What is the Way Out for Sudan?
Since 4 March 2009, when the ICC announced its decision to indict President El Bashir, the ICC issue has become the only issue in Sudan. The Sudan Government has organised many rallies and demonstrations and turned the whole issue into a question of patriotism, claiming that the country is facing new type of colonialism and Sudan is targeted because of its wealth and resources. Everyone in the country has to follow that line. Huge mobilisation for everyone in the country is afoot. Most sectors of the Sudanese society have to swear an oath of allegiance to the president.
Half an hour after the ICC announcement the government expelled 13 foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and withdraw the licenses of 3 Sudanese NGOs, claiming that those NGOs had contact the ICC or collaborated with it in its investigation into Darfur crimes.
Sudanese television programmes have totally changed, all media programmes are about the ICC decision and the conspiracy against the country and its sovereignty, they also attack the international NGOs and accusing them of spying and they consider most of the expatriates working in those NGOs as agents of some western intelligence organisations, and they fundraise on the name of Darfurian Internal Displaced People but give them less the 10% of that fund and use the rest for themselves, I don’t know the sources of their information. While I do understand that the government has the right to expel any organisation which it believes has breached its mandate, the most important issue here is the lives of millions Sudanese who are relying on those organisations to supply them with relief, medical treatment, clean water and other services, not only in Darfur region, but in other part of Sudan include south Kordofan and the East. In south Kordofan especially the areas which used to be controlled by SPLA, people there depend 100% on those NGOs to deliver essential service to them like health care and education, also including building schools and other service such as micro-funding for small farmers. They suddenly found themselves without those essential services. The national NGOs pledge to fill the cap but they don’t have enough resources nor have the technical capability to run such huge operations, I understand the concept of making the Sudanese voluntary sector capable of doing such work immediately. Millions of IDPs cannot wait and are in desperate need now. People with low income in many area of Sudan desperately need those services now, and time for them means life or death.
The Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail in a interview with Al Sharq al Awsat newspaper in the Saudi capital compared the people of his country to “beggars” before Bashir. That wasn’t a sensible comment from someone in a senior position. Because whether the majority of Sudanese people are now better off than before is something easy to measure, as there are recognised norms by which this can be measured. Has also described Arab media as “stupid” saying “they are unable to differentiate between breaking news and national security.” He singled out the Qatar based TV station Al-Jazeera saying it “rushes” to conduct interviews with any Darfur figures “who own only seven or eight vehicles to call them rebel leaders”.
I have been following the coverage of the events in Sudan in all the media Arabic and international I think Al-Jazeera coverage is very balanced. I have seen most of President al Bashir’s speeches live on Al Jazeera. However much Dr Mustafa wants from Al Jazeera to do, it cannot become like the Sudan TV, because simply no one will watch it and as he said most of Sudanese people watch Al Jazeera not the Sudan TV the reason is obvious, I used to believe that Dr Mustafa Ismail is one of the wiser men in the National Congress, but now I wonder what has happened to them.
The current crisis, which they are facing, needs wisdom and sensible approach; I don’t think using the students’ unions attitude will get us far in dealing with it.
This crisis is not President al Bashir’s or the NCP’s crisis. It will affect all Sudanese people and the future of the country. It need a genuine national approach.
The NCP and the President are defiant and they have made it very clear that they will not deal with the ICC and consider anyone who supports the ICC as an enemy. That is understandable but there is one fact which they have to deal with, namely the implication of the ICC decision, it is clear now President al Bashir’s decision to go to Doha to attend the Arab League summit creates a big problem for the NCP. The government now has to work out a tight security arrangements to insure his safety while he is abroad or over other countries’ airspace. They will have to deal with the problem whenever he decides to go abroad. The ICC Prosecutor will report to the UN Security Council with all the steps taken regarding the Darfur investigation. Any decision from the Security Council against Sudan will have a damning affect on the country and will make life more difficult for the majority, specially if they decide to impose sanctions against Sudan. That will be a collective punishment for the majority of Sudanese who are already suffering.
I think wisdom must prevail and a national approach is desperately need to put an end to this crisis and the other crises facing Sudan now.
For the national approach to succeed the NCP must take a back seat and let others lead the initiative. It is was clear from the Sudan People’s Initiative to resolve Darfur crisis, that the leadership role of the NCP and some other fringe parties who are associated with the NCP, that this leadership was the main reason why the Darfuri armed movements rejected it.
The initiative must include all political leaders, tribal leaders and well-known Sudanese figures. The objective is to take all the arms out of Sudanese politics and to address all the issues without any red lines. These issues will shape the future of a democratic Sudan which recognises the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of the country and creates a genuine devolution of power to the regions.
For the Darfur crisis we need an investigation commission to look at all the aspects of the current crisis, including how it started and what is the cost in term of human lives and also material cost and who is responsible for what. The commission should include elements from Sudan, African Union, Arab countries and international experts, specially scientists to be able to determine the human cost of the crisis, the reason for the deaths and who are the perpetrators of such crimes. Then after that people can discuss how to balance justice with reconciliation to ensure such crimes never happen again.
The initiative must engage the armed movements to reach an agreement with them taking into account what needs to be done at a national level to ensure the issues concerning Sudanese peripheries have been addressed to avoid facing other armed insurrection in other parts of the country.