Opinion | Can trust among Sudanese parties yield peace?
Will the old broom sweep better tomorrow? Well, an old broom will always remain old and older and sweep worse than yesterday. The transitional government in Sudan seemed to be at jeopardy and dangling between the truth and the reality of the painted pictures of the orchestrators of the past regime. From the onset of the transitional government, one could see the actors of past regime in the new system again.
It was very skeptical to believe that the very elements that had humiliated their own citizens, have hijacked the government in the name of being party and protectors of the revolution. They waited to see the turning clock before they joined and took the lion share of the revolution and are now ruling the country. While many rejoiced at the ouster of Field Marshal Mr. Bashir, I remained very skeptical as the very military components in the shared transitional government were once the architects of the genocide. While I humbly congratulated the courageous zeal of the revolutionists for their determination in the thick of pain and torture, they had decided once and it paid off indeed. However, several questions popped into my mind and I was puzzled at once to see many Sudanese chanting slogans for victory and reform in the new government. Well, there might or might not be reforms but it was too early. One was tempted to ask these questions as I was left ever wandering of what comes next.
1-Was Al Bashir a problem or the problem was and still the ideology of the Sudanese elites in Khartoum towards the ‘perceived inferior’ people of Sudan?
2-Was that a victory worth celebrating when the Gens. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo who mercilessly humiliated thousands of Sudanese people under the leadership of Al Bashir now heads the transitional government? Haven’t all those who had perished, died in the hands of their own government? If these generals had seen the sufferings of their own innocent Sudanese, what kept them off to oppose Al Bashir while they had influence? Were they not party to these gross murder? Is it not mere hijack?
3-What difference will they bring that they didn’t bring in the past? Is it not all about improving and maintaining their status quo, serving their personal interests, and not the citizens and their country?
4-Even if National Congress Party of AL Bashir was to be dismantled and all party members denied chance to part take in the new government, were there not other parties, Islamist groups who participated in the genocide? Allow me withhold other questions while I deliberate on these few for now.
To briefly respond to the above questions, I would like to begin by saying, our diagnosis of the problem is always a problem in itself. Because of poor diagnosis, we tend to prescribe wrong medication to the problem. Late Dr Garang used to say, “the leaders in Khartoum use to say the problem was in the south”, and for Garang, “the problem was in the whole Sudan” but according to me, they got it wrong here. The problem is in Khartoum, the brewing pot is in Khartoum. The problem of Sudan is not Bashir, it predates Al Bashir. Al Bashir inherited the problem but his government worsened it. Mr. Al Bashir added salt to the soar wound. The problem of Sudan is first political, second, socio-economical… and much more. There exist superiority complex in Khartoum, but the ruling cliques in Khartoum hardly learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. They continue to do the same thing, hence getting the same results. I fear this time round with South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, I can’t predict. Our leaders in Khartoum seemed to be deceived by their skin color and religion, sometimes, they behave as if they were second to God on earth. Divide and rule philosophy from our colonial masters have been terribly inherited by the ruling clique in Khartoum causing havoc and a night long distress. Well, the game of politics could be right here, it has taken tall enough. Unless the root causes of Sudan’s political problems are addressed with genuine concerns from nationalist and patriots alike, Sudan is in the verge of collapse. The syndromes in Syria and Libya are in transit to Sudan, God forbid!
When Field Marshal President Al Bashir was ousted, the so-called ‘revolution protectors’ rushed for lion share and occupied top seats in the name of restoring order. Although, the well cherished technocrat and renowned Economist Dr. Hamdok was named as the premier for the transitional government, the presence of Generals like Al Burhan and Dagalo in the transitional government’s equation was worth giving some benefits of doubt. Both military and civilian components in the transitional government promised to work in harmony in order to bring Sudan back to her old glory. Many doubted the presence of these generals in helping Sudan regain her lost glory. These generals are in the government to protect their own interests and status quo. Although it was necessary to accommodate them to avert Sudan from sinking into total chaos, can these generals change their mindsets to allow democracy to prevail? Can Sudan be really free from possible dictatorship? Can the armies’ pluralism save Sudan? There are two different governments in the same government. Not even two, three, or even more. Look at such complicit reality.
The transitional government and Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) had adopted a constitutional charter for the 2019 transitional period, outlining the duties, roles and the protocols for handling different activities within the government. It is not long ago, the military components are displaying their true characters. The secret meeting of the head of transitional government, General Al Burhan with Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on 3rd February 2020 in Entebbe Uganda is not a surprise to some. I am not against the meeting or normalization of relation with Israel as opposed by many figures in Khartoum provided that the Sudanese rally behind the move. My concern is, why should the head of government bypass his mandate and meet the head of another government without the consent of his government? Is that not what Al Bashir had been doing? What security issues can General Al Burhan solve alone without the government of Sudan? It was also reported that, the spokesperson for Sudan Armed Force (SAF) said they (the military command) approved Al Burhan’s meeting with Premier Netanyahu. What is that being hidden from the revolutionists? The security of Sudan had been in jeopardy way back in 1990s. It is high time the military components respect the laws and their civilian comrades and work for a change that benefits Sudan and her citizens. Sudan shouldn’t be run like one man’s state. Neither showing of threats and military muscles nor foxy behaviors can solve Sudan’s problem. At this juncture, Sudan is at a crossroads, it needs genuineness, accommodation and humbleness coupled with integrity.
Such manifestations in the military components should raise eyebrows for those armed groups who are cheaply liquidating their movement for positions. After all, there are some armed groups within the transitional government. Sudanese should revisit their history and learn from their bitter past. Abel Alier wrote, “Too many agreements dishonored”. It is not long ago, the said confident building is fading off within the ruling coalition. Mr. Hamdok has not been accorded the necessary space to achieve the aspirations and objectives of the revolution. Unless the military components refrain from their unilateral behaviors, 21 months is enough to retain the same coin.
When the transitional government was formed, among their top priorities were comprehensive peace in the Sudan, and reclamation of the deteriorating economy. Despite of advocating for delisting from states sponsoring terrorism and negotiating compensation to the families of the victims of terror attacks, Sudan’s already crippled economy couldn’t afford to offset the compensation nor attract some useful investments. The only ingredient to this is genuine peace.
I congratulate the government of Hamdok for embarking on peace with all armed groups, surly, we need not only peace but rather a genuine peace. While efforts and resources have been directed towards peace, something important seems to be lacking to strengthen the confidence among the parties to peace. Justice, justice, justice prevails first! Unless it is the peace the revolutionists want, it will be a shaky peace.
According to professor Galtung (the father of peace), peace is of two types; positive peace and negative peace. Positive peace entails desirable attributes such as Justice, harmonious co-existence, equity among others while negative peace is the absence of war. It entails some nagging attributes such as structural conflict, system incompatibilities, cultural violence to mention but a few. I think the government is interested in the later. With all this, a number of armed groups have shown good progress with nearing to ink the deal. For this, I applaud their concession. Surely, theirs was that shallow.
Justice presuppose addressing the root causes of the problem and holding those culprits accountable. Up to that far, no accountability has been held. Even the very recent one of June 3rd 2019 in which part of the military components in the transitional government are party to, have not produce those massacres. Is this system compatible for justice to take its course?
While SPLA- N Al-Hilu may be seen as hardliner and not peace loving partner, I think they have the cause and deserve to stand by their principles and demands. Compromise may not be a good language for Al-Hilu and self-determination may not be a good option for the transitional government either. But it will be by- product of rejecting secularism. These two demands (self-determination and secularism) seemed very ugly and nagging to the transitional government but also very strategic to Al-Hilu and a solution to Sudan’s problem. These demands are hard to drop or a go compromise as those holding keys to peace and democracy are not different from the former regime. Since the government seemed interested in negative peace, Al-Hilu has already demonstrated a good faith by declaring unilateral cease fire on 1st January 2020 for three months and I hope he will extend when it elapses.
With such overdue dialogue without breakthrough, it would be wise to avoid dwelling on none payoff strategy and devise another modality for these two areas under Al Hilu. By doing so, it will be cost effective both in terms of time and resources as well as rearing the said confidence building within and among the parties to peace. Because this peace can’t be forced or imposed therefore, the transitional government and SPLA-N Al Hilu should reconsider these options;
1) Agree to place these two areas under special status
While waiting for the confidence building and other lasting peace ingredients to mature, the parties can agree to place these two areas (Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states) under special protocol for a period of two years. This period will be enough for the SPLA-N Al-Hilu to study the political climate and make rightful decisions. This is also a period to see the peaceful transfer of transitional government to the civilian authority marking an era of democracy and possible coexistence among the components of government and military apparatus.
2) Proceed with constitutional conference
The transitional government has in number of occasions tied peace to the upcoming constitutional conference which is due in the coming months. To break these deadlocks on peace in the two areas, the government and SPLA-N Al Hilu should agree to allow the constitutional conference to kick off and see if these demands of Al Hilu (secularism or self-determination) will be popular demand and whether, the government and the revolutionists will agree to the former. If secularism demand is made, then Al Hilu will have no other choice but to join the peace and participate in the upcoming government. But if this failed, then the ticket on self-determination will be on high sale, God forbid!
3) Integrate option 1 &2 into one (Grant self-Autonomy)
The government and SPLA-N Al-Hilu may agree to grant the two states self-autonomy pending constitutional conference and the end of transitional period to decide on peaceful coexistence as Sudanese citizens. Signing peace while vital demands are unmet wouldn’t be wise move because a past consideration is not a good consideration. During this period, the transitional government in Khartoum shouldn’t dictate (or have less dictates) in these two areas. They should grant these two areas both political and economic freedoms as a good gesture to construct these forgotten areas. This will restore relative peace in the country attracting some useful investments that shall help offset these economic impediment. The transitional government during this period should work hard to reform all unjust policies and systems to accommodate all Sudanese regardless of their affiliations, religions or ethnicity. In the event that secularism is not accepted in the Sudan, then Al-Hilu’s party could give the transitional government some benefits of doubt to wait and see how things will unfold after the end of transitional period of which a rightful and sound decisions shall be taken thereafter. By doing so, it will give them humble time to see the reforms in the structures, systems and governance of this beloved country Sudan. For Al Hilu, it will also give him good opportunity to prepare for self-determination and secede while fully structured and meeting some requirements. Some issues in Sudan’s problems are chronic and that they don’t require hurry, force or threat. As much as radical change is important and popular demand in Sudan, it will have some painful pitfalls.
The author is pursuing MBA (specializing in strategic management) in one of the universities in East Africa. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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