TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A former official at the United Nations and professor of international law highlighted reasons behind the political standoff in Sudan following a military coup in the North African country and said the opposition has “a long way to go before it can claim victory”.
“…The Military Council can be expected to be under severe external pressure not to give way to the continuing demands of the Sudanese opposition,” Richard A. Falk said in an interview with Press Shia.
“And this pressure will probably be reinforced by internal concerns by the members of the Military Council that a real civilian government might investigate corruption and criminal charges,” he said, adding, “On the basis of this analysis, it would seem that the opposition has a long way to go before it can claim victory!”
Professor Richard Anderson Falk is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed him to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”.
The following is the full text of the Interview:
Press Shia: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was recently removed by a military coup after months of anti-government protests against his three-decade rule. A military council led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is now in power and says it will oversee a transitional period that will last a maximum of two years. What do you think about the latest developments in the African country? How do you predict the future of the developments? Would the military council hand over the power to a democratic government?
Falk: The post-coup situation in Sudan is highly uncertain at the present time. Pessimistically, the military oligarchy that surrounded Omar al-Bashir for three decades remains in control of the governing Military Council. Its membership even includes Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo who led the notorious Janjaweed militia that terrorized Darfur in the years following 2003, committing many crimes against humanity of a character that led many observers to charge genocide. More hopefully, the mass movement in Sudan that has mounted a determined opposition in recent months, remains determined to secure satisfaction for its basic demands of a genuine civilian government and for economic justice benefitting the entire Sudanese population. As far as the durability of the protest is concerned, the spirit of the movement seems strong. One opposition leader expressed the resolve of the movement, “We can wait for 100 years until we get what we want.”
What General al-Burhan has so far proposed as a political compromise is highly ambiguous. It consists of a three-month period of emergency rule, which has already been proclaimed to be followed in two years by a transition to a government of technocrats, which is apparently supposed to satisfy the demand for a civilian. The prospect of a government of technocrats seems to be a promise to establish an apolitical form of governance removed from any kind of op. This conceivably could be a retreat from prior patterns of military rule, but it more likely would be a collection of bureaucrats taking orders from uniformed generals. It is doubtful that such a prospect will satisfy the opposition, which has announced plans for massive demonstrations in the capital city of Khartoum during the coming days and weeks to press its demands.
Press Shia: According to media reports, there have been some meddlesome measures by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Sudan. However, Sudanese protesters have declared their strong opposition to the two countries. What do you think about the future of relations between Sudan and the two Arab countries and do you think that the next Sudanese government would be an ally of the two?
Falk: According to the most accurate reports, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are joined by Egypt in supporting continued military rule in Sudan, both economically and politically. This should not be surprising, mirroring the diplomatic stance of (Persian) Gulf monarchies, except for Qatar, during the Arab Spring uprising of late 2010 and 2011. Egypt since 2013 has been under the oppressive and anti-democratic leadership of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in power thanks to a coup carried out against the democratically elected government of Mohamad Morsi. These three states are opposed to any democratic movements throughout the MENA region regardless of its religious identity. Morsi was a Muslim Brotherhood leader, and one might have expected Saudi/UAE support on sectarian or anti-secular grounds, but what became evident even during the earlier uprising in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak was that these (Persian) Gulf states give an absolute priority to maintaining political stability provided it can be achieved by rulership from above. In this sense, movements from below are always perceived by these regimes as dangerous, and will be opposed, even if religiously oriented and seeking to remove secularists. Against this background the response to developments in Sudan is fully consistent with past political behavior, especially if the Sudanese developments are interpreted, and understood as indicative of a new activist mood possibly linked to the protest movement in Algeria, which can be seen in this light as the second coming of the Arab Spring. In this sense, the Military Council can be expected to be under severe external pressure not to give way to the continuing demands of the Sudanese opposition. And this pressure will probably be reinforced by internal concerns by the members of the Military Council that a real civilian government might investigate corruption and criminal charges. On the basis of this analysis, it would seem that the opposition has a long way to go before it can claim victory!
Press Shia: As you know, Sudan is part of Saudi Arabia’s disastrous military campaign against Yemen. Given that a huge number of the Saudi-led coalition forces fighting in Yemen are Sundanese, what do you think about the effect of developments in Sudan on the protracted war on Yemen?
Falk: This is a vital question. It is known that the opposition forces object to the assignment of Sudanese soldiers to fight in Yemen on behalf of the Saudi war policy. What is not known is whether the economic assistance being given to Sudan in this period is conditioned on continued participation in the Saudi war effort, or the issue will be treated as negotiable, and somewhat subordinate to maintaining the continuity of military rule in Sudan. It is possible that the Saudi approach is to insist on the assurance from the Military Council of both continuing present levels of engagement in Yemen and the retention of military rulership in Sudan.
There is growing international pressure based largely on humanitarian grounds to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end. Whether this will be effective is far from clear. In other words, there are multiple uncertainties that bear on the future of Yemen, as well as Sudan. So far the United States seems to have remained removed from these latest developments, neither siding with the military nor the opposition, but this could change if Saudi Arabia, and possibly Israel, exert pressure on the US government to support and stiffen the anticipated hardline approach of General al-Burhan.