Sudan: Decommissioning the Bashir Regime to Empower the People
After the overthrow of the Omar al-Bashir regime, in April 2019, a transitional Sovereignty Council was formed in September 2019, with a military presidency, membership of 6 civilians and 5 soldiers, the formation of a civilian cabinet, and a Constitutional Charter for the Transition Period toward a three-year system (2019–2022) and, in November, the Transitional Council passed three priority laws to secure the political transition phase:
Decommissioning and Recovering Looted Funds
Last December, the Decommissioning, Anti-Corruption and Funds Recovery Commission was formed by representatives of the military, security, civil, financial, and judicial institutions. After six months of work, the Commission announced that it had recovered 440 residential and commercial plots from the Bashir family and the former president’s first deputy, and the director of the former security apparatus, in addition to 157 residential plots, 224 commercial plots that were owned by businessmen and companies close to the Bashir regime, and transferred to them illegally.
For example, the Empowerment Committee revealed that the wife of former police chief in the Bashir regime, General Mohamed Naguib, alone had acquired 133 plots of land, comprising an entire residential city estimated at 680,000 square meters, in Khartoum North. (See the Commission`s report on recovered property.)
The Commission also announced that it had completed the formation of Decommissioning Committees in the various states of Sudan by 80%, especially in areas where armed conflicts are taking place, including the Darfur region (North and West Darfur), and the Kordofan region.
The Forces for Change and Freedom also called on the Commission to intensify its efforts at uncovering the corruption in the lack of transparency of oil and mining revenues, especially those contained in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan and the new State of South Sudan. A report by the International Integrity Organization last May on Sudan and the integrity of trade also revealed a significant manipulation in oil and gold exports by reviewing the country`s export figures announced by the Government of Sudan and comparing them with data obtained from 70 countries from among Sudan`s trading partners. As for gold, Sudan has recorded that, in the period from 2012–2018, gold exports amounted to about 8.6 billion dollars’ worth, while the records of its trading partners show that it imported 12.7 billion dollars, meaning that there is a gap of 4.1 billion in the exports of gold reported by the Sudanese government .
Challenges to end armed conflict and empower local communities
Besides the economic crisis, many challenges standing before the process of democratization and building a sustainable state of peace. Among those are the armed conflicts caused by the practices of Bashir’s rule decades ago, as a result of the small circle of the Bashir regime privatizing all natural resources—oil, gold, and agricultural land—while neglecting basic social services to the population and local communities, especially in the areas that have witnessed armed conflicts (Darfur, Kordofan, Nile State, the Cedars, and Sennar).
Despite the overthrow of the Bashir regime, armed conflicts are still raging in Darfur and Kordofan, and the displacement of thousands of people continues, because the major armed movements in Sudan (Sudan Liberation Movement - Arco Minawi Wing, the Popular Movement - North Sector, and the Justice and Equality Movement) were not involved in the transition process, nor did they sign the Political Declaration.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of IDPs have been affected by impeded access to food as a result of the ban on interstate movement. Armed clashes have flared in Darfur, and a new wave of displacement has displaced 57,000 families in West and Central Darfur from January to June 2020. Tribal armed conflicts were renewed in the Kadugli region, as well as in Kordofan. In South Kordofan last June, 12,000 families (equivalent to 20,400 people) were displaced from their homes, 26 killed, and three residential neighborhoods destroyed.
It is a complex tasks to share natural resources, integrate these militias into the security and military apparatuses of the state, and provide huge capital of all kinds in light of the economic crisis to address the issues of reparation, including resettlement and rehabilitation. These, in addition to providing basic services, hinder any initial progress in implementing the Peace Agreement.
The situation in areas experiencing armed conflicts over natural resources represents a major challenge and greater than the tasks of the decommissioning of Bashir’s committees and the recovery of funds. Not only is the registration and recovery of real estate and looted assets by the former Bashir regime in those areas, but there should be documentation of the root causes of conflict, which includes systematic economic and social marginalization, failure to manage ethnic and tribal diversity, and their relationship to traditional forms of land tenure, which generated armed conflict especially after increased competition for land, after the secession of South Sudan in 2011. The Unregistered Land Act 1970 and its successive amendments, as well as the Public Investment Law promulgated in 1990 contributed to contributed to the plunder of vast areas of land, especially from smallholders.
Therefore, there should be an integrated strategic vision between the tasks of the Decommissioning, Anti-Corruption and Funds Recovery Commission in armed conflict areas, and the procedures of the political negotiation process with armed movements in signing a peace agreement, ending the armed conflict, especially in documenting the lands of local communities looted by the former regime, and setting a plan to achieve the principles of transitional justice, with full reparations for the victims, including their rehabilitation, and this requires the international community and international organizations taking responsibility to assist the Sudanese government to develop that vision according to a human rights approach based on ensuring that the concept of human security established by the UN General Assembly in October 2012, and UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (Pinheiro Principles) of June 2005. So that peace can be people-centered and empowerment of conflict-affected societies, after decommissioning the organs of the former regime and recovering the assets of people that have been looted for decades, not the creation of new authority and power for armed movements and creating conflicts among themselves to control natural resources, as is the tragic case in the State of South Sudan.
Photo: Iconic photo of Alaa Salah during the 2019 uprising for democracy in Sudan. Source: Buzzfeed.