Sudan: An Extended Honey Moon?

8 September 2019
opinion

Abdalla Hamdok, the country's first prime minister in the civilian-led government has been saying the right things since he assumed office. His last week's press conference to announce his government reinforces that impression. He reached out to rebels commending their role in undermining the deposed regime and that the forthcoming peace talks will be between partners, not antagonists, in opposing camps. He emphasized the point of empowering women and allow them fair representation on all levels of government institutions given their role in the uprising. He touched on various issues from the economy to removing Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism to the importance of having an opposition to the big talk of working toward a national program that will lay foundations for a stable civilian government that will lead eventually to democratic transformation.

Though he has been picked by the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), who has been leading opposition against the deposed regime of President Omar Al-Bashir, but Hamdok has shown a degree of independence. Early on he said he will be prime ministers for all Sudanese. He spent more time with the FFC to review the list for their candidates for the new government. He managed to press and succeeded in making his cabinet reflects what he called to have a more balanced, representative government of gender and various regions in the country. For that he persuaded his fellows at FFC to delay naming candidates for two ministries hoping they will be filled by representatives from the Eastern Sudan and Blue Nile regions.

On the face of it that is ok, but the real test will be on delivery and get people to feel some tangible change in their daily lives. How and where to start in a long list of high priorities, is the real challenge.

Moreover, all this has to be carried out into a volatile political environment given the fact that FFC is a broad coalition, whose members will pursue their own agenda especially the political parties, who will be looking inward to put their own houses in order to prepare for the forthcoming elections.

Peace was and will continue to be the key to engage all other issues from the economy to foreign relations and so on.

Luckily enough Sudan is going through a honey moon following the outstanding popular uprising that has been going on for several months to ensure having a civilian-led government. The attendance of Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto the signing ceremony of the constitutional and political documents last month on behalf of the European Union, the quick visit to Khartoum by the German foreign minister Heiko Maas to meet Hamdok and the invitation extended by the French President Emmanuel Macron to the new prime minister are just examples of this well-wishing.

Moreover, South Sudan led by its President Salva Kiir has been making remarkable effort and progress in pushing rebel movements to unify their positions. His main achievement was to include Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu, leader of the SPLM-N in this effort. Al-Hilu, with more credible military force, has been keeping distance from other rebel groups.

However, the offer of Kiir to mediate into the Sudanese conflict carries more weight given the fact he is more positioned to influence these movements and for southern Kordofan and Nuba mountains it is the only gateway to outside world. The importance of Kiir's offer to mediate is that it opens the way for building the relationship between the two countries on mutual interests regardless of the regime governing in each country. It was Sudan during the previous regime, which mediated to bring the 5-year civil war to end.

A successful end to civil conflict in Sudan will unlock huge resources of oil, water, animal and agricultural resources in the two countries for the benefit of its people. Along the borders between the two countries lives one third of the population who could provide a strong base for a sustainable constructive relationship.

It been said that both Sudan and South Sudan need to live at peace with each other and within each other. Now there is a unique chance to make that happen and turn the promise into a reality. With resolve based into a clear vision and a practical programs Sudan can enjoy an extended honey moon.

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