Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 4 November 2019

Transitional Sudan in security threat: How threatful are the deep-state forces?

By T. A. Ali

T. A. Ali

It will be premature, impractical and perhaps naive to think that Sudan’s ongoing revolutionary change is free from security threats. Such thinking can be a recipe for a tragic mistake. My view is that the situation is more complicated and volatile and calls for caution.

Indeed this is a brave and popular upheaval, with a remarkable trademark of "peacefulness", championed and defended by a young and determined generation. They brilliantly were able to concisely sum up the core, fundamental popular demands in a thematical slogan of "Freedom, Peace and Justice".

However, considering the magnitude of hostility and the capacity of the counter-revolutionary forces, especially the Islamist “deep state” security, my view is that the arrangements for effecting change generated by the process would obviously need a more institutionalized guarding system and strong protection mechanism than the prevailing one.

It is important to note that, though it passed through an unprecedented heroic, life lesson torment, the revolution has obviously been unable to pull the security forces, including the army, especially the upper echelon, into its side or fold. The primary reason for this failure is the heavy-handed grip exercised by the decades-old Islamist deep state system over the entire security apparatus.

For certain, if this trend of developments continue unfettered, it will go beyond mere alteration or adjustment of the context and essence of the changes, but will have serious repercussions on the integrity and viability of the changing process and might even generate unpredicted repercussions and undermine every efforts employed to dismantle Islamist deep state and neutralize its counter-revolutionary force.

Make no mistake the deep state elements who are still in effective control of every essential and vital aspect in the state machinery including almost the entire security apparatus, the economy, banking system, the energy, communication and transportation industry, foreign missions, civil service and above all propping up the militia. Failure to dismantle the powerful Islamist state will surely obstruct the attainment of any durable peace, security and stability. Consequently, such a situation might even put into risk or jeopardise prospects of maintaining the "unity" of the country itself.

The polarized arrangements have produced a non-ideal situation where the civilian government finds itself encountered by the deep state counter-revolutionary forces, turning the possibility of establishing freedoms, achieving genuine peace and executing justice into a near-impossible expectation. The crucial question is, therefore: how threatful the threat of the deep state forces in torpedoing any meaningful progress of transitional changes?

For certain it is no secret of the fact that security always serves an essential political defence shell and determining catalyst factor in effecting orderly transitional process in unstable revolutionary environments such as the one taking place in Sudan now.

At the same time, while one would have had expected otherwise, it is surprising to note the prevailing level of indifference, the degree of lack of interest and concern, the kind of half-heartedness and lukewarm, the sort of aloofness, the extent of insensitivity, callous and lethargic attitudes being displayed by the civilian government, the leading force behind the revolution (the FFC) and even the grassroots of the local resistance committees regarding this situation.

It is important to recall for public attention that barely a month before the formation of the civilian government, the demised Transitional Military Council (TMC) did announce an attempted coup led by no other person than the Army Chief of Staff who also dared to tell in a publicized interrogation that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood ever since he was a youngster at school. He also mentioned his contacts while preparing his failed coup. Among those are well known leading figures of the defunct regime. Astonishingly they were never arrested nor interrogated.
In that announcement, the TMC stated that five other previous coup attempts were aborted.

In examining this issue, it is of paramount importance to recall the fact that, if the security agency had not been summarily dissolved under the 1985 revolutionary transitional arrangements, in arbitrarily, reckless and unprofessional manner, the destiny of the country could have been a different story.

The inner side of the existing security institutions reveals the picture that is negative enough to inflict any degree of damage to the changing process. It is full of time bombs and landmines.

The reality is that the Islamist defunct regime, in order to ensure and secure the loyalty of the security apparatus, had significantly ideologized, indoctrinated, tribalized and privatized the entire security system including the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the People’s Defence Force (PDF), the People’s Security Force (PSF), the Police and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

This is what makes these institutions loyal to counter-revolutionary forces of the Islamist deep-state.

For example, in the case of SAF, in addition to its already disputed public reputation on the ground of multiple accusations including its constant engagement in coercing and suppressing internal civil wars, intervening in making coups, aborting democratic processes and allying with despotic regimes in times of popular protests for freedoms, it is virtually a collapsed institution with no clear or proper chain of command. This is of course not forgetting the indifference it had shown during the massacre of hundreds of civilians who mistakenly thought to seek protection from the army and camped in no other place than in front of the Army Command Headquarters.

This state of affairs as at now could be easily manipulated and exploited in sabotaging any meaningful changing process, especially as SAF’s upper echelon is thoroughly infiltrated.

The case with the NISS is in no way better than that of the other partisan security organs such as the People Defence Forces and Popular Security Forces which are sponsored and commanded by National Congress Party hardliners such as Ali Osman Taha (the former vice president), Ali Karty (a hardliner security don), Ahmed Haroun (ICC indicted), Awad Abujaz, Nafi Ali Nafi and others.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the militia currently imposing itself as Sudan’s de facto army has its unique reputation problem and negative public perception over its composition and human rights record.

As an ethnic-based tribal militia with records of violations of human rights, and consisting of elements whose identity remained doubtful, it can hardly be relied on for protection of any democratic dispensation.

As for the police, it is now not a reliable law enforcement institution either. Apart from the corruption that eroded and smeared its ranks, and human rights violations committed through what is known as Public Order law, the police have become a powerless and unreliable force for the last thirty years. It needs thorough structural reform.

To make things worse, the sharply negotiated and controversial transitional documents, especially the Constitutional Declaration, have explicitly given the military exclusive rights on the issue of the restructuration of the security sector, including the army, the police and the rest of the security apparatus. This exclusive right also includes the appointment of ministers of Defence and Interior.

Another worst situation is the case of the manipulated Judiciary system which is too deformed to be reformed.

This is quite obvious from the fight and stalemate where was the Civilian government is unable to force any reforms as its hands are tied with procedural difficulties over the appointment of the Chief Justice and the Attorney General. This is a very crucial and relevant matter to security sector reforms as both the Chief Justice and the Attorney have direct roles in effecting justice and curbing impunity to enhance and complement security.

The unrestricted and free movement enjoyed by the deep state prominent elements such as security operatives, renegade army Generals, militia commanders, and political leaders will definitely facilitate them regrouping, planning and executing any possible plots. They are effectively outside government control and moving with unlimited resources including money and numerous relations with international quarters. Their free movement will, by all means, help complete the ring of plotters and saboteurs and fill the missing links of conspiratorial chains.

The danger of the free movement of the officials of the defunct regime was already manifested in other cases and incidences. The recent attempt to smuggle the deposed president Gen. Omer Albasheer out of his prison, the minor nature of accusations levelled against him, a mock trial he is going and the provocative way of his dress before the court all clearly demonstrate the fragility of the security situation.

Besides the above-mentioned challenges, there is also the need for additional precautions since there are other factors that may not work in favour of the changing process. Divergences and often conflicting interests and views of international actors remain one such negative salient complications especially as some actors are clearly against any favourable democratic dispensation to occur in Sudan. This will influence the end game of the changing process in an adversary way.

Furthermore, the ambivalent and sometimes objectional positions adopted by some FFC leaders towards peacemaking processes in war-affected regions such as Darfur and the two areas also does not help to positively address this issue of security threat. These leaders should know peace is an existential matter.

Any ambivalent positions displayed will tighten the hands of the civilian government, reduces the chances for the achievement of this vital issue and hinders the progress. Such behaviour can also cause bad blood between the civilian government and people in these war-affected areas and unnecessarily widen the gap of trust and shrink the necessary support. This will work in favour of counter-revolutionary forces.

Another worth mentioning point in this regard is the existing gap and lack of good understanding within the ranks of the forces for change. Though it is easier for them to cement their ranks, the reality is not that comfortable. The fact is that the existing fragmentation among these forces is fairly baseless especially within the main building blocks such as the Sudan Professional Association (SPA), Sudan Call (SC), National Consensus Forces (NCF) and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Although they all are signatories to the charter for Freedom and Change, they are yet to be at the required level of understanding, cooperation and harmony. The point is that the more these forces are fragmented, the more the chances for the counter-revolutionary forces increase and the threat becomes imminent.

In assessing this potential situation it should also be noted with great concern the most recent and unprecedented political phenomenon took place in Eastern Sudan (the Beja land) where severe tribal clashes took place which was followed by demonstrations staged to call for a separation of the East. This is a new trend and the Islamist element can utilize such grievances.

The civilian government should approach and contain such developments before it spills over.

Another vital frontal arena used to attack the changing process is religion. Islamist elements are desperately trying to use this sensitive front as a conduit for their propaganda against the forces for change. In preparation for concerted psychological war, the defunct Islamist propaganda is carefully launching attacks against the whole change taking place as masonic and/or communist conspiracy. Many well known clergymen, Mosque preachers, Islamist media operators, writers, cartoonists and caricaturists are consistently and deliberately employing character assassination tactics, targeting and labelling political leaders, prominent national figures, women, civil society activists of the revolution and civilian government ministers as communists and/or irresponsible liberals who give no regard to religious and sacred beliefs.

Although many Sudanese consider this as mere malicious propaganda schemes by desperate Islamists who recklessly used and exploited Islam as cover-up to commit unimaginable and organized corruption which made them lose credibility on the eyes of the public regarding their piety or commitment to religious matters, it is important this propaganda should not be let go without countering or deterrence. Such countering can best be played by moderate religious leaders who support the change.

In the face of this security challenge; definitely, the answer will not be "hands up" or "raising white flag".

All defensive means and ways need to be employed to find a way out from this "boxed in" situation. Hard achievements and gains need hard ways to be defended. Besides public awareness and mobilization the government needs to be bold enough and marshall all resources means and ways to protect itself including effecting necessary security arrangements that allow the protection of the changing process.
Achieving comprehensive peace is one strategic sure way to secure stability and it should be a must. Perhaps it may be wiser to also suggest the necessity of appeasing and neutralizing international actors, especially those that have direct interests, particularly the neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia and South Sudan, to play more positive roles in Sudan’s political settlements. This is important in that their interests lie in a new, stable and democratic Sudan and their leverage should be used for change and stability rather than otherwise.

At the level of the wider international community, the role of the United States, the UK, France, the Arab countries, the UN, AU is instrumental especially in assisting the civilian government in the area of the peace process, economic recovery and relief assistance.

It is always said vigilance is the gate to minimise and/or eliminate the chances for a security threat. In the case of Sudan that takes both public mobilization and international support.

The important note down here is that the best way to break this "boxed in" situation is not by way of mere folly reaction but by way of "rationalization".

With all the accumulated experiences from October 1964 revolution and April 1985 revolution, plus all the hard lessons learnt out of the oppressive conservative military rules, including the genocide and war crimes, it is high time for Sudan to draw such important lessons that will help break this Devilish vicious cycle of revolution, military coups, popular uprising, shaky transitional arrangements, weak civilian government, military coups and then revolution again.

It is said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The author can be reached at saharaclub2015@gmail.com