DEMOCRACY IN SUDAN? Legacies, Cleavages and Prospects

Øystein H. Rolandsen

This project focuses on the ongoing political transition in Sudan and especially on identifying political cleavages and analysing the establishment of political parties ahead of the 2023 elections. One and a half year after the ousting of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s regime, the transitional government has made progress in terms of economic reform and in settling conflicts in the peripheries. This is a fragile process which has been further challenged by the covid19 pandemic. Now with a seat in the UN Security Council, Norway has an important role in supporting this process. Historically, Sudan has oscillated between elected governments and periods of military dictatorship. Lasting political cleavages in Sudan have been centre/periphery, secular/Islamist and civilian/military. Past political parties have been dominated by the leaders of dynastic sectarian patron-client networks. Currently, political actors are divided into two broader coalitions of, on the one side, various groups within the military and the broader security sector, and, on the other, a popular front which coordinated the demonstrations that ushered in the transitional government. However, if Sudan is to move towards a multi-party democracy these constellations need to be transformed into political parties. Whether this becomes a revitalisation of the traditional parties or a mushrooming of new parties along key cleavages remains to be seen. The handling of Islamist political parties will be especially challenging. Related to this is also the ways in which (other) external actors seek to channel influence on political processes in Sudan through the different emerging organisations. This is a process where external actors (such as Troika of Norway, the US and the UK as well as the EU and UN) can contribute, but where non-partisan, research based analysis is essential for navigating the emerging political landscape in Sudan. Project activities centres on research into the processes towards formation of political parties in Sudan. Due to the close nature of the previous regime, such research has been difficult to carry out, but the new political climate makes this research more feasible. Research activities combine analysis of documents and interviews with key players in Sudan and in the broader region. An important goal is to initiate and facilitate a broader discussion around the process towards elections and the forming of a multi-party democracy in Sudan. It will be important to disseminate results within the various Norwegian communities which follows developments in Sudan closely, including aid organisations.»