Tuesday, August 20, 2019

RLPB 516. Sudan: Divine help need if 'New Sudan' is to be realised

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 516 | 21 Aug 2019
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by Elizabeth Kendal

Holding aloft the Constitutional Charter and representing the Transitional Military Council (TMC), Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, with the representative for the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), school teacher Ahmed Rabie (far right). Looking on, in pale fatigues, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti).
Khartoum, 17 Aug 2019.

On Sunday 4 August representatives from Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) signed a Constitutional Charter (CC) which, theoretically, should pave the way for democratic transition. The agreement was celebrated on Saturday 17 August at a ceremony in Khartoum, in the presence of international representatives and observers. Authority will now be transferred to an 11-member Sovereign Council (SC) comprised of six civilians and five generals. The FFC will appoint a cabinet of technocrats and have a two-thirds share of an appointed 300-seat parliament. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who chaired the TMC, will lead the SC for 21 months, after which the SC will be led by a civilian who will oversee a full transition to democratic rule in 2022. [For background on the situation in Sudan see RLPB 502, 'New Sudan' in sight but not yet in hand (15 May 2019).]

Click here for Draft Constitutional Charter for the 2019 Transitional Period

The CC was signed under immense pressure. The 'June 3 Massacre' -- in which Hemeti's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) attacked peaceful protesters in Khartoum, killing more than 120 -- had sent tensions soaring and almost derailed talks [see RLPB 505(5 Jun 2019), under the subheading 'Update on Sudan'.] Then, on 29 July, the RSF attacked peaceful protesters in El-Obeid, killing four children and an activist. As talks faltered, the African Union and Ethiopia stepped up efforts to 'seal the deal' lest Islamist counter-revolutionary forces exploit the fractures, fill the power vacuum and return Sudan to civil war.

The Constitutional Charter (CC) does indeed present us with what Sudan expert Eric Reeves describes as a 'ghostly outline of what a free and just Sudan -- at peace with itself -- might look like'. However, as Reeves explains, the obstacles are enormous. The FFC is itself profoundly divided, with many groups critical that far too much power remains in the hands of a systemically corrupt and historically untrustworthy hybrid military, comprising not only the Islamist-dominated Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), but Hemeti's ill-disciplined RSF (formerly known as Janjaweed). Divisions run deep and the FFC is struggling to agree on who should be appointed to the SC.

click on map to enlarge
Unsurprisingly, the Islamist-dominated, former ruling National Congress Party of ousted president Omar el-Bashir has rejected the CC outright on the grounds that it is not based on Islamic Sharia Law. Critically, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) -- a coalition of armed groups from Blue Nile, South Kordofan (including Nuba Mountains) and Darfur -- has rejected the CC on the grounds that its primary concern -- peace -- has been sidelined for the sake of expediency. As a member of the FFC, the SRF had insisted that peace and democratisation be linked, on the grounds that a truly representative democracy is only possible if there is peace. On 25 July representatives of the FFC and the SRF met in Addis Ababa and forged an Agreement; but as pressure mounted the Agreement was shelved. The SRF fears the return of an urban-dominated, Khartoum-centric, elitist government that marginalises or ignores the concerns of the persecuted African tribes of the periphery (Muslim and Christian).

Other obstacles include the fact that an entrenched Islamist 'deep state' 30 years in the making will need to be dismantled and a systemically corrupt and Islamist-dominated security sector will need to be overhauled and reformed. Is there anyone who believes the Islamists, the SAF, the NISS or the RSF will willingly relinquish their massive wealth-generating power and privilege? Reeves reminds us that 'the al-Bashir regime abided by not one of the agreements it signed during its long tenure' (emphasis mine). Indeed, agreements were only ever stalling tactics and cover for further human rights violations. Doubtless Hemeti and the TMC regard the CC as nothing but a piece of paper that legitimises their power while allowing them to stall until the spotlight fades. These are watershed days for Sudan, for a people yearning to be liberated from captivity. May the Lord our deliverer (Psalm 18:2-3) hear their cry and lead them 'through the sea' to freedom (Psalm 77).


* who answered our prayers for the removal of the racist, Islamist tyrant Omar el-Bashir, will now 'rebuke' all other 'roaring' powers that seek to 'loot' and 'plunder' Sudan and repress and unleash 'terror' on its peoples; may they be 'chased away like chaff on the mountains before the wind' (Isaiah 17:12-14).

* will grant all Sudan's Christian community and church leaders great courage and enduring hope, as well as 'spiritual wisdom and understanding' (Colossians 1:9), so they might lead their people and influence their nation according to the will of him who promised: 'by you [Abraham] all the families of the earth shall be blessed' (Genesis 12:3).

* will intervene to keep the spotlight on Sudan; may the cultural and religious rights of all Christians be respected and protected in line with Articles 47, 55 and 65 of the Constitutional Charter; may the religious freedom defined in Article 55 -- which includes the right to choose -- become a reality; may the humanitarian blockade of Nuba Mountains be lifted in line with Article 64 which enshrines the right of 'all citizens' to health care and emergency services; and may the 'international community' hold Sudan's rulers to account.


On 4 August Sudan's Transitional Military Council and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) signed a Constitutional Charter (CC), paving the way for democratic transition. The obstacles, however, are enormous. The CC was finalised and signed under great external pressure as talks were faltering; consequently, peace is tenuous. Sudan's Islamists reject the Charter outright because it is not based on Sharia Law. The Sudan Revolutionary Front -- representing the persecuted African tribes of Blue Nile, South Kordofan (including Nuba Mountains) and Darfur -- rejects it as it does not adequately address their concerns regarding peace. In short: the FFC is fractured, the Islamic 'deep state' is entrenched and the systemically corrupt military is not trustworthy. Christians are yearning for a 'New Sudan'; divine help is needed. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com