“The peace process in Sudan .. Will it lead to Democracy?” Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies has asked this question in the framework of Ibn Rushd Saloon. The question was directed to a number of Sudanese politicians and intellectuals from different backgrounds. The answers carried a clear difference in points of views about evaluating the results of peace negotiations taking place in Sudan, and about the possibility of leading to a democratic change there.
In the beginning of the meeting, Magdi Naim, the executive director of the institute emphasized that the regimes that left democracy in order to achieve other goals such as development and confronting outside enemies, etc. turned out to be a great failure, pointing to the fact that the Sudanese case provokes several questions about whether the peace agreement will open doors to real pluralism or it will be just an agreement and technical procedures between two fighting parties that might lead to ceasing fire.
A secular state
Ghazy Soliman, the head of the Sudanese group for Human Rights and Sudanese Coalition for Restoration of Democracy started the discussion pointing that the case of the democratic change does not depend on the peace agreement’s sign off, and that the struggling process to restore democracy had started in 1989 when a number of strivers died as martyrs for it. He also said that the Mashakos Protocol and other agreements are a natural fruit of the struggle inside and outside of the Sudan.
Ghazy Soliman added that there are several international changes, struggle, and inside and outside resistance that led to a change in the regime itself that it is not the same as it was in 1989, but he expressed his hopes that the Sudanese people will achieve the democratic change in his country. He assured that the Sudanese people will not be waiting for a democratic change that comes as a result of an agreement. He said so because he believed rights are not to be granted, but to be acquired. But at the same time he assured that signing off the peace agreement, at any rate, is an addition to the democratic process which should be continued after the agreement is signed off. He said that assuring that the unity of Sudan will not be achieved except by the cooperation of the Democratic Movements in the North, and the South, and separating religion from the state forming a secular state.
He pointed that the Sudan is a multi ethnic, religions, and cultural country and the challenge that faces the Arabic Islamic culture in it is not superiority above the other cultures, but to live with them. He said that while criticized the religious programs supremacy in the Sudanese TV, without paying any attention to the other religions.
The lawyer, poet and writer Kamal El-Ghazouly clarified that the opposing mentality should not box itself in the frame of opposition and not objecting the nonparticipation of the political powers in the peace negotiations. He assures that Mashakos Protocol is not the political resurrection which will separate two Sudans: Sudan that was before and Sudan that will be born. The determiner of the two issues is the two conflicting parties and middle people who have their own agendas, and any other groups concerned that adopt the same agenda.
El-Ghazouly pointed that Mashakos Protocol reached a limit in which it became open to two possibilities: either it collapses and the two parties go back to the military confrontation, the possibility that will not be allowed by the middle people, or the time will go to an end and the middle people will interfere with a new project similar to Kissinger plan “The edge of Hell” which either you take it or leaving the intervention as a whole. He said that expressing his belief that what happened last year was just pushing by the mediators towards the edge of the hell.
He also said that we should convince ourselves that what we came out with from Mashakos Protocol or what we will come out with is cease fire and stopping this bad war and approving democracy and pluralism.. etc. He pointed that any thing else is the responsibility of the People’s Movement and the National Political Movement in Sudan which should be prepared to face that new reality.
He added that making that clear in the opposing mentality will not alone be helpful. It should be accompanied with an executive direction. He also appreciated the project of the Alliance for the national consensus which was given during the first half of July 2003, and asked for a project outline to be presented based on the power balance to guarantee its continuity and effectiveness. The authority of this project should come out of the agreement of the main political powers about it.
El-Ghazouly assured that one of the strongest powers of the current regime is that it penetrated the lines of the National Movement, pointing that the People’s Movement itself is not an exception of that penetration. He added that this was a fixed strategy which the regime will not give up, because it doesn’t have an alternative.
El-Ghazouly said that talking about the people or the political authorities in the street, or modifying the power balance depending on a people’s movement in the street is preceding to the Islamic Movement in Sudan and that movement now has only plots and influencing people’s consciences by money, pointing that this doesn’t happen only with southern Sudan, but also with the Northerners and represents a tool in the hands of the authority.
El-Ghazouly clarified that the strongest point in the project of the Alliance for the national consensus is that it starts from practicing straight self criticism that gives hope and requires seeking it. He said that self criticism is shown in discussing the crisis and defining it, not only since 1989 but since the independence. He considers this not as a simple issue for an opposition movement deprived from authority by a fascist regime because this movement admits in a complete transparency that the crisis hadn’t started with the rescue in 1989, but after the independence. The clearest symptom of this crisis was the superficial practices of democracy.
El-Ghazouly pointed that the military regimes were not alone trying to deal with the problem of southern Sudan by weapons, but the democratic regimes also did that. On the social level it is enough to point to what happened between the regime and the syndicates between 1986 and 1989 when there were an unbalanced development, the attempts of imposing the unity by force, and the spread of the ethnic and religious superiority culture; they were known in the democratic regimes. The totalitarian regimes added to that the demolishing the democracy by military coup d’etat and suppressing the freedoms and human rights. Moreover, it widened and deepened and didn’t invent the civil war. It also practiced financial and administrative corruption. Then the current totalitarian Islamic regime has appeared to practice all these things adding to them its attempts to establish the theocratic government in the name of Islam impose the one and only direction in a plural and diversified reality, in addition to turning the civil war into religious one attempting to legalization of the administration corruption of the capabilities elimination replacing it with loyalty, besides removing the borders that separate the governing party from the state departments, then exporting terrorism.
El-Ghazouly considered it as one of the virtues of practicing criticism within the project of the Alliance for the national consensus that there is the agreement to reestablish the state as a civil democratic one. He pointed that secularism doesn’t explain the Sudanese case and could not be in harmony with the Sudanese people.
El-Ghazouly warned against the political trust with the National Movement led by Garang and the confidence it gives as not participating in any regime, pointing again that the National Movement, like any other movement, has its own troubles with the political direction, armory, and military action. He also said that the military action sometimes dominates over the requirements of the National Movement and makes it seeming as a separate thing.
He emphasized the importance of the return of the immigrating leadership to Sudan and stopping what he called “the bad immigration” of the political and syndicate movement leadership, in order to emphasize the presence of the national democratic power in all fields.
In his speech, Othman Omar El-Sharif, representative of the Democratic Alliance Party to peace meeting pointing that it was difficult to know whether the negotiations taking place in Sudan will lead to Democracy or not. He added that the negotiations has specific goals on top of them ending the war, and that a small amount of freedom had led to a lot of thoughts that may be improving the future of Sudan and the way to reach realization of democracy there and the objective criticism of any failure. He mentioned that several intellectual documents were issued about finding solutions to post Mashakos time and ending the war.
He mentioned that Mashakos agreement had created a problem of making the political thinking of the different groups in a case that he considered as the main problem; that was the problem of the unity or separation. He was thinking that if Mashakos protocol was to find a sort of confidence and positive attitude towards the unity, so all the political powers should participate in it, which is not like begging to call for it.
El-Sharif added that the other aim of the negotiations was defining the future of ruling in Sudan and wealth and power distribution asking to reveal the good and bad intentions of those who made the agreement with the conflicting parties for reaching a resolution. The evidence he gave for that was the way the resolution finding partners of the conflict in southern Sudan without linking that conflict with other issues that concerns all the Sudanese people especially the realization of democracy in Sudan.
El-Sharif considered secularism as a theory is not concerned with the reality in Sudan. He called for recognize the diversity in Sudan and reunifying it. Moreover he clarified that there is a bilateral responsibility, first: the necessity of the positive contribution in the realization of the negotiations main goal, which is ending the war.
The second side is to work on creating a public opinion among
All the effective parties in the peace process, by establishing real powers that may guarantee carrying out whatever was agreed upon through the negotiations. He pointed that efforts are made to collect the documents issued after the different meetings in order to come up with one compiled document.
He added that the political movement inside Sudan, with some structure and communication reformation can do its role in the interim period.
He assured that the current margin in Sudan can not be described as a real one, pointing at the same time that if there was a real effectiveness in the Alliance, it would not have been absent for one minute from Sudan or from all its gatherings, especially the syndicates and professional ones.
He considered that the recommendations coming out of Mashakos Protocol is a sort of coalition between the SPLA/M and the ruling Islamic front. This coalition will have its strategic interests in asking the alliance not to be passive or waiting to get the gift from the people.
Dr. Haydar Ibrahim, Director of the Center of Sudanese Studies started his speech with proclaiming that he disagreed with many of the previously mentioned opinions. He expressed his belief that all what is taking place in Sudan is an attempt to end the war be pressure from America which wants to eliminate the last and biggest focus of tension in Africa.
Ibrahim noticed the absence of the phrase “democratic change” from all the documents that were presented by the different Sudanese political groups criticizing that Garang was delegated to speak for some groups. He described this as making fun of people’s minds clarifying that Garang should have gone back to those who delegated him before taking any step which never happened.
He also criticized what he called “desire” of some people to be against the SPLA/M to the extent that criticizing it became as bad as anti-Semitism. He said that clarifying that it became a hidden blackmail. He mentioned that it was a normal political movement that had its own mistakes and divisions and different points of views assuring that he was against that absolute confidence asking for equality in relationships with the SPLA/M. He referred the absence of this equality to the weakness of the political movement and lacking of clear direction besides the big political emptiness.
He gave an evidence of that from El-Sadek El-Mahdi, the head of the Umma Party, and said that El-Mahdi come up with a new initiative every day without asking what had happened with his previous one. He also criticized the rush of the different groups to congratulate Hassan El-Turabi after being set free from prison, which made him introduce himself as the leader of the public revolution. He pointed that the Islamic Front started going back and planning for the post current-regime’s failure stage, giving the evidence of the increasing newspapers and media programs of the front; and establishing centers for measuring the public opinion.
He assured that in the future in Sudan we will see partnership between the government and Garang Movement, at least during the first few years of the transitional period.
Ibrahim strongly criticized the relationship between the Sudanese opposition and Garang Movement, saying that it looks like begging pointing that the Alliance was on top of the negotiations points although it was not a partner in the negotiations while the movement made the negotiations bilateral (with the ruling regime) and will make its results bilateral as well. He asked the Alliance to put pressure on the movement (its coalition).
He said there must have been some benefits from the current margin regardless of being big or small. He asked the political authorities to try to change the power balance more into its favor by strikes and other means that may force the regime and the SPLA/M to respect and consider those powers. He emphasized that changing the power balance to be more in favor of the democratic powers will not be done without a true movement in the Sudanese streets in order to prepare the way for a public uprising (Intifada) that may force the Islamic Front to totally give up the authority and not even be a partner in it.
The main speakers then commented. Ghazy Soliman defended the Sudanese Political Movement by saying that it had done its best while its members experienced imprisonment and torture. He called for stopping what he called “destruction” that took place among the Sudanese political powers. He preferred to talk first about building the national state in Sudan.
He also called for not neglect Egypt’s important role in the Sudanese cause, stressing that they should be transparent with Egypt in order to facilitate its role in helping them to get out of the current situation. He mentioned that the Sudanese Human Rights Group had won five legal cases against the government despite its simple resources. He pointed that the Group hadn’t talked about the human rights violation, though that can be noticed by any one living with the movement. He asked if the violations were observed in the North that it will be possible to go to the South. He advised that they should not look for the mistakes of the movement and put an end to the ethnic and religious supremacy to emphasize that the desire to establish a New Sudan is a serious one.
Othman El-Sharif expressed his belief that the crisis is mainly in the position of the educated people who make judgments without listening to the other opinion. He called for not neglecting or eliminating the history of the nationals in Sudan. He mentioned that the Alliance Party holds conferences and forums that thousands of people attend, and the educated people live in their high towers thinking that we seek cars and positions. He also said that those who work in the daily struggles are not the same as those who work in behind closed doors.
He mentioned that the Political Movement did its best to the extent that not one district in Khartoum hadn’t witnessed a meeting or a forum. He added that the authority of the ruling regime came from owning the power and the support of the movement came from the same reason pointing that the opposition power is seeking a new power not the military one; it is the intellectual power of thinking which comes from beating the program of the Islamic Front.
Haydar Ibrahim mentioned that he avoided using the word “secularism” which means that the state is neutral with religion not with the different parties, considering the Sudanese community is more secular than other community like the Egyptian community, although the outside appearance looks opposite to that.
Ibrahim claim again his opposition to the current mechanism of consultation between Garang and his coalitions of the different powers. He asked for a democratic way of consultation.
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