Sudan Should Reject Foreign Involvement Into Its Domestic Affairs

5 January 2020

The maverick rebel leader Abdel Wahid Mohamed Al-Nour, leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW) has long been known as Mr. No, since he is objecting to every move to engage him in serious peace talks. However, late last month he surprised everyone by calling on moving peace talks currently held in Juba, the capital of South Sudan to be moved to inside the country. The call was quickly dismissed by his fellow rebel leaders as cheap propaganda.

In fact Al-Nour is not alone in this call. Two months earlier the Friends of Sudan forum meeting in Washington said in a statement following its meeting that it, " welcomes the progress in peace talks between the transitional government and Sudan's armed opposition groups and encouraged all parties to participate in good faith, noting that peace was one of the key objectives of the popular revolution. The Friends of Sudan agreed 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 the political change taking place in Sudan a number of measures have been adopted with the aim to create a conducive environment for peace in the country. Among measures taken releasing political prisoners, namely those belonging to rebel groups, rescinding court rulings against others and allowing leaders of these groups to come to Sudan, move freely and meet with people.

However, such moves were not reciprocated by similar measures from the rebel groups. The reference is mainly to the issue of renouncing violence and committing to resorting to peaceful means. These rebel groups have been claiming long ago that they were forced to resort to arms because there is was no freedom margin allowed during the reign of the previous regime to air their grievance and mobilize along what they saw as their rightful duty.

However, behind any argument that could be tabled on the need to highlight the peaceful means, it is becoming clear that some of these rebel groups have been emphasizing the role of the gun, not the people, as the ultimate guarantor to secure any deal that could be reached. SPLM-N led by Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu made it clearly that he wants to retain his army for 20 years to ensure that any peace deal agreed upon is respected.

Part of this intransigence relates to foreign involvement in Sudanese affairs, which have emboldened these groups. But the root causes of this issue relates to the well-entrenched habit of Sudan's looking abroad for solutions to its problems. That practice goes back to the colonial era when the competing political groups, namely the unionists, who wanted to unite with Egypt and the independantalists, who want to achieve independence away from Egypt, but with the help of Britain.

The two main peace deals of Addis Ababa in 1972 that put to rest the first 17-year civil war and the CPA that ended the chapter of the second war in 2005, were both concluded with significant foreign involvement. Over the years Sudan witnessed a number of countries nominating special envoys to follow on peace issues in Sudan.

But it was the Ingaz regime that took the bulk of responsibility of internationalizing its problems. And that was mainly attributed to mismanagement as it miscalculated that by running around various mediation forms it will be able to shop around without committing faithfully to any of them or being willing and ready to pay the required price to achieve peace.

It is high time to work towards having a national consensus on reducing foreign involvement into the country's affairs and that even mediations can take place inside the country.

The government needs to work on a plan for that purpose and can develop such a plan based on calls by some rebel leaders like Al-Nour or more important the Friends of Sudan forum, which comprises heavy weight players on world stage. In fact part of the success of the December uprising is attributed mainly to the understanding by many players who have interest in Sudan to join hands, delay their personal interests and help the country avoid being plagued by chaos.

However, issues like reducing foreign involvement are not usually resolved on their own, but need follow ups and determination.

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