Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 11 January 2010

How to govern Sudan: A quest for confederation

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By Hamid Eltgani Ali

January 10, 2009 — This article tacitly acknowledges the complex and volatile nature of events in Sudan as a state and a nation, if there is a nation to begin with. The crisis of legitimacy stems from lack of consensus on how Sudan could be governed by existing state institutions. The regime is bankrupt and has lost its moral authority, despite the bursts of nationalistic fervor or populist jubilation and charismatic arousal. More mystifying is the fact that there is hardly any meaningful discussion of policy options to position the country on the path of peace, democratization, consolidation of democracy, and yearning for democratic ideals.

As a result, the country is on the brink of major, catastrophic, and spectacular failure if not out right back to total civil war. The country is rolling from a failed state to a fierce state, as illustrated by the excessive power used against the opposition rallies, when different parties of Northern and Southern opposition groups resurrected themselves after years of repression to exercise their civic duty in peaceful demonstration. The government declared, this an act against the state and trumped its own constitution to jail and punish the peaceful demonstrators.

On the locale scale, the fierce state has to cover up it weakness through excessive use of coercion. The fierce nature of this failed state has been demonstrated many times, including the scorched-earth policy committed in Darfur, the most egregious violation of human rights in our modern history. Indeed, it was a tragic chapter that left scars on the moral character of Sudan as a nation. This oligarchical rule embedded with gerontocracy of ideas governing the country were believed to be more palatable to the country’s badly damaged military establishment, and they are defrauding the country’s national interest for the sake of their own protection. The NCP becomes the voice of doom for any meaningful policy discussion. Every serious discussion is labeled as “conspiracy” by invisible powers who seek to destroy what is already decimated.

The government is neither serious about resolving the crisis of its nation nor will it allow others to chart a meaningful course of action to put an end to the blood bath in which, for the last twenty years, Sudan has lost most of its youth and squandered billions of dollars into the coffers of Chinese and Iranian arms dealers. For example, it is shameful for a country like Sudan to spend more than $1.6 billion a year on its military establishment while it allocates about $50 million for primary and elementary education. Most shocking of all were the attempts of the government to build a military aircraft, where millions were poured into Iranian coffers to build a “toy aircraft” that is a laughingstock for any intelligent mind. There is no justification for this outrageous project except that it is the priority of the governing elites, who are out of touch, in their quest for personal glory.

Moreover, the picture in Southern Sudan is gloomier than ever. Even secession would produce a failed state incapable of carrying the promise of its people. The government makes it difficult for Southerners to govern the newborn state in the South by fueling ethnic warfare and providing them with means of self-destruction. While they are deceiving the rest of the world by electoral charade, the country lacks the basic credible elements to conduct the fair elections that would lead to democratic transformation. In addition, the NCP lacks a moral and intellectual leadership to stir debate on issues vital to national interests, which has been left to the security apparatus—the real policymaker of the regime.

Today, under the current conditions, even if we solved the crisis of Darfur, Kurdofan would be ready to rise up and demand a comparable right, which would derail the Darfur peace, just as Darfur created an excuse for the government to undo some provisions of CPA. Confederation means one size fits all.

What is the key for the solution of Sudan’s ailments? The first and foremost issue to be addressed is “how to govern,” not who will govern. How to govern is the basis of the problem of instability, wars, and oppression. It is time for the Sudanese people and the rest of the world to engineer a formula that will bring a lasting solution. We call here for a Confederation of Sudan as the key ingredient of the formula to save Sudan as a united Sudan.

In this proposed confederation, Sudan can be divided into sovereign states. The maximum number of these sovereign member states would be seven: Darfur, Northern, Eastern, Khartoum, Central, Kurdofan, and Southern Sudan-in case of voting for unity. By treaty, these states would delegate defense, international relations, and a common currency to common institutions, to coordinate their policies without constituting a new state on top of the member states. The states would form a council of the presidency and the chairship of the presidency would be rotated among the confederate states. This would be a voluntary union, and all decisions of national interest would be reached by consensus.

Once we solved the issue of how to govern through confederation, even Southern Sudan would be less tempted to ask for secession, because it would have a vital and strategic interest in remaining within the confederation. This formula would break the vicious cycle of allowing the elites, who live within a radius of 25 miles from Khartoum, to rule a nation so diverse and one-third the size of the United States. The emphasis on democratization, human rights, and peace in Sudan is very important, but we should start from the ultimate solution—confederation—and then work backwards to address the means of governing.


Dr Hamid Eltgani Ali is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo.



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  • 11 January 2010 03:28, by murlescrewed

    I like the idea put forward by this author. Total devolution of power and governing by the equal confederate states is probably the best option for maintain a united and fair Sudan. This article has incorporated a similar idea that was put forward by another author on the Sudan Tribune.

    However, there are extremists from both sides who don’t want to even consider other options that are far more better for the country than separation.

    repondre message

    • 11 January 2010 04:10, by lado26

      Confederation is a good idea, but very weak form of governing, the central government is so limited to defense, external affairs and currancy, any member can withdraw at anytime, so for sudan is late and not suitable for it.

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      • 11 January 2010 05:54, by murlescrewed

        It would be hard for any member to find any reason to opt out of the confederation unless there is an active attempt to marginalize that region. All semi-autonomous regions will essentially have equal powers. The sovereign army would be drawn from all regions and deployed only after consultation and when any part of the country is threatened by acts beyond its capacity. Each region will use its resources to develop its economy and trading and economic integration could be pursued so that all sides can benefit and prosper together. Any citizen can choose to migrate to other parts of Sudan without the need to worry about how local laws will affect his or her wellbeing. This could result in a better Sudan than what we have now.

        It is up to leaders to give unity a chance by creating a confederation of equal states.

        repondre message

        • 11 January 2010 07:05, by Gatwech

          Dear readers,

          The so-called confederation is nothing more than another tactical cheating of the South to keep it hostage and to continue exploiting its resources and further weaken it.

          John Garang is not there talk about this useless proposal. Malik Agar is alone in the SPLM with this other sell out proposal of confederation.

          I knew that this third option would spring up somewhere before referendum and that was why the wording "inter alia" was inserted in the self-determination clause to accomodate this so-called confederation. But the current top leaders in the South with the people of South Sudan are separatist who will not give a damn about this other cheating of their final choice.

          repondre message

  • 11 January 2010 13:29, by David Glenn

    Dr.Hamid
    The late Mahmoud Mohamed Taha,proposed a constitution in 1955,i hope we followed it,you may wish to read it,A genuine and true Federal System.could indeed be a good solution to the Problem of the Sudan.It is not too late yet.The North failed to solve the problem of the country,it is time for the South to assume it’s national responsibility,and not run away,into secession.

    repondre message

  • 12 January 2010 11:20, by Junta

    Bogus Idea! Whereas confederation is a good and desirable idea, I doubt why it has come at eleventh hour when the bell for seperation is ringing loudest in the conscience of Southern Sudanese. Such systems should have been implemented in early 1950s if the Mundukuru wanted a genuine united Sudan. Now that they have realised that they will be losing their bread basket (South sudan), they are trying all means possible to lure South Sudanese into these ’’bait’’ called conferation using intellectuals like Dr Hamid AlTigani.For me, this idea is a sheer nonsense because of the timing.The best time should have been 1950s but not 2010.

    repondre message



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