The Future of Peace and Democracy in Sudan By: Imam Al Sadig Al Mahdi

Alimam Alsadig Almahdi leader of National Umma Party and Imam of the Ansar



29th October, 2014


The imposition of an ethno-religious ideology upon a society of religions, cultural, and ethnic diversity creates centrifugal reactions leading, ultimately, to armed conflicts. Such conflicts by their nature draw in external factors. The mismanagement of diversity is the main source of civil wars in Sudan.

The Sudan achieved its Independence through a democratic Nation- State transfer of Power.

However, ascriptive loyalties associated with traditional societies have weakened National identity, the weakness of the Social and economic infrastructure resulted in fragile State institutions. Those factors blunted the performance of the democratic administrations which ruled the Sudan.

The armed forces were the most cohesive state institutions bequeathed from the colonial era:

First: Lessons of Our Modern Experiences:

Sayed Abdalla Khalil, dissatisfied with bickering in his own party, the Umma Party, and between political Parties, sought to entrust the armed forces with the National tasks. So he decided without the approval of his party to hand power over to the Armed Forces. That deal was not implemented in the way he envisaged, and the military proceeded to establish the first autocracy, locking their patron himself in prison when he joined with others to demand a return to democracy. They ruled for 6 years (1958- 1964).

The second autocracy (1969 -1985) was established by a coup d’etat organized by communists and Arab Nationalists.

The current autocracy was organized by Islamicists.

The two basic lessons to draw from our modern experiences are:

· That the success of Democratic Governance requires the fulfillment of certain requirements.

· That there will be no peace without a just administration of diversity.

Second: Democracies versus Autocracies:

A survey of the performance of the three democratic administrations in Sudan shows that they were not given enough time to learn from their mistakes, and that their failures were failures of omission. Even so, their performance was on a rising scale of achievement.

And a survey of the performance of the three autocracies shows that through an oppressive use of security their reigns were extended, that their performance was on a declining scale and that their failures were of commission.

Third: The Current Regime’s Performance:

The performance of the current Regime is the most atrocious because:

· It claimed to speak in the name of God, thereby linking Divine Will with their despotism and corruption. Their experience gave a bad name to the Islamicist Slogan. Many People in Egypt judged their Brotherhood government by the record of their Sudanese counterparts and dreaded the repetition. Al Nahda, in Tunis drew the right Lesson and distanced themselves from the Sudanese experience.

· An experience which made a big hollow promise on the economy only to shatter the Sudanese economy.

· An experience which redefined the insurrection in the South as Jihad, and so gaining for the SPLM/A extensive internal and external support. Jokingly, Dr. Gerang said to me I should appreciate this by building Statutes in Juba for the leaders of the Regime.

· An experience which through policy failures both prompted reactions which ignited the civil War in Darfur in 2002, and escalated the civil war with the SPLM/N: the failure to implement Protocols of Abyei, Southern Kordufan and Southern Blue Nile before the referendum contributed to the emergence of a multi-fronted civil war in Sudan.

· An experience which accumulated against the Sudan 62 UN Security Council Resolutions, most of them under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.

· The leaders of the Regime are on record saying that they only recognize armed groups as negotiating partners. In fact they have only listened to such negotiators, and to International participants. Consequently all the Agreements which the Regime signed were with armed parties, and in foreign venues. The Regime regularly avoided any serious discussions about the country’s problems with the Sudanese civil political forces. The peace Agreements lacked political depth and viability. All of them suffer from the following drawbacks:

o All Peace Agreements have been bilateral, and although the sources of conflict were similar, there was no comprehensive approach to the resolution of the problems. Even the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 (CPA), which attempted a reformist approach ended up by being a bargain between two parties and not a global blue-print for the necessary change. The subsequent Peace Agreements were no more than cease fire deals with a share in posts, and a promise for financial benefits without any change in the structure of the Regime. Consequently none of the parties to these agreements are satisfied with them.

o The CPA promised to make unity attractive, I have, in a booklet published in May 2005, demonstrated that the agreement has made partition structurally attractive. The same goes for the promise of democratic transformation. I have shown that the terms of the agreement themselves made that promise hollow.

· After the 2010 elections we published a 1064 pages report to prove the falsehood of that undertaking, namely:

– The ruling party was in complete domination of all the government institutions and used them for its benefit.

– The National media were in the service of the ruling party.

– The country’s finances were in the service of the ruling party.

– The Electoral Law was regularly broken.

– The book we published detailed the different aspects of rigging.

– The proper description of that exercise, which after some consideration we boycotted, is “riglections”.

Fourth: The Paris Declaration and Addis Ababa Agreement:

After many activists in the ruling party resigned from the party, and the failures became so obvious, the head of the party in August 2013 visited me at my home to discuss the political situation. We issued a statement to the effect that: Governance, Peace and the Constitution, are National issues which should involve all political participants, with neither exclusion of anyone nor domination by anyone. Then in January 2014 he invited all political parties to a comprehensive dialogue, we championed the positive response to that initiative, because, more than two years previously, we were saying that the Regime has come to the end of its tether, that a (COSEDA) type dialogue is the best scenario for the country, and that failing that, the People should mobilize for sit-ins, strikes up to civil disobedience in repetition of previous uprisings in Sudanese political history.

On the other hand, the armed parties decided that the Regime only understands the language of violence, and so they formed Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) to overthrow the Regime by force.

Since its formation, the National Umma Party (NUP) contacted the SRF, but only in August 2014 did that relationship reach agreement and issued the Paris Declaration.

The Paris Declaration involved the country’s major political Party, and all the armed parties. It made fundamental breakthrough in the political situation in Sudan, namely:

– A change in the balance of political forces in Sudan.

– To seek Regime change by political not violent means.

– To involve the Arab League along with the African Union.

– To involve Egypt along with our horn of Africa neighbors.

Mr. Thabo Mbeki invited all the Sudanese mediators and stakeholders to a meeting in Addis Ababa in September, where he signed with all participants a document which reproduced the (Paris Declaration) in a version acceptable to the Khartoum Regime.

Fifth: The Regime’s Attitude

On 12th September, the African Peace and Security Council renewed confidence in Mr. Mbeki to continue his efforts with the Sudanese stakeholders on the basis of the Addis document. A position taken also by the UN Security Council.

Since then, the Regime has vacillated between Positions about the dialogue. The most repulsive being:

· That they will only engage in dialogue in terms of the defunct (7+7) formula.

· That they will only hold peace talks with the SPLM/N under resolution (2046).

· That they will only hold talks with the Darfur groups in terms of the Doha Agreement.

This attitude to dialogue is intended to reproduce all the drawbacks of the old peace processes, to allow the Regime to make agreements that allow it to continue business as usual.

Sixth: Our Roadmap towards Peace and Democratization

Late in September, and on the basis of the Paris Declaration, I have written a letter to Mr. Mbeki after due consultation with the (Paris Declaration) group, which charted an alternative Road Map towards Peace and democratization, namely:

1-We think it is important that he insist upon the Government of Sudan (GoS) to unilaterally take the following confidence building measures:

a. To release all political prisoners, and cancel the sentences issued against brothers Malik, Yasir and other SPLM/N leaders, and JEM members to clear the political deck.

b. To abrogate all legislation that violates or obstructs basic freedoms.

c. To implement the Tripartite Agreement concerning Humanitarian access to the Two Areas.

d. To stop all plans to organize general elections before the National Dialogue reaches its final conclusions.

Some are saying that this violates the Constitution, this is roguery. Article (216) of the 2005 Interim Constitution provided for holding the general elections before the end of the fourth year of the interim period, i.e. prior to 09/07/2009, but the elections were conducted in April 2010; and the Constitution guarantees public liberties which are constantly violated, also the Constitution necessitates that the role of the Security Service be confined to gathering and analyzing of information and giving advice, but it assumed other unconstitutional executive tasks. However, even if this violates the constitution, when it is necessitated by the public interest, the constitution can be amended.

2-It is necessary that he organizes meetings between the warring parties, i.e., the (GoS) and the (SRF), to negotiate the following agenda and implement the reached agreements thereof:

a. Exchange of Prisoners of War (POW).

b. Immediate extendable cessation of hostilities agreement for humanitarian purposes.

c. Creation of mechanisms to observe and verify ceasefire arrangements.

3- I earnestly urged him to consult all Sudanese stakeholders and then present a declaration of principles which clearly makes peaceful settlement and all inclusive democratic transformation main objectives of the National Dialogue. (I attached a draft of a proposed Declaration of Principles).

4- The ultimate endgame of these preparatory measures is to lead to the convention of a Round Table Conference or a National Constitutional Conference which could be held under your chairmanship. This conference shall include the (7+7) internal dialogue mechanism, the National Umma Party, the SRF, National Consensus Forces (NCF), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), IDPs and refugees and any stakeholders you consider relevant after due consultations.

5-In the event of a successful National Conference, we commit ourselves to jointly address the International Community to help the Sudan through:

a- External debt relief under the HIPC program.

b- Lifting of economic sanctions.

c- Implementation of the ACP-EU Cotonou Program for Sudan.

d- Removal of Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

e- Adoption of a “Marshal” plan that avails resources for the economic takeoff of the Sudan.

f- Adoption of a formula that reconciles accountability with stability.

6-The preparatory meetings should be held at a neutral venue outside the Sudan to shape and formulate the National Dialogue. The National Constitutional Conference could be held inside the Sudan.

7- Since the support of the regional and international organizations is indispensable in reaching a comprehensive settlement and in the phase that follows, I suggested to him to invite the IGAD, the Arab League, the Troika, the EU, the UN, Chad, Qatar, Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to the National Conference as observers and witnesses.

Seventh: The Regime’s Opposite March

Since the dispatch of that letter, the Regime has moved in an opposite direction:

– They insisted upon continuing with their our defunct Roadmap, prepared to face the National political and civil organizations with elections, which are designed to repeat the April 2010 “riglections” , and to use the label of dialogue as a public relations exercise.

– Such “riglections” have no credibility and will be boycotted by all parties which have any real popular support.

As to the armed parties, the Regime intends to prepare for a military solution if they do not accept the regime’s dictation. This will be a disastrous campaign, relying mainly upon the Rapid Deployment Forces, which is a tribal not a National formation, directed by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), i.e. an unconstitutional measure, because NISS is supposed to have no executive functions. States conduct anti insurrection action by National not tribal forces. Whether this campaign succeeds or fails, it will only further deepen the ethnic tensions in the Sudan.

Armed groups, whose loyalty is ascriptive to tribe or sect, are anathema to Nation building.

The present policies of the Regime will frustrate democratization by sticking to a defunct dialogue process and conducting a Middle Eastern Type of riglections.

The insistence upon dividing the peace process, and failure to address the real causes of war, will ensure continuous insurrection. This is a recipe for a Failed State, which in the circumstances of the Region provide fertile ground for the new generation of rebel states like Daesh, Boko Haram, Somali Shabab and so on.

Eighth: Addressing the NCP

I have written an open letter to the leaders and members of the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party, to explain the disastrous consequences of their current polices, to point out that there is a viable way-out to save the country and reserve a future role for themselves within a genuine democratic system.

Some have responded positively to the letter, but the decision makers may simply proceed with their disastrous scenario.

Ninth: Our Way Forward

The (Paris Declaration) has since then drawn substantial National, Regional, and International support.

We intend to form a massive National front in support of the viable roadmap to peace and democratization.

This action will proceed all the way up to civil disobedience, and when the circumstances are ripe, a National Uprising.

However, the pressure may yield positive results before that in the pattern of the CODESA of South Africa, and the similar conferences of Latin America.

Tenth: Role of the International Community

There is an important role for the International Community in our destiny:

· It should eschew any participation in the Regime’s defunct processes.

· On the 12th of October the meeting of the foreign ministers of EU issued a most enlightened policy statement in support for genuine Peace, and genuine democratization. We expect a similar statement from the United States.

· The Sudanese Regime should be left in no doubt that the International community supports a comprehensive and just peace process for Sudan, and no longer does it bless the bilateral approach to peace making.

· The International community should declare that the current environment in Sudan is not conducive to genuine elections and civil participation, and that without the fulfillment of certain benchmarks, elections are a travesty.

· The Peoples of the Sudan neither call for nor accept any direct intervention in their affairs, but we expect the International Community to promise the benefits detailed in point number five in the letter to Mr. Mbeki.

Eleventh: Sudan’s Aspired Model

The Sudan has a very rich political experience. We have tried all the political systems in the book. If we settle our problems in a CODESA-type scenario, or even a spring type change, our model will resonate positively in our turbulent Region.

We have already suggested a Charter to build the Nation in the Future which we expect to discuss in a broadly attended meeting.

Twelfth: Regional Benefits

So much for Sudanese concerns. As president of an International Moderation Forum, we are organizing a Regional Conference to address the fault lines, which are currently dividing the Region. I have prepared a proposed plan for that Conference which could benefit enormously by a successful Sudanese model regarding Religion and Politics, ethnic diversity and social schism.

Thirteenth: International Benefits

Peace and stability in our Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa Regions is of great importance to Europe, Asia, America, indeed to the whole World.

To provide a forum to discuss the International aspects of the explosions in our Regions, and as a member of the Club of Madrid, I have suggested, that the club organizes an International Conference.

Events in our Regions could harbor anachronistic ideologies to express the peoples’ genuine grievances as is already taking place. Ill-advised measures to contain them may be counterproductive.

This would disrupt the oil industry and its transport, fuel illegal immigration and above all provide fertile ground for terrorism without borders.

 Finally: a failed Sudanese state would torment an already suffering Sudanese population, join the Region’s troubles and participate in the looming dark International cloud.

I avail myself of this opportunity of speaking from the forum of Chatham House, to raise awareness of the fact that Africa, the Arab World, the World of Islam and indeed the World at large, have a big stake in a peaceful, democratic and stable Sudan.