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An open letter to Excellency Dr Lam Akol

10/6/2005 2:05 pm

TO: Cdr. Dr. Lam Akol
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Khartoum, Sudan
FROM: Charles K Deng


Dear Minister,

As a colleague and a friend, I feel duty bound to congratulate you for your new prestigious post of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I understand that it was the only top portfolio the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) could generously give up for its partner, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM). I also understand that during the life of our fallen hero, Dr. John Garang, the agreement was for the SPLM to have two supremacy ministries, plus at least one ministry from the economic sector, and the rest from the service sector. However, the realities are now different from what was agreed with Dr. Garang and the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Since the untimely death of Dr. John Garang, it appears that the SPLM has lost the road map, and is drifting dangerously along uncharted waters. Indeed, if this was not the case, how could our new leader, Cdr. Kiir Mayardit, listen to the advise of such politicians like Aldo Ajou and Bona Malwal, leading him to give up the portfolio of energy and mining under the pretext of salvaging the CPA (this fact was confirmed by Bona in a recent interview with al-rayaam daily)? I know that you do not personally bear any blame for the way things have terribly gone wrong inside SPLM, but as a part of collective leadership of the SPLM, you shoulder some responsibility for what happened. In any case, this is not the main purpose of writing this letter. Forgive me if I appear critical; I was attempting to think aloud.

You very well know that since the independence of the country in 1956, Sudan has been ruled by three inept democracies and three totalitarian military dictatorships. With the exception of the regime of General Ibrahim Abboud, the regimes of the field marshal Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri (1969-1985) and the field marshal Omar Ahmed Hassan al-Bashir/Dr Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi (1989, continuing), have decimatedbeyond recognitionthe civil and military services of the Sudan. The theocratic totalitarian regime of al-Bashir/al-Turabi in particular has done more unrivaled harm and damage to the Sudan during its early few years in power than any other regime.

During the rule of Nimeiri, talented and experienced military and civil personnel were removed under the rubric of constituting an impediment to the so-called revolutionary changes. At first, almost all under secretaries of various ministries were dismissed as elements resisting change, plus Sudan Armed Forces officers whom Nimeiri suspected of disloyalty to his coup detat. As time went on and dictator Nimeiri felt ever unsecured, he went on dismissing and pensioning off those civil and military personnel he suspected of disloyalty or did not approve his dictatorial policies. In 1982, Nimeiri dismissed 22 top generals from the army because the generals had dared to disapprove the rampant corruption among the ranks of his ministers, particularly the maverick Minister of the Presidential Affairs, Baha al-Din Idris. Despite the timid efforts of the April government to rectify the wrongs Nimeiri inflicted on the country, the civil and military services was never able to recover and things were never the same again.

When al-Turabi/al-Bashir decided to put a halt to the al-Mirghani-Garang peace initiative for which all Sudanese political forces had chosen in favor of an Arab-Islamic ideology al-Turabi had been preaching since 1964, the National Islamic Front (NIF)al-Turabis partytook power in the early hours of the morning of June 30, 1989. One of the first policy decisions al-Turabi made was to purge the civil and military services from those whom he imagined as anti Arab-Islamic ideology. A massive entrenchment of civil servants was undertaken, not for any reasons to do with the actual professional performance of these civil servants, but for the fact that they were either perceived as anti-Islamic in their orientation or were perceived as ideologically incorrect. Until that time, the Sudanese Armed Forces was led by seven (7,000) thousand commissioned military officers. In a period of less than two years, al-Turabi/al-Bashir dismissed two and half thousand military officers. An accelerated program of training new Islamic army was undertaken, qualifying only those who believed in al-Turabis party ideology.

This mass dismissal touched all the ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that your Excellency now leads. In your Ministry, experienced and veteran diplomats found themselves over night in the streets of Khartoum or in the Diaspora. NIF loyalists replaced them, with no or very little experience in the diplomatic service. They were either brought or recruited from the NIF membership list or from Nimeiri regime loyalists whom the April government either tried and/or dismissed. We, the Sudanese, therefore imagine, and correctly so, you will be running a ministry staffed with diplomats who are Arab-Islamic ideology oriented, and their loyalty would always rest with their master/party, the NIF/NCP. Not only that, your ministry will be still run by the ex-Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, from the Republican Palace. The appointment of Mustafa in the Palace as an adviser to the dictator al-Bashir was specifically meant to serve that purpose.

Given the conditions under which the so-called Government of National Unity (GNU) was realized, your Excellency may ask a legitimate question as to what should be done under these circumstances. We the Sudanese, especially from the South, know that you have previously worked with al-Bashir and the NIF and you perfectly understand their mindset. Their main objective in allowing the portfolio of Ministry of Foreign Affairs to go to the SPLM is to let the SPLM clean the mass the NIF/NCP has created over the years and left behind. The NIF/NCP has two state ministers in your ministry; if they cannot do that cleaning, your Excellency should not be the one to do it for them. The inevitable indictment of the UN list of 51 for war crimes in Darfur, or the removal of the name of Sudan from USA list of countries sponsoring terrorism should not be any of your concerns whatsoever. The NIF/NCP policies created the mess and SPLM should not be the one remedy it. If your Excellency takes that clear position, you will find the Sudanese people, both in the South and the North, lining behind you.

However, the fact that the SPLM lost the battle over the portfolio of energy and mining on the ill-informed advise of non-SPLM members should not mean that the SPLM ministers should not try to propose any reforms whatsoever inside their ministries. Yes, the behavior of the NIF/NCP, during the formation of GNU and thereafter, clearly points to its intention of not taking the SPLM as a serious partner, but on absorbing it. Indeed, the NIF/NCP has been emboldened by the absence of our fallen hero, Dr. John Garang, and thinks that it can rule with impunity. This mindset makes it almost impossible for any minister to think of introducing any structural changes into the government. Nevertheless, ministers like you who believe that they cannot function and operate under the Arab-Islamic ideology, would want to use the CPA to effect change; I know you will never shy away from proposing such a change.

The SPLM owes Sudanese people the change promised by the CPA and their belief in the credibility of the SPLM delivering the promised changes was massively demonstrated by the reception Dr. Garang had in Khartoum on July 8, 2005. The Sudanese require of you in your ministry to effect highly needed reforms and the restructuring of the ministry to allow you operate smoothly and without any interference or hindrance from any person from outside or from within the ministry.

We believe that you should begin with a constitution of small panel of experts who should advise or recommend a number of measures you can implement within specific limit of time and duration. Such panel of experts may include people such as Dr. Mansour Khalid, Mohammed Ibrahim Taha Ayoub, both former foreign ministers, and other experts from within and outside the ministry. Their task is:
To look into the cases of wrongfully dismissed diplomats and recommend the reinstatement of those who are able and willing to serve again; the cases of those diplomats dismissed by the NIF and not recommended for reinstatement, can be handled with cases of dismissals from other ministries in an overall resolution of dismissals of other civil servants from other ministries;
To look into the cases of those who were recruited into foreign service from the NIF party list and recommend the dismissal of those who do not deserve to be in foreign service and retain the services of those who have proven themselves;
To look into and recommend the manner in which you can deal with those security elements of Nimeiri regime who were brought into the foreign service by the NIF such as al-Fatih Erwa, Osman al-Sayed, Ali al-Nimeiri etc.;
To recommend the restructuring of the whole ministry; and
To, finally, recommend the numbers and/or percentages to be appointed from the marginalized Sudan to balance the diplomatic service, and make it looks like the Sudan.

You will be certainly opposed and undermined by the NIF/NCP inside the ministry itself and the possibility of you not being able to pass such measures inside the Council of Ministers. They will use tactics you and I are very well familiar with during our high school and university days. Those tactics may not be confined to threat of physical harm; the sixteen years in power have given them enormous ill-gotten wealth to buy their way. None of this should deter your Excellency; otherwise if you blink a minute, you will find yourself in a straightjacket, implementing their policies. The shameful giving up of the energy and mining portfolio has given them an incentive to take SPLM for granted.

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