On 5 December, the military junta signed a framework agreement with more than 40 Sudanese political parties, movements and professional groups aimed at restoring the country’s transition to democratic rule. The framework agreement provides for the transfer of power from the junta to a civilian transitional government, which is to govern Sudan for a two-year period ending in elections. In vague terms, it sets out the formation of several transitional state institutions, including a national legislative council, a council of ministers, and a head of state, that are to be based on human rights, the rule of law, civic participation and social equality. The agreement also enumerates issues and tasks to be addressed during the transition, such as security sector reform, transitional justice and constitution-making – although it leaves the resolution of the thorniest of these (most notably security sector reform) to a future, final agreement. While the framework agreement is an important breakthrough, the process is fragile and it has been rejected by many grassroots activists, who distrust the junta.
Between 19 and 20 October, at least 220 people were killed and 7,000 others were displaced in ethnic fighting in the Wad Al Mahi locality of Sudan’s Blue Nile region. The violence represents a big escalation in a conflict between the Hausa and Berta people, which between mid-July and early October killed at least 149. The fighting was ignited by a land dispute, but many analysts regard the growing ethnic violence to be a product of the power vacuum in the region caused by the country’s 2021 military coup. A curfew and a ban on weapons and gatherings was in place in Wad Al Mahi prior to the fighting, and the regional governor has since declared a region-wide 30-day State of Emergency and brought more troops into the area. However, the Resistance Committees, a grassroots pro-democracy group, have blamed the country’s military junta for not doing enough to protect ethnic groups, a sentiment that has been echoed by local protestors.
Sudanese journalists formed the country’s first independent journalists’ union since 1989, when former President, Omar al-Bashir, dissolved all independent unions. Under Bashir’s rule and in the period since the October 2021 military coup, journalists have been subject to significant state repression and Sudan was ranked 151 out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index – an annual ranking compiled and published by the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders. Members of the new union are reported to have expressed the hope that it will enhance protections for freedom of expression and help build a stronger independent press. The union’s formation was welcomed by the Bahri Resistance Committees, one of the groups organizing the protests against military rule, who regard it as helping to lay the foundation for democracy. Reporters Without Borders consider it to be a “positive step”.