Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 15 February 2010

Does the Sudan need elections or reconciliation first?


By Jacob K. Lupai

February 14, 2010 — Referring to my article, April 2010 elections and 2011 referendum in Sudan, that appeared in Sudan Tribune (11 February 2010), one David Glenn, in the comment on this article column, posed a question to each and all: Does the Sudan need elections or reconciliation first? I was impressed by David Glenn. Here was somebody who genuinely wanted issues to be discussed but not hurling personal insults at others. Most often I find filthy language used in the comment on this article column. Commentators even do not like to identify themselves but instead use fake names. It is unfortunate that Sudan Tribune allows such foul language to be used in what should have been a respectful exchange of viewpoints with self-discipline. We may differ in our viewpoints but that is not a license to take things personal and start insulting others who we might not have even met.

Back to the question, Does the Sudan need elections or reconciliation first? This is an interesting question which may take people off guard. As an answer to the question, in my view Sudan needs elections first and reconciliation after. The next question may be what is the rationale of justifying that Sudan needs elections first. It may be recalled that there have been attempts at reconciliation at national, regional and state level but nothing concrete seems to have been realised. This may explain why David Glenn has posed the question whether Sudan needs elections or reconciliation first. I shall still repeat my view that elections should come first followed by reconciliation. The rationale is that logistics for effective reconciliation before the April elections will be a nightmare. Assuming elections keep off in Sudan on 11 April then we are only left with barely 58 days to do anything useful in between related to reconciliation.

Since the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in January 2005 between the government of Sudan represented by the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) national reconciliation and reconciliation through South-South dialogue were conceived. Recently there have been also reconciliation efforts between states. For example, there were reconciliation talks between Jonglei and Central Equatoria State to defuse tensions between communities along the common border. It may be appreciated that it takes time for people to agree to sit down and start the actual reconciliation talks. Given only that there are 58 days left to the April elections it may be unrealistic to start reconciliation first only to break off for the elections without completing the reconciliation talks. Given inefficiency, incompetence and lack of confidence in taking timely decisions in some of our establishments it may be unrealistic to expect reconciliation to take place successfully before the elections.

Sudanese may be difficult to come down to reconcile before the April elections. According to Sudan Tribune (11 February 2010) Ali Osman Taha the 2nd Vice President of Sudan blames Hassan El Turabi for fuelling the conflict in Darfur. On his part El Turabi will not forgive Ali Osman Taha. It is worth noting that the two were the closest of allies. Reconciliation implies forgiveness. However, when El Turabi said, “he would pardon Bashir and not Taha should he ever regain back his power” and when Taha ruled out any attempt of reconciliation with El Turabi it means reconciliation between those two central figures of Sudanese politics and the Islamic movement will not be possible before the April elections. We should also understand that reconciliation will not only be between the two individuals but between their respective parties. It is also difficult to see how there can be any reconciliation between the northern and southern political parties before the April elections when the concentration is now on campaigning. The question also is that what is there between the northern and southern political parties to justify reconciliation before the April elections. First of all if there are differences they may need to be worked out for clear definition as to how reconciliation should ever take place.

In undertaking reconciliations intermediaries may be needed as a go-between. The process of reconciliation may also need to be initiated by one parting approaching the other. This in itself may need time and resources for what may become a shuttle diplomacy between the protagonists. Also there is the blame game that must be addressed before any reconciliation will take place. For example in the North in Kenana in the Spring of 2009 southern political leaders, activists, elders and intellectuals gathered mostly to blame the SPLM vehemently. The gathering was also to draw up strategies. Indeed the gathering was followed with the formation of Sudan people’s Liberation Movement for democratic change (SPLM-DC) by none other than Lam Akol Ajawin the master of masters of conspiracy. Thereafter the SPLM-DC blame game against the SPLM has continued unabated. However, in the interest of promoting reconciliation among southerners the blame game is not helpful. It is surely out of question to have reconciliation between the SPLM and the SPLM-DC before the April elections. The mud slinging at the SPLM initiated by the SPLM-DC needs a serious diplomatic effort and this can only be after the April elections. However, informal or formal contacts could still be initiated.

The weaknesses of the SPLM are not a big deal. Any southerner is aware that the SPLM has structural weaknesses. It has failed to deliver the badly needed basic services as peace dividends. The behaviour of some elements in the SPLM leaves much to be desired. Greed and corrupt practices are rampant. Insecurity is a nightmare to the defenceless. Elements in the SPLM seem to enjoy responsibility beyond their capacities. They also seem overwhelmed and confused not even knowing how to prioritise activities and how their functions should contribute to the welfare of the people. Some are crude indeed because some might not have finished a bush school and so are not well informed of how a liberator should behave to those liberated. The 22 year bush war seems to have produced a culture of arrogance and poor human relations. Instead of being revolutionaries some are outright reactionaries unfit to be identified with the SPLM.

The way forward for reconciliation whether before or after the elections is to view how a joint effort by those concerned will make a difference. It is important that all political parties participate through committees to address key issues in reconciliation. Sub-committees could also be formed to look at specific issues to accelerate the rate of reconciliation. Since the signing of the CPA in 2005 we have not seen much of reconciliation product tangibly evident. Time and resources will be needed, and the will to overcome problems in the national interest is paramount. Community leaders, elders, intellectuals, youth groups and women organisations should also get involved in the search for a better way forward. For the South reconciliation should not be a mammoth task. We have southern Sudan alliance of political parties on the one hand and the SPLM on the other. The problem may be that some elements in the SPLM and the SPLM-DC who are not secure may lack the confidence to engage in the reconciliation effort. One main observable weakness with the SPLM is that it seems it does not encourage merger with smaller political parties in the South which share the SPLM vision.

David Glenn question was a brilliant question on the concept of reconciliation before or after elections. True nationalists wouldn’t object to reconciliation which brings healing as forgiveness does. We are all human and are capable of inflicting terrible damages. The Rwandan genocide was carried out by human beings. In the South people are suffering from insecurity perpetrated by humans supported by the long hand of evil. In Darfur people do not any more know what is a normal day of safety and peace. People are suffering terribly in the hands of fellow humans. How can all this end? Reconciliation may be the option to the alternative to promote forgiveness and peaceful co-existence. Reconciliation in Sudan is healthy to create an atmosphere of trust where it has been absent. However, I think reconciliation will be possible after the April elections in Sudan when elected representatives will have the mandate to effect changes as they are accountable to the electorate.

The author can be reached at jacobklupai@yahoo.com

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  • 15 February 2010 11:21, by Time1

    you title sounds like the chicken and the egg, which come first?

    • 15 February 2010 14:59, by Joseph Dut Gak

      To understand it but it is reconcilliation first but to pave the ways mind of peace.

      that is guys !

    • 16 February 2010 17:47, by marie

      Mr Time1 or whoever you call yourself. I think you do not have any clue of what is being tackled on this forum. Just analyse your useless comments before posting them for people to read

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