By: M. Jalal Hashim
Juba – 28 February 2021
Allow me to send to you this open letter in which I will try to pinpoint the issues pertaining to peacemaking and democratic transformation in the Sudan. In the beginning, I must reflect the great relief the Sudanese people felt towards the mission and its expected role in the pending issues of peace process and national reconciliation in the Sudan. The Sudanese people as shareholders in the United Nations expectantly appreciated the role to be played by UNITAMS, right from its onset, up to the moment when the phrase “mission accomplished” is announced.
Another point worthy of mentioning is the fact agreed supported practically and assured politically regarding is the firm stance of SPLM-N and confirmed will to reach a fare, just and lasting settlement for the chronic peace crisis of the Sudan. To them, war has never been an option, not for the SPLM-N leadership nor for their people; rather, it has always been a matter of necessity when there is no option at all. The SPLM-N people have been all the time aspiring for true and lasting peace. However, true peace is not only a matter of signing agreements without addressing the root causes that have led to the civil war in the first place. True and lasting peace is the one that brings about acceptable and applicable solutions to the root causes of the war. If peace is not done in this way, civil war will recur over and over again. This is how civil war has become a Sudanese phenomenon in its own right since independence and up to the present moment.
Below, allow me to make a summary of the steps taken so far with regard to the peace negotiations in Juba between the Sudan Transition Government (STG) and SPLM-N:
1. In mid October 2019 in Juba (South Sudan), the ongoing peace negotiations began between SPLM-N and the Sudan transitional Government (STG) with the of South Sudan mediation (SSM). What was unmethodical was that the STG delegation team came to the negotiation without any proposal and without having any offer for peace. Aside from the initial document of ordering the negotiation agendas (First the political issues, second the humanitarian aids, and third and last the security arrangements), presented by SPLM-N and agreed upon on 18 October 2019, literally nothing had been achieved for almost a year. The negotiations stalled due to the explicit refusal of STG to concede to the secularization of the state through the dismantlement of the religious state of the deposed regime, which is a fundamental necessity to pave the way for peace and democratization. The Declaration of Principle (DoP), also presented by SPLM-N as nothing was forthcoming from STG, was not agreed upon as the STG adamantly refused to endorse the clause that includes secularism. By February, the STG delegation left Juba without the information of SPLM-N delegation which has never left Juba since October 2019 up to the moment. Until the moment, the two delegations have not met officially.
2. On September 3rd, 2020, in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), a breakthrough was achieved when Abdel Aziz al-Hilu (Chairman and Commander of SPLM-N) and Abdalla Hamdok (Prime Minister of STG) signed an agreement of DoP, in which the issue of secularism and separation of religion and state was endorsed by the PM of STG. However, next day, on September 4th, 2020, the PM of STG insisted that the agreement signed the day before to be subject to further unofficial joint workshops. Even though his demand might undo the September 3 document, al-Hilu agreed to the suggestion of the PM of STG. On November 1st, 2020, coordinated by the office of the PM of STG, the unofficial workshop was held in Juba with the sole aim of discussing the separation of state and religion. On November 3rd, 2020, the workshop came to an end with 7 recommendations all tackling the issue of how to separate religion from state. At the last ceremonial session, in which the head representatives of SPLM-N and STG were supposed to deliver their congratulatory speeches, the head representative of the STG backtracked and revoked what was wholly agreed upon, claiming that the PM of STG and his office team acted out of their mandate. The members of the STG left Juba with the promise to return soon after holding consultations within the ruling institutions in Khartoum never to show up again in Juba.
After this summary, allow me to pinpoint the pending issues pertaining to the state of stalemate of the ongoing peace process in Juba. In this, I will try to speak out the demands of an important sector that believe that what is going on in the Sudan is nothing but the Inqaz regime 2. We believe that there are structural factors creating the obstacles to peacebuilding and performance factors as well. I will mention first the structural factors impeding the peacebuilding process:
The Structural Factors that stand as Obstacles to Peacebuilding in the Sudan
1. The Deep State
For 30 years the deposed Islamist regime kept purging systematically the civil service, the judiciary, the police, the security and armed forces and firing anyone who did not adhere to its Da’ish style ideology and replacing them with loyalist followers even if at the expense of technical competence. Now, after the revolution of December 2018 and the political deposal of that infamous regime, the stark truth known to everybody is that its loyalists are still entrenched in all the above mentioned institution. The very military component in the Sovereign Council (SC) are but the members of Security Committee (SeCo) of the deposed regime who are directly responsible for committing the worldwide know atrocities on the people before, during and after the revolution of December. The heinous crime against humanity committed against picketers at the sit-in on June 2nd, 2019, in Khartoum and other sit-ins in Darfur and other areas stand as fresh cases that call for justice, national and internationally. This is to say nothing about the crimes the members of the named security committee committed in Darfur against civilians, with the names of certain members of the SeCo pointed at by some people with allegations of cases of killing and rape. This is how and why many observers believe that the atrocities against the civilians have continued as nothing has happened; as if the infamous religious regime is still intact. This is the main reason that the revolutionary changes and policies the Sudanese people longed for in their splendid revolution have not been addressed, let alone being implemented, at the top of which comes the demand for a fully mandated civilian government.
On the other hand, the uniform forces (the army, police, and security) are causing havoc in the economy by seizing more than 80% of the economy of the country without paying taxes or customs and without the Auditor-General allowed to audit their books. We believe that any sensible person will agree that such a situation is not conducive to peacebuilding in anyway. We whole heartedly hope that UNITAMS will be able to empower the civilian government in this issue in particular. Or otherwise this pending issue will prove to be a big obstacle in the peace process as SPLM-N will surely include it in its negotiation position (NP). The decadence and complete dishonoring of the military uniform took place when the SeCo leaders disguised in the Sovereign Council (SC) trafficked in their own soldiers turning them into mercenaries; they transformed the Sudanese army into mercenary army hired to who pays higher in regional wars. They not only lost bashfulness in doing this, but more than that they boasted of it openly when addressing the soldiers in order to raise their morale.
With the failings of the STG, the loyalists of the deep state regained their posture and began attacking the revolution and the revolutionaries. However, their main target has been the civilian government, while not saying a word against the army, the police or the security organs. After all why should attack these uniform forces where they are deeply entrenching! The anti-revolutionary fanatical of the deep religious state have resorted to what they know better than any other thing, which is tarnishing, blackmailing and terrorizing. In this regard, the mosques and the Friday sermons were used as platforms for their tarnishing and terrorizing campaigns. Lately, one of their blackmailing campaigns and mob mobilization succeeded in suspending the revision of the primary school curricula which was aimed at getting rid of the ideological bearings of the deposed regime in public education.
In our view, no peace agreement can be implemented and honored as far as the deep state of the deposed regime is entrenched in all the government and state institutions. Hereby, we call upon you to pay the due attention to this structural obstacle; we hope that, with your help, the civilian government will prove to be strong enough to tackle this structural obstacle. If the civilian government proved to be unable or uninterested to do so, we believe that peacebuilding will be impeded in the same way we are witnessing now. In our opinion, we believe that the solution for this, which represents part of the NP of the SPLM-N, is the collective return of all the people collectively fired from their posts and the simultaneous collective purge of the top to mid top echelons who are now in service. The vacuum should be filled by young fresh recruits who are supposed to be inducted and trained by the returnees who will retire by the end of the transitional period in case reaching the retirement age.
2. The Militias of the Janjaweed (aka Rapid Support Forces- RSF)
As we all know, the deposed regime adopted the infamous policy of demographic engineering upon which it began bringing non-Sudanese people from across the borders, naturalizing them as Sudanese, arming them to chase out the Sudanese villagers in order to allow the new comers to settle in their place. This is the crisis of Darfur in a nutshell. These Non-Sudanese Janjaweed militias have become so bold after the revolution to the extent that now they are preparing to take over the rule of the country. No one should raise brow of astonishment as the Constitutional Document (CD) has recognized them as a parallel force along with the army. The Janjaweed militias under its notorious leader (Hamidti Dagalu, a barely literate person allegedly of Chadi origin who was given the rank of Brigadier by deposed Omar al-Bashir to be promoted by the Military Council to the rank of Lieutenant-General) are wreaking havoc wherever they set their feet. They are directly responsible of the killing which has been going on in Darfur on daily basis and which is well documented. The internally-displace people (IDPs) in Darfur, who were chased out of their villages and temporarily settled in camps are being chased out of these camps by the Janjaweed militias. Indeed the Janjaweed militias were the spearhead of the force that stormed the sit-in in Khartoum on June 2nd, 2019, and other sit-ins as well, committing the documented crimes against humanity. Furthermore, the Janjaweed militias, under the leadership of Himidti, are directly and admittedly responsible for many extrajudicial killings right in Khartoum and other areas, the last of which their illegal arrest of Baha’addin Nuri (41 years old male) who was kidnapped by armed people belonging to an unconstitutional and totally illegal organ called “RSF Military Intelligence” [sic] who were in civilian outfits and driving a car with no plates to torture him to death and then hand him over to a hospital, ordering the police to inform his family. This case is but an example of many other similar cases.
We believe that the very existence of the Janjaweed militias stands as a clear indication of the absence of law and the faltering statehood in the Sudan. Now the Janjaweed militias are doing jobs of policing and law enforcement; they further claimed to do the job of the army and the intelligence forces, while wreaking havoc wherever they go. They act with the contention that they are above the law. Furthermore, they are also causing havoc in the economy as they are doing business in every lucrative activity, including allegations of trafficking in drugs and human trafficking. Himidti and his family and clan members who are the leading junta of the Janjaweed militias traded in everything- literally everything, including the Janjaweed fighters themselves as they are dealing with them as mercenaries hired for money in regional wars. The irony was that Himidti, a barely literate person allegedly responsible of many cases of crimes against humanity, was even appointed as chairman of the national economic committee responsible for salvaging the country’s ailing and deteriorating economy; no wonder it went steadily from bad to worse until now the state is almost at the brink of economic collapse.
It is needless to mention that the very existence of the Janjaweed militias stands as one of the main structural obstacles to any peace process, in particular with the SPLM-N. Of course the STG will not be in the position of negotiating the security arrangements pertaining to the Sudan People Liberation Army- North (SPLA-N) as far as it has not managed to do either the inclusion into its armed forces or demobilization of these militias. However, this should not in any way mean that the members of these militias will get away with the heinous crimes against humanity they might have committed. We believe that this too stands as a challenge to UNITAMS in its endeavors to capacitate the civilian government of Khartoum and its military personnel and forces. In this regard, we do value and do urge UNITAMS to adopt and approach of transparency and straightforwardness in calling things by their names rather than alluding to them.
3. Law and Constitution
All the laws and constitution of the deposed Islamist regime are still more or less intact. Even the slight changes and nullifications made so far have not yet been ratified by the SC. It is worth mentioning that the Constitutional Document (CD) recognized execution according to the Shari’a laws and further exempted them from the limitations it generally imposed on execution. The CD itself is no more the same text that was okayed by the Freedom and Change Forces (FCF) by the wake of their agreement with the SeCo. Right from the beginning, it was subject to more than one illicit amendment by invisible pens. Just a few days after he was sworn in, the minister of justice disclosed that there were three incompatible copies of the CD at his hands. Now, after the signing of Juba Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Front (JPA-RF), the CD has been altered beyond recognition.
We believe that, among the many priorities, the constitutional reform stands as a real challenge to UNITAMS. The pending issue of secularism and separation of state and religion should be faced with courage and audacity. The Sudanese people deserve better than the outdated religious state; at least, they deserve to be like people everywhere in the civilized world, rather than be backward by centuries in the 21st century. The direct reinstatement of the 1974 laws will resolve the problem as it will make the country return to the pre-religious state era without any further ado.
4. The Rift in the STG
At least three rivalling bodies have been steering the STG, namely the SeCo as disguised in the SC, the civilian government led by the Prime Minister (CG-PM), and the FCF. The rift between the SeCo and the CG-PM is too clear to spend any word on it. The FCF, which is supposed to support the CG-PM as it was formed by nominations made by FCF, utterly failed in doing so. Right from its inception, it included conflicting bodies, political and civil societies as well. In a few months the FCF body diminished as major forces of its components withdrew from its council. Now the FCF is in disarray and at its weakest state. Understandably the remaining bodies in FCF, mostly shrinking old parties or young weak ones, have sided with the strong party, i.e. the SeCo.
We believe that the precarious coalition of the STG is very dangerous to the stability of the country. The situation has even worsened after the JPA-RF factions have joined the STG. This situation is far from being described as conducive to any real peace agreement with a powerful movement such as the SPLM-N. It is like putting a heavy tank aboard a boat that is already falling apart. Having said this, we must express our hopes and expectations that UNITAMS will prove successful in audaciously facing and fixing this.
5. The Juba Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Front (JPA-RF)
We feel deeply sorry to say that, according to the situation on the ground and the future repercussions, the JPA-RF has so far created more problems that it has solved. The blatant fact that was supposed to be heeded by the STG if it were really sincere in seeking peace was that at the wake of signing the agreement of Juba in October 2020, none of the factions of the JPA-RF had a real military force on the ground. The fact now everybody knows about, and we do believe that UNITAMS too is aware about, is that the JPA-RF factions have begun recruiting troops and building their respective armies after the signing and going back to Sudan. The Security Arrangements (SA) of JPA-RF include articles that directly speak of certain gathering and collecting points to which the supposedly fighters will have to report by mentioning their names and the supposedly armed movement they belong to.
With regard to the liberated areas under the control of SPLM-N (New Sudan), one of the JPA-RF bears the same appellation, i.e. SPLM-N, while everybody, we believe UNITAMS included, are fully aware that its existence is purely online as it has neither any piece land under its control nor any armed forces. However, the JPA-RF includes a negotiation track in its own right for the areas of New Sudan which are under the control of the SPLM-N Onground, i.e. the one chaired and Commanded by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu. No wander it has been discredited by the revolutionary masses in the respective areas claimed to be represented by the Revolutionary Front factions (RFfs) to the extent that the leaders of RFfs dared not visit the areas they claimed to represent. This makes the JPA-RF a mere farce.
According to the public opinion as gleaned from the social media, the amendments introduced into the CD at the wake of JPA-RF signing will have a great toll in the STG in general due to the concessions given to a group of factions that did not have tangible existence. The introduction of article 80 has shown how the Revolutionary Front factions (RFfs) have returned the favors endowed on them by the military component of the Sovereign Council (MC-SC, aka SeCo). The Council of the Transitional Rule Partners (CTRP) now is serving as a substitute to the Legislative Council which has not yet been formed and may never be formed. Now General Burhan is the permanent President of the SC. The most dangerous amendment to the CD is the clause that states clearly that the JPA-RF overrules the CD itself. To SPLM-N, this is a deliberate seal-up of the CD so that it will never accommodate any other agreement can be reached with SPLM-N and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) under the leadership of Abdul Wahid Mhmd. Nur.
This be so, with the systematic and heavy circulation of rumours that pressure from regional and international community is underway to compel SPLM-N and SLM to join the sealed JPA-RF, an agreement that they did not negotiate, requires from UNITAMS to clearly state its position in this regard. A liberation armed movement that dwell in its own liberated area and backed by its own civilian society can never be muscled up as foreign land hosted movements. Or otherwise the state of destabilization is the major hidden policy of the regional and international community. Neocolonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa has proved over and over again that rich resources country can easily be robbed when it is systematically and completely destabilized. We believe that UNITAMS will not be part of such neo-colonialist policies.
The Performance Factors that stand as Obstacles to Peacebuilding in the Sudan
1. The Incumbency of Hamdok
employed or ployed? Cases of national consensus are extremely rare in the modern history of the Sudan, in particular in government transitional periods. In this regard, the Prime Minister of Sudan Transitional Government (PM-STG) Hamdok stands as an exception. No prime minister in the history of the Sudan has enjoyed the national consensus Hamdok enjoyed at the wake of his incumbency. However, no one in the modern history of the Sudan other than Hamdok himself has steadily and systematically lost his exceptional huge public support and national consensus in a matter of only one year. When it comes to government internally related policies, he seems to be void of any ideas, lacking his wits and looking dumb and numb. When it comes to government foreign related policies, he seems to be quite witty and decisive, seeking no consultation and heeding none. Hamdok is the only prime minister in history who felt too timid and unsure of himself to hold an open press conference for more than a year since he assumed his office. However, he shocked his cabinet when he announced to them that he, singlehandedly and without consulting anyone of them, asked the UN to put the whole of the Sudan under the mandate of Chapter Six.
Given his historic popular support and national consensus, Hamdok is completely out of touch with the masses of people who used to chant his name as a national anthem. After one and half year in office, Hamdok has utterly failed to address openly and publicly these masses. Even when they took to the streets twice in millions over millions, all over the country, to express their unlimited support to him, he concealed himself and failed to show up and waive to the masses that were hailing him as a savior, let alone address them. To make it even worse, Hamdok is surrounding himself with the worst kind of sultanate entourage with regard to competency, transparency, or any stately posture.
We believe that UNITAMS, itself being summoned by the PM-STG letter to the UN, must pay great attention to the subject-matter of capacitating Hamdok himself in character and posture and in his office aides as well. We know that this job may prove to be very difficult, if not impossible. However, what is more difficult, bearing in mind the entrenched deep state of the deposed regime, is to replace Hamdok which will be taken as a sign for the failure of the civilian transition as a whole.
2. The Bleak Formation of the STG Negotiation Team
This factor is clearly shown in having the army officers of the deposed al-Bashir SeCo in charge of the peace negotiation on behalf of STG. It didn’t need a genius to figure out that in such a situation, peace will be more far than ever. To add insult to hurt, the STG delegation was headed by the self-styled Lieut. Gen. Himidti. The bleak formation of the STG negotiation delegation was a slab in the face of the millions of the civil war victims, maimed and dead as well. It was also a stark violation of the CD which clearly stated that both peacebuilding and the commission of peace should be under the auspices of the civilian government.
We have great hopes that UNITAMS will prove successful in removing this big obstacle to peacebuilding in the upcoming negotiations. Otherwise, our hopes will diminish and vanish in reaching any acceptable and applicable settlement. The military officers proved to SPLM-N one thing that nothing has changed and that they are still negotiating with al-Bashir SeCo in disguise.
3. The Severe Lack of Knowhow of Negotiation on behalf of the STG
In the situations of civil wars, the concerned governments are hypothetically assumed to be the party most interested in achieving peace. In governance, nothing critically questions the competence and sovereignty of the state more than civil war. The golden rule in such situations, like the revolutionary one Sudan is supposedly enjoying, says that successful and lasting peacebuilding begins by the government making an offer that the armed movements cannot decline. This means that the offer, first, recognizes the root causes and grievances that have led to the war, and, second, it has the vision to tackle them, and, third, it has the will to reach peace agreement, and, fourth, it has the power and strength besides honor to implement what it has signed. This, by necessity, means that it must have all the agendas to be negotiated prepared in advance, such as the ordering of the negotiation agendas, the DoP, the detailed NP.
With hindsight, we see that the STG team came to the negotiation empty handed. They did not have any idea about the ordering of the negotiations agendas, nor about the DoP, nor about the NP. We are obliged by our national responsibility and our ethical integrity towards our Sudanese people to say the truth that the negotiation between the SPLM-N and the STG has relied completely on the preparedness of the SPLM-N to only be hampered by the unpreparedness of the STG. It was the SPLM-N who provided the ordering of the negotiations agendas to be accepted by the STG; it was the SPLM-N who provided the DoP to be refused and rejected by the STG; it was the SPLM-N who initiated the actions while the STG reacted either passively or negatively, but never proactively. In the process, the SPLM-N gave many concessions on many crucial cases, with the government giving none. This was simply because the SPLM-N had a clear position of negotiation while the government had none. Understandably, you can’t concede of anything if you have nothing in your mind.
We believe in this regard that there will be huge work at the table of UNITAMS with regard to capacity building pertaining to the knowhow of negotiation, including the team formation quantity and quality and the technical knowledge necessary for building sound, tangible NP, acceptable and applicable.
The Platform for the Upcoming Negotiations
In this regard, we must confess that the hopes of the people in the Sudan, generally speaking, have been awakened and resurrected by the formation and arrival of UNITAMS. The ball has been now for months in the pitch of the STG. On SPLM-N behalf, they have been sitting still in Juba since October 2019, waiting for the STG to be decisive.
The bright and promising sign of optimism is that the upcoming negotiations will not start from zero. Now there is a strong platform for the negotiations to take off from. There are to achievements that the two parties (SPLM-N and STG) have, first, to capitalize on, and, second, to take them as points of departure. The first of them is the Addis Ababa September 3rd, 2020, agreement of DoP (henceforth “the 3rd September Agreement”) signed by the SPLM-N Chair and Commander Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, the Prime Minister of the STG. The second of them is the 7 points recommendation of the Juba November 3rd, 2020 unofficial workshop (henceforth “the Unofficial Workshop Recommendations”) on secularism and the separation of religion and state. We believe that reaching the agreement on these two documents has put the horse in front of the cart. The STG, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and with help rendered by UNITAMS and other concerned parties and mediators, is responsible for endorsing and ratifying these two documents. We believe that by not doing this, the STG will not fail to honor its own national and constitutional obligations, but will also fail the great Sudanese people and their splendid unprecedented revolution.
At the end, we wish you, the mission of UNITAMS, all the success in helping us to achieve the lasting peace our people have longed for since the independence of the Sudan in 1956. We wish you also to enjoy the colorful cultures of the Sudan and the renowned Sudanese hospitality.
Juba – 28 February 2021