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The foreign minister of the government dissolved on October 25 by General Abdel Fattah Al-Bourhane strongly condemned the coup and affirmed her support for civil resistance. In the wake of the putsch, the former head of diplomacy has stepped up contacts with foreign chancelleries to obtain a condemnation of the general coup.
The daughter of Saddiq Al-Mahdi, prime minister of the civilian government overthrown by the coup d’etat of Omar Al-Bashir on June 30, 1989, submitted her resignation to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok after the signing of an agreement on November 21 controversial with General Al-Bourhane.
Why do you think this agreement is not satisfactory?
Mariam Sadiq Al-Mahdi The hegemony of the military is total in all political and administrative decisions. The Sovereign Council, which was totally established by the junta, oversees everything. They made the Prime Minister their only civilian partner by excluding the Forces for Freedom and Change (FLC) [une coalition de partis civils issus de la révolution contre Omar Al-Bachir qui participait au gouvernement de transition dissous par la junte].
If you leave no room for political parties in their diversity, you are not leading the country on the path of democratic transformation. They say their priority is the organization of free elections [en juillet 2023]. However, they cannot emanate from a military order which today criticizes the role of political parties. Hamdok has turned into a coup prime minister rather than a revolutionary prime minister. He was appointed by the CFL and now has his back to them. We expected better from him.
Since the signing of this agreement, political prisoners have been released. Abdallah Hamdok overturned a number of decisions taken by the putschists since October 25. Do you see a sign that this deal can bring the country out of the deadlock?
We have no guarantees. We were waiting to see the terms of this agreement because we wanted to emerge from the stagnation caused by the coup. The release of these prisoners is a positive thing, but it is not enough. The appointments that followed this agreement are worrying. The head of the judiciary, the leaders of the security apparatus, such as the chief of police or the director of intelligence, come from the party of the National Congress [parti du président déchu Omar Al-Bachir].
A solution can be found but, as of now, we are not seeing enough positive changes. The military must recognize that it was a mistake to carry out a coup d’état by breaking the partnership with civilians. Second, they must confess to the deaths of the 43 martyrs killed in cold blood [au cours des manifestations pacifiques qui ont suivi le coup d’Etat]. They cannot continue to exclude the CFL and must also apologize for the brutal way they have treated political prisoners. From there we could start to study a return to the constitutional document. [signé en août 2019, il inaugure le partage du pouvoir entre civils et militaires à la suite de la chute d’Al-Bachir] and we are ready to make amendments to it.
The Prime Minister defends an agreement certainly imperfect, but which would allow the country to avoid the risk of chaos or civil war. Are these fears founded?
It’s a reality. There is already a serious threat of chaos in Darfur and Kordofan. There are serious tribal conflicts which have claimed dozens of lives in recent days. The situation in the capital itself is worrying: there are armed groups from different movements signatory to the Juba peace accords. As long as they do not lay down their arms, they will always be a factor of instability. Then there is the issue of the rivalry between the Sudanese armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces. [milice paramilitaire dirigée par Mohammed Hamdane Dagalo, alias Hemetti, vice-président du Conseil souverain]. It could go off the rails.
At the regional level, the coup d’etat is a very serious destabilizing factor. There are cross-border issues between Chad and Sudan and the same is true with Libya where many mercenaries are supposed to be evacuated to Sudan. And, of course, the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia. The Sudanese army has moved closer to Egypt. While in office, we sought to maintain good relations with Addis Ababa, despite the problems with the dam. [de la Renaissance].
Have regional powers destabilized Sudan by supporting the coup?
Any country interested in a healthy and stable relationship with Sudan cannot support a military coup for the good reason that it is rejected by all Sudanese. The population opposed the putsch from the first hours by barricading all the streets.
Egypt has remained silent. She did not react before having a dialogue with the United States and warning against any escalation. In Egypt, it is the intelligence and security services, and not necessarily the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that play an important role.
Relations were good with the Russians. But the fact that they tried to prevent the UN Security Council from taking a decision on the coup indicates that they support the coup. The military have tried to monopolize the relationship with Russia all the time. The same is true for China.
Another country that has played a role is Israel. We know that the United States, through its special envoy, Ambassador Feltman, has tried to contact Israel in order to use its influence over the Sudanese generals.
From the start, has the issue of the normalization of Sudan’s relations with Israel, signed in January 2021, been the military’s business?
Absoutely. It started with General Al-Bourhane’s surprise visit to Entebbe with Netanyahu in early February 2020. When I arrived at the ministry, I asked to see the file. I never got an answer. General Al-Bourhane never gave me an explanation.
What is the basis of this relationship? What is the content of these agreements? No one knows, except the coup makers. It seems that there are security agreements between them. Representatives of the army visited Israel, the Mossad came here, all behind our backs.
As Sudanese foreign minister, then, you weren’t aware of the underside of the relationship with Russia or Israel?
Parallel diplomacy has existed since the regime of Omar Al-Bashir. The military and intelligence services monopolized relations with many countries. There is a very serious imbalance in the management of affairs with the outside world. During this transition, we tried to put in place a sustainable governance with a reform of the military and security sector as well as their role in the institutions.
Part of the problem lies in the economic activities of the army which has a monopoly in many sectors, especially in the field of gold mining. The civilian government tried to bring these companies back under its responsibility. Even as the person in charge of the international relations of Sudan, I never had information on these files.
In the wake of the coup, many countries and international organizations froze their aid pledges. Abdallah Hamdok said he signed this agreement in particular to safeguard the progress made over the past two years. Do you think that this new situation will convince the Western partners of Sudan?
This is the reason why the putschists accepted the return of Abdallah Hamdok. When many European countries hailed the deal, it was a relief for them. Now, many of these Western countries have clarified their position, specifying that they are not supporting one person but the democratic transition in Sudan.
The international community must take into account the will of the Sudanese people who categorically rejects this agreement and military hegemony. The population does not aspire to this. It will continue its revolution and its mobilization until obtaining a true democratic transformation with an army held in respect, withdrawn from the political arena.
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Mariam Sadiq Al-Mahdi: “The international community must take into account the will of the Sudanese people”