The move by the African Union to demand a return to popular rule in Sudan is commendable. Significantly, the AU has suspended Sudan to push the Transitional Military Council (TMC leaders, who seized power after the April fall of Omar al-Bashir), to organise an election and transfer power to civilians.
Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed, the quintessential roving regional ambassador, has stepped in to reconcile TMC with the civilian groups with which it’s locked in a power struggle. The United States has sent a special envoy to unlock the impasse.
The international community, and the rest of Africa in particular, have demonstrated an admirable commitment to helping Sudan to restore normalcy. This is a golden opportunity that should not be squandered by either of the parties to the power struggle.
Livelihoods have been disrupted and many lives lost, and the sooner the parties reach a compromise, the better. It would be tragic if Sudan descended into a Libya-like long-drawn out anarchy. The northern neighbour, previously with one of the highest living standards in Africa, has never recovered from the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year dictatorship.
Coming from three decades of the Bashir dictatorship, Sudanese can be excused for not trusting the military to continue in office. The risk of the latter getting entrenched is very real. However, only a credible election can pave the way for popular rule. But organising an election in a vast and underdeveloped country of Sudan’s size is, even in the best of times, a gargantuan task. The contenders must exercise patience and give dialogue a chance.
The transitional government must be seen to be committed to returning power to the civilians and stop buying time to get entrenched in office. The Sudanese people must be allowed to vote a civilian to guide them towards recovery and transformation.