Since Sudan gained independence and began its journey as a newly-born country up until today, it is still assiduously attempting to transition from a weak state to a strong one, to build a modern state, develop, and achieve prosperity in order to be truly independent and sovereign as a nation. It has done that by trying to overcome structural complexities and obstacles that it inherited from the colonial period.
Although Sudan won the battle for sovereignty when it declared independence, it lost its battle for political stability. Many difficulties hindered the state from progressing and developing. Not only that but the state is—at today’s historical juncture—once again facing an existential threat; a threat that it was supposed to have surmounted.
There are several converging and chronic problems since independence that have bequeathed our political system its current political ailments. First is the state’s decaying role, efficiency, impartiality, and prestige over the years, which has affected the roles of oversight and legislation and also the executive functions. The state has shifted to prioritizing the interests of the government and those who hold on to power over the needs and concerns of the people.
The result is that the state’s institutions do not have a clear strategy, and its commitment to the rights and freedoms of the citizen has weakened. At the forefront of these weakened rights are the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. There is also inequity in political, social, and economic justice. There is rampant administrative and financial corruption. Corruption instead of being an isolated act, has become an established and institutionalized under the emergency laws and procedures.
These chronic problems, in addition to others, have also resulted in economic hardship, weak economic structure and political tremors.
That situation entailed a decline in development and the suffering of all segments of the society especially the poor—except for a small minority—leading to a widening gap within the society and leading to increased threats facing the state, through the rise of armed groups seeking to accomplish their demands by force, which culminates in adding war to the equation.
The crises Sudan is in, are also affecting its foreign relations, making it a reactive rather that a proactive state when it comes to foreign policy initiatives. However, its history and its regional location allow it to venture regional initiatives that could reshape the region and its international relations.
The most dangerous threat which Sudan faces today is the use of tribalism as a tactical political tool at the expense of the nation, tearing apart the social fabric. By that, the social mosaic is becoming the source of conflict instead of being a source of strength, and the political sphere is becoming a battleground for tribal competition, civil conflicts, and exclusionism.
It is true that the depth and the complexities of many of Sudan’s troubles are linked to foreign intervention and the targeting of its unity since independence, but that does not mean there were no mistakes committed in domestic policymaking and that there should be no blame placed on the national government. Conspiracies would not succeed without the high level of distrust in the society and the disintegration of the internal elements of resistance.
In addition, moral responsibility requires criticism and re-evaluation, without fear or equivocation, not only on the practical level, but at the level of intellectual and political debates in order to have a viable reform project which safeguards against recycling and reinventing history.
What complicates the challenges and the dangers which Sudan faces is the lack of a strategic vision in regard to the current situation and the feebleness of the political initiatives to solve them. Therefore, the political elite should not shy away from pronouncing slogans and broad goals and beginning to take new and practical positions that address the current challenges and threats. This is not a task for one party or one government alone, but should be viewed as a combined national effort and a duty of all the Sudanese. It must be realized that the current situation is not the result of a specific circumstance but the result of a consistent historic legacy. So the aim of the initiative should not be self-exculpation while blaming certain individuals, groups or a class, but should stem from a deep sense of commonality and shared responsibility.
This appeal is not the product of the spur of the moment as much as it is part of a number of broader past appeals, and internal dialogues in regard to the Sudanese political experience. It is an attempt to learn and borrow from these appeals and initiatives including the political literature of the various political parties which contributed to trying to solve the challenges which Sudan faces.
Nor does this appeal claim to hold absolute truth, and capture the essence of wisdom, rather it stems from the belief in the ability of the community to act, and the eligibility as well as the potential of humans and their capability to shape their destiny despite the gulf of despair in which they find themselves. What this appeal aspires to is to galvanize a reformist movement in the body politic, a movement with the aim of uniting the Sudanese society to create a “United Sudanese Front” that has the task of addressing the most stressing challenges and to put the differences behind until elections are held in a manner agreed by all parties. It is a call aimed at creating a society that are believers, free people, a just state, a lasting peace, and a united nation that derives its source of strength from peaceful competition, enshrining the public will in accordance with the constitution, law, and civility.
This movement should not be dominated by a specific group, or elite, but the ability to constructively criticize in order to renew the political process in Sudan. The ultimate goal is creating a comprehensive and political project in order to overcome the fragility, and socio-political tension, and economic decline. This project would rest on an Islamic foundation, and the cultural values that were pointed out in the constitution when it stated that religions “are a source of strength, accordance and inspiration.” A source that derives its strength from the teachings of religion that emphasized the principles of freedom, justice and human dignity, that elevated the concept of individual and collective responsibilities, and which is strict in accountability and elimination of all forms of corruption and aberration from integrity.
The reformist movement we are advocating is not at all new, but it is an effort that is based on lessons learned from the Sudanese political experience represented in the 1998 and 2005 constitutions that were not correctly implemented, even though the content was correct. This reformist movement would achieve the goals set based on reason, dialogue, stimulating the political frameworks of the legislative, executive and the popular, as guaranteed by the constitution and the law and permitted by regulations and customs that are practiced, and in accordance with the following terms of reference:
The Human Being
The first principle is the emphasis on the importance of the Sudanese citizen within the reformist movement which would in its essence try to respect human beings and their dignity, protect their religion, protect their freedom, and provide prosperity for them. And this is to recognize the divine position which has elevated humans, to allow the individual to be a reinforcing part of the society, and to ensuring the determining role the society should play vis-à-vis the state. Freedom of thought, conscience and expression as well as social political and economic justice, are the structures that allow for an active and harmonious society to move forward, and therefore there should not, in any circumstances, be permitted the prioritization of security over freedom or the dysfunction of justice to enhance the political position for a group or a class.
The Homeland and its Unity
The homeland’s safety and unity should be the ultimate priority because the homeland is the space to create an identity, dignity and sense of belonging. Hence the preservation of its social unity, and its economic and cultural growth should be on the top of the agenda in order to stimulate reform. In order to achieve that it is necessary to apply the principles of a modern state and to avoid tendencies towards regionalism, or sectarianism, or ideologies at the expense of the common interest and the requirements of true partnership in the country. The cornerstone of a reform project is to deepen the sense of partnership and equality in the homeland and to rely on dialogue as a way to formulate a comprehensive, lasting, national consensus and this is done by according to the following steps:
a) Freedom and justice are the basis of any firm constructive national basis. Applying and maintain them is at the core and the raison d’etre of any reformist movement.
b) Citizenship is the basis of rights and duties.
c) Affirming the domination of national identity within the state’s legislative, executive and judicial apparatus by implementing regulations and constraints that prevent the exploitation of the state by a group to achieve its goals and as a tool against its rivals within the country.
d) The enforcement of the people’s will in the formation of the state’s institutions and allowing for accountability, and that is by establishing a culture of consultation and the adoption of strict democratic procedures to ensure just conditions and equal opportunities.
e) The adoption of sound and positive central economic policies and political representation to establish social justice and to address the imbalance in opportunities.
Cultural and Intellectual Diversity and National Identity
We should be celebrating Sudan’s diversity and pluralism as blessing and strength from God, and believe that they are a source of wealth and power that should be protected and strengthened because a free and healthy environment drives positive dialogue and mature interaction.
Sudan has a distinct identity because of its historic depth, the richness of its culture, and the diversity of its human and natural resources. Identity, thus, should be the whole that encompasses all of the diverse (the diverse that should be respected), and identity should not be the basis for exclusion, conflict or the threat to brotherhood and social harmony. We should also respect diversity and believe in dialogue between religions, and apply goodwill towards brotherly relations within the nation from a premise of common humanity. We should treat each other on the bases of cooperation, charity, and justice which all monotheistic religions have encouraged, and to avoid all the actions which fuel religious tension.
While peace is protected by force, the path to it needs to be paved by a stable political ground agreed upon by everyone that acts according to it and actively protects it and improves on it. National consensus, in turn, is based on justice, rule of law, and removing any sources of inequities and social tension and economic injustice.
Homelands, especially in the stages of growth and formation, need a political structure without exclusion and hegemony of one group over another. Therefore, national consensus is a prerequisite for building a modern nation-state and not a choice that is to be made based purely on political balance. In order to achieve that national consensus it is imperative to consolidate intellectual openness and interaction, which is an effective antidote against tribal, regional and ideological intolerance that threatens the existence of Sudan and hinders growth and development.
Interests and Cooperation with the Regional and Global Spheres
Sudan’s international relations, both the strategic and the tactical, must be based on a mixture of principles and national interests leading to the consolidation of cooperation so as to realize the concepts of cooperation and to realize legitimate goals based on shared principles along with mutual respect between Sudan and the Islamic, African, and Arabic regional blocs as well as other powers and entities in the world. Sudan must cooperate with all the benevolent powers in order to achieve peace and international justice, and respect for peoples’ choices.
Development and Modernization
One of the main objectives of the reform movement is to bring about comprehensive development in its cultural, economic and technology axes. Modernization means a conscious interaction with the global civilization and at the same time protecting individual and social identity and establishing a critical comparative perspective between the unique and the global allowing for genuine creativity of ideas and knowledge that are the foundations for renaissance.
Note: This document stops at the institutional arguments for reform. It does not advocate practical measurements to implement that reform. Those will be suggested at a later time. Still, this paper is open for debate and addition by those who view it based on the principle of open consultation, in order to achieve supplementation and improvement.