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 ex-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.
Though it has become evident that the ex-regime was strategically working against the development of the periphery, attempts –in the form of derailed conferences and void declarations– were continuously pursued to conceal exactly this truth. They achieved 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, the regime adopted a myopic approach that negatively influenced the sustainability of (comprehensive) peace agreements in 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.
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.
The public sphere, as the domain for organized expressions and interest of society, has shifted from one that was strictly anchored around national institutions to a multimodal communication space – one that is constituted around the media system, which includes in addition to the radio, the TV, and the print press, a variety of multimedia and communication systems. Sudan Policy Forum (SPF) should provide the platform on which the civic society could move to the forefront of the policy debate. If it fails to harness the power of the public opinion through its networks, for lack of creativity or lack of capability, the whole channel of communication will come to a halt, hence affecting the policymaking cycle which identifies the civic society and the research community as an important venues of knowledge and support in the devise of a national development strategy for Sudan.
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 proposal 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.
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.
Waleed Adam Mousa (Madibo), Ph.D., M.A., M.Sc.,
Governance & International Development Expert
Founder & President of the Governance Bureau
Governance Bureau (GB), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org