The Up-Coming Elections
A Collective Responsibility towards Peace in
Dr. Ahmed Hamoda Hamid Fadlalla.
(PhD. Political Economy, Leeds University 1996; MA English, Lancaster University 1988)
This paper presents an alternative solution to the chronic Sudanese crises. It argues that the up-coming elections in Sudan, scheduled to take place next year, offers a rare opportunity to get the country back on track to democracy, peaceful transfer of power, an end to the on-going civil wars to avert a looming disintegration of the country. For a bid to make this a reality, collective concerted action is needed on four levels: national, regional, international and the UN. Such concerted action is necessary to ensure observance of free and fair elections under international and UN supervision.
Part 1: Justifications & Rationale
Sudan: A Bleak Picture
The image of
Sudan today is one of internal agony and international apathy. Internally, the policies pursued by the present Sudanese government have rendered the entire Sudanese population to agonizing hardships of pervasive poverty, mass killings, torture, mass displacement and relentless wars against the people. The on-going wars launched by the government against its own people, the mass killings, the large-scale human rights violations, war crimes, abuses and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Sudanese government call for concerted action from the international community to be coordinated through the UN. The efforts made by the international community have so far failed to stem the abuses committed by the Sudanese government. This situation has created a feeling of apathy in the UN corridors and a lack of direction among actors in the international community. The Sudanese government defiantly continues its abuses in an affront in the face of the UN and the will of the international community.
Indeed, the situation inside
Sudan today is far more bleak than has been portrayed in the media. A little probe deeper into the inside situation will reveal horrifying frightening details that will scar the collective human conscience if left unchecked; reminiscent of the Rwandan tragic genocide nearly two decades earlier. Here are a few examples from the extensive catalogue of abuses committed by the Sudanese government to give a picture of the abyss into which the
Sudan has descended.
The Orchestration of Deadly Wars:
The government has unscrupulously orchestrated deadly wars in the South, in
DarFur, in the East, and a continuous but silent war against the entire population in every corner of the country. These wars are motivated by a deviant religious and morbid racial ideology, sinister than the Apartheid segregation in
South Africa last century. The aim of these draft wars is to exterminate entire sections and racial groups of the Sudanese people who do not identify with the thinking and racial belonging of those in power. Not exclusion, but virtual extermination is the ultimate aim.
Systematic Impoverishment of the Sudanese People:
The economic policies of the present government have systematically aimed to create wide-spread poverty among the Sudanese. This statement can be easily verified by explaining the paradoxical situation of wide-spread poverty amidst wealth and plenty in
Sudan. Sudan is the largest country in Africa, has over 200 million hectares of fertile arable lands, with the world’s longest River Nile and its 11 tributaries criss-crossing the country, hundreds of millions of heads of animals, in addition to oil ( now Sudan exports over 500000 barrels of oil daily); together with other minerals like gold, iron and uranium. Potentially,
Sudan should be one of the few richest countries in the world. Indeed, the UN, its FAO and WFP agencies have named
Sudan number ONE country envisaged to be the world’s breadbasket, along with
Canada. Simply stated,
Sudan is a very rich country. Ironically, however, the Sudanese people are among the very poorest in the world. How can we explain the paradox of pervasive mass poverty amidst the huge wealth in
Sudan? According to official estimates, over 95% of the Sudanese people live below the poverty line.
This intriguing paradox of mass poverty amidst wealth and plenty in
Sudan can be explained in simple political terms. Since its first days in power, the government has unashamedly declared that it will cause people to come crawling on their bellies rallying for support. This is a nickname for political economic starvation. The government deliberately devised economic policies intended to starve people for political ends: i.e. to force them into political submission to the will of the new system. The message was clear: people have either to vow total submission or face starvation. To this end, the government, through its economic intelligence agents, have pursued an official policy known by the name (tajfeef manabi’ al rizq = drying up of sources of livelihoods). This policy has targeted every honorable Sudanese man and woman considered as “opposing” the regime. As a result, the overwhelming majority of the Sudanese suffered from the pangs of the economic war waged against them, finally and over the years crushing them into an absolute poverty that is structurally designed by their own government. The sole aim of this evil structured poverty is political: to starve people into total submission to the tyrannical rule of the National Islamic Front (NIF).
The huge wealth of the country, understandably, has been structurally directed to enrich NIF supporters in an official policy known to all by (Al Tamkean = Policy of Empowerment) which lavished the country’s wealth in the hands of government officials and supporters and for buying more support. Corruption, bribes and abuse of power are rampant.
Sudan government has been classified as the third most corrupt government in the world. The huge national wealth that is the inalienable right of the Sudanese people, supposedly to be expended on public welfare services, is being wasted in buying political support, spent on military and intelligence forces to repress political discontent, and ultimately to ensure the day-to-day political survival of the regime. Because the government has waged an unrelenting economic war against its own citizens: wholesale sacking from government posts; hundreds of thousands of civil servants were sacked, engineers, doctors, university professors, and a whole trail of professionals have wholesomely been forced out of their jobs and out of the country, dispersed in all corners of the globe looking for a decent means of livelihoods.
7 Million Sudanese in the Diaspora:
Sudan has an estimated number of between 6 and 7 million Sudanese in the Diaspora, dispersed in all corners of the world. Thanks to the generosity of those host countries in which the Sudanese find refuge. This is nearly a quarter (25%) of the entire population being forced by their own government to leave their homeland. If the Palestinians and Iraqis have been forced out of their homelands because of wars from outside, the Sudanese dispersion is because of wars from inside. Almost all of the Sudanese in the Diaspora are among the very highly qualified professionals and skilled labour (engineers, doctors, university professors, managers, lawyers, etc). This has also been a deliberate consistent policy aimed to force out the most effective and dynamic forces in society.
This forced mass outside migration has been a deliberate two-pronged policy: to deprive the society of real and potential opposition leadership, on the one hand, and to vacate key posts of employment to be filled out by NIF personnel, on the other. This is an official policy of replacement of civil service personnel by NIF cadres of supporters. Alongside this policy is another strategy aimed at destroying existing state institutions and the creation of parallel institutions in the NIF’s own image. Examples of such parallel institutions include the creation of the Peoples Defence Foreces (PDF) to be in place of the weakened military; the state security and intelligence forces to replace the weakened police; the proliferation of Islamic universities, military university (e.g. Karare University) and police university (e.g. Rabat University) to replace the weakened national University of Khartoum. All in all, state institutions have been virtually dismantled, purposely to enable the government to have a free hand of action in all walks of life, unhindered by institutional regulatory laws, to shape the Sudanese society and economy in its own image.
The Oil Wealth:
The poor Sudanese people have paid dearly during the nearly twenty years of the NIF rule. The economy has been a “war” economy during all those years. People have suffered greatly for the lack of basic amenities. Funds have been channeled away from public welfare services to fuel the wars; first in the South, and now in
DarFur. With the exploitation of oil, the Sudanese people were hopeful that at last they could be relieved of the many hardships and declining living standards. However, with the country now as an oil exporter, there are no signs that the oil wealth has done any thing to improve the general situation of the Sudanese. On the contrary, while oil flows out of the country, inflation is soaring, the living conditions further declining, poverty is claiming new territories and the price of bread doubling. Over 95% of the Sudanese are living below the poverty line. Instead of directing the oil revenue to improve the living conditions of the people, the government is spending the country’s new oil wealth on arms sales to perpetuate the wars, on the huge army of security agents and informers to entrench itself in power and further consolidate its wealth and authority.
In one of the most bitter ironies in the development debate, the Sudanese government gives the unique example of a state that invests the enormous national wealth in the development of destruction instead of development of exponential growth. The gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically. Today in
Sudan there are two classes: the fabulously wealthy, and the have-nots. There is no middle stratum in
Sudan. The “Blue Collars: civil servants, lawyers, university professors, doctors, teachers, journalists” have been crushed into poverty to join the mass of the poor. In a 2004 UN report,
Sudan has been tagged as the worst example in the world for unequal distribution of the national wealth. This huge social divide between the very rich and the very poor is fuel for social and political unrest. Instead of being a blessing, the new oil wealth has thus turned into a curse, further adding to the deep fissures in society. The government also uses the oil wealth to extend its ideology regionally and internationally. Part of this strategy concerns the training and funding of Islamist militants ready to be posted to fuel wars in
Iraq. The Sudanese oil wealth is thus used to finance such operations, contributing further to the process of regional and international destabilization.
Hideous Record of Torture:
The Sudanese government has subjected the Sudanese people to systematic torture, especially those opposing the regime. The government, through its infamous security and intelligence forces, have invented methods of torture that indeed exceed in brutality and hideousness even the most vicious ways adopted by evil dictators. The criminal genius of the government and its security forces has invented methods of torture that are unprecedented and quite unique to the Sudanese security forces. Fortunately, these evil methods of torture have been amply documented in a publication entitled
“Al Ta’azeab fi al
= Torture in
”, published by Al Nadeem Inc. in
Cairo. The book is edited in
Egypt by a group of psychiatric doctors treating many of the Sudanese victims of torture who managed to escape from the hell of the infamous Ghost Houses. The victims recount their miserable experiences of torture on the hands of the Sudanese security agents. Luckily, they managed to escape death only narrowly. However, the psychological trauma has scarred their poor souls. They will be forever haunted by the nightmare of their torture. The ultimate goal of these hideous methods is to utterly crush the victim, physically, mentally and psychologically. The nauseatingly sad personal accounts of the victims, which form the matter of this important document (the book is censored in
Sudan), amply testifies to the morbid criminal nature of the Sudanese regime.
A Threat to International Peace and Regional Security:
The present Sudanese government is a major threat to regional security and international peace. The present instability in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, in the
Basin and in the Horn of Africa is clear evidence of the Sudanese destabilization strategy in the region. Since it came to power in 1989, the Sudanese regime has adopted a hard-line Islamist extremist ideology that it vowed to export to neighbouring countries. This line of thinking has never changed. And despite claims of co-operation with the international community frequently mouthed by Sudanese officials, they are intent on bringing the entire geo-political map firmly under their grip.
The consequent unstoppable warfare in the region, the mass killings, the wide-spread displacement, atrocities, abuse and crimes against humanity which we see rampant in the region, is but a whole mess created by the Sudanese hands, and left for the UN and international community to clean up. The international community, represented in the UN, has a responsibility
towards the maintenance of peace and security world-wide. Obviously, the Sudanese regime poses a threat to this collective human endeavour. The establishment of international peace and security is a noble human will, collectively enshrined in the basic tenets of the UN Charter. Failure to maintain peace and security in Central Africa, especially in DarFur and the
Basin would be an unforgivable
mistake on the part of the UN (not to repeat the Rwandan mistake). The Sudanese regime, the instrumental agent in this regard, should not be allowed a free hand to undermine UN credibility and frustrate the will of the international community.
What to Do?:
What should be done in
This question needs to be addressed with due urgency. There is ample evidence and a general agreement now that the government in
Khartoum is altogether bad. Though, the challenging question remains: what should be done about the bad Sudanese government?
Many observers concerned about the situation in
Sudan, have contributed many useful ideas and insights about possible solutions to end the
Sudan crises. All agree that the government in
MUST GO. But How? Suggested possible solutions varied from diplomatic economic sanctions, to trials before the (ICC) International Criminal Court, condemnation of
China’s role in
Sudan, arms trade embargo, no-fly zones, to threats of direct military intervention. However, almost all of these strategies have so far proven ineffective to carry the Sudanese officials change their minds. The UN finds itself in an unenviable position, torn between its responsibility towards maintaining peace and security enshrined in its charter, on the one hand, and its indecision and inertia about what to do in
Sudan, on the other. In the last resort, a veritable military action could be the only language that the government in
Khartoum understands. However, a military action sanctioned by the UN Security Council could be self-defeating to the UN basic principles. How could the UN, committed to the maintenance of peace, resolve international security problems by means of military action? Obviously this is a contradiction in terms.
Neither is non-action a good option. If left to itself, the present situation inside
Sudan is more likely to explode into even bloodier wars that eventually lead to the disintegration of the country. This could be the worst scenario ever. If
Sudan disintegrates, it will lead to a catastrophic uncontrollable situation in its extensive geo-political space, affecting its nine neighbours and other states further afield that are liked to
Sudan either ideologically or strategically. If
Sudan disintegrates into smaller states, the new states will not be viable, will suffer from internal tribal wars (e.g. the warring factions in
DarFur), which will also spread outwards endangering the entire African continental stability. In the event, it will send masses of refugees to neighbouring states.
Sudan will be more likely to become a fertile breeding soil for extremists, other dangerous groups and for organized crime.
Sudan oil production will be halted at best, if not stopped completely, therefore ending supplies to
Sudan’s oil customers such as
China. This in turn will have negative repercussions on the soaring oil prices driving prices even higher. A united
Sudan is now regarded, with a few other states, as one big hope for people on our planet earth to salvage the serious international food problem. Also, according to some oil experts,
Sudan probably has the biggest oil reserves in the world so far undiscovered. For these two major strategic potentials, it is in the best interests of the international community to work towards preserving unity in
Sudan, specifically for the sake of global security in both food and energy.
Unfortunately, however, for exactly the very same reasons, the
Sudan has become a wrestling arena for mighty international powers (e.g.
USA), and powerful multinational interests (e.g. oil, agribusiness, waters). The mighty powers battling for control over
Sudan’s potentials have vested interests in supporting the warring factions inside
Sudan, thus making it difficult to establish permanent peace in the country. Peace and stability is what
Sudan needs in order to contribute significantly to international trade, welfare and prosperity. This could be achieved by a collective effort to bring to power in
Sudan a democratically elected government that can steer the country safely to peace and stability.
Sudan has the potentials in mineral and agricultural resources that can meet- if properly exploited- the demand of the international powers that are now fighting to control it by subversion. The opposite is needed: to help the Sudanese get rid of the present bad regime, and bring to power a democratically elected government.
Part 2: A Glimpse of Hope: An Alternative Solution:
There is a glimpse of hope that we should all work together in a collective bid to make it a reality. This hope presents itself in the rare opportunity afforded by the up-coming elections scheduled to take place next year as stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) legal framework.
The evidence so far presented about the bleak internal situation suffered by the Sudanese people, and the serious threats to regional and international peace posed by the Sudanese regime, call for concerted collective action to salvage the Sudanese malaise. We ask all those well-meaning individuals, organizations, institutions and states to extend a helping hand to the Sudanese people in their present predicament to enable them regain their freedom and dignity. We ask that collective action is required to make the up-coming elections a reality. Such collective action could be coordinated on three levels: the national, regional, and international level (involving the UN). The first step towards this noble end is to press the Sudanese government into accepting a peaceful transfer of power through the pallet box. We ask that this noble mission be taken as a collective responsibility towards the establishment of permanent peace and democracy in
Sudan, to be shouldered collectively by national forces inside
Sudan, by regional forces, and by international actors and the UN. The focus of the noble mission of such collective action is to ensure the necessary guarantees and safeguards for free, fair and transparent elections in
Sudan next year. For this noble end, the following actions could be taken:
To press the Sudanese government to formulate electoral laws and regulations that ensure fairness and transparency, and that will be accepted by all political parties.
Fair electoral campaign, to ensure equal access to the media channels by all contestant parties.
Close surveillance and monitoring at all stages of the electoral operation to report violations, misuse of government financial and media power, bribes and other means of unlawful practices such as buying of votes.
Transparency at all levels of the election process, the census, constituencies, candidacy, etc…
The formation of neutral committees composed of membership from national and international observers to oversee the “health” of the electoral operation as a whole, and to report any violations from any party.
The final results of the elections can be declared safe and binding only by official endorsement from the joint committee of observers, or otherwise be annulled thereby if it considers serious unlawful practices and violations have been committed.
This is to guard against possible renegation in case the results are not in favour of the government. The government, in the absence of sufficient safeguards, is more likely to repeat the tragic Kenyan experience when the government lost earlier this year.
This path we consider to be the safe way out from the Sudanese stalemate leading to a peaceful transfer of power through the ballet box. It is an honorable and noble quest for which we should all join hands to lay the foundations for lasting peace in
Dr. Ahmed Hamoda Hamid Fadlalla
University in Jubail
7th 2008. Jumadah-1, 2nd 1429H.