Sudan’s military and a group of political opponents are close to a deal that aims to resolve the crisis caused by last year’s coup by restoring a civilian prime minister and guaranteeing the army some independence, according to people familiar with the secret US-brokered discussions.
Talks in recent weeks, also facilitated by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the UK, have seen the army and the country’s most powerful militia hold direct negotiations with members of the Forces for Freedom and Change, a major opposition coalition, according to the people, who include diplomats.
Last October’s putsch derailed hopes for democracy in Sudan, where long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019 amid nationwide demonstrations. Restoring elements of civilian rule could unlock billions of dollars of frozen Western aid key to the shattered economy, but the non-involvement of labor unions or resistance committees, the driver of post-coup protests, raises doubts over whether the deal will win popular support.
The talks arranged by the so-called “Quad” of countries, mainly held at the residence of Sudan’s army leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also have buy-in from several political parties, the people said. They asked not to be identified as they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.
A spokesman for the FFC coalition, Shihab Ibrahim, confirmed a quartet of nations had facilitated talks with a military delegation including al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the Rapid Support Forces militia.
The deal being drafted may help enable the “formation of a broadly acceptable and inclusive civilian-led transitional government,” the US State Department said in an e-mailed response to questions. “What Sudan’s democracy looks like is for the Sudanese people to determine, but they have been clear in its core tenets: it must be civilian-led and provide justice, prosperity, and peace. Military rule is not and will not be sustainable.”
An army spokesman declined to comment and representatives for Saudi Arabia and the UAE didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the British embassy said the UK was “supporting Sudanese-led efforts” to reach a credible political agreement for a civilian-led government as soon as possible, but isn’t mediating. It didn’t elaborate.
Under the suggested deal, the army would agree to a non-military head of state and a prime minister chosen by civilians. The pact would provide some form of independence and immunity from prosecution for the military, concessions that would roll back commitments made in a constitutional document written after Bashir’s fall.
A proposed new transitional constitution drafted by the Sudanese Bar Association has been used as a starting point for the deal, although elements such as concessions to the army have been added. A draft of the association’s document obtained by Bloomberg also envisages that Dagalo’s RSF militia be folded into the regular army. The US State Department confirmed the bar association’s document was driving the talks.
The US-led talks opened up another track of negotiations outside one organized by the United Nations, African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional bloc. There have been public statements in recent days suggesting a Sudanese deal is in the offing.
The UN special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, told Al-Arabiya television last week that political factions had “achieved common understanding” over forming a transitional civilian government with elections planned within two years.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim told Bloomberg in an interview in Washington that discussions aimed at implementing a “broad-based, inclusive government” were under way and the military was committed to withdrawing from politics. “Hopefully we will reach an agreement, not between the activists and the military, but among the political formations in the country,” he said.
The coup spurred Western donors to suspend aid, contributing to a funding crisis for Sudan’s economy. The International Monetary Fund forecasts Sudanese real gross domestic product will contract 0.3% this year, before expanding 2.6 percent in 2023. With assistance from Abeer Abu Omar, Zainab Fattah and Matthew Martin / Bloomberg.