JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
AFTER months of contentious diplomacy and protests—some of which turned deadly, the Sudanese Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) signed a constitutional declaration to bring political stability to the country. The signing of the declaration is a significant milestone for Sudan as the declaration could pave a way for the Sudanese people to experiment with democratic principles and values through the period of their political transition.
Now that the declaration is signed, we must face reality: the hardest work for Sudan begins now and the transition period will be arduous. Building a nation after decades of mismanagement by a corrupt and despicable elite is no simple task.
The country’s building of a democratic society characterised by strong institutions, norms of free speech, the right to vote, open and participatory politics, will encounter a myriad of internal—and sometimes external—political challenges. The building process will be long, perhaps costly.
It may not only cost financial resources but also human lives, unfortunately, just as it was during the military crackdown on protesters. A similar post-uprising scenario played out in the aftermath of the Arab Spring; One can only hope Sudan does not politically collapse like some of the countries that experienced the spring.
Omar Al-Bashir’s Trial and Possible Political Division
The signing of the declaration coincided with the beginning of the trial the deposed President, Omar al-Bashir on counts of illegal possession of foreign currency, corruption, and receiving gifts illegally as a public officer.
At this point, it’s not clear whether the Sudanese authorities can fairly and vehemently deal with al-Bashir’s trial matters. Some believe the trial would be a complete sham. There are, however, elements that still support al-Bashir in Sudan. These elements—some of whom are serving in the judiciary—could destabilize and undermine the trial. The burden is now upon those fighting for an open and democratic Sudan to withstand the pressure and bring justice in this case, fairly.
Meanwhile, al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly committing crimes against humanity during the Darfur crisis.
There are two outstanding ICC arrest warrants on him. After his toppling last April, there were talks in the media that Sudanese authorities could hand him over to the ICC. But the TMC squashed the rumour echoing it “will not extradite any Sudanese citizens.”
Sadly for the culture of justice in Africa, other African leaders might have abated al-Bashir considering he freely visited numerous African countries after the ICC warrant was issued. None of them refused him hospitality or held him accountable for his roles in Darfur.
I do not equally foresee Sudan handing him over to the ICC—which is a western controlled court based in Europe, an organization in which the country is not a member. Although the new Sudanese leadership is expressing confidence in handling al-Bashir’s trial, it is yet to be seen if they can.
The role of the African Union—and other players
African Union’s role as a mediator and facilitator of the talks between the TMC and FFC over the past months deserves commendation. But it is also crucial to point out that this kind of diplomacy does not end here. Continuous diplomatic engagement with the Sudanese authorities is necessary to maintain stability in the country. It is in this regard that the African Union—and perhaps the rest of the world—have a significant role to play.
This is because there is the possibility of things getting out of hand during the transitional period; The country could easily descend into further chaos. Engagement with Sudan is vital to mitigate against these risks.
Members of the Arab League also need to be a part of the diplomatic process. Since they each have interests in Sudan, they must be part of the peace process to maintain stability in the country.
The people of Sudan have done a remarkable and courageous job of demanding reform. I hope that, through genuine support from the international community, they will be able to build and maintain a new, democratic Sudan; A great deal of work lies ahead for that nation. PM
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI