1 June 2017

Sudan's Multiple Fronts

opinion

From the deadline regarding an expected decision on US sanctions, to the split in the SPLA-N to the Gulf crisis, Sudan is at crossroads facing new fronts that pose new challenges that require a different handling based on good reading of what is going on.

On Thursday the US authoritative business wire service Bloomberg released a report indicating that government agencies in charge have concluded in effect that Sudan sanctions should be lifted, though these recommendations are yet to be endorsed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and approved by President Donald Trump.

However, one of the main worries and potential stumbling block is the role that could be played by NGOs and lobbyists to abort the expected move. Two points could be mentioned in this respect: for the Trump administration issues related to human rights and democratic transformation are taking a back seat at best. The main worries for the White House is combating terrorism and intelligence cooperation in addition to standing up to Iran. In both issues Sudan has something to contribute.

The second point is related to the rejection of the SPLA-N of the US Aid proposal regarding aid delivery to areas under the control of the SPLA-N, a refusal that led to direct accusations from former US Special Envoy Donald Booth that rebel leaders are pursuing personal agenda at the expense of the people they claim to represent. Then came the split within the SPLA-N to weaken whatever impact it and its supporters have and reducing their influencing the expected decision on sanctions.

The second front is the split within the SPLA-N along tribal and ethnic lines to the extent of some skirmishes taking place. The first casualty is that for the time being any serious talks to reach a peace deal will be shelved till things will be settled down and it becomes clear who is really in control.

Then came the flare up of the Gulf crisis, where a Saudi-led blockade against Qatar is getting into its second week and with no clear sign on how is it going to end or an exit strategy from the crisis that could take other dimensions. Sudan having good relations with both Riyadh and Doha has opted to stay neutral though there is a danger of a worsening possibility and Sudan will be forced somehow to take sides.

However, with every day passes Qatar gains some ground and the chances of it being forced to swallow the demands from the other party gets meager. A good sign of this is the $12 billion arms deal it signed with Washington and the emergence of Tillerson as point man to handle the crisis according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

That improves the chances for a mediation and Sudan's role could be revitalized. It has been announced that next month King Mohamed VI of Morocco will be visiting Sudan. The visit, first of its kind to Sudan, is part of a Moroccan drive to reinstate itself in Africa after it has been readmitted to the African Union following years of boycott.

Though joining hands with Morocco will give Sudan mediation an extra weight that adds to the Kuwaiti effort, yet the central issue remains: How Sudan can position itself in a better way that enables it to handle its own problems as well as those regional or international that have their impact on it.

The inability to keep problems inside the country and work out solutions led to the phenomenon of having Sudan problems handled by various regional and international capitals. From Naivasha, to Abuja to Nairobi to Addis Ababa to New York and others Sudan became a hostage.

Last week witnessed a major development that should be used as a launching pad to reduce foreign involvement in Sudan's issues to the minimum. Both the African Union and the UN have agreed to an old request from Khartoum to scale down the hybrid peace keeping force in Darfur (UNAMID).

This reduction with its implied recognition of improvement on ground does not mean that the problem of Darfur is solved. Equally the split within the SPLA-N does not mean that there is no longer an issue in the two areas.

Rather it is an open invitation to the government to redouble its efforts to create genuine peace that enables the inhabitants of these regions to taste its dividends and eventually be its defenders.

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Sudan

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