Dr. Ghazi Salahuddin writes: Appeal for Reform: Basics and Principles

This is an unofficial translation of an article by the Sudanese political leader Ghazi Salahuddin

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-í -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.

National Consensus

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.

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One thought on “Dr. Ghazi Salahuddin writes: Appeal for Reform: Basics and Principles

  1. The Call in Arabic that came in 4 ½ pages letter size paper was a new rock in a pond already turbulent. What is different in the call is the noticeable intellectual effort. Let us know if you need the text and we will share it with you.

    It is regrettable that the few open responses in the media to the call dealt with what the call did not address and made it clear it was not addressing at this stage of the call. Hence diagnostic analysis and critique of the call is lacking.

    A few questions and comments may be relevant:

    1- The “call” did not seem to be addressed to any particular group or entity. More of a “bullet in the dark” to quote Dr. Wathiq Kumeir.
    2- The first 5 bullets in the document are backgrounders. What is missing in those backgrounders is the absence of any mention of the lack of serious and orchestrated efforts for State Building in Sudan. State Building stopped when Mahdi died in 1885.
    3- What is missing as well is the serious inflation of the armed forces to over 180,000 strong and fatigue from continued fighting and hence bringing the State of Sudan to the brink of a demoralized SAF. As the backbone of Sudan, and the only remaining organization of a smack of good to modernise, if it collapses, the consequences will be dire.
    4- The bullet number 6 in the call document is talking about the “Moral Responsibility” for reform calls. It does not tell us the “The Moral Responsibility of who?” If it is of the writer, then that is a personal issue of a political activist. If he is talking on behalf of a group, then we need to know who are (and in) that group.
    5- Again talking in the third person about “So that a reform project” can begin is confusing as political projects need political vehicles. It takes us back to the issue of the “Body” advocating the call.
    6- Bullet # 7 is fulcrum in the call. While the document in its page 5 as “P.S” states clearly that the document has limitations within the bounds of the “Basic Arguments for Reform”, it is precisely the “How” and the plan of action in which the devil of the details lies. There has never been strategic planning in Sudan since independence and the fatal affiliation with the Arab States and not African States. That fatal decision has sowed the seeds for the alienation of Sudan in Africa and drove the wedge between the Arab/Arabised Population and the African Population in Sudan. Hence the lack of “Strategic Planning” alone cannot be a strong reason for the land-slide deterioration of the political and economic structures in Sudan.
    7- The call in bullet 7 to the third party and putting the call in a “comprehensive format” for all to join in is not realistic. The NCP is in total control of the total political arena. The political space for others is very limited. May be an elaboration of what each category of actors can do realistically will be useful.
    8- We are intrigued by bullet 9. It is brilliantly coined. It takes us to the “Process” and the “Outcome”. Democracy is a “Process”. “Good Governance” is an outcome. The “democratic process” in Sudan is reduced to the “manifestations of democracy “ Multi-Party, Elections, Unions, and the usual chaos that accompanies that in Sudan.
    9- Bullet 9 would have been more robust in its message if had dug a bit deeper in that direction. Why would this call “Generate” Hirakan Islahiyan” or Reformative Resonance? What are the impediments within the political and social forces to self-generate that? Power struggle and political power as means of survival are two of the main ailments.
    10- Bullet 10 takes us directly to the crux of the matter and the centre of gravity of the governance paradox in Sudan. Islam never came with a state structure or even a state concept. I am quoting the “Constitution” or the Quran. Three of the Khulafa Al Rashedeen were murdered. After the 4th Khalifa Ali, the Islamic States took a massive divertion. That history is shameful. Reading the 4 volumes of Dr. Hassan Ibrahim Hassan “Tareekh Al Islam Al Siyasi Wak Dini Wal Thagafi Wal Igtimaai” leaves us in no doubt about the distorted practices of ALL the Islamic Dynasties.
    11- Unless Islam is taken out of governance formula no call or project can bring back Sudan to Good Governance. Taboos must be broken and spades must be called spades.
    12- “Al Qiam Al Hadariya” or the Civilised Values are now embedded in the “Universal Values”. Once one talk about Islam, a box of Pandora is opened. Which Islam? The Islam of Who? Islam as What? As a tool to subdue citizens? This call opens the door for those who see Islam in the practices of Year 610 AD when Quran first came to 632 AD when Prophet Mohammed died. That is a non-starter. No one can wind-back the clock 14 centuries. Unless Sudan leaves Islam and other religions alone, the status quo shall prevail or worsen.
    13- If we take the top 10 countries where the indices show immaculate performance in press freedom, peace, lack of corruption, fragility of state, absence of hunger, debt overload, global competitiveness: NOT ONE of those countries is an Islamic Country. How did the 10 countries do it?
    14- If we take the worst 10 countries, there are 5 countries that are “Islamic” or Majority “Islamic”. In the bottom 55 countries 20 countries are “Islamic”
    15- Bullet 11 lacks reference to the constitutions of 1964, 1973. Any of those two earlier constitutions would not have brought Sudan to what it is today. A constitution remains a “set of words” until it is implemented. 1998 is an Islamic Constitution that did not work. It was scrapped for “Political Reasons” and a “Political Settlement” with what the Islamists call “Infidels”. This alone has put the “Islamists” to the test!
    16- In the bullet “Al Watan Wa Wohdatuhu” or “the Country and its Unity”: It talks about “Tahkeem Mabadi Al Dawla Al Hadeetha” or “Resorting to the principles of the modern state”. The principles of the modern state are not embedded in Islam as Islam as “Risala” or message never envisaged a “state”. This bullet needs elaboration on what the proponent of the call sees as “Modern State”. Maybe a case can be built as well if he sees a modern state is possible within the bounds of Islam.
    17- The last para before (B) that talks about Freedom and Justice as the cornerstones of State Building are correct and valid. But those are also “Outcomes” and not stand alone values. One cannot “drive” straight to them. They are a by-product when the “Processes” are in place. As long as Islam says that women are ½ men and that non-Muslims cannot have the same rights as Muslims and a host of other “None contemporary doctrines”, how can one achieve Freedom and Justice in their absolute-which is the only state in which they prevail? We have to break taboos about Islam. We have to realise its limitations and we have to realise its obsolesce in so many areas of the patterns of life in the 21st century. Even the Quran saw “Obsolesce” of some “messages” between 610 and 632 in the form of “Al Nasikh wal Mansoukh” or the “Abolisher” and the “Abolished” as Ayat (Verses) that were completely reversed.
    18- The remaining principles in pages 3 and 4 cannot be disputed.
    19- The bullet talking about the “ Maslaha and Taawon maa al muheet al iglimi wal dowali” or foreign polices and cooperation, is a paradox for us. Sudan has been hitting on both the Arab and African regions for 60 years and has not gained or befriended any of them. In this time and age, one cannot be with everyone. You cannot please all and befriend all. Again in this bullet the “Islamic Region” comes up.
    20- We cannot understand what connects Sudan to Indonesia? Or the Kingdom of Brunei? We cannot understand what connects Sudan to the Palestinians? Why is this bitter enmity with Israel? Jomo Kenyatta closed Kenya from 1964 to 1978 and built the nation of today. While Sudan is at the bottom of Fragile States, Corruption Perceptions, Global Peace Index among others, why does it open cans of warms for itself by engaging in such complex files?
    21- One major wisdom that we wish to see in such a call is to stay away from all the chronic regional hot files and deal only with the hot files that relate to State Building of Sudan for the next 10-25 years. We need to watch Riek Machar when he comes out with his Presidency program and note such a call
    22- The last bullet in the call is a brilliant proviso to caution about the limitations of the document. As it is, the call document is more or less an introduction of a “project”. One needs to see the full project to pass real useful judgments.
    23- One question that does not relate to the text is: Is anyone in Sudan-now-ready or willing to engage in such a call? Can any leader or party put such issues in their radar screen? Will it be useful to look for (or even create) “entry points” for such a call?

    We see this call as more relevant for the NCP. We also see it as more “Tactical” for highlighting the need for “Change” with NCP as main player than a “Strategic” and “Universal” approach for Modern State Building. The later is much more complex and needs a whole “Think Tank” of diverse expertise to develop.

    The switch from staying in power to “Govern” to coming to power to serve and develop and “Go on time” is crucial to that.

    However, all that does not reduce the value of the call and it is certainly a diffident call and spirit.

    Tag Elkhazin, Consultant
    Subsahara Centre,

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