Messages beaming out of Washington DC last week following the meeting of Friends of Sudan as well as other statements by senior American officials point to one thing loud and clear: the international community still holds good intensions towards Sudan and its peaceful revolution, but translating those good intentions into practical deeds depends to a large extent on Sudan and civilian-led authority.
The Friends of Sudan Forum that comprises several countries as well as regional and international organizations is looking into various issues with emphasis on economy as one of the main challenges facing the transitional government, in addition to the fact that it is meeting regularly and provides a vehicle to coordinate world and regional support. One of the good signs the next meeting early next year is scheduled to be held in Khartoum, which should give the government the chance to prepare its own plans.
But all depends on Sudan putting its own house in order, have specific plans that the Forum can support. It is understandable that the government is facing uphill battle of dismantling the remnants of the Ingaz regime at the time it is putting foundations for change.
The message that the solution to the country's problems is domestically based is stipulated clearly on two important issues: Removing Sudan from the list of States Sponsoring Terrorism (SST) and the peace talks that have already started in Juba.
It was the veteran US diplomat and special envoy Donald Booth, who painted clearly the path to delist Sudan from SST. Though he stipulated that as an administration they will do its best to speed up the process, but it is not having the ultimate say on the issue that has been tied with congressional acts in years 2002, 2004, and 2006 which put in place many overlapping restrictions. Also, he pointed to a number of other acts they are having global scope such as child soldiers, trafficking in persons and religious freedom, adding that under these acts Sudan is subject to sanctions.
Though he pointed out that, "certainly we are engaging with the Congress to look at how some of those restrictions may be interpreted or can be modified going forward," but clearly the net outcome of this engagement so far is negative on two aspects: that it is not up to the administration alone to carry on the delisting, which requires having plan (B) in place. And that brings the discussion back to the domestic front.
That was stipulate clearly by the Forum, who said in its statement that they have, "agreed a multi-donor trust fund may be an appropriate mechanism to support Sudan's economic reform program, particularly the need for a more robust social safety net program to cushion the impact of macro-economic reforms on Sudanese in dire poverty. They reiterated the importance of securing unfettered humanitarian access." The key words are may be, which indicates the conditionality that it depends on Sudan.
On the central issue of the peace talks, the Friends of Sudan made an important statement that, "further peace talks would be best in a Sudanese-to-Sudanese format, possibly hosted in Khartoum, and warned against spoilers who refuse to participate in this unique opportunity to address the root causes of Sudan's internal conflicts."
With such an international backing, the government needs to make a strategic decision that eventually peace talks have to move inside the country and carried out in front of the Sudanese people. The two main lessons generated from the December popular uprising that succeeded in toppling the Ingaz regime are that it is peaceful and domestic, which contradicts what rebel movements have been practicing over the years in terms of resorting to violence and engaging with foreign capitals.
The Forum statement went a step further to warn against "spoilers", which could be of use in helping tackling the issue of SST delisting. Parts of the delisting process depends on concluding peace deals in Darfur, but there could be "spoilers", who for whatever reason may not want to joint any potential peace. And that is where an international involvement with some pressure or at least absolving Sudan from shouldering the responsibility of derailing peace.
Yet again that depends on Sudan having its peace deal in place as part of an overall looking inward first, putting house on order before looking abroad.