By Elwathig Kameir
Since the launch of the "civil disobedience" initiative in November 2016, called for by several non-partisan Sudanese youth groups using cyber space, the leadership of the SPLM/A-N has not ceased its incessant chain of press statements in support of, and expressing solidarity with the peaceful youth movement, as a viable way, to reach its final aim of overthrowing Al-Bashir’s ruling regime. There is no doubt, that the reader of these frequent pronouncements would not have second thoughts that the SPLM-North emanate from a political organization that favours the adoption of peaceful political means and civil action to achieve its legitimate political objectives. In a previous piece, I had strongly argued that the “civil disobedience” experience is a lesson, for the armed movements, to learn from, more specifically to review the feasibility of armed struggle in accomplishing the very same goals. The viability of armed resistance should be at the top of the SPLMN’s agenda. (The Aftershocks of the Disobedience: What will the Government Do? Sudantribune.net (Arabic edition), 18 December, 2016). It is true that the armed movements have the right to support any peaceful movement for change, and to build ties with all political activists. However, it remains that the meaningful contribution, of an armed movement for exerting pressures on the ruling regime, rests on achieving military victories and occupying and/or liberating territories. Indeed, that was the "value added" of the SPLM/A, under the leadership of late Dr. John Garang, during the 1980s and 1990s. Tilting the balance of forces in favour of the “peaceful revolutionaries” in Khartoum eventually paved the way for toppling Nimeiri’s regime.
However, in a statement issued on the first of January 2017 the SPLM-N transcended its earlier stance of lending mere moral support to the civil resistance, to advancing specific practical proposals in the arena of peaceful political struggle. Thus, in this press statement, the Secretary-General of the Movement called on “Sudanese nationals who hold foreign passports to organize a campaign for collective return to Sudan and challenge the regime, according to a specific agreed-upon program that aims at consolidating the escalation of popular activity. If the regime took any action against them, it would then face both internal, and external condemnation from countries, from which the returnees hold travel documents and passports (because these countries) are obliged to protect them according to their internal laws. This would cause dual pressures (on the regime)”. This sounds great.
However, the call of the SPLM-N might not find a consensus or a broad-based response among the targeted population group. The Sudanese in the diaspora do not in any way represent a holistic mass, rather they profess heterogeneous doctrines and varied political beliefs. Therefore, why doesn’t the SPLM-N develop its own initiative further? This could be approached by specifically addressing, during this first phase, the Movement’s external constituency, members and close supporters. The SPLM-N has dozens of chapters and offices abroad, particularly in Europe and North America, which are supposed to be prepared to mobilize and organize on a large scale. Why doesn’t the SPLM-N, as long as it is convinced of the viability and feasibility of peaceful means of struggle, take the lead in challenging the regime on this score, while seeking to expand the proposed campaign by reaching out progressively to the rest of the Sudanese in the diaspora? Perhaps, such an approach might prove rewarding on a number of counts. First, it would bestow credibility on the Movement by being able to translate political slogans into reality, a lacking attribute among Sudanese politicians. Second, it would furnish a test of the degree of people’s embracing of, and popularity of the SPLM-N, following a long stagnation of engagement in civil political action, dating back to June 2011. Third, it would be an exercise in assessing the degree of effectiveness of this method of peaceful resistance. Fourth, it is an opportunity for providing practical training for the cadres of the Movement in the sphere of peaceful action and political networking. Above all, opting for the accomplishment of “change” through the mechanisms of peaceful political struggle, the SPLM-N would accumulate an appreciable political capital, which God Knows is desperately needed at this critical juncture.
Dr. Elwathig Kameir is a former university professor of Sociology and consultant with numerous regional and international organizations. He is also a former member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) . He is reachable at email@example.com