Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 17 March 2015

The Sudanese Opposition: putting all the eggs in the basket of communiqué 456


By Elwathig Kameir

Allow me to start by asserting that despite the apparent weakness of the opposition political forces, coupled with the ruling party’s inability to reach a national political settlement, whether through peace or war, some political sparkles flash from time to time to lighten the darkness of "creative exhaustion" suffered by both parties. This is reflected in the observed escalation of both regional and international initiatives in recent months. These initiatives, have been marked by the relentless pursuit of, first, paving the way for bringing together all the Sudanese stakeholders in some African and/or European capitals, and secondly, to support them through proposing a road map for realizing the agreed peaceful settlement of the Sudanese crises.

There is no doubt that all of these initiatives have resulted in some progress, with regards to breaking the communication barrier in the negotiations between the conflicting parties, albeit remaining far from achieving tangible successes. Whatever gloomy situation our country is currently undergoing, reinforcing the dialogue between the various Sudanese political and social formations, remains imperative. This is especially if we take into account the prevailing political divisions and schisms, and factors of deeply rooted historical incapability of the political elites to articulate viable political alternatives for the Sudanese people.

In the above context, this modest contribution aims at provoking discussion and debate on the issues of negotiations and dialogue from a different perspective, by taking into account the way of thinking of the different stakeholders, including the current regime. It seeks to provide a critical reading of the situation that aims to assist the forces of change, especially the armed opposition factions, to objectively and correctly understand the unfolding political reality. I cannot stop reiterating that a comprehensive political settlement is the only scenario that would save the country from sliding into chaos, prevent the collapse of the state, and maintain the territorial integrity of Sudan

First: Communique 456
1. Based on my regular follow up of statements, press releases, and charters, issued lately by the opposition forces, it seems that those who are boycotting the national dialogue and signatories to "Call of Sudan", especially the Revolutionary Front, put all of their eggs in the basket of the Peace and Security Council (APSC) Communique No. 456, issued on 12 September 2014. The Communique was fully supported in the resolutions of the "Sudan Call" forces’ meeting in Berlin on 27 February 2015, as it has endorsed a number of steps to ensure harmonized and focused action by the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in support of the efforts of the Sudanese stakeholders to address the issues and challenges confronting their country. These steps can be summarized in the following: a)the negotiations on the cessation of hostilities, immediately leading to a comprehensive security arrangements agreement between Sudan Government and the SPLM-North, and the Darfur armed movements, to be each separately convened, albeit in a synchronized and coordinated manner, b) a meeting of the Sudanese parties, at the AU Headquarters in Addis Abaca, to discuss relevant process issues in order to pave the way for National Dialogue in Khartoum.

2. I see the Communique as being problematic in and of itself. The APSC has no jurisdiction or power over the Government of Sudan, or any other government for that matter, to ensure compliance with the Council’s communique. Apparently, its power lies only in persuasion! Indeed, the Sudan government is a full-fledged member of the APSC, which in essence is a states’ club that is inclined to side with governments rather than with rebels. No wonder, in the words of the Communique, which does not even amount to a "resolution", the Council can only "encourage the Government to expedite its efforts towards implementing the agreed confidence-building measures, such as release of political prisoners, ensure public freedoms, and the integrity and independence of the judiciary etc.. If the Government did not respond, and abide by its commitment to the implementation of the agreed-upon confidence-building measures, approved by the ruling party in the context of the roadmap of the 7+7 mechanism, and endorsed by the General Assembly of all the participating parties in the dialogue, and the parties, headed by President al-Bashir himself, how would the regime subject itself to the terms of the APSC’s Communique?

3. Indeed, while the Communique 456 encourages the Government to initiate the implementation of the confidence-building steps, it does not consider these measures as preconditions for the national dialogue, as is misconstrued by many quarters. However, the matter was succinctly clarified by the Chair of the AUHIP himself, in a written letter addressed to all signatories of the Addis Ababa Roadmap, on 4 December 2014, underlining that "the 12 September, 2014 Communique of the AU-PSC did not say or require that the "confidence-building" measures it mentioned in paragraph 15 are or should be prerequisites for the holding of the National Dialogue".

4. Therefore, the Council has to first guarantee the Government’s green light before moving these steps forward on the ground. Another flaw in the Communique is its ambiguity regarding discussion of other substantive political issues, even if Doha is envisaged as a binding frame of reference for negotiations with the Darfur rebels. Thus, confining the negotiations’ agenda to one item only, that is cessation of hostilities, without any accompanying explanation or a mere reference to Doha. This has rendered the Communiqué open to conflicting interpretation or misinterpretation. Even the Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), a self-proclaimed think-tank, has mistakenly interpreted the proposed preparatory meeting in Addis as an alternative course to the national dialogue initiative. The Group also misconstrued the "synchronization" of the negotiations between the Government and the SPLM-N, and the Darfur movements, to mean integrating the two tracks (Darfur and Two Areas) into a single process. (SDFG, The Berlin Meeting: What’s At Stake? 25,February 2015)

1. The ultimate objective of the Communique is to facilitate and prepare for the participation of the SRF in the national dialogue (the Leap), proposed by Albashir, in Khartoum. In order to achieve this objective, the APSC has endorsed the two steps, of; a) organizing a preparatory meeting at the AU HQs in Addis to discuss process issues regarding the proposed national dialogue, b) stop the war both in Darfur, and in S. Kordofan and Blue Nile.

2. However, the way the opposition forces have presented their argument, and the persistent call for an Addis meeting, suggests that the steps are ordered in priority to first start with holding the stakeholders’ preparatory meeting, before concluding a cease-fire agreement.

3. I believe, this is an incorrect interpretation of the APSC’s Communique. In fact, this reading, which is actually shared by many quarters, has missed the carefully designed sequencing of the steps (and synchronizing a) & b) that would eventually allow the participation of SRF in the national dialogue in Khartoum, together with the rest of the stakeholders. I tend to believe that the APSC wouldn’t have come out with its roadmap, inclined towards a comprehensive approach, had the President not initiated the national dialogue. Indeed, the blessing of the regional and international community for the "Leap" initiative tipped off both President Mbeki, and his employer: the Council, to articulate a plan (the Communique 456) that could be palatable to the regime, while appealing to the opposition forces, both military and civil.

4. Thus, the order of the proposed measures by the APSC as stated in the Communique are purposely sequenced in a way so that they start with separate negotiations, albeit synchronized, on cessation of hostilities, immediately leading to a comprehensive security arrangements agreement, both in Darfur and the Two Areas. This step is reckoned to pave the way for the proposed Addis preparatory stakeholders’ meeting. Thus, by the time the meeting is convened, a measure of mutual confidence building will have been achieved between the contending parties, and a cease-fire agreement concluded. This step would eventually consummate (theoretically of course) the preparation process for holding the national constitutional dialogue in Khartoum. To dispel any doubt on this point, paragraph (iv) of the Communique urges the government to "provide the necessary guarantees for the armed movements to participate freely in the National Dialogue, once comprehensive ceasefire and security arrangements have been concluded.

5. Even the last paragraph of the Preamble, of the Framework Agreement-Agreed Text (Draft of 30 April 2014), places the "convening in Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the AUHIP, of a representative group of Sudanese stakeholders to consult on process issues for the National Dialogue", as the last step in order of priority, following "the commencement of synchronized negotiations on ending the war in the Two Areas and Darfur; the negotiations on the cessation of hostilities leading to comprehensive security arrangements". Above all, the SPLM-N leaders have always reiterated in their various statements and interviews that the entry point to the national constitutional dialogue lies in stopping the war.

6. Thus, I don’t think that President Mbeki will be able to bring the NCP to the table of the proposed all-parties stakeholders’ meeting in Addis without securing Albashir’s consent. Indeed, Gandour was not at all in a position to sign the Agreed Text when the President in person had publicly, in a televised speech (December 23 2014), slammed the meeting and strongly rejected the idea of participation in any meeting held outside the country. The abrupt defection of Sayed Al-Imam out of the "Leap’s" boat was a strong personal blow to the President, who, according to reliable sources, was seething with anger at Al-Sayed Al-Imam. Adding insult to injury was the conclusion of the Paris Declaration, followed by signing of the Sudan Call, with the "rebels", or the very enemies of the State in Albashir’s vocabulary.

7. Without tangible progress in the negotiations towards a comprehensive cease-fire agreement, therefore, I am not inclined to think that Albashir will allow his "party" to meet with its adversaries outside Sudan. Indeed, the scene of Al-Imam joining hands with the "rebels" around the same table, and exchanging smiles with his new allies, is intolerable for him,, unless of course Al-Imam returns to the fold of the dialogue? reaches a common understanding, and returns to Khartoum. The port of embarkation of Al-Imam’s flight to Addis must be Khartoum airport. In the President’s eyes, Al-Imam has kidnapped his own national dialogue initiative of January 2014, and is calling to remove him from the leadership of the national dialogue mechanism in favour of a "national" figure. Honestly, I don’t believe that any president, if put in Albashir’s place, would accept to be sidelined at this critical juncture of the country’s political development. Besides, some other political parties, notably the PCP, are not in favour of any meeting outside Sudan, on the pretext of the potential for foreign meddling in national issues.

The Darfur-based movements have equally misinterpreted the communique. Whether deliberately or inadvertently, convening the talks in Addis is misconstrued to mean transcending the Doha Agreement, starting negotiations afresh on the basis of a new framework, and endorsing Addis as the new venue. In my view, this is an incorrect understanding. The Communique is very clear on this point and it doesn’t refer, overtly or covertly, to any of these assumptions. The primary agenda item of the meeting in Addis is "negotiations on cessation of hostilities, immediately leading to a comprehensive security arrangements agreement", albeit "conducted in a synchronized manner". Thus, the Government delegation was not ready to negotiate any other substantive issues, which were considered to have already been discussed and settled in the Doha Agreement Document. Another major weakness of the Communique is lack of clarity of the approach which the mediation will follow in limiting the negotiations to cessation of hostilities, while it is completely silent on the rest of the substantive agenda.

In a nutshell, the 456 Communique does not in any way signify support for the opposition’s "end-game" of a full-fledged transition to be led by a consensual "national figure", to the exclusion of the incumbent president. In addition a number of events that are largely in favour of the regime have lately taken place, some of which are in the shape of messages, though indirectly delivered, from the international community to the armed and civil opposition:

1. Thus, in line with earlier stated critical positions of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and their determination not to seek the removal of an elected president, regional leaders adopted a resolution calling for cancelling UNSC referral of Darfur case to ICC and rather supporting the establishment of an African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

2. The South African president, a political heavy weight on the continent, was on a cordial two-day visit to Khartoum on 31 January 2015, for the first time since he assumed office. Jacob Zuma seems to have retracted his earlier stance, following his election in 2009, when he said that Albashir is not welcome in South Africa and warned that he would be arrested in compliance with ICC’s warrant of arrest. No doubt, the South African president is well aware and informed of intricacies of the current political scene in Sudan through the auspices of former President Thabo Mbeki.

3. The IGAD-imposed principle agreement has endorsed Salva Kiir as the president of the would-be Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU), stating that “this is a non-violating principle”. The opposition’s demand for a consensual leader to manage the transition in Sudan, therefore, will not sit well with African leaders.

4. Above all:
• Washington invited the Minster of Foregn Affairs, Ali Karti, and the Presidential Assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour, in order to deliver to them “officially and directly” the position of the American administration on a number of important issues related to the two countries bilateral relations. US State Department’s spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters “this visit and also the discussions with Foreign Minister Karti are a continuation of dialogue on a number of issues of longstanding concern to the U.S. Government, with the Government of Sudan. It is part of the engagement process where we raise concerns, certainly, that you are well aware of. And we engage them in a frank and frequent manner to discuss this full range of issues".
• Besides the above, the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on 17 February 2015 lifting of Sudan’s digital technology sanctions to allow exportation and re-exportation of personal communications hardware and software, as well as related services, including smart phones and laptops.
• Again, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Steven Feldstein went to Sudan, though he conditioned development of bilateral relationship with the country on the Sudanese government improving its respect for human rights and democratic principles.
• The downfall of the Inqaz regime is neither in the national interest of the US, nor is it supported by Western and regional powers. The US, and many international actors, are more concerned by regional stability and security than with democracy and human rights in Sudan. Thus, the main concern of the US now is Islamic extremism from Boko Haram to ISIS, and their fear that Sudan may collapse and a huge vacuum from west to east Africa will, then, be created and filled with extremists extending up to Somalia. This is, of course, in addition to their concern overthe deteriorating situation in South Sudan, and their inability to do anything to save the country from falling into the abyss.
• A lengthy quotation, from Alex de Wall’s Briefing, illuminates the US vision on this score "Washington’s priority in northeast Africa is stability, and the State Department is intrigued by Sudan’s proven skill at state survival amid the turbulence and extremism of the region, while the CIA and Department of Defense are impressed by the prowess of Sudanese intelligence services in managing groups that have elsewhere proven untamable. There has been familiar resistance in Washington to a possible rapprochement with Sudan, focusing on recent evidence for human rights violations in Darfur. Khartoum’s message, however, that it is a force for stability in the Middle East is clearly getting an audience. Just as the ICC’s prosecutor suspended further action on the Darfur file, the U.S. is quietly shelving plans for further isolating Sudan". (Playing Many Sides, Sudan’s Bashir Tries Again to End His Isolation, World Politics Review, 2 March 2015)
• This is also confirmed by the US activist, Eric Reeves, in his Hearing on Sudan before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress, March 4, 2015, about the current situation in Sudan, testifying that "the signal given to Khartoum by the Obama administration’s “de-coupling” of Darfur was that the regime could do what it wished in the region and this would not affect the singularly important strategic issue in the bilateral relationship: concern for terrorism and counter-terrorism intelligence on the part of the U.S., and a desire for international rehabilitation by Khartoum, along with the lifting of U.S. sanctions".
• With these concerns in mind, the US Administration seeks to change the regime in a way that would create a semblance of democratic transformation, with a measure of public freedoms, particularly freedom of expression and organization, and peaceful settlement of conflict, all prerequisites for free and fair elections. The coordination between the Germans and Americans on this score cannot be overlooked especially since it resulted in the Berlin Initiative, which brought together all the contending parties to Berlin on 25 February 2015..Indeed, Donald Booth, the US President’s Special Envoy, whispered to a reliable source "our channel of access to the government is only through Mbeki and the Germans".

5. The visit of the President’s deputy to Uganda and the warm reception of the host, including meeting President Museveni, all events which have sent unpromising signals to the leaders of the armed movements based in Kampala.

6. After years of frosty bilateral relations, a surprise invitation was extended to the President to visit the UAE on Saturday, 21 February 2015, regardless of the controversy and clamour that accompanied the visit. According to Alex de Wall, although-Bashir’s visit to the United Arab Emirates stressed trade, it also signaled ongoing efforts at political balancing. (Alex de Wall, opcit.)

7. Developments in the bilateral relations, with Egypt cannot be ignored, signals of overcoming the isolation of Sudan from its Arab surroundings, and its involvement in combating the expanding danger of extremist terrorist groups, ranging from ISIS to Boko Haram are all significant.

8. In a striking development, joint meetings between the Government of Sudan and the African Union and the United Nations, began on February 15 in Khartoum, in order to agree on the terms of reference of the joint working group, entrusted with the practical preparations for the exit strategy of the joint mission of the United Nations and the African Union in Darfur, "UNAMID". Thus, in a preliminary step to implement an exit strategy, UNAMID laid off 770 of its international and local staff to streamline its operation. Thus, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said in his report to the Security Council that the roadmap laying out an exit strategy for the UNAMID mission would be ready in the coming weeks.

9. In the context of the apparent rapprochement in the relationship between the international community and the Sudanese government, the Prosecutor of the ICC decided to suspend investigative activities in Darfur due to the Security Council’s inaction and failure in applying pressures for the implementation of the arrest warrants issued by the Court.

10. It is worth noting the paper presented by the Secretary General of the SPLM-N to the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, on January 8, 2015, in which he admitted that "given the division within the UNSC as a result of many factors, the Sudan government is benefiting from the lack of international political will, in addition to the instability challenges facing the surrounding neighbours of Sudan"

1. I tend to believe that the major obstacle for reaching an agreement with the Government is divergence, of the two parties to the talks as regards both the scope and the expected outcome of the negotiations. While the SPLM-N calls for the inclusion of national constitutional issues in the agenda, the Government insists on restricting negotiations to the Two Areas. Therefore, for the regime to show its seriousness about its own initiative of national dialogue, of 27 January 2013, I firmly believe they should provide the political forces with a clear perception of the envisaged end-game or expected outcome.

2. On this score, I strongly think that national dialogue will be an exercise in futility and its findings will not lead to a national consensus on how to move the country forward to a better future, unless all Sudanese political parties and strong engaged societal forces agree on the "scope of change" required in the institutional and political structure(s) of the Sudanese state after more than a quarter a century of one-party rule. It is obvious that the NCP, on the one hand, and the rest of the political forces, on the other are not reading from the same page with regard to the results and expected outcomes of the national dialogue. Thus, some of the opposition forces, albeit to varying degrees, are seeking to establish a new political regime, while other forces aspire to full-fledged transitional arrangement, leading to the deconstruction and dismantling of the entire political system, modelled on the earlier transitional situations predicated on popular uprisings and revolutions. Accordingly, I always pose to myself, and to others, the question that has been haunting me for a long while: "if a full-fledged transition, as demanded by the opposition forces, is considered by the NCP a non-starter and a politically unrealistic choice, what is the ruling party’s perception of the nature and scope of change that would result from the deliberations of the proposed national dialogue, even if all the political forces accepted to participate"?

3. I did not find the answer to this question from the ongoing dialogue I have with a friend and senior leader in the ruling party. In his opinion, incidentally shared by many, it is not appropriate to pre-empt the anticipated national dialogue by providing perceptions or procedures, which in themselves could be outcomes". It did not take long for the answer to come, practically, through the NCP’s predetermined act of ensuring the forthcoming April elections a de facto political reality. The objective of the dialogue initiative is to reach the general elections, with the NCP the ultimate winner. No doubt, this has been the strategy of the NCP, almost since the 6-year CPA-premised interim period came "officially" to an end in July 2011. A highly reliable source phoned me from Khartoum, in February 2013, immediately following the publication of my piece entitled "The Ball is in the President’s Court", in which I had proposed a managed-transition to be led by the President himself". The source informed me that the President had reacted to the paper. Apparently, a close companion said, jokingly, to the president "it seems that even communists like Elwathig Kameir have a proposal for the way forward, what do you have in mind"? The President answered "I already read the article, but my initiative is: the elections".

4. In the various SRF documents, the Paris Declaration, and Sudan Call, two options for achieving the required change are identified: either to deconstruct/dismantle the ruling regime through a comprehensive political solution (national constitutional dialogue) or overthrow it through popular struggle".

5. The identified prerequisites for the dialogue, i.e. political settlement, call on the ruling regime to make wide-ranging concessions and to go as far as "deconstructing" itself. Thus, a full-fledged "transition", including an interim government, is envisaged. In light of the preceding analysis, I don’t think such a proposition, particularly in the manner it was presented, will augur well with the regime, especially the call for a "consensual" president to lead the proposed transition. In the eyes of the NCP, the opposition’s two options in the end amount to a single alternative: the deconstruction/dismantling of the regime, either voluntarily or by force. No incumbent ruling regime will agree to sign its own death warrant around the dialogue or negotiations table, by handing over power to its opponents on a silver plate.

A number of key questions and issues need to be answered and objectively addressed in the process of correctly charting the way forward:

1. In its contemporary history, Sudan has witnessed two types, and four incidences, of transition. The first is the transition, predicated on the exercise of self-determination, from colonialism to independence (self-rule agreement in 1953 and from one Sudan to two Sudans (CPA July 2011). The second was the transition from one-party military dictatorship to a plural parliamentary system, both in 1964 and 1985. Obviously, the current situation in Sudan does not qualify for the first type of transition. Equally, though the situation signifies a highly charged and polarized political scene, the regime is still in control of power in the country, weak and fatigued as it may appear. In both 1964 and 1985, the transition was consequent upon a popular uprising, blessed by a united front of political forces, supported by the army, who instituted their own agreed-upon transitional arrangements. The ruling party had already relinquished power (Aboud’s Military Council and Nimeiri’s Socialist Union) ,respectively. Currently, the country is undergoing a completely different experience, where the ruling party is still in power, thus making the dictation of the opposition’s terms of the transition a politically unrealistic endeavour.

2. Excluding the President from the transition process and denying him leadership of the transitional period, in the futile search for a "consensual" national figure, is yet another major obstacle standing in the way of realizing meaningful and peaceful change (Sayed Al-Imam has even proposed a mechanism for selecting such figure). In particular, in the earlier transitions of 1964 and 1985, the incumbent President had already been unseated, while this time the President remains at the helm of power. However, drawing from similar lessons elsewhere, there are cases where incumbent presidents have led the transition. In Sudan’s case, with the looming threat of the ICC, besides being the initiator of national dialogue, it is most unlikely that the President will step down and vacate his seat in favour of someone else. Indeed, in an interview, with Sky News Arabia, on February 24 2015, Albashir opined that Al-Assad of Syria, and after over three years of popular uprising against him, is part of the solution and cannot be excluded from any political settlement, otherwise he will "remain fighting to the end". But, Albashir himself stressed in his speech on the occasion of the launch of his election campaign in Gezira state, on February 26,2015 that he will not "leave" except through the coming April elections, and that if he won, he would step down in 2020. Perhaps, this precarious position is one of the underlying motives for hastening the latest constitutional amendments, further concentrating state power in the hands of the President, who wants to be at the center of any possible political settlement. It is a clear message, to the opposition and international community, that no deal can be concocted behind the President’s back.

3. While the Darfur armed movements are washing their hands off the Doha Agreement, the public discourse of the SPLM-North leaders is almost devoid of a mere nod to the anticipated forthcoming negotiations on the Two Areas, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, under the mediation of the AUHIP. This oversight, whether intended or inadvertent, raises an important question: Does the SPLM-N have a defined strategy for reconciling the Movement’s commitment to negotiations (regionally and internationally endorsed) with the quest for a "national constitutional" dialogue? Or, is the SPLM-N washing its hands off the negotiations, thus leaving the matter pending until the national constitutional issues are settled? Equally, if the regime insisted on going along with the announced elections, would this represent the final blow to national dialogue? Thus, turning to the option of overthrowing the regime?

4. As if in response to my question, the Secretary General of the SPLM-N ruled out resumption of negotiations with the Government on the Two Areas in light of the NCP’s insistence on going ahead with the elections this April, revealing they would resort to using the UN Security Council resolutions to refuse peace talks with Sudan Government on bases of the Sudanese regime’s illegitimacy, whose head is wanted by the ICC. On the other hand, the Secretary General of the Movement stressed that the opposition forces would abandon the constitutional national dialogue if elections were held in April, and the opposition will then focus its efforts on overthrowing the regime through a peaceful popular uprising. (http://www.altaghyeer.info) Is it really the official position of the SPLM-N to withdraw from the negotiating table, or would the Movement stick to dialogue to the end, guided by its long-practiced approach of negotiating with all de facto governments (1983-89)?

5. It is important here to note that the AUHIP strongly believes that it would not accept any proposition, that the immense gains of peace benefiting even one area, should not be accepted and brought about, unless these benefits also accrue to all others concerned - I.e. the application of the principle: everything for all, otherwise nothing for all.

6. A critical question, therefore, is: given internal and regional realities, and the present balance of forces in the country, what is the ultimate objective of armed struggle? More specifically, what is the probability of achieving a decisive victory against the government forces or reversing the prevalent military situation, or a time horizon for this eventuality? It is imperative to ponder these questions and in a serious manner. It is the ordinary Sudanese people, particularly those in war-affected areas, who are the fuel and victims of the armed conflict. Concerned Sudanese in many quarters think that the SPLM-N, as well as the other components of the SRF, are deliberately stalling the negotiations, aspiring to a larger share of power if their alliance with political forces bore its fruit in toppling the regime, while the arms are still in hand. Of course, this also applies to the NCP, the ruling party, whose position of maintaining a high ceiling for negotiation is a prime obstacle in the face of reaching an agreement, regardless of the cost of continuing the war as long as it is paid for by the ordinary Sudanese people, especially in the war-affected areas.

7. In this regard, perhaps the strategic disagreement between the two parties to the negotiations on the two inter-related matters of cessation of hostilities leading to comprehensive security arrangements, on the one hand, and the Sudan national dialogue, on the other hand, which prompted the Chair of the AUHIP to address the two principal negotiators in a lengthy memorandum relating to the future GoS/SPLM-N Two Areas negotiations. Thabo Mbeki expressed his concern about the prolonged negotiations and that the Panel will not convene any further session of the GoS/SPLM-N Two Areas negotiations. That is, of course, unless the two belligerent parties have found it possible to agree on the consequences of their strategic differences and the ways and means for amicably resolving this fundamental contradiction.
8. Though the Communique does not consider the confidence-building measures as preconditions for holding the national dialogue, the NCP is politically and morally obligated to create the conducive climate for a free and fair elections. These are not preconditions, but constitutional entitlements, the same as the elections, which are, paradoxically, utilized by the NCP as a pretext for objecting to calls of the opposition for deferring these elections, in a double standards bid. Though the Communique does not consider the confidence-building measures as preconditions for holding the national dialogue, the NCP is politically and morally obligated to create the conducive climate for a free and fair elections. These are not preconditions, but constitutional entitlements, the same as the elections, which are, paradoxically, utilized by the NCP as a pretext for objection to calls of the opposition for deferring these elections, in a double standards bid. One wonders if the NCP’s formal welcome of the Berlin Declaration, signed by armed and civil opposition under the auspices of the German government, would prompt the ruling part to take a further step on the way of implementing the necessary agreed-upon confidence-building measures, approved by the party itself.

Concluding Insights

In view of all of the above, there is an urgent need to articulate:
I. A proposal spelling out the main features and the nature of the envisaged transition, it’s specific objectives and functions, and, most importantly, the status of the NCP in the structures of the transition. The blueprint and model of the two transitions in 1964 and 1985 are inapplicable to the present circumstances. A rational and achievable plan for the reforms or restructuring of the state institutions is also an imperative, especially when these institutions have been under partisan hegemony for a quarter of a century. However, it is not politically correct for one faction, or party, or movement, to draft the proposal on its own, rather it must be owned by all parties and become a product of wider and close consultations with all partners, arriving at a unified position and a single proposal. No doubt, such a proposal will provide incentives for the international community to positively respond to the demands of the opposition, and put it in a better position to exert pressure on the regime to meet the entitlements of creating a conducive environment for convening the national dialogue.
II. This detailed proposal besides addressing the Two Areas-centric issues must go beyond popular consultations, it. must incorporate more specific proposals about power- and resource-sharing (on the basis of the "positive discrimination" or "affirmative action" principle), and concrete security arrangements for the Two Areas. The Two Areas’ specific concerns include, equal citizenship rights, governance, borders, land, languages, cultural and religious diversity, identity, and all the war-precipitated phenomena such as displacement and refuge. Such a proposal, must be premised on wide consultations with all stakeholders, within and outside the SPLM-N, and would put an end to the circulating controversy over the concept of "self-rule", thus avoiding "asymmetrical" constitutional relations in different parts of the country. Reinforcing such relationships tempts unleashing new conflicts in other areas of the Sudan demanding special constitutional status within the framework of a decentralized federal system. It is pertinent to draw from the experiences of countries that apply symmetrical federal systems to examine whether all of its constituent units share the same constitutional status. However, these countries endorse the principle of "affirmative action" and preferential treatment of marginalized, or oppressed cultural or ethnic groups.

Dr. Elwathig Kameir is a former university professor of Sociology and consultant with numerous regional and international organizations. He is also a former member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) . He is reachable at kameir@yahoo.com.

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SPLM/SPLA-IO: Alive in war, dead in peace 2020-11-24 20:32:42 By Deng Vanang Neutralized by an ineffective 2018 peace deal, with its head no longer the roaring beast of yesteryears, SPLM/SPLA-IO is now ensnared in the toughest dilemma to cross its shakiest (...)


Latest Press Releases

Sudan: Performing arts is not a crime, assaulting women and artists is! 2020-09-20 08:54:28 The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Sudan is still struggling with militant Islamist ideology KHARTOUM: Central Khartoum Primary Court issued a verdict against five (...)

Civil Society Statement in Response to The Law of Various Amendments 2020-08-14 07:11:00 A Collaborative Civil Society Statement in Response to The Law of Various Amendments (Abolishing and Amending Provisions Restricting Freedom) – Exposing ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ Sudanese women (...)

Remarks by SRF leaders at the Friend of Sudan meeting on peace 2020-08-13 07:58:58 Chairman of the Friends of Sudan Conference, Your Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Prime Minister of Sudan and the participating team from the (...)


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