In a new policy briefing, Sudan: The Elusive Road to National Dialogue and Lasting Peace, co-authored with partner organization Saferworld, SDFG considers the obstacles that continue to hamper Sudan’s road to peaceful democratization, and provides recommendations for overcoming those obstacles.
A series of initiatives by the Sudanese government, opposition groups and international mediators over the last ten months have created a glimmer of hope that a comprehensive resolution to Sudan’s conflicts may be possible. These potentially positive steps include: the national dialogue process launched by President al-Bashir in April; the Paris Declaration signed between the National Umma Party and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) on 8 August; the 4 September Addis Ababa Agreement on National Dialogue and Constitutional Processes between representatives of the government’s dialogue mechanism and the Paris Declaration signatories; and the 16 September 2014 African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) communiqué, calling for a synchronized mediation of the separate processes for resolving the conflicts in Blue Nile/South Kordofan and Darfur regions. However, bringing about an end to the armed conflicts, and subsequent steps towards a negotiated, national, inclusive and comprehensive dialogue continues to be blocked by the intransigence of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
A comprehensive, inclusive and accountable dialogue is one in where all Sudanese political, social and religious stakeholders can participate. The main aim of any national dialogue must be to address the root cause of conflict in Sudan: the relationship between the centre and the peripheries. The process cannot therefore treat the ‘distinct’ armed conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan in isolation from one another. Instead, all national political issues (such as power and wealth sharing, and constitution making) must be elevated to a national level. Furthermore, any agreements signed to bring about an end to fighting must not prejudice the national process that will take place after the silencing of the guns. The role of civil society and public participation must be guaranteed from the start, and this guarantee should be coupled with international investment in the capacity of civil society to play a positive role.
Any national dialogue process must be underpinned by a conducive environment, which guarantees the constitutional rights and freedoms of all citizens. A credible process is impossible in the current context of widespread armed conflicts marked by atrocities against civilians, systematic violations of human, civil and political rights and the absence of political freedoms. The ongoing detention, arrest and torture of political opponents and activists must also cease. Furthermore, the push to hold elections in the April 2015– prior to an end to the conflicts and agreement on a permanent constitution – will fuel, not alleviate, the causes of conflict. The international community must not be cornered into supporting or legitimizing any sort of electoral process aimed exclusively at extending the life of the current regime, while the Sudanese people continue to suffer the consequences.