Sustaining Momentum: Seizing the opportunity for SSR in Sudan

Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe & Sarah Detzner

This paper was produced as part of the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics. Access the full report, “Sustaining Momentum: Seizing the opportunity for SSR in Sudan”


This paper addresses the challenge of security sector reform (SSR) in democratizing Sudan. The former regime developed a sprawling, expensive, corrupt, brutal and ineffective array of military forces, paramilitaries, and security units. The popular uprising that overthrew this regime sought to bring democracy, end the long-running wars in Darfur and the “Two Areas” of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, revitalize the economy, end corruption, and reform and downsize the security sector. All these objectives have faced formidable obstacles. Security sector reform has scarcely made it to the political agenda.

Photo: Sudanese protestors chanting, M. Saleh, Wikipedia CCBYSA 4.0

The peace process between the Government of Sudan and the armed groups in Darfur and the Two Areas, convened in Juba last October and proceeding towards possible successful conclusion in the coming weeks, presents an opportunity for moving the SSR agenda forward.

This paper draws upon an analysis of the Sudanese security sector, the peace and democratization processes, and comparative analysis of the preconditions for successful SSR elsewhere in the world. The key findings are that democratic SSR requires a combination of a disruptive political transition and a strong pro-reform coalition that spans civil society, political parties, and members of the security forces themselves. This demand factor is more important than technical blueprints for reform (supply factors). The paper argues that Sudan’s ongoing transition meets the first condition, and that there is a nascent pro-reform coalition that should be encouraged and supported.

Pro-reform actors should prioritize building consultations around issues of security and justice into Sudan’s transition process, to ensure that the SSR agenda is sustained in a coherent and well-rooted manner.

We argue that the current Juba peace talks should focus on setting over-arching SSR objectives followed by creating inclusive and credible processes and mechanisms that will gather the input and information necessary to craft widely acceptable means to achieve these objectives.

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