Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 16 January 2008

Confederal System for Sudan

By Mahmoud A. Suleiman

January 15, 2008 — In the wake of the renewed debate over the establishment of confederal system in the whole country proposed by the deputy chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A), Mr. Malik Agar Eyre, and the readiness of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to discuss such idea. Darfur rebel movements are interested to join. The Movements are willing to fully exchange opinions with all political parties, civic society and people of all circles in the country under the common goal of peaceful coexistence in a multicultural multiethnic of equal rights and duties, men and women, based on shared values in building civility and citizenship. Sudan has tried a plethora of political systems for Sudan since its independence including Democratic Parliamentary Central unitary system, Totalitarian Military regimes, quasi-Federal regional and along with the current Two -Tier two-partner `one country, two systems,’ north - south divide. All these systems have turned out to be an abject failure. They failed to deliver the needs of the people of Sudan. Many analysts thought it well worth to give confederal system a chance. It might bring about some solace for those who entertain the view of opting for the principle of Self determination which is often seen as a moral and legal right, that "all peoples have the right [to] freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." It is embodied in several treaties and is held to form part of customary international law.

The unitary system is characterised by the fact that sovereignty resides exclusively with the central government and that local governments, when they exist, are entirely subordinated to the central authority. . In a confederation, because the member-states have retained the entirety of their sovereignty, they may pull out of the union at any time. The federal system borrows some features from the other two systems: from the unitary system it adopts the idea that the central government must have some sovereign powers while it retains from the confederal system the principle that the local governments have preserved for themselves some sovereign powers. In other words, Federalism is a system of government where two levels of government exist, each sovereign in its sphere of jurisdiction. In a genuine Federal system there is the division and sharing of power between the national government and the states. A confederal system is defined by (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) as a group of empowered states or communities, usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution. Confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense, foreign affairs, foreign trade, and a common currency, with the central government being required to provide support for all members. A confederation, in modern political terms, is usually limited to a permanent union of sovereign states for common action in relation to other states.

In the Sudan’s political experience, the Unitary System inherited from the colonial Great Britain had concentrated all political and economic power in the hands of the Riverain elites in Khartoum, eventually ripping off the peripheries of any power. Over the decades that system worked well in the favour of Northern Region and the Central Region near Khartoum at the expense of Southern region, Eastern Region, Angasana, Kordofan and Darfur Region. Development has been focused only in the infamous ex-minister of finance Abdel Rahim Hamdi’s economic triangle of Dungola-Sennar-Kordofan Axis. Professor Atta el-Battahani, of the University of Khartoum, writes (2006) his article: Sudan: A complex web: politics and conflict in Sudan: “Successive regimes have manipulated administrative structures to undermine the control of local people and authorities over resources. Identity and ideology, particularly Arab nationalism and political Islamism, have been used to mobilize support to compensate for the governance and development failings of state policies. The war between the government of Sudan (GOS) and southern armed groups (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) has received the most international attention, but a sense of marginalization has not just been a southern phenomenon. Elements of the Beja in the east, the Fur in Darfur, and the Nuba in Kordofan among many others have been drawn into armed conflict with the Sudanese government or government-backed militias. Elites have mastered the divide-and-rule tactics inherited from the colonial era through their territorial organization of the modern Sudanese state. The result has been underdevelopment, exclusion and violent conflict. ”

Observers feel that Confederal System may be the only pre-emptive intervention tool that can be utilised to rescue the country from falling apart. This is more so, given the fact that we are only about a couple of years away from the referendum on the independence of the Southern Sudan which is scheduled for January 2011. The CPA offers no right of continuation of the Khartoum concession agreements if the South votes in the 2011 referendum to secede. Furthermore, Abyei, Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile are to hold a referendum in 2011 on whether to join South Sudan. The crisis in Darfur which has been described by the UN as “the worst humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the world, remains a time bomb that threaten stability of the whole country unless a sustainable resolution to the conflict is achieved. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP), formerly the National Islamic Front (NIF), which came to power in a 1989 military coup, that dominates a merely notional Government of National Unity in Khartoum has never abided by any agreement with any Sudanese political party or a Darfur rebel group, continues to pose a serious threat to the unity of Sudan. Mustafa Osman Ismail, of the National Congress Party is reported to have said that his party is ready to discuss such idea if the SPLM, co-signatory of the 2005 peace deal demanded formally to discuss the confederation with them. This rhetoric is part of the NCP prevarication and propaganda in the state media. Will the National Congress Party (NCP) government of Sudan honour the promises of discussing the confederation? That is a "sixty-four-dollar question"!

Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached at mahmoud.abaker@gmail.com