Sudan: Foreign Interest in Sudan - Time to Pose and Reflect

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a press conference on September 30, 2019.
29 September 2019

The welcome Sudan received during the UN General Assembly meetings that came on the heels of a series of foreign dignitaries' visit to Khartoum resembles similar foreign interest shown back in 2004, though with a difference. At stake, then, was the unfolding crisis of Darfur, which for whatever reason became the main headline defining Sudan.

The Ingaz regime did not take signals and warnings seriously at the time security and humanitarian crises deepened and ended up landing President Omar Al-Bashir an ICC indictment, which led to more isolation and sanctions against the country that became hostage to Al-Bashir and his efforts to save himself by clinging to presidency, which became his only guarantee to avoid the Hague.

The foreign interest this time is different and a positive way stemming from the hope that a peaceful popular uprising succeeded in toppling an old military Islamist regime can open the way for a better future.

Moreover, a country like Sudan with huge natural resources and suppressed demand following decades of sanctions provides rich opportunities for business in various fields and a chance for a development take off.

But more important the new interim period with the aim of laying foundations for democratic transformation could provide a new example of a nation building. Western countries especially the Americans have shunned the idea of nation building given its colossal cost and meager outcome, if any. Iraq is a good example of that failure despite political commitment and deployment of resources for that end.

Sudan literally is a state that needs building from scratch: its institutions, infrastructures, human capacity as well as reviewing policies and regulations. And in all these fields foreign help could be forthcoming and interest expressed so far show that the possibility is there.

But all that depends on Sudan putting its own house in order first and take the first necessary steps to reform and shoulder its domestic responsibility first and ahead of any expected or promised outside help.

Prime Minister Dr. Abdalla Hamdok has introduced the new face of Sudan at the world forum of the UN last week as well as conducting tete-a-tete meetings and engagements with foreign dignitaries.

Yet concrete outcome of all this will depend on what is going on inside Sudan, mainly concluding a peace deal with rebel movements in Darfur and the two areas of the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, in addition to the uphill battle of tackling the economy.

One of the toughest jobs facing Hamdok's government is that it has at its hand the twin task of removing cronies of the deposed regime from key positions in the state apparatus and at the same time rebuilding a new civil service that will work towards implementing what the popular uprising called for.

That takes debate to the Forces of Freedom and Change (FCC), who have spearheaded the popular uprising that toppled the Ingaz regime and are the political force behind the government and should be shouldering mainly the burden of the nation building.

However, the post-revolution performance of FCC raises more questions on its cohesiveness and its ability to deliver solutions and provide answers to many issues.

Take for instance the issue of the vacant post of the chief justice. It shows first the weak professional ability in drafting the constitutional document and endorsing it despite its obvious loopholes that got FCC and eventually the whole country in the current quagmire. Moreover, instead of addressing the problem in a serious manner to find a legal solution, FCC or parts of it are exercising activism calling for demonstrations to appoint a new chief justice rather than sit with all stakeholders to look for political, professional solutions.

Clearly one of the problems is the composition of FCC itself. It is a broader political alliance claimed to be the biggest in Sudan history, but what ties all these forces was their anti-Ingaz stand than what they do instead when they have power. That is understood. In such alliances people agree on broad lines, but governments don't work on generalities, but on detailed programs.

And unless this issue is addressed in a way that gives Hamdok's government the needed margin to carry out its programs and FCC provides the needed political backing short of activism, prospects for success don't augur well.

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