Sudan: Quagmire of political development
By Waleed Adam Mousa (Madibo
The less unified and the less constructive the process, which generated the “Soft Landing” strategy developed by the international community, spearheaded by the Americans, to end Sudan’s political quagmire, has led to less focus on critical issues, produced contradictory goals and targets, and caused lack of prioritization or honesty about the cost and tradeoffs of achieving the aspirations of the Sudanese people. We don’t seem to have learned anything from the lesson of South Sudan. Though it granted South Sudan session, the CPA failed to achieve peace or influence development, because it was mainly dependent on military elites who had the power then and totally ignored the civic and political organizations.
“Soft Landing” strategy defines the challenge as making significant progress at the negotiations between the government and the rebel groups; something it failed to achieve so far at all of the roundtable discussions held in European and African capitals, Paris, Berlin, and Addis Ababa. It aims at making a breakthrough in those meetings, which allows Sudan to reach for a peace settlement. The more those efforts stumble, the more the international community fails to question its own judgment: Is poor performance a result or a cause of that prolonged political dilemma?
A principal cause of this poor performance and failure of (inter)national political actors to achieve any results is a poorly-designed peace process, which ignores the following main issues:
• The system functions on behalf of the politically powerful, mainly those who have a louder voice, from either the government or northern opposition.
• It constraints debate within strict limits – those of the “rebel leaders” and “old league” of centrist elites eager to reach compromise with the regime, thus helping to entrench the status quo, and …
• Sifting out perspectives that are sympathetic to the silent majority of the Sudanese people, mainly the youth, the IDPs, and the marginalized groups.
To create a vision of a different reality, we need to find better ways of ways of analyzing the root cause of bad and good performance: Havoc isn’t the absence of order, it is polity formed in an inordinate manner. Rather than coercing revolutionary/rebel leaders or persuading political leaders to join Khartoum regime – something similar to ordering soldiers to march over a bridge, knowingly it is at the brink of failure, the international community should help the Sudan civic polity develop a strategy with which they can confront the upcoming situation. A power vacuum is already under the way, and it will not only prove dangerous for Sudan, but it will also be disastrous for the whole Sudan belt. Something that will definitely have spillover effects that will reach European depths. The international community cannot and shouldn’t entrust a regime that committed horrendous atrocities against its own people with fighting terrorism, nor could it contract the militias that have caused the displacement of one-third of Darfur population, with controlling human trafficking. This seems more of a moral dilemma than intellectual incompetence.
The Sudanese people aren’t seeking the help of the US in particular or of the European community to dismantle the corrupt and criminal government of Sudan, but they are seeking the help of the leaders of the “free world” to give support to the civic polity, whose efforts have been completely debilitated by ego-centric elites, who sought profits by blindly adopting liberal economic policies that served no purpose other than delegitimize the state and depoliticize the society. Hence creating a power vacuum whose parameters hinder the ability of the most astute and genuine political leader to identify a vision that will connect to peoples’ values and needs. It isn’t that the regime is powerful, it is the fact that it sought refuge in the slogan, “you are either with us or against us.” No one was determined or serious enough to do away with it, so long as it was enjoying impunity of international actors, who denounce its acts in public, and praise its collaboration against “forces of evil” in private.
Those aligned with the regime and occasionally joining the roundtable discussions had no interest in removing it, those alienated had no means to confront. Middle-of-the-spectrum groups have both the means and the interest of removing the regime. They aren’t obligated to any ideology (left or right), nor have they confined themselves to traditional means of change, such as those used to remove dictatorial regimes in October/1964 and April/1985. Which were more of a “communal act of zar” than actual revolutions, to use the words of the prominent Sudanese intellectual and MD doctor, Tigani Al Mahi. Breaking the vicious cycle of religious democracy and autocratic regimes, orchestrated by traditional and modernist leaders respectively, remains a challenge that constitutes structural, institutional, and behavioural dimensions.
To develop a cohesive response to such an important challenge, Middle-of-the-spectrum groups plan to go beyond rhetoric to policymaking, hence adopting a policy-oriented reform that will provide Sudan an opportunity to devise policies that concentrate resources and actions; thus surmounting difficulties and promising leverage over the outcome. Mainly, through the advocacy of a moderate course that combines between retribution and reparation means of justice, demilitarizing political culture, co-opting militia leaders, giving voice to the silent majority, mainly youths and periphery groups, and appealing to the regional and international communities through a principled – albeit, non-compromising discourse, to help influence the public discourse of peace and economic sustenance.
The status of Sudan civil society organizations resemble more or less Joungli or for this sake, Florida swamps, whose waters are disconnected, scattered, and lacking purpose. It needs to be channelled, collected, and purposely directed before it can create positive energy. For as long as the efforts of the civil society (both in the centre and the periphery) remain uncoordinated, they risk facing greater marginalization – something that will lead to their exclusion from the political forum, cultural debates, and economic cycle. Hence, depriving the society of any tools it could have acquired, or skills it could have gained to overcome ethnic/tribal polarization carried out by the state, or manipulation exercised by its agents to silence the majority of the population. The deliberate attempts by the Sudanese regime to totally obliterate the civil and political societies, in the course of a quarter of a century, puts Sudan at the foothold of Libya should a power vacuum occurs. Albeit, anarchy in Sudan will have deleterious effects on the stability of the whole Sudanic belt, not just the Sudanese nation.
The Sudanese people remain in captivity while the regime continues trying to destroy their nation, and to obliterate their heritage using soft and hard tools. Soft tools include propaganda, national dialogue, cooptation of local elites, credulous census, disgraceful elections, dysfunctional federal system, and administrative arrangements that are intentionally designed to fragment the periphery, mainly Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and emasculate its ability to consolidate a common identity. Hard tools range from unabated aerial bombardment, i.e., everything is a moving object, extensive pillaging of villages, destruction of civilian properties, continuity of the endemic of rape, and active involvement in the killing of the black indigenous population (known as Ahl-AdDar) and passive engagement in the annihilation of Arabs (pastoralists groups in Darfur), i.e., by providing them weapons and ammunition to kill each other.
It has become evident that the NFP uses war as an objective, and ideology as an imperative. Through an articulate process of fragmentation, both political and administrative, the government hinders any effort by the society to resolve its differences in a civic or political manner. A case in point is the announced “national dialogue,” which is nothing other than an attempt to fulfil the ego of a group of sycophants, who for long have been feeding on the trough of the masses. A dialogue is normally held to discuss issues that otherwise would have been polemical, not designed to try to sway peoples off their rights. The government doesn’t need a “national dialogue” to stop its ethnic cleansing campaign against the blacks of Sudan, it needs the courage to admit its crime and to announce its determination to correct such wrongdoing. It doesn’t need a dialogue to reinstate qualified men and women in the national army or the civil service; it doesn’t need to mediate to try and resolve conflicts of its own making. All what it needs is to remove hurdles that were put by the regime junta, and administrative measures taken to further fragment the periphery of Sudan. Declaring a “soft land” agenda is a non-deliberate, albeit naive attempt to give leaders of minimal historical and social weight — needless to say criminals — free hand to harass an already devastated society.
By overlooking stakeholders’ interest, immediately after Abuja agreement, the government exploited the rift between the “movements” and the silent majority; thus causing the society to be fragmented along vertical and horizontal lines. No wonder, the situation regressed from mutiny to civil war to “um-Kuwak” (a traditional term for anarchy, or war against all). By providing weapons and ammunition, the government acts as a facilitator, not just agitator of inter-tribal war.
The intensification of the conflict had serious implications for UNAMID, as it failed to fulfil its duties in the following manner:
• It failed to facilitate full humanitarian access throughout Darfur, or to secure environment for the sustainable return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes;
• It failed to contribute to the promotion of respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Darfur;
• It failed to assist in promoting the rule of law, including through institution-building, and strengthening local capacities to combat impunity;
• It failed to ensure an adequate human rights and gender presence capacity;
• It failed to support the implementation of provisions included in the Darfur Peace Agreement, DPA.
Despite all of these shortcomings, the continuity of UNAMID is necessary if we were to avoid further annihilation of the IDPs. As civilians are caught up in the war between the government militias and the movements; even worse, by being concentrated as a population in one location, they can become a target for ethnic entrepreneurs who at some moment of desperation can decide to commit an act of aggression. IDPs camps and UNAMID compounds were recently besieged by the army and government militias when rumours were heard that the Sudanese President was denied departure from South Africa. It wasn’t until he fled South Africa, that those populations were released.
Though, it has become evident that the Sudanese regime is strategically working against the development of Darfur and South Kordofan (as it perceives the people of the periphery, both social and geographical, wherever they are, as a threat to its elongated minority rule, not to forget its racist ideology), attempts –in the form of derailed conferences and void declarations– are continuously pursued to conceal exactly this truth. They achieve nothing other than expose the impotence of superimposed peace settlements that for long adopted a paternalistic vision that allowed no room for reciprocity between bottom-up and town-down trickle approaches. More grievously, highlighted the role of militia/military leaders, at the expense of intellectual, cultural, civil, and political elites. Thus, adopting a myopic approach that negatively influenced the sustainability of (comprehensive) peace agreements, both in Sudan and South Sudan.
A group of scholars/activists, originally from Sudan have been concerned for some time with the stalemate that obstructs concerned parties from reaching a sustainable peace in Sudan. They have been working diligently to establish Sudan Policy Forum (SPF), whose objective is to allow Sudan a leeway to bravely escape the intensive polarization that characterizes its political and social landscape. To speak for itself in a comprehensive, cohesive and representative fashion, SPF’s vision must be institutionalized and its members must undergo extensive training in governance-related issue. Lest their cause be manipulated by governmental NGOs (GoNGOs) or sabotaged by new “confederates.” This group must include non-governmental organizations, women, youth and student associations, IDPs and refugees associations and forums, and the religious sects. Those who strive for social welfare, emphasize peace values and enhance our understanding of embedded democracy.
It is very obvious now that the regime of Sudan will come to its knees very soon, through economic if not political means. Rather than waiting for a political vacuum to occur, the Sudanese community must work at establishing a forum that can pave the way to a democratic change. The kind of negative campaign that the regime has been hailing and the slogan to which the population has succumbed, “Who is the Alternative?” remains to serve the wishes of the criminals, who never wish for the day of reckoning to come. It is imperative to ask: What is the alternative? The alternative is the moral conscious of the public and their will to join voluntarily in a union and that preserves their dignity.
At some point, a group of UN experts dared to say that the “King is naked.” These experts urged the international community to face the reality and admit that the DDPD is dead. They presented an honest assessment of the situation in Darfur. Such factual report may have caused embarrassment for some entities. Following the resignation of the latter group, a new UN panel of experts was assigned, who presented a fictitious report, which contradicted the remarks included in the original report as follows: massive civilian destruction was changed to voluntary repatriation initiative; ethnic cleansing to incoherent mélange of violence; and obstructions to humanitarian aid remarks to no pressure or interference. To announce Doha Agreement as lively, according to some experts, is to decide to politically posture in the face of a tragedy. However, it is less the failure of any specific agreement than it is the failure of the (inter)national community to provide a diplomatic and political/civil umbrella for that action. Not to forget, its reluctance to devise a mechanism of implementation.
By tactfully outlining future civic and political contours, rather than be content with the iconic look that so far has become prevalent among embassy communities in Khartoum, the establishment of a policy-oriented civil forum can help the Sudanese people make a breakthrough that overcomes current political and military stalemate. Thus, providing the vision and leadership needed to carry Sudan into the future. Secondly, by holding seminars in policymaking and governance-related issues, it can contribute to engaging citizens (both locally and in the diaspora) in a principled and objective manner. Hence, mobilizing the silent majority and unleashing the potential of the youth, that represents an approximate 70% of the Sudanese population. Thirdly, by reconfiguring contemporary social contours and assigning individuals their deserved political and historical weights, as an essential mapping technique and an indelible tool for peacemaking, the forum can begin to gradually build nuclei of change in variegate localities.
The public sphere, as the domain for organized expressions and interest of society, has shifted from one that was strictly anchored around national institutions to a multimodal communication space – one that is constituted around the media system, which includes in addition to the radio, the TV, and the print press, a variety of multimedia and communication systems. Sudan Policy Forum (SPF) should provide the platform on which the civic society could move to the forefront of the policy debate. If it fails to harness the power of the public opinion through its networks, for lack of creativity or lack of capability, the whole channel of communication will come to a halt, hence affecting the policymaking cycle which identifies the civic society and the research community as an important venues of knowledge and support in the devise of a national development strategy for Sudan.
As an agency that has rich institutional and cultural heritage, Sudan civic society is equally capable of rejuvenating its soul by way of devising policies based on the opinion of the citizens towards education, health, environment, prosperity, etc. Thus contributing to peace and regional integration and offsetting any negative impact that the regime may have had recently on Sudan as a society and a state. To attain a sustainable regional and world order through the emergence of a consensual governance system, the forum must aim to harness the dialogue between different communities and their cultures in the hope of sharing meaning and understanding not imposing ideology; communicating not convincing; reflecting meaning not only sharing interest and power.
This paper envisions that such program which includes training, campaigning, and vision hailing (V2050), will help civil society agents understand the practical implications of the important topics of governance and democratization rather than aimlessly try to make sense of a list of requirements of “good governance.” It anticipates that such program will expand the participants’ scope of politics to include, communication & the role of media, livelihoods, energy and resource management, ecological interdependence, constitutional reform, family issues, and institutional development.
By infusing values of “communicative rationality,” activists stand a chance of mobilizing a rich heritage that for long had been stagnant, hence liberating the individual – man or woman –who for centuries had been imprisoned behind walls of authoritarianism and “thick layers of interpretation.” Last but not least, demilitarizing a culture precedes the attempt to disarm a population. Hence, providing paramilitary groups an exit strategy supplements the creative program that some agencies are proposing and supplants the evil campaign that the government is carrying out in the periphery. Winning the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) back may not be a viable strategic goal at the moment, but it is definitely one that is worth pursuing if we were to think about avoiding a prolonged civil war and reducing a number of causalities.
For as long as the Arabs (pastoralists groups who live along indigenous tribes in Darfur, Kordofan, etc.) remain unintegrated in the economic cycle, excluded from political forums or cultural debates, they risk facing greater marginalization – something that will give way to group grudges and personal grievances, have adverse effects on their well-being, and may consequently jeopardize the future of any peace settlements. To assert the position of the Arabs as an integral part of the consultative process – one that is aimed at bringing comprehensive peace to Sudan, SPF aims to bypass idea brokers and to work directly with the nomads through their representatives in the municipalities.
Within this context, Sudan Policy Forum (SPF) is sought to encourage the broader mobilization of civil society in Sudan and in so doing, to surmount ethnic, tribal and regional differences in the interests of securing an enduring peace. The forum must be representative not selective; it should involve prominent scholars, diligent activists, genuine politicians, professional officers and, community leaders who are known for their will to serve public, not private interest. In short, the Sudanese need to go back to the drawing board in order to be able to produce recommendations articulating a path forward, introducing and encouraging understanding and support for the roles of both regional and international partners. They must recognize commonalities across all boundaries, thus appealing to a broader understanding of community and the civic sphere. The forum should work to build the confidence of civil society, to build trust among participants, and to mobilize people to see life beyond their differences, as part of a process of moving towards open and constructive dialogue. It should provide the Sudanese people with a window through which they can see life differently.
Despite great sacrifices & genuine efforts, nation building can become a wasteful exercise or fiasco at worst in absence of coordination. The forum, as much possible, should avoid resorting to rhetoric that has hampered the ability to Sudanese groups concerned with democracy and stability to work jointly, something that fed into the traps of ruthless dictators, hence prolonging the misery of the Sudanese people. Some of the slogans of both “modernists” and “traditionalists” groups included doing away with tribal & religious identities which led to further entrenchment and moved these groups from “binding” to “blinding” style of associations, to use Goran Hyden terms; promoting black or Arab consciousness which assisted ethnic entrepreneurs and helped with further exploitation of cleavages; advocating a liberal economic model which combined illiberal forms of governance with too much emphasis on growth-oriented reform, thus causing poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Before we could recover from any of these delusional clauses, we find ourselves faced with claims about wasateya or moderate Islam. Rageya backwardness, masquerading as moderate Islam, is a way by which religious entrepreneurs try to reinstate their authority bringing religion to the public sphere, albeit this time through the back door. Pushed to its logical conclusion, the call of some Riverian elites to join the regime in its 2020 version of fraudulent elections, is an attempt – though secular compared to the former attempt – to confine power to grips of historical and traditional players, mainly centrist elites. Who now feel that they have lost the hegemony, which helped them exploit and manipulate, both material and spiritual resources of the periphery. Contesting 2020 elections is equivalent to legitimating the regime, and giving birth to its third version, i.e., Ingaz 3. Centrist elites fear mostly chaos, because – despite bloodshed – it will structurally change the rules of the game, and deny them sacred right to continue their monopoly over power. Even though they say that this is the last chance to salvage the nation from falling into despair. But isn’t that already happening, safe Khartoum and its surroundings?
Garang is quoted to have said that “the regime is too deformed to be reformed.” At best, we can plan to start thinking ahead of ways that can help us deal constructively with the ramifications of its failure, something that has become inevitable. Ideally, a strong integrated community state is necessary in order to provide sustainable security & development. But as we must have witnessed from the experience of neighbouring countries, mainly Libya, Syria, Iraq, etic., autocrats are likely to consume all resources, meaningful to the process of nation-building, before their collapse. A nation-building strategy requires identifying strategic objectives, with the hope that responsible and capable political leaders will pursue the objectives of that strategy with determination, and recognition of the complexity of the process, its non-linearity, and the need for reflexivity.
The main strategic objective is to reduce political factionalism and cancel out associations that cause divisiveness; secondly, to promote peace through genuine social and economic repairs; thirdly, to create strong nexus between nation building and youth development; fourthly, to ensure participation of qualified cadre in public administration, and finally, to reduce government expenditure and corruption. Strong civic associations, as an intermediate outcome, target the reduction of political factionalism and aim at cancelling out of associations that cause divisiveness; equitable land ownership via proper appropriation system aims at promoting peace through social & economic repairs; creation of a strong nexus between nation-building and youth development requires catering for the needs and aspirations of Sudanese youths; scientific and rational-based bureaucracy encourages participation of qualified cadre in public administration; and adherence to well-defined governance code reduces government expenditure and corruption.
Ever since independence (1956), Sudanese had had difficulty Keeping alive the vision of the founding fathers whilst promoting national consciousness. Though the vision was vivid, and avoided dealing with the details, it emphasized the importance of unity, and left wide open the platform for coming generations to answer the following challenging questions: What are the different forms of governance, as influenced by independence era, Cold War, and New World Order and with what impact on identity and development? What are the main constitutional landmarks stipulated by secularism, embedded democracy or Sharia/Islamism, and with what effect on rights and duties? What are the different forms of local governance (regionalism, federalism, or centralized authority), and with what impact on self-autonomy and responsiveness to the local needs of the community? What sort of social mechanisms and economic mottos do regimes led by traditional, modernist, or populist groups, use to sustain their political legitimacy? What are the different modes of economic reform mandated by central planning authority (1960-73), Structural Adjustment Programs (1980-2000), or Comprehensive Development (2000-2010), that were internationally adopted and with what impact on distributional policies, growth and efficiency? What are the different stages of development (foundational stage, critical stage, and maturity stage), and with what impact on drivers and levers? What sort of an educational philosophy needs to be adopted to unleash the unlimited potential of the human mind, and to make its soul worth serving the objectives of an international moral economy?
The strategy of building an enlightened citizenry with collective action capacities is the basis of sustainable development. Albeit, there is nothing in the text of the SDGs that really explains how the new goals and targets for education, specifically Goal 4, will relate to all the other SDGs most of which have educational dimensions, or why “reaching the furthest behind first” makes sense where failure to deliver services is systemic, rather than on the margin of fundamentally sound education systems. The SDGs locate education more as part of the definition of development than as a means to achieve it and fail to advance the discussion of what kind of education is to be valued for what purpose? Keith Lewin asserts that “an opportunity has been missed to dwell more on that which transforms minds, hands and hearts and offer insight into what education designed to promote development that is climate-friendly, human rights respectful, and economically advantageous might look like”.
To prescribe growth as a solution is to identify underdevelopment as the absence of development. Manning Marable asserts, “Underdevelopment is not the absence of development; it is the inevitable product of an oppressed population’s integration into the world market economy and political system”. Despite slight technical differences, programs of development and poverty reduction relied on the old model of industrial growth with goals devoted to growth, specifically export-oriented growth. This mandatory pursuit of endless industrial growth is chewing through our living planet, producing poverty at a rapid rate, and threatening the basis of our existence. To tackle the irrationality of endless growth head-on, we need to point out that capitalist growth — as measured by GDP — is not the solution to poverty and ecological crisis, but the primary cause. And we need a measure of human progress that gears us not toward more extraction and consumption by the world’s elite, but more fairness, more equality, more wellbeing, more sharing, to the benefit of the vast majority of humanity.
The National Dialogue agenda provides a framework for greater coordination of efforts to end the war and humanitarian crisis with political support from the international community. Nonetheless, there is fear that it will lock in the national development agenda for the next few years that follow 2020 around an economic and political model that requires urgent and deep structural changes. As bad as it may seem, the Ingaz is only a degenerate form of the “jalaba” state, it spares no attempt to control & to capture the periphery resources, leaving the majority of the rural population with no structural power, and relying on the state apparatus for disciplining city “mavericks.” Who may come out this time pushed by famine, and not necessarily urged by the demand for liberty.
It is most unlikely that the regime can be reformed through “appeals of moral suasion” only, however ruminating about the scenarios of its removal or dismantling its forces remains beyond the scope of this paper. Doing away with the regime is a necessary not sufficient condition for development. Sudan Policy Forum is a platform through which Sudanese intellectuals or scholars, and their friends worldwide, can form a coalition of progressive forces, who by revising policies that have a disproportionately greater impact on one group than upon others, can develop practical solutions to resolve the dilemma of those underdeveloped and underprivileged populations. By understanding society and reinterpreting its formation, participants can design transitional reformist demands that aim not at changing the society but transforming it through the creation of logical framework or a system that is rational and humane. Only through proper education and political processes can nations heal and voluntary join in a union that preserves their dignity and grants them necessary services.
The author is a Ph.D. in Governance & International Development Expert Founder and the President of the Sudan Policy Forum