Ethiopia’s foreign ministry has stated that the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition Declaration for Freedom and Change Forces coalition (DFCF) will resume negotiations over the formation of a joint administration in the coming days.

Four key issues from Seerist:

  • Although talks are likely to resume in the coming weeks, the DFCF will be reluctant to form a joint administration with the TMC following the violent dispersal of the mass sit-ins in early June.
  • Factionalism within the security forces is also likely to undermine progress on negotiations with the opposition, regardless of the international mediation.
  • Although widespread unrest is currently unlikely in the capital Khartoum, the drawn-out negotiation process will increase the likelihood of a resumption of violent conflict in the west and south of the country.
  • Businesses will continue to face operational disruption amid internet access restrictions, additional security checkpoints, and longstanding currency constraints.

International mediation

Since the dispersals on 3 June, several international diplomatic actors have offered to mediate between the TMC and DFCF. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew to Khartoum on 7 June and appointed Mohamoud Dirir as special envoy to lead the mediation. Meanwhile US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Tibor Nagy met representatives of the TMC and DFCF on 12 June and named Donald Booth as special envoy for Sudan. In addition, the United Arab Emirates foreign affairs ministry called for a new agreement between the parties.

There appears to be growing international consensus on an Ethiopia-led mediation process. The Ethiopian foreign ministry stated that it had reached an agreement with both sides to resume dialogue, providing the TMC releases political prisoners and the DFCF calls off its general strike. The DFCF ended a three-day strike on 13 June.

Mistrust & divisions pose a threat to negotiations

Talks between the groups are likely to resume in the coming weeks amid severe international diplomatic pressure. However, the violence during the dispersal of the mass protests and sit-ins will make the DFCF reluctant to engage with the TMC. They will likely make a strong push for a civilian-led transition authority, citing the recent crackdown as evidence that the TMC is unable to guarantee a peaceful transition.

Meanwhile, the TMC is divided on the involvement of civilian representatives in the transitional administration. Although TMC leaders from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are reportedly open to a joint civilian-military sovereign council, reports suggest that the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue to oppose ceding power to civilians. These divisions are likely to complicate the process, regardless of the international mediation.

Business impact

A significant deterioration in the security environment in Khartoum is not expected due to the heavy security force presence in the city, and the DFCF’s continued commitment to peaceful protests and strikes as a means to pressure the TMC. Nonetheless, businesses will continue to face operational disruption. Telecommunications and internet access restrictions will remain in place, given the TMC’s desire to prevent the mobilisation of further protests. Meanwhile the political impasse will distract from much-needed economic reforms, resulting in continued constraints on access to hard currency in the coming months.

The security environment will however remain volatile outside the capital. A prolonged transition will increase the likelihood of a return to armed conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The RSF has reportedly clashed with armed insurgent groups in these regions in recent weeks.

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