15 January 2013

Sudan: The New Dawn Charter Represents a Crucial Moment for Sudan

Photo: Ammar Abd Rabbo/IRIN
The charter aims to topple the government of president Omar Al-Bashir (file photo).

press release

Sudan Democracy First Group Analysis/ Position

Bright and decisive political moments in Sudan's history are rare. Among them is the signing of the New Dawn Charter on January 6th, 2013. The momentum which has been created by the birth of the New Dawn Charter will, we believe, lead it to be added to the list of Sudan's glorious days such as the declaration of Sudan's Independence on January 1st, 1956 , the Sudanese popular revolution of October 1964, the uprising of March/ April 1985, and the birth of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ( CPA) when millions of Sudanese from different ethnicities and affiliations came out on the streets to celebrate the coming of peace and to welcome Dr. John Garang to the capital Khartoum on July 9th 2005.

Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) hereby invites every single Sudanese to be proud of the birth of the New Dawn Charter. We at SDFG have been tirelessly working with our allies and partners in the broader Sudanese civil society movement towards the unification of all Sudanese agents of democratic change. We believe that the agreement of the New Dawn Charter will come to be seen a milestone in our social and political history and have declared ourselves supporters and partners in the achievement of the Charter. This support is based on the following;

Firstly, the publication of the New Dawn Charter, including the rallying together of the major Sudanese political/ civic forces around its core vision and objectives, represents an awakening from the political shock that the Sudanese political community experienced after the secession of South Sudan and the loss of a third of the country's being. The essence of the New Dawn Charter is a genuine call for a redefinition and restructuring the Sudanese State by addressing the root causes and grievances that led to disintegration and to forcing considerable Sudanese to prefer separation instead of unity. These root causes are still pushing what remains of Sudan into further fragmentation, to the brink of the abyss.

Secondly; the New Dawn Charter embodies the most united agreement of various Sudanese forces/agents of democratic change to bring an end to the single-party system by overthrowing the almost quarter-century rule of the exclusive and controlling National Congress Party (NCP). This consensus on regime change closes the door on distractions from real transformation by false claims of reform, coups and bilateral political compromises. This principled agreement among Sudanese forces on toppling the NCP regime is the only genuine formula or pre condition for forging a comprehensive solution to the multiple and complex Sudanese crisis, and not just a piecemeal or selective one.

Thirdly; the meeting of Sudanese agents of change, including the National Consensus Forces (NCF), the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and civil society movements, at this critical time, and their efforts to analyze the Sudanese crisis, generate solutions and sign the New Dawn Charter, demonstrates a practical and unique determination to build confidence and to strength mutual linkages. Through the Charter coordination in, and concentration of, the effort of daily resistance and struggle will gradually lead to the end of division among the agents of democratic change, challenging the threat of fragmentation which Sudan is now facing.

Fourthly: the New Dawn Charter addresses a wide range of themes and issues that we consider the essence of Sudan's multidimensional problematic, whether political, geographic, socio-cultural or ethnic. In addition, regardless of agreement or disagreement on the details of the content of the Charter, we appreciate that the

New Dawn Charter is the first inclusive document of its kind in recent history that has achieved by purely Sudanese efforts, and that the document brought together various political and social forces, both from the centre and the margins, on an equal basis to agree the Charter framework. We, at SDFG believes that the diversity and inclusiveness of the issues and ideas reflected in the Charter, and the positive, constructive and complementary engagement/approach of all participants (as opposed to the all or nothing approach) qualifies the New Dawn Charter as a vehicle to promote the national responsibility all active Sudanese political and civic forces. This approach also opens up the Charter as a unique, foundational framework which can be embraced by all and not a closed club. At the heart of this foundation stone is the political creation of reconciliation, healing and consensus making processes during the Interim period, in addition to the conduct of a constitutional congress that would address all outstanding issues. From our perspective, the New Dawn Charter is the only way forward for genuine collective nation building, including through the expansion of opportunities for the generation of additional consensus around the Charter.

Fifthly; the New Dawn Charter clearly embraces the path of peaceful civil struggle for change, a path consistently emphasized by the NCF and other civic movements/groups, including SDFG, during its development. Such peaceful methods of struggle will contribute to the translation of the Charter into the mainstream of popular discourse, in order that the whole spectrum of Sudanese efforts for democratic change may coalesce around it. On the other hand SDFG understands and recognizes the legitimacy of the SRF in deciding to adopt armed resistance as one of its tools for the protection and defense of millions of Sudanese citizens, in particular those internally displaced and in the conflict zones who are facing attacks, killings and bombardments on a daily basis from the NCP.

Sixthly; SDFG was not surprised by the agitation and violent reaction of the ruling party to the meeting which gave birth to the Charter, in particular the success of the agents of democratic change in creating a new foundation stone and anchor for their unity of action. The NCP's violent reactions so far against those who signed the New Dawn Charter have included the launching of military and media campaigns, accusations of treason and spying, and threats to de-legalize and dissolve political parties and to increase repressive practices. The arrest of a group of political leaders who participated in the Charter meeting is emblematic of this. SDFG views NCP attacks on the New Dawn Charter and its signatories as measures which are targeted at dissuading Sudanese-Sudanese engagement, deepening the division and fragmentation between Sudanese political forces and communities, and fostering factors that fuel the country's disintegration.

SDFG acknowledges the hesitancy expressed and in some cases, the withdrawal of commitment signaled by few of parties in Khartoum with respect to the New Dawn Charter, whether due to fear of intimidation, organized campaigns of attack, blackmailing or threats by the government apparatus, or as a result of the fragility of political interests. While we indeed expected these developments, we are also confident that those national political forces that are responsible enough and fully aware of the very serious danger which our country is passing through, will hold firm. SDFG believes that the continuation of engagement by active Sudanese forces with the heart and spirit of the New Dawn, including the enhancement the Charter framework is essential to maintain what remains of Sudan. It is the responsibility of the active national forces to stand firm against all the efforts at division and disintegration of the country which are being orchestrated through the totalitarian and racist ideologies of the ruling party.

Seventhly; the support of SDFG to the New Dawn Charter, including our support to the political actors who are facing violent attacks, is also intended to provide a greater solidarity and support to our sister civil society groups which are facing ongoing repressive campaigns by the regimes' organs. Our close monitoring and assessment of the current trends in the crackdown against independent civil society suggests that the ruling party is returning to the bloody era of the nineties. This analysis is confirmed by the current vicious attacks on the ambit of public freedoms, the suppression of the media and freedom of expression, the systematic spreading of the culture ethnic hatred, the use of excessive violence to suppress peaceful protests and attacks against organizations engaged in civic and voluntary work, including the most recent closure and confiscation of the assets of the Sudanese Studies Center, the Al- Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment, and the House of

Arts, in addition to the threat of closure of the Sudanese Writers Union, the prevention of the activities of Sudanese Civil Society Confederation and the restrictions imposed on the work of Sudanese Committee for the Protection of Rights and Freedoms.

Eighthly: SDFG had the honor of participating in, and being one of the signatories to, the New Dawn Charter under the category of civil society organizations. SDFG would like to emphasize that our participation did not reflect any preferential status. We had been working in line with the SDFG strategy to bridge relationships between agents of democratic change, between political forces and civil society, motivated by our principles of independence and political impartiality. SDFG involvement in the drafting of the New Dawn Charter demonstrates our capacity to ensure the inclusion of civil society principles and objectives at the heart of the text, including the achievement of just peace, democratic change and accountability, which appear at various sections of the New Dawn Charter.

SDFG participation in the birth of the New Dawn Charter also gave us the opportunity and honor to closely witness the Sudanese people, in their different affiliations, working together to express their patriotism to their country, eagerness for national unity, and willingness to sacrifice for common interests and not for their parties or groups or ethnicities, ultimately for the flourishing and development of their nation.

Finally; SDFG emphasizes that our signature of the New Dawn Charter confirms our determination that broader civil society must be a genuine partner/ participant in the processes of democratic change and the determination of our nation's new future. This role is clearly recognized in the Charter, whether through direct provisions pointing to participation in the transitional authorities or through close monitoring and influencing of the implementation of programs as agreed upon by the agents of democratic change.

SDFG thereby appeals to all our colleagues in all categories of civil society: to groups that the regime set itself against from day one of the 1989 coup, to youth and student movements to whom the regime denied their aspirations and hopes through practices of corruption, nepotism and repression; to the masses of Sudanese professionals (university professors, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, farmers and teachers) who have been humiliated by the regime and those who were forced into the Diaspora; to intellectuals, writers, artists and journalists who were harassed and their creations banned or burned; to associations and societies of Sudanese displaced and refugees who were uprooted; to the Sudanese women who led the struggle and sacrificed their bodies and dignity; and to the Sudanese Sufi sects and their flowers all over the country who enriched the Sudanese personality with their spirit and practices of tolerance and reconciliation and who are suffering from the regime's insults and destruction of their holy shrines.

To all these civil society categories and groups from all corners of Sudan, SDFG announces that it will launch a decentralized series of consultations. These consultations aim at generating an exchange of ideas and an exploration of possibilities around expanding the participation of civil society as authentic partners in the agents of democratic change structures, including the civil society contributions to the enhancement of, and filling the gaps in, the contents and processes of the New Dawn Charter.

*** END***

Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG): A coalition of democrats and for Sudan activists, trade unionists and academics men and women representing Sudan different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The main agenda of the initiative is to voice the concerns of the voiceless Sudanese people across the country in the current critical moment the country is going through. The initiative is connected to other initiatives formed by Sudanese people in different centers across Sudan

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The charter aims to topple the government of president Omar Al-Bashir (file photo).

Another political party has joined rebels and other parties in endorsing the New Dawn charter, a document that calls for overthrowing the regime through "political and armed ... Read more »