Sudan: The Inevitable Need for Political Dialogue

30 Sep 2022

Sudan: The Inevitable Need for Political Dialogue

By Volker Perthes

 Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Sudan

When I was presenting my last report to the Security Council on the situation in Sudan, I had many thoughts running through my mind. The most notable of them was the image of young Sudanese women and men who have been struggling for a better future and continue to do so against all odds. I had met some of them last month during the celebration of International Youth Day held by the Center for Sudanese Studies and I met with a group of youth from the regions a few days before I presented my report during the celebration of International Peace Day. These youth are the future of Sudan, and they deserve to make every effort to translate their hopes and aspirations for freedom, peace, justice, for their future into reality. This inspiration, this commitment, was the basis for my efforts during my meetings that week. I mentioned in my briefing that the overall situation will continue to worsen unless a political situation is found to restore a credible, fully functioning civilian-led government. I believe that this is also the first step towards realizing these young peoples’ aspirations.

While political polarization continues to intensify, there are many signs of hope in reaching a solution. The multiplicity of national initiatives - with many points of convergence between them - evidence this.

Sudan is facing the need to address major questions that go beyond the current debate about transitional constitutional arrangements. Some of these issues have been present since the independence of the country in 1956 and have been root causes of instability in Sudan. Much of this is about resource and wealth sharing, including land. But much of this is about inclusion and exclusion of regions, people, and communities, not least in Darfur, the East, the Kordofans and the Blue Nile. Other more short-term questions relate to structure and the nature of the state the Sudanese want, and the transitional path to reach it.

This transitional path requires clear agreement on the tasks of the transition and a clear distribution of roles and responsibilities between the different actors. It also requires a clear plan for healing the wounds of the past. Accountability and transitional justice are key for the future of stability in Sudan. The need for equality in its broader sense, the rejection of any sort of discrimination between the Sudanese, is crucial.

There should be no place for future military coups in Sudan. Democracy and inclusion are the only ways to bring long lasting stability and peace to this country. So, I continue to welcome both Lt. General Abdulfattah Al Burhan’s and Lt. General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s repeated commitments about the withdrawal of the military from politics. Sudan needs a strong, united and professional army. And the process of integrating all armed forces and movements has to begin in a new, more sustainable transition period. As I have said repeatedly since I arrived in Sudan at the beginning of 2021, “a country with 5,6,7 or more different armies will never be stable.” Military leaders should, indeed, not play a political role and political leaders should not have private armies.

We will continue to work with our partners in the Trilateral Mechanism and the rest of the international community to reach a political agreement that is acceptable for most. The agreement would aim to bring the widest possible consensus among Sudanese stakeholders. We are encouraged to see that civilian forces have found ways to get together around common documents, and that a broader grouping is coalescing around a draft constitutional framework. The Trilateral Mechanism does not need to mediate between civilians. But it is fully prepared to play the role that so many civilian and military leaders are expecting from us: to facilitate or mediate an eventual agreement between the military and the broadest possible civilian bloc.

We recognise the deteriorating socio-economic situation and suffering produced by it. We look forward to seeing Sudan reach a political solution that will allow us to bring back economic assistance and aid to Sudan and mobilise more resources for this objective. This is more urgent now than ever. Any viable solution will only be made and owned by the Sudanese and they have to find it together. Any unilateral action by any actor will be seen as working against the aspirations of all the Sudanese to see a return to the transitional path towards democracy.

I call on all Sudanese people to take advantage of the great historical opportunity offered by the December 2018 revolution, which was able to bring the weight of broad grassroot groups to bear on the political elite. We in the UN can bring technical expertise and other support to proposals on how to address these questions. We will continue to remain nonpartisan, but we will never be neutral with regard to our values: democracy, human rights and international law, and to the strategic objective defined in the mandate given to me by the Security Council, namely, to assist Sudan on a civilian-led transition towards democracy and peace.