November 23, 2022 5KHARTOUM) – Early last year, then Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok announced that the government was finalizing a draft security law which would – among other things – establish a new security agency under the umbrella of the interior ministry.
The tasks of the new agency would include preparing security and strategic plans as well as conducting studies on crimes, unrest and tribal feuds that jeopardize the state’s well-being. It will also develop strategies for preventing major crimes, tackling gangs and criminal enterprises in addition to any criminal activities.
The civilian government, which was overthrown last year by the army chief Abdel-Fatah al-Burhan, saw this move as a means to fill the void that resulted from downgrading the powers of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) after the demise of ex-president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s regime. In the aftermath, the spy agency’s role was limited to intelligence collection and analysis.
Addressing police officers at the ministry, Hamdok said that the new body “will reflect the ethnic and racial diversity in the country.”
But infighting within the civilian government frustrated the plan which many have hoped would transform the role of the security agencies.
What went wrong?
Major General Police M. Mohamed Abdallah al-Sayegh revealed in an article that amidst a worsening security climate in 2019, a working paper dealing with requirements for overhauling security services was drafted but that no one bothered to read it.
He claimed that they spoke to Hamdok about his “absolute” right to manage the ministry of interior and therefore the police since the military’s role is confined to nominating the minister.
Al-Sayegh said that the paper could have formed the blueprint for running the police and was the product of 30 years of brainstorming and studying similar systems around the globe. He went on to say that they spoke to Hamdok about the necessity of establishing an internal security apparatus and appointing competent and reliable policemen at the helm.
He confirmed that their last meeting with Hamdok took place a month before the October 25th coup following a protest in which they presented him with two reports: one on reinstating sacked police officers and reaching a settlement with them and the other on establishing the internal security agency.
One more time
Last week, the acting interior minister Lieutenant-General Annan Hamid ordered the formation of a committee to study the establishment of the Internal Security Agency. He vested the committee with the power to draft internal security law and design the functional structures.
The decision was seen as a preemptive move by the army generals ahead of a widely anticipated political agreement between the military and the civilian forces represented by the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition.
According to well-placed sources who spoke to Sudan Tribune, the military wants to exert control over the apparatus by infusing elements from the army, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and intelligence services.
The sources also revealed that the plan is overseen by the member of the Sovereign Council Shams El-Din Kabbashi, the acting minister of interior, the director of Intelligence, the chief of Military Intelligence and the director of police.
The Secretary-General of the steering committee of the Sudanese Bar Association al-Tayeb al-Abbasi, told Sudan Tribune that the transitional constitutional declaration, which forms the basis of the ongoing talks between military and civilians, calls for reform of security services including the establishment of the internal security apparatus.
He said that these agencies are to be controlled by the cabinet which is necessary for enforcing the principles of a civilian and democratic state.
Al-Abbasi stressed that the military never objected to the formation of an internal security agency but said that the lack of harmony with civilians during Hamdok’s time put the idea on hold.
He said this time around the civilian side represents more than just the FFC which would bode well for finally establishing the agency.
Security experts viewpoint
Major General Amin Ismail, a security expert, explained to the Sudan Tribune that traditionally Sudan split security into internal and security agencies but were merged twice before breaking them up again.
Ismail emphasized the importance of having an internal security apparatus to prevent the overlapping of functions. He cited the United States, Britain, France and Egypt as examples where this system was adopted.
He went on to say that an Internal Security Agency offers the decision maker excellent visibility and at the same time allows the police to focus on conventional criminal work.
Ismail also noted that the establishment of the apparatus allows for security reform given that there are multiple and competing sources of information and that among the goals of the December 2018 revolution was the reinstatement of the Internal Security Agency under the purview of the prime minister.
He commended the decision by the acting interior minister to form the committee saying it is a step forward in implementing reform and restructuring of the security and police sector as well as compartmentalizing their functions into more specialized areas.
Mohamed Idris, a political analyst, said that the entire process of security reform faces an imminent danger caused by the continued hegemony of the military.
Idris warned that the move to create the agency before reaching a political settlement and forming a civilian government is done to prevent civilians from reforming the military and security services and unifying them under the leadership of the prime minister.
Many revolutionary forces fear a “compromise” with the military that would not provide unequivocal guarantees that civilians will be in full control.
The leaders of the army and security services consistently reject civilian intervention in the reform of these bodies, which the revolution’s forces believe do not serve the revolution’s goals. Furthermore, Many of these bodies such as RSF and former rebel groups continue to enjoy complete independence and have not yet been integrated into the national army.