The move by the United Nations to convene a conference that brings together all the relevant parties in Sudan is a welcomed initiative. Sudan must seize on this opportunity to address its lingering conflict about the scope and pace of transition to democracy because this initiative could very well be the last chance to save the country from sliding into chaos.
The UN invitation comes days after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned, two months after he was reinstated following the 25 October takeover by the military council. Hamdok had been leading figure of the civilian part of the equation that was formed following the overthrow of former president Omar Al Bashir.
But the heavy-handed rule of the military council, led by General Abdul Fattah Al Burhan, the powerful second part of the transitional coalition, has led to sharp disagreement and fuelled suspicions that the military was not keeping its promise of a transition to democracy and holding free elections in 2023 as agreed.
The antimilitary protests, which began when Burhan’s military council dismissed the government and arrested senior officials and leading activists last October, continues. Do does the violent response by the military. Hamdok’s decision to step down, again, sparked fresh protests in the past few days. On Thursday, three demonstrators were shot dead in the capital Khartoum and its suburbs, bringing the toll death to 60 in two months.
“I have tried my best to stop the country from sliding towards disaster,” Hamdok said as he announced his resignation last week. But sliding towards disaster is a clear and present danger.
Therefore, the UN call on all parties of the conflict- military leaders, political groups, and democracy activists to hold talks is critical for putting the transition process back on track. “It is time to end the violence and enter into a constructive process,” UN special envoy Volker Perthes said in a statement, announcing talks to bring together “all key civilian and military stakeholders.” An UN- led news conference is to be held on Monday “to mark the official launching of the intra-Sudanese Talks on Democracy and Transition.”
The QUAD group — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK, welcomed the UN initiative and urged the Sudanese parties to “to seize this opportunity to restore the country’s transition to civilian democracy, in line with the 2019 Constitutional Declaration.” The Arab League also welcomed the move.
Hamdok’s resignation points to serious flaws in the current arrangement to implement the 2019 transition plans. That failure will have severe consequences for not only Sudan but also the region as a whole if the situation gets out of control and descends to civil strife. Thus, it is important that all concerned parties, especially the military, take the UN initiative seriously to prevent further violence and hopefully realise the aspiration of the Sudanese people.