Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 28 October 2017

Sudan: Lifting economic sanctions produces authoritarian results


By Salah Shuaib

Despite its success to resume economic ties with the West, there is no evidence that the Sudanese regime will economically recover anytime soon. It is a misleading idea that Khartoum’s Islamists would employ such a new development to achieve prosperity for their country, as it is evident that Sudan’s dilemma is embedded within its entire governing structure which completely prevents economic growth.

One of the main aims for lifting the economic sanction is to provide a platform whereby the Al-Bashir regime be able to reconcile with the Sudanese people and the West simultaneously, however, lifting economic sanctions only enables the regime to enhance its known destructive policies, domestically and internationally.

Notably, the American decision sent negative messages to the Sudanese freedom-fighters who are eager to get rid of their current most totalitarian and tyrannical regime. So far, there is no indication that Al-Bashir is trying to change his harsh rhetoric against the opposition. Instead, Khartoum’s media is celebrating the event as a triumph made by Al-Bashir’s inner circles, and reporting that the regime did not make any concessions for the advantage of the West’s political agendas.

On the three fronts of war, the regime exhausted all of the country’s resources in feeding its unrelenting hunger for blood. In Darfur, the situation is dire, whereby the armed militias, backed by Khartoum, are governing the Darfur provenances on their own, killing the innocents, raping girls, and behaving in severe aggression. In South Kordofan, the people still resort to mountain caves to seek protection from daily aerial bombardments. In the Blue Nile, the regime harbours the armed militias that control rural areas. Lastly, in the capital Khartoum, opposition political parties and activists are subjugated to the iron-fisted will of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISS).

It is clear from this week’s news that the regime, reinforcing itself with American complacency, will remain as it is, keeping tyranny as a means of governance. Thus, Al-Bashir decided to proceed ahead with his known methods of humiliating journalists and activists criticizing his policy.

Sudan Tribune reported that “the press court in Khartoum on Monday has ordered the editor-in-chief of Al-Tayyar newspaper Osman Merghani to pay 10,000 pounds (SDG) (about $475) fine or serve six months in prison after being convicted of violating ethics of the profession.” Merghani, who is convicted for his outspoken views and professional responsibility of publishing an article about President Al-Bashir’s family corruption, was previously tortured to near death by armed persons in his Khartoum office in 2014, and since then, the government failed to capture those who committed the crime.

Such an unfair judicial order against Merghani was synchronized with the cancellation of an intellectual symposium organized by the University of Khartoum on Monday, despite the governmental approval of holding it. The University had invited a large number of foreign academics to discuss the heritage of the late Sudanese religious and political thinker Mahmoud Mohamed Taha. Despite the guests’ attendance and the well-announced preparations for the symposium, the NISS justified the cancellation by the lack of permission from government officials.

In addition to that, the security agents arrested fives priests in the city of Omdurman and closed their church. Their justification was that the church’s prayers were a nuisance to the public. The move was widely condemned by opposition forces who warned the government of creating religious strife. In a statement by the National Umma Party (NUP), led by Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, asserted that “the continued violation of religious, press and political freedoms is further evidence that the lifting of economic sanctions was only a means of repression in all forms.”

It is not the first time the government harassed its Sudanese Christians and put hurdles in front of their spiritual practices. The Sudanese government frequently destroyed a number of churches in Khartoum which denied thousands of Christians their basic religious rights, and this was enacted during the negotiations between the Trump administrations in regards to the economic sanctions. This highlights that the economic sanction eradication is a means for a tyrannical ruling.

Most of these incidents, which occurred in less than a week, indicate that the Sudanese regime is unwilling to reform its policy towards its citizens. Ironically, the regime believes that the breakthrough that took place regarding its relationship with the United States would make it easier for its security structure to retaliate against the figures of political forces, civil society organizations and political activists as they, according to the regime’s accounts, are conceived as allies to the West.

In the last three decades, the people of Sudan put broad hopes in former US administrations to help save them from the worst totalitarian regime in the history of the country. The biggest evidence of this betrayal was the tragedy of Darfur. This tragedy resulted in placing Sudan on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993 and the indictment of A-Bashir alongside three of his war aides by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing genocide, crimes of war, and crimes against humanity.

Moreover, the Khartoum regime is primarily responsible for the disruptions of the situation in Southern Sudan, where it has been supporting armed parties against Juba, since the first year of the country’s independence.

In spite of all this, one believes that there is still an opportunity for the Trump administration to monitor the Sudanese government’s performance against its citizens. If aggression policies continue, then the regime should face serious consequences. By doing so, lifting economic sanctions would not serve as a green light for the regime to maintain its repressive behaviors against the people of Sudan, which is besieged by the authoritarian Islamic state created by the National Islamic Front (NIF) - the political umbrella of Sudan’s Islamists.

The writer is a Sudanese author and journalist living in Virginia; he can be reached at salshua7@hotmail.com

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