Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem reflects on the changing politics in Sudan

The London bombs displaced so many issues from the agenda of the world including the much-hyped G8 Summit and the big global pre summit parties allegedly for Africa. It was indefensible because whatever the motivations of ‘whodunit’ its cause cannot be served by indiscriminate bombing of innocent members of the public some of whom may even share the frustrations of the bombers. Even the loss of one life or one leg or arm is too much but having said that, the blasts were much smaller than what had been feared since 9/11 and expected after the war against Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq. Stoically the peoples of London refused to be cowed and went about their normal business bearing the pains and traumas and fears of where and when next’ with a shrug. While 7/7 has been the biggest terrorist attack on the city in any peacetime London is a city that has known terrorist outrages. I can remember in the 80s how amidst the commercial consumerism of Xmas shopping Londoners especially but people in main cities on the British mainland in general used to expect bombs as gifts from the IRA.

As we condemn without any reservation the bomb throwers and show solidarity to the victims both dead and living we also have to interogate the underlying causes of this kind of violence that make human beings to want to kill other human beings including themselves. While every sane person can see the linkages between the foreign policy of Britain under Blair especially his subservience to Bush and terrorism, both Blair and Bush are refusing to make the link. Because to do so is to accept political responsibility for being the recruitment officers for international terrorism that they claim they are fighting. Unfortunately the way in which they hare fighting this war without boundaries or territory has also provoked responses without boundary. If they can visit other peoples with terror so can it be visited on them on their soil. One does not have to be sympathetic to terrorism and terrorists to make that link even when it is clear that everyone of us is a potential victim.

One of the historical events  in Africa overshadowed by the London Bombs and G8 was the swearing in of a new transitional government of national Unity in Africa’s largest country, Sudan, a country that has been gripped by intermittent  internal civil wars since independence from the British in 1956.   On July 9, after almost two decades of war, almost 2 million people dead and many years of peace negotiations the January Peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army / Movement (SPLA/M) came into force.  President Omar Al Bashir was again  sworn in as President of the 6 year transitional government but the man everybody came to see take his oath of office in the new government is a former Colonel in Sudan Army who became the rebel commander and political leader of the South, Dr John Garang.

Usually inaugurations are about the No 1, the omnipotent and omniscient ‘President’ in any our countries. But in Khartoum last Saturday  it was the No 2  that excited the Sudanese and the world including reportedly 7 African heads of state who were present at the occasion. The last time a No 2 so excited the world in Africa must be the inauguration ,in 1994, of Mr Pasteur Bizmungu as President of post Genocide Rwanda and then Major General Paul Kagame as the Vice President.

The parallels between Sudan and Rwanda are not just at the symbolic level. Like Habyarimana and the MRND in Rwanda until they were caught in 1994 successive governments in Khartoum had gotten away with genocidal policies against their peoples for a very long time. And no  Sudan regime has been luckier’ in a most morbid sense than the Civilianised Military junta of President Al Bashir that has been in power before Nelson Mandela was released from Prison. It is still committing genocide but the world is so desperate for peace between the north and the South that nothing, not even the butchering of innocent women and children by the Sudan Army and its allied genocidal Arab militias in Darfur will be allowed to stand in the way.

The situation in Darfur and resumption of hostilities in the East of the country and the potential threat of same in the Nuba mountains and among other marginalized peoples of the country that should make one extremely cautious about the prospect for lasting peace in Sudan.

Like all peace agreements this one is not perfect but the best possible compromise for the transitional period in terms of the North and South fault lines. But Sudan is not just about the north and the south, there is the east and the west and even within all these geographical configurations there are many contradictions and political divisions. While the SPLA/M is the dominant political force in the South the south is by no means homogenous. And the north is even less so and the NIF / National Congress government cannot claim to represent all the North, all Arabs or indeed all Muslims.

The continuing conflict in Darfur and potential for armed escalation of conflict in other regions just show how fractious the country is and the need for a comprehensive peace agreement. Dr Garang may actually turn out to be a guarantor of the unity of Sudan if he can use his legitimacy as a freedom fighter and there is honest  political will and cooperation from his new Best friends  in Khartoum to persuade other warring groups to accept a negotiated political settlement. Otherwise he could find himself  a stooge of Khartoum and an active accomplice in its war against other Sudanese peoples.

What will make you more optimistic about the future for peace?  I asked a number of my Sudanese colleagues. Everyone of them has a long wish list but in summary they include;

· Guarantee  of Human Rights and Democratic transformation in Sudan.

· Ensuring inclusiveness in power sharing and equity in wealth sharing including provision of services.

· Ensuring redress for victims of past crimes and an end to impunity as Sudan reconciles with itself.

· Safeguarding the rule of Law and independence of the Judiciary.

· Empowering of women and an end to discrimination.

· Ensuring  democratic accountability, democratic governance in the Sudan both at national and regional levels.

· Continuation of South/South Dialogue especially with the armed groups in the South.

· Continuation of National Dialogue with the aim of building genuine National consensus for an All-Sudan peace including honest talks with all armed and unarmed political groups.

· Ensuring good neighbourliness with all the 9 countries that are Sudan’s neighbours.

· Government of Southern Sudan and the National Government must be inclusive regionally and ethnically balanced, to avoid Southern Sudan Civil War or create basis for more civil wars by marginalized nationalities in the country as a whole.

· Adherence to the letter and the spirit of the comprehensive Peace Agreement.

All of these may not be achieved in one fell swoop but everybody will be watching to see how the Bashir and Garang twist plays out. If they show serious commitment and take determined steps to succeed  it will give full meaning to Garang’s statement: “ I congratulate the Sudanese people, this is not my peace or the peace of Al-Bashir, it is the peace of the Sudanese people”.