29 November 2011

Sudan: The British Ambassador His Blog and Sudanese Government


Few weeks ago, the British Ambassador in Sudan wrote in his blog an article entitled "Celebrating World Food Day in Sudan?" The Ambassador attempted to link the resentment towards food inflation with the protests that Khartoum witnessed in the last two months. Subsequently, Sudan's foreign ministry summoned the Ambassador and stated that some of the figures he listed were not accurate and that he should be careful in what he writes in the future.

The Ambassador has stated so many things in his article, and his analysis of the economic situation is not a secret. To the contrary, his observations are well known to most of the Sudanese who are struggling to secure their daily and basic needs. But, why is it a big deal to criticize the economic situation in Sudan? This might be attributable to the capacity in which the Ambassador expressed his views. For me, the article seemed to be from a British Citizen who lives in Khartoum in his personal capacity and not in his capacity as an Ambassador.

It makes no difference whether Nicholas Kay in his personal or official capacity criticizes the economy and the way Sudan's government handles certain political challenges. What he wrote is a mere fact. One could understand why the government fears such comments. Protests have taken place in different peripheral areas around the capital, for reasons other than the political situation, the constitution and power sharing. This time's protests are for securing drinking water and reducing prices of necessary food commodities.

A few days tour in Khartoum would help to see how it is detached from the conflict that recently erupted in South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Khartoum is also isolated from Darfur and the complexity of its situation after the secession. The local media only conveys the government version of events while other dark sides of the conflict remain mysterious.

No one seems to comprehend that the secession of the South of Sudan has serious repercussions on the North of Sudan. The government has had enough oil revenues during the five years interim period that preceded the secession as provided for under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. These revenues were mainly spent on security forces when other vital sectors were increasingly marginalized. Accordingly, adopting an austerity plan in Sudan without addressing the root causes of the problem would not help; it would rather exacerbate the issue. The government is simplifying both, the economic and political challenges after the secession. To overcome these challenges, some sort of thoughtful approach has to be taken. The adverse economic effects of the secession could only be mitigated if there is a political stability in the country. This entails, of course, political accommodation and full realization of the requirements of Sudan's historic transitional phase.

Unfortunately, the deliberate news blackout policy is no longer viable and effective when it comes to the prices of food. It is true that Sudan's capital city is isolated, along with its people, from other parts of Sudan. But Sudan itself still has to interact with its surroundings. The Arab spring that swept through the Middle East and Africa has to visit Sudan at some point. Every single Sudanese would welcome it and host it except those who still think that tyranny, dictatorship, corruption, poverty, hunger and unemployment could do anything other than fueling a wounded nation and encourage it to revolt.

The author is a human rights activist and visiting researcher at Harvard Law School

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