Sudan: Change is the only road to peace

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Nov 4th, 2012
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By Yasir Arman

I was asked by the organisers of this august institution to speak about ’Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Khartoum… prospects for a peaceful solution’. I come from a school of thought that believes Darfur, South Kordofan/Nuba Mountain, Blue Nile are victims of Khartoum’s policies.

To start with: what has been labelled as the problem of Darfur or Nuba Mountain is in actual fact, and essence are Khartoum’s problems. We ask ourselves what’s Darfur’s problems? Is it equal citizenship? Development? Relations between the Centre and the region? Equal distribution of wealth? Sharing of power? Recognition of diversity?… Etc. All these serious questions they cannot be solved in Kadugli, Al-Fashir, Al-Damazin, but they can be solved only in Khartoum- the seat of power. And where all the wrong policies originated, and indeed, it is Khartoum that waged war against the South, Nuba Mountain, Blue Nile, eastern Sudan and Darfur.

In 1965 and after October uprising of 1964, in a rally in Freedom Square in Kadugli, the late Mahmoud Haseeb, in one of his brilliant remarks noted that the problem of the Nuba Mountain, Blue Nile and Darfur are one and the same thing. Indeed, they are. It is the manifestation of the Sudan problem reflected with a different symptoms in the different regions of Sudan. And the Solution to it, is simply a change of Khartoum’s policies and the restructuring of the Sudan in the interests of all of its peoples and in recognition of its diversity. And that, my friends, will require from us to answer the following:

What is the Sudan Question?

• Sudan is often perceived in terms of dichotomies of North-South, Muslim-Christian, Arabs-Africans; these are oversimplification of the Sudanese question. After the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, the North could now be seen as an entity of its own. It should be seen as the Sudan question.

• The Northern question is a crisis emanating from the lack of an inclusive national project of nation-building and a correct national formation process based on the objective realities of Sudan and on the historical and contemporary diversities; building a society for all regardless of ethnic, religious and gender background; and based on democracy, social justice and a balanced relation between the centre and the peripheries. That is what we define as the New Sudan.

• The present national project is based on limited parameters that marginalize and exclude the majority of the Sudanese people on cultural, religious, economic, political and gender basis.

• Marginalization and dictatorship produces continuous wars and instability.

• The mis-management, non-recognition of diversities, lack of democracy and social justice lead the people of South Sudan to choose an independent state.

• A new political and geographical South has emerged in the North: it is obvious that Sudan will not remain without a new geographical South after the old traditional South has gone.

• It is equally obvious that the old South was not geography – it has a human dimension in the first place, it was the long struggle for recognition of diversity, democracy and social justice, that continues in the new Northern Sudan today as well as in the other marginalized areas and groups all over Sudan including women.

Why Sudan is a Failed State:

By all objective measures, Sudan today is totally a failed state that is using more than 70% of its national budget in a war against its own people and allocating less than 2% for health and education and is recognized internationally as one of the most corrupt states. 98% of its people live below the poverty line, the “mother of all failures.” Sudan lost a quarter of its people and one third of its geography as a result of failing to recognize its own diversity that led the people of South Sudan to choose an independent state, and the continuation of the same policies, threatens the present and future of Sudan. Again, the Government of Sudan committed genocide and war crimes against its own citizens and high ranking officials are indicted including the President and the Minister of Defense. These can only happen in a failed state. In addition, the civil war took more than 38 years from the Independence of Sudan and the culture of impunity is the currency of today. More than 4 million of Sudan’s citizens are either displaced or are refugees, immigrants or exiled.

Can Sudan be viable economically under the current regime of the NCP?

Yesterday, in Professor Karl Wohlmut presentation, he made an excellent proposals for Sudan to be viable economically. What is missing there in my opinion, is that if Sudan to be viable economically that would require change and transformation from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. In order to redeploy resources of more than 70% out of the budget to the services and development sectors instead of the ’war sector’, and to fight corruption through transparency and accountability in a democratic system, to fix its relations with the region and the international community, in particular, the republic of South Sudan. In this regard, I would like to appeal to those who like to assist Sudan economically, including the attempt by Germany, Norway and Austria to hold an economic conference for Sudan this will only result in supporting the war effort of the National Congress the violations of human rights, and will contradict the very democratic values for those great nations. It would definitely encourage impunity. Therefore, I call upon our friends from the German participants to ask those governments to put the priority for humanitarian assistance to the victims before economic assistance the perpetrators.

Question of the debt relief:

We should ask ourselves, in the first place, how did the debt arise? The debt mostly came about as result of the continuos wars of Khartoum and the corruption and mismanagement, which resulted in gross violations of human rights. And before relieving it, we need to stop the war, to establish the rule of law and to democratise Sudan.

The Humanitarian Crisis:

After the independence of South Sudan, the ruling party in Sudan accelerated its aggressive discourse, denying the diversity of Sudan and targeting the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement in the North, disseminating the rhetoric that Sudan, after the independence of the South and more than any time before, is going to be ruled on the basis of two limited parameters, Arabism and Islamism. As you know, Sudan is more than that. It is not the Sudanese Islam we know, but a version of the ruling fundamentalist Islamic movement, which divides Muslims themselves before others that was a recipe for war which General Bashir immediately started in the Nuba Mountains and ignored all efforts by the AUHIP, Ethiopia and the international community. He disowned the June 28, 2011 agreement which was meant to end the war in the Nuba Mountains and he expanded the war to Blue Nile at the time when he was continuing the war in Darfur. Furthermore, he denied access for any humanitarian assistance to the two areas. As of now, the two areas represent the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa. More than 200,000 civilians have fled the country as refugees to the Republic of South Sudan and the state of Ethiopia and half a million civilians are displaced and denied humanitarian assistance. And as you know, denying humanitarian access is a war crime in international humanitarian law. The aerial and ground bombardment is continuing day and night. The SPLM-North has signed two agreements on February 18, 2012 and August 4, 2012 with the tripartite group, the African Union, Arab League and the United Nations. Both agreements are frustrated by Khartoum, whose objective remains the same – to buy time and to continuing denying humanitarian assistance as part of their war strategy. The SPLM-North is calling on the AUHIP and the IGAD Chair, who are tasked to implement the UNSC Resolution 2046 to develop a new approach that would not allow Khartoum to buy time and to do business as usual as is the case with the tripartite group. The SPLM-North is ready for a cessation of hostilities that will result in a conducive atmosphere to deliver the humanitarian assistance and to reach a comprehensive solution for Sudan’s problems and it will add value and put an effective safe demilitarized zone between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan especially that the SPLM-North is controlling more than 40% of the international border between the two Sudans. At the same time the situation is deteriorating in Darfur, which is witnessing a new wave of war crimes as the case in Hashaba and Kutom and Mara Mountain whereby war crimes are being sponsored by the Government of Khartoum and the African peacekeeping force in the region are helpless as a result of their mandate and the manipulation of the Khartoum government. They are peacekeepers in a region where there is no peace to keep, and the major shareholders and the party to the conflict are not part of the process. The Doha Agreement is being used by Khartoum as a cover to commit more war crimes and the humanitarian crisis is one of the characteristics of the failing state of Khartoum in addition to gross human rights violations all over Sudan. The ruling party is divided from the top to the bottom, and the piecemeal solution is no longer an answer to the Sudan question.

The Way Forward to Peace:

The National Congress Party has only two ways to respond to the present complex situation: it either accepts change, or it will be changed! The Sudanese political forces, including the Sudan Revolutionary Front, express their desire for a just and peaceful settlement as their preferable option, through a holistic approach. It is Khartoum who has never responded to that call and continued to look for a piecemeal solution.

The piecemeal solutions are reproducing the Sudanese crisis. The only way to resolve the genuine Sudanese question is for us to go to the drawing board and to answer a fundamental question which was supposed to be answered on the eve of Sudanese independence in January 1956, “how Sudan is going to be ruled” before “who will rule Sudan.” This will require a holistic approach whereby all the shareholders will have a credible national constitutional process that will answer the fundamental questions and lay down the basis of how Sudan is going to be ruled through a national consensus that will lead to a democratic rule.

The Sudan Union:

This conference adds value by bringing intellectuals and activists from the two Sudans. In the SPLM-N would go further and appeal to the Sudanese people from both countries to look towards a better future, we have inherited the past, but we can change the future in the interest of both countries and therefore, we will work tirelessly to realise a Sudan Union between two independent states. In Europe of today, as we are in Europe, there are many flags, prime ministers, presidents, queens and Kings in the European Union of independent democratic countries, thats what the two Sudans and Africa need without necessarily ’copying and pasting’.

Yasir Arman is the Secretary General, Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement North (SPLM-North), and Secretary of External Affairs, Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). He presented this paper at Sudan/ South Sudan Conference held in Hermannsburg, Germany on 31 October 2012

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