The status of Sudan civil society organizations resembles more or less Joungli or for this sake Florida swamps, whose waters are disconnected, scattered, and lacking purpose. It needs to be channeled, collected, and purposely directed before it can create positive energy. For as long as the efforts of the civic society (both in the center and the periphery) remain uncoordinated, they risk facing greater marginalization –something that will lead to their exclusion from the political forum, cultural debates, and economic cycle. Hence, depriving the society of any tools it could have acquired, or skills it could have gained to overcome ethnic/tribal polarization carried out by the state, or manipulation exercised by its agents to silence the majority of the population. The deliberate attempts by the Sudanese regime to totally obliterate the civil and political societies, in the course of quarter of a century, puts Sudan at the foothold of Libya should a power vacuum occurs. Albeit, anarchy in Sudan will have deleterious effects in the stability of the whole Sudanic belt, not just the Sudanese nation.
The Sudanese people remain in captivity while the regime continues trying to destroy their nation, and to obliterate their heritage using soft and hard tools. Soft tools include propaganda, national dialogue, cooptation of local elites, credulous census, disgraceful elections, dysfunctional federal system, and administrative arrangements that are intentionally designed to fragment the periphery, mainly Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and emasculate its ability to consolidate a common identity. Hard tools range from unabated aerial bombardment, i.e., everything is a moving object, extensive pillaging of villages, destruction of civilian properties, continuity of the endemic of rape, and active involvement in the killing of the black indigenous population (known as Ahl-AdDar) and passive engagement in the annihilation of Arabs (pastoralists groups in Darfur), i.e., by providing them weapons and ammunition to kill each other. Rule of Lawlessness: Roots and Repercussions of the Darfur Crisis, Interagency Paper, January 2005.
By overlooking stakeholders’ interest, immediately after Abuja agreement, the government exploited the rift between the “movements” and the silent majority; thus causing the society to be fragmented along vertical and horizontal lines.No wonder, the situation regressed from mutiny to civil war to “um-Kuwak” (a traditional term for anarchy, or war against all). By providing weapons and ammunition, the government acts as a facilitator, not just agitator of inter-tribal war. Traditional Authorities’ Peacemaking Role in Darfur, by Jérôme Tubiana, Victor Tanner and Musa Adam Abdul-Jalil.
The intensification of the conflict had serious implications for UNAMID, as it failed to fulfill its duties in the following manner:
Despite all of these shortcoming, the continuity of UNAMID is necessary if we were to avoid further annihilation of the IDPs. As civilians are caught up in the war between the government militias and the movements; even worse, by being concentrated as a population in one location, they can become a target for ethnic entrepreneurs. Who at some moment of desperation can decide to commit an act of aggression. IDPs camps and UNAMID compounds were recently besieged by the army and government militias, when rumors were heard that the Sudanese President was denied departure from South Africa. It wasn’t until he fled South Africa, that those populations were released.
Though it has become evident that the Sudanese regime is strategically working against the development of Darfur (as it perceives the people of the periphery, both social and geographical, wherever they are, as a threat to its elongated minority rule, not to forget its racist ideology), attempts –in the form of derailed conferences and void declarations– are continuously pursued to conceal exactly this truth. They achieve nothing other than expose the impotence of superimposed peace settlements that for long adopted a paternalistic vision that allowed no room for reciprocity between bottom-up and town-down trickle approaches. More grievously, highlighted the role of militia/military leaders, at the expense of intellectual, cultural, civil, and political elites. Thus, adopting a myopic approach that negatively influenced the sustainability of (comprehensive) peace agreements, both in Sudan and South Sudan.
A group of scholars/activists, originally from Sudan have been concerned for some time with the stalemate that obstructs concerned parties from reaching a sustainable peace in Sudan. They have been working diligently to establish Sudan Policy Forum (SPF), whose objective is to allow Sudan a leeway to bravely escape the intensive polarization that characterizes its political and social landscape. To speak for itself in a comprehensive, cohesive and representative fashion, SPF’s vision must be institutionalized and its members must undergo extensive training in governance-related issue. Lest their cause be manipulated by governmental NGOs (GoNGOs) or sabotaged by new “confederates.” This group must include non-governmental organizations, women, youth and student associations, IDPs and refugees associations and forums, and the religious sects. Those who strive for social welfare, emphasize peace values, and enhance our understanding of embedded democracy.
At some point, a group of UN experts dared to say that the “King is naked.” These experts urged the international community to face the reality and admit that the DDPD is dead. They presented an honest assessment of the situation in Darfur. Such factual report may have caused embarrassment for some entities. Following the resignation of the latter group, a new UN panel of experts was assigned, who presented a factitious report, which contradicted the remarks included in the original report as follows: massive civilian destruction was changed to voluntary repatriation initiative; ethnic cleansing to incoherent mélange of violence; and obstructions to humanitarian aid remarks to no pressure or interference. To announce Doha Agreement as lively, according to some experts, is to decide to politically posture in the face of a tragedy. However, it is less the failure of any specific agreement than it is failure of the (inter)national community to provide a diplomatic and political/civil umbrella for that action. Not to forget, its reluctance to devise a mechanism of implementation.
By tactfully outlining future civic and political contours, rather than be content with the iconic look that so far has become prevalent among embassy communities in Khartoum, the establishment of a policy-oriented civil forum can help the Sudanese people make a breakthrough that overcomes current political and military stalemate. Thus, providing the vision and leadership needed to carry Sudan into the future. Secondly, by holding seminars in policymaking and governance-related issues, it can contribute to engaging citizens (both locally and at the diaspora) in a principled and objective manner. Hence, mobilizing the silent majority and unleashing the potential of the youth, that represent an approximate 70% of the Sudanese population. Thirdly, by reconfiguring contemporary social contours and assigning individuals their deserved political and historical weights, as an essential mapping technique and an indelible tool for peacemaking, the forum can begin to gradually build nuclei of change in variegate localities.
As an agency that has rich institutional and cultural heritage, Sudan civic society is equally capable of rejuvenating its soul by way of devising policies based on opinion of the citizens towards education, health, environment, prosperity, etc. Thus contributing to peace and regional integration and offsetting any negative impact that the regime may have had recently on Sudan as a society and a state. To attain a sustainable regional and world order through the emergence of consensual governance system, the forum must aim to harness the dialogue between different communities and their cultures in the hope of sharing meaning and understanding not imposing ideology; communicating not convincing; reflecting meaning not only sharing interest and power.
This paper envisions that such program which includes training, campaigning, and vision hailing (V2050), will help civil society agents understand the practical implications of the important topics of governance and democratization rather than aimlessly try to make sense of a list of requirements of “good governance.” It anticipates that such program will expand the participants’ scope of politics to include, communication & the role of media, livelihoods, energy and resource management, ecological interdependence, constitutional reform, family issues, and institutional development.
By infusing values of “communicative rationality,” activists stand a chance of mobilizing a rich heritage that for long had been stagnant, hence liberating the individual –man or woman– who for centuries had been imprisoned behind walls of authoritarianism and “thick layers of interpretation.” Last but not least, demilitarizing a culture precedes the attempt to disarm a population. Hence, providing paramilitary groups an exit strategy supplements the creative program that some agencies are proposing, and supplants the evil campaign that the government is carrying out in the periphery. Winning the Janjaweed back may not be a viable strategic goal at the moment, but it is definitely one that is worth pursuing, if we were to think about avoiding a prolonged civil war and reducing number of causalities.
For as long as the Arabs (pastoralists groups who live along indigenous tribes in Darfur, Kordofan, etc.) remain unintegrated in the economic cycle, excluded from political forums or cultural debates, they risk facing greater marginalization –something that will give way to group grudges and personal grievances, have adverse effects on their well-being, and may consequently jeopardize the future of any peace settlements. To assert the position of the Arabs as an integral part of the consultative process –one that is aimed at bringing comprehensive peace to Sudan, SPF aims to bypass idea brokers, and to work directly with the nomads through their representatives in the municipalities.
Within this context, Sudan Policy Forum (SPF) is sought to encourage the broader mobilization of civil society in Sudan and in so doing, to surmount ethnic, tribal and regional differences in the interests of securing an enduring peace. The forum must be representative not selective; it should involve prominent scholars, diligent activists, genuine politicians, professional officers and, community leaders who are known for their will to serve public not private interest. In short, the Sudanese need to go back to the drawing board in order to be able to produce recommendations articulating a path forward, introducing and encouraging understanding and support for the roles of both regional and international partners. They must recognize commonalities across all boundaries, thus appealing to a broader understanding of community and the civic sphere. The forum should work to build the confidence of civil society, to build trust among participants, and to mobilize people to see life beyond their differences, as part of a process of moving towards open and constructive dialogue. It should provide the Sudanese people with a window through which they can see life differently.