The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) headed by the South African President Thabu Mbeki, reinstated its efforts in dealing with Sudan’s multiple crises following a six-month gap from direct meetings. The AUHIP chief announced earlier this month, plans to visit Khartoum in February of this year which was preceded by meetings and statements by AUHIP and African Union staff on preparations to resume negotiations and talks according to the roadmap presented earlier by the Panel.
In March 2016, the AUHIP had presented a roadmap for reaching a peaceful solution for the political crisis in Sudan. The roadmap agreement was signed first unilaterally by the Government of Sudan upon its proposal and subsequently in July agreed to, by the Sudan Call Opposition alliance. Nevertheless, the first steps proposed by the roadmap collapsed within less than a week of its launching, because of the Government obstinacy to reach a cessation of hostilities agreement for humanitarian purposes in the three warzones – Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan/ Nuba Mountains. The demonstrated ill intentions of the ruling party towards the roadmap were followed by a set of actions that indirectly aimed to abandon and slay the AUHIP roadmap.
These actions include: (1) insistence to move ahead in its isolated National Dialogue (Leap Dialogue) and announcement of its conclusion and recommendations made, though these were even rejected by political forces allied with the regime; 2) dissolution of the (7+ 7 Mechanism) which was mandated to take part in the preparatory meeting with opposition forces, and replacing it by a new committee that show features of the ruling party’s partners in the new government; 3) beginning of consultations and preparations to form a new government with “those present” amongst the NCP allies”. 4) proposing and passing core of constitutional amendments reflective of the ruling party’s interests, leaving out interests of the real Sudanese political and civil agencies; 5) initiating of a permanent constitution making process without passing through or adhering to internationally recognized practices in constitution making, and with complete exclusion and isolation of national parties, ignoring the conducive environment conditions needed for such a new constitutional arrangements and process.
AUHIP and President Mbeki are not only facing the abandonment of the ruling NCP to the roadmap, but also facing a dilemma in dealing with the new developments and facts in the Sudanese political environment. Consequently, addressing this will require amending the roadmap and/or considering new proposals. New developments and facts that are facing the AUHIP include among others:
- Broad civil disobedience witnessed recently in Sudan, which reflected a wide popular rejection of the ruling party’s policies
- Escalating violence in Jebel Marra, leading to a large and steady flow of IDPs following the ongoing military campaigns
- Continued military campaigns in Nuba Mountains/ South Kordofan and Blue Nile and increasing role and partaking of the government’s militias
- Repeated unilateral declarations of ceasefire without monitoring mechanisms, turning them into mere lip services while government military campaigns continue relentlessly.
- Increasing rejection of the AUHIP methods and interaction, by a number of important and influential actors such as National Consensus Forces, Sudan Liberation Movement- Abdelwahid and a number of refugees and IDPs organizations. The AUHIP’s negligence to these forces gravely erodes and obstructs any future solutions.
The challenges and complexities of the Sudanese crisis were further increased with a proposal made by the outgoing U.S. administration, end of last year, to undertake (limited) humanitarian delivery on the hands of the US government through USAID after getting security cleared with the Sudanese government. This would give the ruling regime actual control over humanitarian access and the chance to use it as a political pressure tool. The proposal, which was void of practical implementation measures, identified relevant humanitarian assistance as medicines, drug supplies and medical equipment. This proposal does not differ from the government’s proposal, which insists on humanitarian delivery through Khartoum, without making any reference to external routes of medical evacuation or delivery of other humanitarian assistance such as food, educational aids, seeds, and farming tools among other IDPs needs.
The proposal of the former U.S. administration, is a setback from the previous position agreed to by the Sudanese Government. Government of Sudan agreed in previous negotiations round sponsored by the AUHIP that humanitarian assistance can be delivered through neighbouring countries provided they undergo inspection in Ed Damazin and Kadogli. Moreover, the proposal made no reference to war affected areas controlled by the government, where IDPs are denied registration and humanitarian assistance. It was obvious from the haste, ambiguity and the pressure exerted on opposition to accept the proposal, that the outgoing US Administration is aiming at achieving an internal political victory before leaving the White House within the context of legitimizing its decision of easing economic sanctions imposed on the Sudanese regime and frame a stand in which opposition consent to the de-isolation of the regime despite its continued crimes, wars, corruption and repression of freedoms.
The layer of complexity, which was added by the above mentioned U.S. proposal, and reinforced by its discussion outside of political processes mediated by AUHIP, leaves open several questions, on how the Panel should respond whether to adopt the proposal or bring in a new proposal to revitalize its engagement on Sudan multiple crises; and whether AUHIP has new ideas for sufficient and equal consultation with all parties of Sudan’s conflicts, before their official submission on the negotiation table in order not to have them rejected and ultimately delaying the process for long time, as happened with AUHIP Roadmap.
The abovementioned actions of the ruling party to abandon the roadmap, and the new facts and developments of the Sudanese scene, place the AUHIP and President Mbeki in front of several great challenges but also potential opportunities, in order to enhance its performance and ability to integrate all Sudanese actors, to ultimately achieve a just and peaceful democratic transformation. These challenges and opportunities include:
1st: Search for more effective ways to hold the Sudanese government accountable to its obligations as provided for in AUPSC Communiqués 456 and 539, especially in relation to confidence building measures and conducive environment. Implementation of content of these resolutions shall lay the foundation needed for a peaceful political process which sets an ending to war and avails freedoms and the launching of a comprehensive and genuine constitutional dialogue.
2nd: The AUHIP must emphasize on the need to coordinate the political solution and ending war tracks to reach a comprehensive and durable solution to the Sudanese crises. Past experiences have drastically failed due to sacrificing democratic transformation for peace making, and only addressed the crisis at the surface level instead of tackling its root causes.
3rd: After several years of engagement without worthwhile breakthrough, it is imperative that the AUHIP revisit its structure and methodology in order to become more effective and responds actively to issues under consideration. In this regard, the AUHIP may be called to expand its structures and bodies and to seek, in a formal and real manner within its official and institutional structures, expertise of Sudanese specialists and academicians as well as civil society to work in the core of its daily advisory and executive business. This will feed Sudanese daily life into the Panels’ understanding, approach and make its proposals more accepted and appropriated broadly in the Sudanese context and for different Sudanese political and civil forces.
4th: The AUHIP must expand its international and regional partners, from neighboring and European countries, and to officially get the assistance of parties concerned with Sudan. Moreover, regional, and international organizations i.e. EU, TROIKA and the United Nations must be clearly and tangibly involved in the operations of the Panel, as they have significant pressure capabilities. Creating a formal AUHIP partners’ forum may bring a new energy and power to the panel multiple roles.
5th: The AUHIP will have to affirm its presence on the ground by having permanent staff and representatives in Khartoum, amongst refugees and IDPs and within the diaspora with exiled opposition. A major cause for political and civil opposition’s loss of confidence in the Panel was the seasonality of meeting with these influential powers. Stable presence and representation of the Panel on the ground enhances its ability to get firsthand information and get engaged with socio- political realities of the Sudanese crisis.
Finally, the AUHIP must adopt a clear approach on how to deal equally with all parties to the Sudanese conflicts. Being aware that the apparent rapprochement with the ruling NCP as the de facto government, compared to lesser interaction with other opposition forces, tarnishes its image with many negatives as it portrays the Panel and President Mbeki to be silently or tacitly endorsing organized and continuous crimes committed by the regime throughout the past twenty-seven years since it took over power through a coup in 1989.