Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 13 June 2004

Towards a principled implementation of the Peace Protocols


Firm adjustment of government powers, fair representation of opposition groups

By Mahgoub El-Tigani

June 12, 2004 — Despite all claims by 21st century writers that the 19th century "false consciousness and alienation" concepts are out-dated words, there are good reasons these same concepts are practically factual with regard to the Sudan Government’s senior security managers’ zeal to keep the Sudanese society and state in forced alienation from the peace process under heavy Arabization-Islamization education and media programs, continuous obstruction of public freedoms, and maneuvering forms of cooperation with the United Nations and the international community humanitarian agencies only to inhibit the provision of immediate humanitarian aid to the million victimized people of DarFur.

In spite of all appeals by Sudanese and external human rights conscientious groups, the ruling junta continues to think and to act with false consciousness and true alienation from the Sudanese masses and the surrounding world. The state-incited DarFur Crisis, the Omer al-Bashir’s theological impositions, and the TV predominantly selected Arab ethno-centric drama and Islamized war propaganda are quite revealing of this anti-peace climates: in this, the Sudan TV stands alone when every other media station in the whole world repeatedly condemns the unprecedented acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and dehumanization of the DarFur innocent citizens, especially the powerless women, children and elderly by the government’s air raids and the Arab militias’ attacks.

These crimes against humanity were not secretively planned: just a few days before renewal of the Emergency Law, president Bashir publicly pledged "to shed the blood of political opponents" in a famous rally of his Peoples’ Defense Forces (PDFs). The public scourge was immediately followed by a massive state-organized war to subdue the "renegades, traitors, and highwaymen of DarFur," as the NIF most senior official said about the warring groups of DarFur in press meetings and other public conferences. That the peace protocols were signed in good faith by the first president of the same government and the SPLM/A peace partner has not changed a bit the president’s entrenched hostilities against the country’s yearning for the regular democracy and the permanent and just peace, or the 15 year’s imposed repression by the NIF ruling party upon the public life.

The harsh threats of the president were seriously taken by human rights organizations and the other civil society groups, including the Sudan Human Rights Organization Cairo Office which has timely called on the international community to put the strongest pressure upon the Sudan Presidency to adopt peaceful measures for the realization of peace instead of military action, convene an all-Sudanese national democratic conference to discuss the country’s state of affairs, and save the Nation the danger of further subjection to the Security Council’s punitive intervention as occurred in the mid 1990s with anti-terrorism measures against Sudan. Giving a blind eye to all these cautions and precautions, the NIF ruling presidency and political party has adamantly adopted an elusive policy towards the national pressures for democracy and peace as well as the international appeals for the government to abide-by international human rights norms, stop the DarFur genocide, activate judicial accountability for all government or militias wrong-doing, and pay full attention to the urgent humanitarian needs of the assaulted citizens of DarFur and the other parts of the country.

Unfortunately, the 1989-2004 uninterrupted single-candidate single-party anti-democratic rule of Sudan stamped the presidency with political blindness as well as irrational arrogance towards the immediate urgency for state reforms and the recognition of popular participation in national decision-making.

Before signing of the Nivasha peace protocols, the Sudan’s dictator vehemently rejected the strong appeals by the DUP leader Mohamed Osman al-Merghani, the Umma leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, the government peace partner SPLM/A leader John Garang, and the other political leaders and civil society groups to allow full enjoyment of the bondage of citizenship to all citizens without religious, ethnic, or other discriminatory criteria in the National Capital Khartoum. Needless to say, Khartoum has never been governed by state Shari’a law since it was established by Ismail Pasha in 1821 except for the Muslim Brotherhood repressive rule with Nimeiri (1983-85) and the Bashir anti-democratic regime.

Despite the auspicious signing of the Peace Protocols in June 2004, the previously well-documented elusive performance of the ruling party/presidency towards the actualization of peace in the existing pre-interim period was essentially responsible for the traumatic zigzag of the peace process. This process needs to be developed in the present time to a comprehensive agreement to the full satisfaction of the people of Sudan and the international community, as the NDA Chairperson Mohamed Osman al-Merghani recently pledged. The most recent meeting in Cairo (June 2004) between the government delegates - led by the first vice president ’Ali Uthman Taha - and the NDA delegates - led by General ’Abd al-Rahman Sa’eed - indicates that the NIF ruling party does have a peace-advocating group that is increasingly interested in a expeditious handling of the peace process by accommodating large sections of the democratic opposition to ensure a smooth turn out of the next interim period.

It is equally true, the ’Ali Uthman-led government negotiators have relatively shown more commitment to the peace process in Nivasha compared to the bad-faith tactics of the Aboga and the earlier government negotiators in which the government used the peace talks as a political cover every time it planned to attack the SPLA with military offensive. Alarmingly, however, the government supported militias in the Upper Nile region continue to disrupt the peace climates by attacking the Shilluk Kingdom as well as other locations. Moreover, the effort exerted by the US and the IGAD-Troika in Nivasha to get the government to finalize peace agreements has not been fully supported by the anti-peace elements of the governing regime. These elements are directly encouraged by president Bashir who still thinks of himself as a crowned Caliph of a theological state that must pursue with state repression the Arab-Islamization programs in full commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood groups in and outside Sudan.

All in all, the NIF ruling junta has not yet actualized a principled commitment to the peace process as the situation really requires. Many senior security officers of the ruling regime publicly announced derogatory statements against the peace process, and several NIF writers never ceased to call for an earlier separation of the North from the South! Most recently, the president announced "all people want to be ruled by Shari’a," thus alienating millions of the Muslim and the non-Muslim population which never subscribed to the harsh NIF religious intolerance. Furthermore, the secretary general of the National Congress ruling party affirmed, "the previous corruption and the disorderly performance of the government was a necessity," and the presidential political adviser Qutbi al-Mahdi childishly accused the SPLM peace partner of planning to transform the South to an anti-Arab region!

Aside from the presidency crew, the minister for foreign affairs, state ministers, and the other counterparts desperately deny the government’s direct involvement in the DarFur’s militia supported genocide against the unarmed indigenous population. Worst of all, the foreign affairs minister Mustafa Isma’il bragged in Egypt’s TV that "the NDA, not the Sudan Government, was the one seeking to meet with the government to follow-up the peace process" - a crudely alienating statement to which the NDA Deputy Chairperson General Sa’eed was strongly opposed.

The DarFur Fact-Finding Committee has been drastically circumscribed against its logical mandate with insufficient representation of the DarFur women, regardless of the fact that of the million displaced people of DarFur half of a million are women and children (see the SHRO-Cairo previous statement on the Committee). Related to this, Amnesty International correctly urged - to no avail - the government to strengthen the Committee’s work with more professional women and other non-governmental experts among many important other safeguard. The non-responsiveness of the Sudan Government to the national and the international concerns for the situation of human rights in the Sudan will jeopardize the peace process as the United Nations’ Security Council considers intervention measures including the possibility of military action.

It is true the peace agreements righteously guarantee the South effective participation in the central government’s agencies and authority bodies. This strategic executive partnership, however, is organically based on the legislative branch of the interim government. Here, the Peace Protocols need to be decently adjusted with respect to the parliamentary power sharing percentages that undeservedly devote 52% of the total representation to the government alone.

The Protocols deservedly allocate 34% to the South (28% to the SPLM; 6% to the other southern parties). This representation guarantees effective participation for the next South Sudan Government in the legislative procession of the interim rule. Objectively, this particular arrangement should further help to reinstate, or rather create, regular and professional South-North confidence relations towards a positive unity referendum by the end of the 6-year’s interim period in place of the long decades’ uncivilized warring relations between the two parts of the country.

Nonetheless, the meager parliamentary representation of the northern opposition parties (14% of the total parliamentary representation or one quarter of the 52% ruling party’s legislative share) will hardly ensure stable procession of the interim period. For one, the NIF 15 years’ unquestionable anti-democratic policies and practices would most likely than not continue to legislate by overruling majority over the 48% minorities’ vote. The latter might be further reduced by possible merge of the NIF opposition party with the 52% ruling representatives in addition to the government’s Umma and DUP supportive factions.

Furthermore, 2 decades or so of despotic powers by the ruling junta over the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government - plus the NIF monopolies of the Sudanese markets and business relations - will not provide fair opportunities to challenge the ruling junta repressive inclinations in the interim period by the peace protocols alienated groups.

The final outcome of this government-controlled interim parliament might lead to growing rejection of the peace agreements by disenchanted constituencies of the DUP and the Umma parties, in addition to the alienated groups of the democratic opposition and the other civil society associations. For the peace process to overcome the difficult ordeals of the transition to democracy, it is not enough to think of the transition only in terms of the democratic elections that would be inevitably influenced by the 18 years’ hegemony of the ruling junta and the ensuing disenchantment of the democratic opposition of the North.

The peace process would only be safely processed with fair representation of the North political forces for which the NIF ruling party must give up a sizeable portion of its undeserved 52% parliamentary share to assure the vital participation of the democratic opposition in the national unity and the peace making workaday processes.

For many optimists, including this writer, the Nivasha Peace Protocols comprise in good tides the Sudanese flourishing hopes for an interim period that should steadily move the Nation from civil war to the permanent, just, and lasting peace. To achieve this fundamental goal, the Sudanese intellectuals are urged to take a deep thoughtful look into the concepts of "false consciousness and alienation:" the peace supporters are urged not to play down the role of the North democratic constituencies in the pre, present-time, or post interim governments by way of "false consciousness," i.e., consciously trivializing the sizeable weight of the democratic opposition and the civil society groups.

Equally important, it is not advisable for the peace advocates in or outside the Sudan to fail to realize that the great hopes of effectively processing the Sudan’s national peace agreements will never work solely on the basis of the legal or nominal commitments of the military junta, even though these same agreements are internationally recognized. The strongest grantor of easing the complexities of the peace process can not be accomplished by overlooking the urgent needs of the Sudanese civil society to enjoy in actual reality full public freedoms and international human rights norms. The NIF coup-based central government is squarely accountable by national and international norms to facilitate this accomplishment to the maximum degree possible without bragging or irresponsible accusations.

Of all the programs thus far debated in the political arena, the NDA resolutions on the Interim Government (Asmara 2002) essentially include some of the best action programs to operate the interim period by both government and opposition forces. In good understanding with the Machekos Peace Framework, the NDA Program of Action requires the Sudan Government to create the climate conducive to peace making and the insurance of popular participation in all matters leading to the country’s national unity. The government is strongly urged to immediately abandon, without hesitation, all laws inhibiting the popular enjoyment of public freedoms.

The Sudan Government must abrogate the ongoing Public Order Act, the Criminal Law, the Family Law, and the Press and Publications Law (which in its latest draft continues to strengthen objectionable government financial and administrative restrictions on the freedom of the press) to favor the upcoming democratic transition. All political prisoners, especially from DarFur, must be immediately released to join the peace efforts in their assaulted region. The multiple security bodies of the state should be firmly abandoned to pave the way to a democratically approved state security agency.

The SPLM/A peace partner has done a good job thinking and acting in the peace negotiations in intimate consensus with the NDA, at the same time the SPLM objectively struggled to ensure the best agreements possible for the marginal South as a possible model for the next regional governments of the centuries’ neglected DarFur, Eastern Sudan, and the other Northern provinces of the country. Whatever powers, wealth sharing, or privileges these regions get by peaceful negotiation is legitimately guaranteed by concrete national and international norms. Therefore, the regional shares must be effectively supported by the Nation and by the International Community at large.

There is not any doubt this clear understanding of the country’s dilemma is the only long-enduring guarantee to salvage the Nation from the next NIF’s terrorism, anti-national separatism, racism, and ethno-religious chauvinism: before the final Nivasha Peace Protocols would be comprehensively approved, it is expedient to affirm that: whatever the Central Government gains over the regions, including the sidelined and unfairly represented NDA and the other northern democratic opposition in the Kenya Peace Protocols must be seriously questionable, refutable, and ultimately adjusted to favor the national interests and privileges of the North versus the anti-democratic Central Government of the Sudan.

*Member of Sudanese Writers’ Union (in exile) and the president of Sudan Human Rights Organization Cairo-Branch.

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