Sudan’s top diplomat foreign minister El-Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed seems to be in a hurry. Shortly after taking his portfolio he embarked on a marathon negotiations and regional travels to broker peace in South Sudan. His efforts were fruitful following shrewd engagement of regional powers, namely Uganda and putting the whole effort under the umbrella of the African Union to ensure necessary backing.
Such effort is welcomed given the relationship between Sudan as a mother country to South Sudan, not only in terms of the shared history and long borders, but more the role Juba could play in paying back given its relationship with Sudanese rebel groups in addition to the economic aspect. By restoring peace in South Sudan, Khartoum can benefit from increased transit fees through its oil downstream facilities.
Armed with this success, the minister is venturing in two nearby crises and trying his luck in both Libya and Central African Republic (CAR), who have been experiencing political and security instability for years and as neighbors that situation has a negative impact on Sudan.
To shore up his idea of convening a conference about Libya next Thursday as well moving along the mediation in CAR, El-Dirdeiry took to a European tour that covered France, Belgium, Germany and Britain to list their support or at least to neutralize their opposition.
Though this activity seems to be highlighting the strategic geographical location of Sudan and its intention to play a positive impact on its neighbors, but in a way it seems to reflect in an opposite way of the general rule that the best successful diplomacy is based on a successful domestic policy.
Apparently that is not the case so far.
Despite muted military activity against rebel groups in Darfur and the two areas of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, yet the problems that led to resorting to violence are there and have not been addressed properly yet. Scattered efforts that involve Juba, the AUIP, and Doha are yet to materialize.
But more serious is that the domestic scene does not reflect an atmosphere of reconciliation or warming up for peace. On the contrary, a Darfur militia group under the name the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC) set up by Musa Hilal, who was once allied with government and now is being detained, has announced last week that it is resorting to arms to overthrow the Ingaz regime. To what extent such declaration has enough credibility or power to make a difference remains to be seen.
But regardless such announcement raises the central question: why not exert similar or more efforts to clinch a peace deal with its rebels as it is striving hard with its neighbors, thus beefs its mediation efforts and more important puts the country along the long road to recovery.
Moreover, the recent domestic moves are highlighting these concerns, namely the decision by the National Congress Party (NCP) to go solo and pass a new election law without resorting to consensus, which led to boycott by a number of political parties. Technicalities aside and that it was a handful of points that were the subject of disagreement, but the central point rests on what kind of message such a step sends to other opposition parties if this is the way NCP is treating its allies who have accepted to get into National Dialogue (ND) and have joined the government and the expanded parliament.
A new election law based on political consensus has been one of the major recommendations of the ND initiated by the government and have been met by skepticism by the main rebel and opposition groups, though some small breakaway parties joined. Instead of building on this and carry out its recommendations in letter and spirit to give credence to this exercise, the way the election law was passed in the parliament adds doubts on the government’s seriousness and helped in hardening the position of opposition groups.
This is yet another block created unnecessarily on the background of severe economic and fiscal crises that led many to ask about the relevance of all this, which is seen as mere political maneuvering that has nothing to deal with real concerns of the people.
Now it is high time to take stock, review agenda, put priorities right and provide the much needed effort and time to enhance national reconciliation, achieve domestic peace, and then venture into the regional arena.
Charity should start at home.
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