Sudan is Backsliding Dangerously.

A Sudanese Military Personnel Blocking Traffic For Inspection after the Failed Coup in KhartoumA Sudanese Military Personnel Blocking Traffic For Inspection after the Failed Coup in Khartoum

Sudan’s transition has been a turbulent one from the get-go. The transitional government had to deal with the heavy legacy of past repression, including how to handle former president Omar al-Bashir and two other high level officials wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. All this while tackling a terrible economic reality.

Abuses continued during the transition, and impunity for serious crimes remained largely the norm.

While some small but important progress was made on accountability notably through a handful of prosecutions for protest killings, embryonic  legal reforms, and  improved cooperation with the International Criminal Court Sudan’s partners could have done more to bolster the reforms on which success of the transition toward civilian rule depended.

Instead, security forces were able to continue to push back on essential actions for ensuring justice, including lifting immunity, handing over members of the security forces, and security sector reform. Many Sudanese became increasingly frustrated that not enough attention was being given to their calls for justice.

The impact was felt throughout the country, and nowhere more than in restive Darfur, the site of decades of atrocities by the former regime.

Over the last two years, West Darfur’s capital, Al-Genaina, has been wracked by three bouts of serious fighting, which left hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and resulted in massive destruction of civilian property.

After the hybrid peacekeeping mission in the region had withdrawn, the government was charged with protecting civilians, but our research has shown how RSF forces the very forces responsible for years of abuses there attacked civilians while other security forces stood by.

The military takeover on October 25 punctured the hopes for Sudan’s transition to civilian rule. In the days that followed, the gloves came off, and the security forces resorted to their well-trodden and brutal tactics.

They used excessive, including lethal, force against peaceful protesters; forcibly disappeared over two dozen high-level officials and protest leaders; and shut down the internet. At least 38 people have been reported dead in Khartoum, and hundreds have been injured across the country.

As protests against the takeover have continued, domestic, regional, and international actors have offered to mediate to reach a political deal. Among others, the UN Integrated Mission to Support the Transition in Sudan had offered offices to assist such dialogue.

Protesters are concerned by the lack of transparency surrounding these multiple initiatives and fear these processes could yet again end up allowing abusers, including military commanders, off the hook. Media reports on discussions underway have not included any reference to accountability.

If the international community wants to put a sustainable end to cycles of instability and repression in Sudan, it needs to prioritize justice and send an unambiguous message that committing abuses will no longer be a means to operate, far less succeed. It is also the essential starting block to build a society based on respect for rule of law and rights.

All political processes in Sudan need to guarantee that there will be no rollbacks on gains made during the transition, no immunity handed out, and that international actors cannot afford to put justice on the back-burner.

The last two weeks have shown all too well that this doesn’t end well. It only empowers the abusers.

 

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