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Sudan Democratic Transition Under Pressure

Sudan Democratic Transition Under Pressure

Michael Abramowitz

By: Alsir Sidahmed

 

The popular uprising in Sudan that has taken almost everyone domestically, regionally and internationally by surprise remains vulnerable given the multi-faceted hurdles facing the country path to democratic transformation.

Moreover, it came at the time democracy is under assault, as pointed out in the 2020 annual report of Freedom House released last week. “Democracy and pluralism are under assault. Dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent and spread their harmful influence to new corners of the world. At the same time, many freely elected leaders are dramatically narrowing their concerns to a blinkered interpretation of the national interest. In fact, such leaders—including the chief executives of the United States and India, the world’s two largest democracies—are increasingly willing to break down institutional safeguards and disregard the rights of critics and minorities as they pursue their populist agendas,” it said.

It found out that last year was the 14th in a row of consecutive decline in global freedom. And that while individuals in 64 countries have experienced deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties, only those in 37 countries have experienced improvements.

Sudan has been cited by Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, “as one of the bright spots of the year,”   adding that Sudan and Hong Kong — where demonstrators wary of Beijing are bravely standing up against the Communist Party’s domination — “are the kind of cases that make me feel hopeful for the future of democracy.”

He went on to warn that the journey towards democracy will not be an easy one. In both Sudan and Hong Kong the gains, though valuable, are fragile.

To complicate things more of the 49 countries designated as Not Free in the report, there are ten that have been described as the worst of the worst in their aggregate scores for political rights and civil liberties. Three of these are Sudan direct neighbors: Libya, South Sudan and Eritrea, in addition to one across the Red Sea that is Saudi Arabia. All this means that Sudanese hope for a smooth transition to democracy and human rights respect remains mired with the two main obstacles of lack of democratic leadership on world stage and an unconducive regional environment.

It was a mere coincident that the same last week witnessed US representative led by Eliot Engel, who is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has been active in Sudan’s related issues with others introducing a legislation to help foster democratic transition in Sudan. The Sudan Democratic Transition Accountability, and Financial Transparency Act of 2020 is intended to support a civilian-led democratic transition. It listed eight main areas like authorizing assistance for democratic governance, support programs for youth and marginalized population, support long term peace stability, promote accountability for war crimes, authorize sanctions on individuals who committed human rights abuses, support debt relief and multi-lateral financing from international financial institutions, advance efforts to assist Sudan government in recovering stolen assets and requires the administration to submit to Congress a strategy for supporting civilian-led government.

However, the most obvious absent item in the list is the one related to removing the country from the list of states sponsoring terrorism (SST). It is not only that remaining in the list have been blocking any meaningful foreign help that could come to Sudan in its moment of need, but it is not clear how long conditions for removing Sudan from the SST will remain the same or that the exercise of moving the goal posts will continue.

Technically removing any country’s name from that list should be a straight forward exercise: a six-month review to make sure that the said country did not carry out any terrorist activity that it did not help in logistics or financing and has made clear commitments about the future.

It was up to the administration to make use of the state of sympathy towards change in Sudan in both houses to push for delisting Sudan from the list and push for its democratic transformation.

The two previous uprisings in 1964 and 1985 have taken place in an unfriendly regional environment. This time even supposedly western powers raising the banner of democracy are looking the other side, which puts the whole burden on Sudanese people alone. 

 

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Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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