IRI’s Work to Support Sudan’s Political Transition

  • Kiely Ford, Atem Malak, Khaliya Suaray

On April 15, Khartoum’s residents experienced active civil conflict inside the capital city, something that has not happened since the Mahdist War in the 1890s. The conflict erupted between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) led by Chairman of the Sovereign Council and its Commander in Chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, over a disagreement on the timeline of RSF’s integration into the national army. Despite the ongoing challenges faced since the ousting of Sudan’s long-time dictator, Omar Al Bashir in 2019, the International Republican Institute (IRI) has been working with political parties and civil society to strengthen citizen engagement and support the inclusion of women and youth within political parties and Sudan’s transitional process.

Sunset view of Khartoum, Sudan

Under IRI’s USAID funded project, Improving Electoral and Political Processes for Change in Sudan (IEPP), IRI helped establish two critical civil society groups; the Women Coordinating Advocacy Agenda (WCAA) and the Youth Coordination Council (YCC), which focus on advocating for the inclusion of women and youth voices within the transitional process. WCAA and YCC have worked with IRI to improve their capacity to establish the groups’ internal regulations and financial systems and build their skills around effective advocacy, communication, conflict resolution, and negotiation skills. IRI also worked with the WCAA and YCC to help them develop an understanding of the essential role they play in the democratic transition of Sudan. Most recently, in March, WCAA developed two position papers on women’s rights, gender equality, and inclusion and presented them to five signatories of the Framework Agreement for inclusion in the final draft. 

In addition to working with civil society, IRI has supported the establishment of women and youth political party platforms where members from different political parties and former armed movements come together to discuss avenues for improving the inclusion of women and youth within internal party processes as well as the political transitional process. In the first year of the IEPP project, IRI held capacity-building trainings for women from the National Umma Party (NUP) on topics such as leadership competencies, grant management, and advocacy approaches for the inclusion of women within party and government leadership. Following these trainings, four NUP women were appointed to leadership positions within the transitional government. In the same year, IRI facilitated the formation of the Political Parties and Movements Women’s Platform (PMWP) in March 2021. Since the PMWP’s inception, the platform has engaged in several advocacy efforts to condemn violence against women, while calling for more inclusive reforms that incorporate women’s perspective in the transitional process. One of these recent efforts included the development of four position papers that issued recommendations to incorporate women’s perspectives into the security sector reforms of the Framework Agreement. The women of the PMWP were then able to work with the Secretariat of the Framework Agreement to incorporate eight of their recommendations into the draft agreement. The Youth Political Forces Platform (YPFP), formed in September 2022, has begun to formalize their internal regulations and processes to follow in the footsteps of the PMWP and begin engaging with transitional actors and political leaders for youth inclusive reforms. 

Under the State Department Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) funded program, Strengthening the Role of Citizen Networks in Sudan’s Post Revolutionary Phase, IRI is working with Resistance and Change Committees (RCCs), citizen-centered networks that spearheaded Sudan’s revolution ending Omar Al-Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship in 2019. IRI works with RCCs to provide the tools and strategies needed to organize themselves and other stakeholders to meaningfully engage in political processes and participate in policy decisions. During the months leading up to the breakout of the conflict, IRI worked with up to 55 RCC members to build skills ranging from strengthening their communications strategies through trainings on press releases and conferences to building their organizational capacity with trainings on digital security and negotiation and conflict resolution. IRI’s assistance to RCCs has begun to provide these groups with a foundational set of skills to strengthen their internal processes and become more organized to effectively communicate their demands to transitional actors. 

While the outbreak of violence on April 15 has brought the finalization of the Framework Agreement to a screeching halt, civilians from political parties, civic society, trade unions, academia, and media continue to organize and call for an end to the fighting and a return to the transitional process. IRI is working to adapt its programming to the shifts in the political environment and needs of our partners on the ground, who continue to fight for the democratic future of Sudan. 

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