highest levels of consensus among these components on the issues and challenges facing the democratic civil transition. Even though the initiative did not reach its logical conclusion, your efforts to achieve this consensus did not stop as you also called for (the Crisis Group Initiative on October 18, 2021) until the October 25 coup took place, which also did not derail you from your attempts to unite the political forces until you submitted your resignation in early January 2022.
With the outbreak of the April War, our reality has become more complex than it was before your resignation from the premiership of the government, all of which must dictate the importance of putting forward a coherent political discourse to the political, societal, and popular forces in which a clear vision and an action plan are presented for implementation, with the aim of realizing the greatest political consensus and engagement in an all-inclusive foundational political process, which is a necessary exercise before the constitutional conference required to lay the foundation for the Sudanese citizenship state.
In this context, the Addis Ababa Declaration needs a serious and objective review in order for the Sudanese people to achieve an end to the war and accomplish sustainable peace. Otherwise, the results and repercussions of the declaration will be dire for the country and its people, as the first question asked by observers of the signing scene of the declaration was: What is new that necessitated the establishment of (Taqaddum)? We are watching the same entities and the same faces that ran the transitional period in its final version which led to the crisis. This is, in addition to the lack of the requisite sensitivity on the part of “Taqaddum” leadership, when meeting the RSF delegation regarding the atrocities that befell the majority of Sudanese as a result of the war, including killing, displacement, and insults to their dignity.
Dr. Elwathig Kameir is a freelance researcher and political analyst. He is a former university professor and Senior Program Specialist at the International Development Research Cenre (IDRC).