Sovereign Council negotiates with armed opposition while seeking foreign direct investment
Since the military coup against former Republic of Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the ascendancy of the Transitional Military Council and the subsequent Transitional Sovereign Council, the leadership in Khartoum has been attempting to establish a political dispensation to position the oil-rich nation to emerge from its economic crisis and internal social turmoil.
Ongoing discussions with armed opposition groups operating in Darfur, the Blue Nile and South Kordofan has led to preliminary agreements for the entering of politics by groups which were in protracted struggle with the central government.
On January 24, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Malik Agar, signed an agreement with the Transitional Sovereign Council which will serve as a framework for a more comprehensive settlement during mid-February. The pact embodies clauses related to the demands related to security questions and the character of the political system.
SPLM-N Agar wants to be independent of Islamic law governing its affairs. The organization also desires to establish relations with neighboring regions of the Republic of South Sudan and the eventual federation of the now two sovereign nations.
The SPLM-N Agar is a member of Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) where other groups from Darfur as well as factions in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are in alliance. These organizations have been engaged in armed conflict for nearly a decade under the former regime of President al-Bashir.
This preliminary agreement was signed in Juba, the capital of neighboring South Sudan, which gained its independence from Khartoum in 2011. President Salva Kiir was present at the signing and praised the framework as an advancement aimed at a lasting peace and reconciliation within the Republic of Sudan.
Kiir called for the parties to adhere to the accord encouraging others to join this framework arrangement. The South Sudanese leader envisioned the agreement as providing the basis for building internal stability in both states and broader economic cooperation.
Another Faction Fails to Reach Agreement with Transitional Government
In other developments, the SPLM-N al Hilu faction, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, has stated that it is not concerned with the agreement signed between the Transitional Sovereign Council and the SPLM-N Agar. The SPLM-N al-Hilu has maintained its position of upholding the right to a secular state and that this important issue must be resolved at the negotiating table prior to a constitutional convention advocated by the Transitional Sovereign Council.
Talks with the SPLM-N al-Hilu on January 26 failed to reach a consensus and have been suspended until February 4. The Sudanese government delegation member Mohamed Hassan al-Thaishi articulated the view that the agreement with the SPLM-N Agar, which operates in the same theater as the SPLM-N al-Hilu, should serve as the basis for the continued negotiation with other armed groupings.
SPLM-N al-Hilu spokesperson Jack Mahmud rejected this assertion of the January 24 agreement being a basis for broader discussions claiming that al-Thaishi did not consult with their organization prior to making such a statement. Until there is a breakthrough on the issue of a secular government it does not appear that the SPLM-N al-Hilu will be brought into the proposed constitutional conference.
According to Mahmud, “Al-Taishi’s statement expresses the vision and point of view of the government delegation, as well as of the signatories to the agreement. The SPLM-N affirms that it is not concerned with the framework agreement signed between the Transitional Government and Agar/Arman group, even if it is supported by the other tracks.” (https://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article68900)
Despite these disagreements, Mahmud did emphasize the SPLM-N al-Hilu’s “full readiness to continue the peace talks, despite the stalemate on the issues of secularism and the right to self-determination”. The South Sudanese mediation team established by the presidency has said that the February 4 talks should lead to a comprehensive peace encompassing all of the armed opposition groupings operating in various areas of the country.
Economic Program of the Transitional Sovereign Council and Its Foreign Policy
Equally as important to the future of the Republic of Sudan is the necessity of implementing economic reforms. Challenges related to the oil industry and its status within the broader petroleum market internationally will be a key component in bringing about stability and political integration.
Although Khartoum is listed by the United States and other imperialist countries as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” (SST), a designation which still remains despite the coup against al-Bashir and the National Congress Party (NCP) in April 2019, a statement by a Washington official suggested that this was not the main stumbling block in qualifying Sudan for loans from the global capitalist financial institutions. Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, pointed to the substantial debt obligations as the major impediment to the acquisition of direct foreign investment.
At the conclusion of a tour of several African states including Kenya, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Sudan, Nagy spent considerable time discussing Washington’s inconsistent position on Khartoum with Sudanese Foreign Minister Asma Abdallah. The U.S. position seems quite contradictory as Nagy referred to the government as a partner of Washington while pointing out the roadblocks to full normalization of relations with the imperialist states with the issue of foreign debt as a major factor.
Nagy expressed this dubious policy enunciated by the administration of President Donald Trump indicating that: “We are talking about (that) more than SST. Sudan is a partner. Negotiations are ongoing but I am optimistic. There are thorny issues. We want a successful Sudan but I can’t go into technical issues but we are working it. I wish we can give a time frame.” (https://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article68905)
With the rapid decline in oil prices coupled with the partitioning of Sudan, the economy has been in dire straits for a number of years. The unrest against former leader al-Bashir arose over a rise in commodity prices and later escalated to political demands related to regime change.
The monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have provided substantial loans and cash infusions into the Sudanese economy aimed at keeping the state afloat. These relationships with such staunch allies of Washington portend much for the overall foreign policy framework of Khartoum.
There are those within the international financial structures that are willing to write-off loans held by Sudan. However, it is the U.S. that continues to veto any effort by Khartoum to receive assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The State Department official went on to note: “There are a number of other criteria; for instance, Sudan has considerable arrears to international financial institutions which prevent those international financial institutions from making additional loans or grants to Sudan, so that’s one of the problems. So the issue is, number one, reputational; number two, it is the arrears that Sudan has built up that will need to be negotiated in the future. The SST really refers much more to how the United States is obligated to respond to Sudan’s request for broad projects and programs in international financial institutions.”
Nagy also raised that Sudan must pay compensation to victims of terrorism. This is the policy of Washington despite the failure of the U.S. itself to accept any responsibility for the massive deaths, injuries and displacement caused by the successive imperialist wars carried out over the recent period.
Interim Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok agreed in December to purportedly accept responsibility for the actions of the previous government of ousted President al-Bashir and has opened up discussions with the families of victims of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 along with the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Nonetheless, there has never been any definitive evidence that the Sudanese government was directly involved in the incidents. (https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/op-ed-sudan-s-push-for-removal-from-us-terror-list-not-a-panacea)
Under the U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton, the Pentagon carried out bombing operations against Sudan in 1998 in the aftermath of the embassy attacks which killed several hundred people in Nairobi and a far smaller number in Dar es Salaam. A pharmaceutical plant was destroyed in Sudan claiming it was a source for the manufacture of chemical weapons.
Of course no proof of the production of chemical weapons was ever proven by Washington and the U.S. has not paid any compensation for the destruction of the facility. These allegations by the U.S. played a role in the designation of Sudan as a SST entity.
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
January 31, 2020