Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 14 July 2004

Naivasha ? Hope .. or Disappointment!?

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Why was the Agreement received with Jubilation in the South and Reticence in the North!!?

By Dr. El Shafie Khider Saeed*, El Mousawer News Magazine

CAIRO, June 28, 2004 — For decades, the Sudanese in the South of the country have led a nightmarish existence accentuated by the bounding of artillery and the specter of imminent capricious death from the air. Hence, it was completely understandable the jubilant reception, no matter how fleeting, given to the prospect that the war may finally stop. Welcome was also the prospect that this time a new type of peace may emerge.

Reaction among Sudanese in the North was more subdued acknowledging the fact that the war must stop as should the loss of life in the South and the North. No one looked forward to perpetuating the anguish that comes with the prospect of protecting one’s child from forced military conscription or sacrificing them in the crematorium of the civil war. Amidst the muted expressions of relief that the war may soon come to end one could also not mistake the strong sense of uncertainty, which was engendered by several factors:

(1) From the start, the negotiations shrouded in secrecy, were the subject of deliberate attempts to conceal the truth form the people of the Sudan. The sense of unease was compounded by the realization that the process was driven by foreign interests that may seem contrary to the collective will of those most concerned/interested in reaching a sustainable and comprehensive resolution to the crisis, i.e., the people of the Sudan.

(2) The situation was worsened by the inexplicable exclusion of other political groups from the negotiations and the realization that the negotiating parties are not representative of all the Sudan. Hence, by definition, they were not empowered by popular mandate to exclusively share the wealth of the country or decide its present and/or future. This could only mean that any bilateral agreement reached behind the consensus of the Sudanese is likely to prove unsustainable.

(3) Ambivalence was fostered by the growing conviction that the agreement failed to resolve conflicts in other parts of the Sudan. The crisis in Darfur, for example, has evolved into the most tragic humanitarian situation in the world today. It threatens to invite international military intervention as was articulated by UN’s Secretary General and others in the international body. The exclusion of such critical issues, which are part of a comprehensive political and democratic solution may give impetus to the spread of conflict to other regions (the whole of Western Sudan the North, East, Southern Blue Nile or even major cities, including the Capital) with the potential for dismembering the country.

(4) Large sectors among the Sudanese hoped for a new order similar to that ushered by the October 1964 Revolution and the Intifada in April 1985 only to be disenchanted with the realization that the agreement is unlikely to yield such a change. The regime remains as do its major players, the hardships endure, and the abuse of religion in politics continues. Concern is amplified by the feeling that the agreement will further enable and give security to the nouveaux riche who amassed wealth by engaging in parasitic economic activities and/or profiteering from the war and hunger as well as the misappropriation of public funds. These fears are perhaps the product of hasty analyses, but they do remain common among people in the North.

The mutated popular reception given to the agreements is, to a certain extent, understandable. The same, however, cannot be said of the reception given to the agreement by the political and cultural elite in the Nnorth, who seemed uncertain, confused, insular, and prone to "whining" at a time when they were expected to show leadership in defining the present and future essence of the agreement.

An objective appraisal of the process that culminated in the framework agreements between the Ingaz Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) must recognize that these agreements were the product of certain factors:

(a) The negotiations and agreement reflected a state of exhaustion permeating the political struggle in the country;

(b) Notable weakness in the activity of the political and the mass movement in the Sudan, despite the achievements accrued thus far;

(c) The understanding that the core of the conflict in the Sudan is one caused by the schism between North and South drove international pressure brought to bear on resolving the Sudanese crises.

From the start of the negotiating process, we remained convinced of three basic tenets:

(1) The process that initiated the negotiations was bilateral and was likely to remain so to the very end despite calls to the contrary. This reflected the will of the international community that led the process to its outcome. Moreover, this architecture suited the perception of the regime and was not unequivocally repudiated by the SPLM, which was not able to do more than call for the inclusion of others. The dichotomy between comprehensiveness and bilateralism must be viewed as an integral part of the ongoing political struggle that requires of other political groups certain fundamental prerequisites that remain outstanding.

(2) The negotiations were bound to lead to an agreement between the parties. We have also contended that the agreement, irrespective of our own acceptance/satisfaction of/with the outcome, was likely to achieve three key goals:

-  First, an end to the war;
-  Second, the agreement will represent a significant breach of the totalitarian edifice and will create a new reality that has the potential of paving the way toward democratic transformation and a better climate for the political struggle;
-  Third, the agreement marks the failure of yet another attempt to reconstruct the Sudanese State along ideological lines, irrespective of that ideology.

(3) Flawed is the perception that the negotiations and the consequent agreement were the exclusive product of armed conflict between the Government and the SPLM or efforts by the international community. To the contrary, the outcome is the product of the collective action and will of all the parties concerned. It is the product of the synergy generated by armed conflict, the political action of the NDA and the mass opposition movement, the resistance of the Sudanese against the war, the role of national/eminent personalities, the pressure by the international community as well the contribution of the friends of the Sudan, particularly Egypt, Libya, the IGAD, ?, etc.

Given these realities, it became incumbent upon the Sudanese political and mass movement to overcome the "wait-and-see" attitude and prepare itself to take full advantage of post-agreement conditions. These preparations must aim at mobilizing the mass movement into sustained effective political action to respond to certain fundamental issues, namely, fostering and making comprehensive the peace and affecting democratic transformation. The mere announcement that an agreement is reached, with celebrations ensuing, is inadequate as far as addressing these challenges, which are an integral part of resolving the crisis.

Peace in the South is a Step in Resolving the Sudanese Crisis!

The dichotomy between war and peace is a pivotal aspect of the Sudanese crisis that ensued with the country’s independence. Yet, it is but one of the fundamental issues that remain outstanding. Peace alone will not feed the hungry or cloth the unclothed nor treat the ill. Peace, exclusive to the South, does not mean peace in the West nor will it remove the potential for war in the East.

The political struggle in the Sudan is not entirely driven by conflict over power between the Government and the Opposition nor is it encapsulated in the conflict between the North and the South. This struggle will not be arrested by a ceasefire between the combatants.

The essence of the political struggle in the Sudan is one over the reconstruction of the modern Sudanese State into one reliant on a democratic and pluralistic system of government that is cognizant of the cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity among the Sudanese and one that is able to realize sustainable and balanced development throughout the country. It is apparent that peace will not endure if separated from the issues of democracy and development. These three key issues are integral to addressing the fourth component of the crisis, i.e., the unity of the country.

The Sudanese crisis in all its interdependent fundamental manifestations is too complex to resolve by an exclusive "alliance" or "partnership" between two parties, even if they involve those who paved the way for peace.

The resolution of the crisis is an undertaking for all the Sudanese. This is why we have always called for the widest possible popular participation in all matters, including the negotiations leading to and implementation of the final agreement. This represents the only viable partnership capable overcoming the crisis. The realization of such comprehensive participation can only be predicated on the widest possible democratic transformation that guarantees such rights as the freedom of expression and assembly, a free press as well as other basic freedoms. It must also include the termination of rule by decree and the State of Emergency, which are used to thwart such a change.

Unity/Separation or the Aspirations of the Sudanese?

Many interests, foreign and domestic, seem to focus on one item in the agreement, i.e., the issue of Unity/Separation. This misplaced and singular focus ignores the dialectical interdependence among all the clauses of the agreement. To these interests the issue of Self-determination is an anathema, which when accepted it is done so reluctantly.

On our part, we stipulate to the paramount importance of the issue of Unity/Separation and cannot begrudge those who see it as the "only" issue. However, we also submit that the agreement can be viewed from two distinct vantage points: Unity/Separation juxtaposed to the needs and aspirations of a suffering people consumed by war. For us the answer is very clear - it is the later that is of paramount importance. Moreover, the pursuit of objectives that satisfy the needs and aspirations of the Sudanese in this agreement will determine if it leads to Unity or Separation.

The pursuit of Separation can only be made redundant by reaching a just and compressive peace that is augmented by balanced development, equitable wealth sharing, the creation of an inclusive democratic state were basic freedoms are guaranteed and all citizens are equally endowed with certain inalienable rights irrespective of race, faith, gender, culture, .., etc.

Self-determination is an expression that rejects war and affirms the right to choose. Hence, rather than fall prey to fear and uncertainty regarding the outcome of the exercise of such a right, it is more effective to direct all efforts toward making Unity the preferred outcome. This is said with the recognition that the agreement is contradictory in some aspects. The agreement, for example, does seem to foster Unity, yet it also lays the foundations for Separation when it accepts the division of the country along religious lines as well as allotting the North a 50% share in the wealth of the South.

Future Opportunities and Threats!!

After signing of the agreement, it became apparent that there are three potential opportunities worthy of pursuit by the Sudan and the Sudanese:

I. Convergence between the Naivasha Protocols, the NDA’s Asmara 1995 Protocols, and the NDA’s draft National Consensus Charter. A deliberate reader of the Naivasha Protocols will find many similarities with the NDA’s Conference on Fundamental Issues (Asmara 1995) as well as the NDA’s draft National Consensus Charter. The convergence is most pronounced when it comes to the nexus between national legislation and international conventions on human rights, decentralized rule, self-rule for the three regions, the issue of self-determination, and Committees and Commissions, .., etc.

II. Call issued for a Social Contract by Dr. Garang De Mabior, Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLM/A, on signing of the Nairobi Declaration on June 26, 2004. The proposed Contract, based on national consensus and faithful to the peace agreement, defines parameters of good governance and benchmarks and targets for social and economic development during the interim period.

III. Proposals submitted by Ustaz Ali Osman to a meeting with the NDA. The meeting took place in Cairo on June 9, 2004. The proposals included three basic points:

(a) Naivasha is a gateway to transport the Sudan into broader horizons that include a basic agreement/charter for national cooperation on the fundamental issues of national reconstruction. This will be followed by fair elections to oversee the implementation of this agreement;

(b) This project requires of all to jettison their previous bitterness and conflicts;

(c) What is required to embrace the future is the development of mechanisms to achieve the inclusion of all parties.

By contrast, there are also threats capable of undermining these opportunities:

-  Any agreement between the Government and the Movement must understandably entail a certain degree of "partnership." However, what is objectionable in this regard is for the two parties to determine the extent to which others are allowed to contribute. Moreover, this posture is contradictory to the spirit of national consensus and reconciliation. The agreement, for example, could have adopted a more representative format when it came to the institution of the Presidency. Under the current terms of the protocols, the status quo is perpetuated, with Al Bashier as President and Vice President Ali Osman (who will lose seniority as Dr. Garang is incorporated into the institution). A far more representative format would have built on the approved premise of expanding the institution to include representation from other volatile regions such as the East and the West of the country.
-  Politicians can burry the bitterness of the past and move on. The same, however, does not hold true when it comes to convincing the public to discard just demands for accountability regarding those who violated their basic rights and embezzled or misappropriated public funds. These allegations may be refuted, but a better way is to devise a mechanism to adjudicate such issues, with one possible alternative being a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission." This will allow the country to heal and discard historical bitterness, which if left festering will likely explode to undermine all other gains.
-  Other political groups are unlikely to accept, regardless of claims of sincerity or well-crafted arguments, the right of the two parties (National Congress and the SPLM) to build a "national" army and complete the restructuring of other security organs. The way security and military intuitions are arrayed is an integral part of any debate on politics, democratic transformation, and/or the vicious circle that is not unique to our country but encompasses others in the region.
- 
Transcending the bilateral nature of the agreement and transforming it into a body that is more enduring and comprehensive, as indicated by the aforementioned three opportunities, cannot be reduced to a redistribution of political portfolios among the various groups. To the contrary, such an endeavor requires that an integrated and comprehensive charter be drafted, with the Naivasha protocols as starting point. The purpose of such a draft would be to address, by all political groups, the various layers of the Sudanese crisis: peace, democratic transformation, balanced and comprehensive development, the reconstruction of the modern Sudanese State, and fostering voluntary unity. Work on this project should commence immediately with the adoption of the following steps:

-  The final peace agreement should be put to a forum of all Sudanese opposition groups prior to its adoption. The final agreement should be signed before this forum;
-  It must be recognized that the crisis in Darfur is a political one that cannot be resolved by military means. The resolution to this crisis requires the convening of a national political forum attended by all of Sudan’s political groups, the people of Darfur, and opposition military groups there;
-  Addressing the prerequisites of democratic transformation, which include the abrogation of laws restricting basic freedoms, revoking the state of emergency in all areas not affected by conflict, lifting press censorship, abolishing restrictions on political and trade union activity, addressing grievances, drafting a democratic election law, ?, etc.
-  Addressing issues related to the daily living conditions faced by ordinary Sudanese, including the internally displaced and those terminated from the civil service without just cause. The broadest possible programs to restructure the national economy, the civil service, and other sectors must also be enacted.

Alternatives for Other Political Groups

Cognizant of all of the aforementioned, political groups excluded from the negotiation process may invoke some political alternatives:

(1) In the event the two parties adhere to the text of their agreement, without devising suitable mechanisms to realize inclusiveness and comprehensiveness, political groups may focus exclusively on the issue of democratic transformation (participating in Committees and Commissions) but reject any token representation in the Executive Branch as stipulated by the protocols.

(2) Political groups, irrespective of weight given, may participate in the Executive Branch in the event the prerequisites for democratic transformation are met and a program of national consensus is drafted.

Conclusion

We call for a national consensus that bridges that divide among groups that for socioeconomic, historical and perhaps regional reasons have engaged in conflict before realizing that the very existence of the Sudan is now uncertain and it is a threat to all. These groups must realize that their basic common interests are stronger than their divisions. Collaboration among these groups is now needed to bring about a new reality in the Sudan that safeguards its democratic united state and creates conditions conducive for the peaceful transfer of political power and the implementation of a comprehensive development program beneficial to the lot of ordinary Sudanese. The People of the Sudan, who persevered through many failures, have remained hopeful that one day such a change will be realized.

* Member of the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) Leadership Council

Translation prepared by Mohamed El Bushra (elbushra2000@yahoo.com)



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