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Postponement of Legislative Council Set-up Stirs Debate in Sudan


Mortada Ahmed - 7Dnews London

Tue, 19 Nov 2019 13:48 GMT

Sudan is riven by a split regarding the formation of the new Legislative Council, the third side of the transitional authority's triangle of institutions which, under the terms of the Constitutional Declaration, was supposed to have come into being on November 17th.

However, the transitional government and the Revolutionary Front have agreed to postpone setting it up until an agreement - mediated by South Sudan - is reached to end long-running conflicts in three border regions.

The disagreements were aggravated after the Forces of Freedom and Change, which spearheaded the protest movement in Sudan, declared its intention to form the Legislative Council and appoint new governors for the regional states even before reaching a peace deal, a move that was considered by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an alliance that incorporates 7 armed factions, as a violation of the Juba Declaration, a confidence-building measure that was signed with them.

Observers have expressed concern about this split, which may risk the success of the upcoming peace talks due on November 21st in the capital Juba, mediated by South Sudan. These are regarded as the decisive round of negotiations aimed at ending the years-long civil wars.

As news about the parliamentary formation spread, Osama Al-Saeed, the official spokesman of the SRF, said they have not yet received official notification from the transitional government about the postponement.

“But all data indicate that the government abided by the Juba Declaration agreement signed with us, as November 17th has already gone while the Legislative Council has not been formed,” Al-Saeed said, adding that they approve of the postponement because it reflects the importance of having the democratic transition go hand in hand with achieving comprehensive peace in the country.

Al-Saeed told 7Dnews that the SRF have recently been calling for a commitment to the Juba Declaration.

“This week, the SRF leader, Dr Hadi Idris, sent a letter to the head of the South Sudanese mediation team, Tout Kalwak, confirming our adherence to the agreement with the government to postpone the formation of the Legislative Council and the appointment of new governors to the 18 regional states.”

He added that in the last round of talks, the government delegation asked to allow them to appoint state governors, for reasons that were urgent and logical.

“We are seriously considering this request and holding discussions to reach common understanding on it,” Al-Saeed said.

He confirmed that the coming round of talks between the SRF and the Sudanese government, scheduled to be held on November 21st in Juba, will be decisive and they “look forward to a comprehensive peace in our country.”

Al-Saeed urged the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC) to seek the welfare of the country, noting that any violation of the Juba Declaration will increase disagreements and reduce the chances of achieving peace in the country.

Meanwhile, Wagdi Saleh, spokesman of the Central Council for the Forces of Freedom and Change, the supreme authority in the organisation, confirmed that the formation of the Legislative Council will be held in consultation with the SRF and that seats will be left vacant for them to occupy after the peace deal is struck.

Speaking to 7Dnews, Saleh denied that the composition of the Legislative Council would be delayed until peace was reached.

“We’re currently setting up the committees in charge of choosing the member of parliament in cooperation with the umbrella of the armed groups,” Saleh said, adding that the postponement was only meant to give the FFC members enough time for consultation.

Political science professor Dr Ibrahim Kabashi said that if the armed groups are not included in the formation process of the legislative council, this will bring the anticipated peace talks to a halt.

“Pushing back the deadline to a definite, near date is a positive step that gives a chance for the peace negotiations that are due to be held in the capital of South Sudan,” Kabashi told 7Dnews.

He added that the postponement was meant to help accelerate the peace process in the country, and had no political motives.

“Most of the reforms need new bills stemming from a strong parliament that upholds the principles of the December Revolution that led to the overthrow of General Omar al-Bashir,” Kabashi said.

The new round of talks between the government and the armed groups is due to start on November 21st in a bid to achieve peace in Sudan’s western Darfur region, as well as in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

The Sudanese transitional government plans to hold the negotiations on two separate tracks. The first will constitute talks with the People's Liberation Movement- north sector (SPLM-N) - led by Abdul Aziz al-Helu. SPLM-N has been engaged in civil war since 2012 in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and now controls large areas, being one of the country's most powerful armed factions.

The second track of negotiations will be held with the SFR, which incorporates about seven armed factions that fight in Darfur and Blue Nile regions. In the previous round of talks, the government managed to strike agreements with the SFR and used the Juba Declaration to implement confidence-building measures.

The current peace talks involve all the armed factions fighting in Sudan, except the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdul Wahed Mohamed Nour, which continues to fight in Darfur. Nour’s stance regarding the peace process has not yet been clarified.

The transitional government in Sudan has taken a series of confidence-building measures during the last few months to pave the way for peace talks. These measures include a comprehensive cease-fire all over the country, and the release of a number of armed movement prisoners in Khartoum, the last of whom were 24 detainees belonging to the Sudan Liberation Movement.

Translated by Wessam El-Mamlouk