JEAN-JACQUES CORNISH: Sudanese enthusiastic as negotiations resume


An audience increasing in number and enthusiasm is waiting for the resumption of negotiations on the future governance of Sudan.

The most involved and therefore the most passionate are the Sudanese themselves.

They are divided between civilians seeking complete change from the 30-year regime of ousted President Omar al-Bashir and the military desperately trying to maintain the status quo by clinging to power at any cost.

The African continent is deeply immersed in the future of its second-largest member.

The African Union has taken the unprecedented step of suspending Sudan under its current military junta because of the 3 June slaying of at least 118 unarmed pro-democracy activists.

The AU red card will be enforced until the Transitional Military Council hands power to a civilian-led administration.

There is scepticism about exactly what muscle the continental body can bring to bear on the generals.

However, there is no gainsaying that the AU has at last taken up the role it was designed to in 2002 when it replaced the cosy coterie of Organisation of African Unity leaders who refused to criticise each other, let alone interfere in their affairs.

The AU, following the genocide in Rwanda, determined that it would intervene to stop crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and gross human rights violations.

All too often the reluctance to take decisive actions has undermined the credibility of the body.

Those concerned with human rights are hoping the AU has turned a corner by acting against the Khartoum junta.

When it seemed that the prospect for negotiations had died along with the demonstrators outside military headquarters in the Sudanese capital, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew in to offer his services as a mediator.

Both military and civilian leaders accepted Ahmed, who has built a considerable reputation by making peace with Eritrea and Somalia.

He left behind in Khartoum an official, Mahmoud Dirir, who is the source of optimism about negotiations resuming.

Details are lacking, but Dirir does have undertakings from the Alliance for Freedom and Change and the Sudan Professionals Association to call off the general strike that has brought the economy of the country to a standstill this week.

He also has a promise from the generals to release political prisoners taken since the 3 June massacre.
These groups have a mountain to climb.

They have made virtually no progress in talks designed to agree on the composition of a transitional administration leading to elections.

Ahmed is expected back in Sudan this week to continue his face-to-face efforts.

He is understood to have proposed a 15-person body consisting of eight civilians and seven soldiers.

The civilian groups have six pre-conditions for a resumption of talks:

  • The removal of soldiers from the streets of Khartoum and other Sudanese cities;

  • An international investigation into the 3 June killings;

  • The release of political detainees;

  • Restoration of the internet;

  • Press freedom; and

  • The Transitional Military Council accepting responsibility for the attacks on protesters.

Also headed for Khartoum is the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Tibor Nagy.

The US holds a big stick over Sudan because it only recently removed it from the list of terror-sponsoring countries which attract American sanctions.

Nagy’s brief is to get an assurance from the military that it will not attack demonstrators again and to secure an atmosphere conducive for negotiations.

Activist film star George Clooney, who co-founded the watchdog called The Sentinel with former African Affairs Director at the US National Security Council John Prendergast, says Washington must use political and diplomatic weapons to give substance to Nagy’s mission.

Having been involved Darfur in the early 2000s, when it was the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, Clooney is well versed in the iniquities of the Sudanese military and particularly its paramilitary terror group known as the Janjaweed who now go by the more anodyne name of the Rapid Support Force.

The Sentinel is in the business of cutting off the financial stream to groups violating human rights and promoting violence in conflict zones like Darfur.

Clooney says the US Treasury must issue an anti-money-laundering advisory to banks around the world to stop the illicit financial flows to human rights offenders and corrupt officials in Sudan.

He points out that Washington has done this in Venezuela and Ukraine.

Using the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, and eliciting the help of allies in Europe and Africa, Clooney says the Trump Administration can ensure there are consequences for the military regime in Sudan and particularly the Janjaweed.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish.