The National Dialogue: Pessimism Versus Optimism

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

KHARTOUM (Sudanow. Info)—Since the Salvation Government took power in 1989, the political scene has remained in tension in anticipation of any developments in the future of the Sudan under the external pressures, international sanctions and domestic challenges of the civil war in the south and the east with the northern National Democratic Alliance taking sides in the fighting with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement led by the late leader John Garang. The Sudanese people have remained clinging to the hope of reaching a state of national accord and reconciliation conducive to resolving the ruling problems which have crippled the State over the successive democratic and totalitarian regimes that could not reach an agreed upon national programme on which a state of rights and duties is founded. Voices have resounded since the nineties of the past century (the first decade of the Salvation rule) calling for national accord among all ingredients of the Sudanese people on grounds that the Sudan is a country of diverse and multiple cultures and ethnicities and is located in a region of conflicting international interests. This situation led to the emergence of several initiatives of various objectives and intentions by the initiators, including the Frankfurt (German) initiative and the one led by the late Sudanese politician Zain al-Abideen al-Hindi and the joint Egyptian-Libyan initiative. Those initiatives resulted in conclusion of a number of agreements, the most important of which was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the SPLM that put an end to the civil war that lasted for 20 years and the Nation’s Call Agreement between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the National Umma Party (NUP).


Umma party leader Sadiq Al Mahadi
Umma party leader Sadiq Al Mahadi

The secession of the south and the soft landing:

The secession of the South and the ignition of war in various parts of the country stimulated the compassion of the Sudanese people towards reconciliation and accord as a result of the security, economic and social challenges left over by the secession. The calls were renewed more persistently for reaching national accord and reconciliation among all sectors of the Sudanese people. The leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) Sadeg al-Mahdi led several efforts and initiatives with international and regional parties and with the Sudanese government advocating the importance for reconciliation in the style of South Africa. According to Dr. Beshir Adam Rahmah, a leading member of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), Mahdi convinced the Americans of the idea and some parties in the US Administration adopted a suggestion of “soft landing” of the regime but, again according to Rahmah, the circumstances were faster than Mahdi as the war in South Kordofan and the attack on Hijlij deferred his ideas.
Bashir adopts the call for dialogue:

Due to the international complexities, developments in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and unstable internal situations President Omar al-Bashir declared the so-called “Leap Speech” on January 27 this year - an initiative for a comprehensive national dialogue on peace, national identity, economy and international relations. As a result of doubts expressed by the political parties about sincerity of the government on the dialogue, Bashir delivered a second speech in the Council of Ministers which was clearer than the first one. The second speech was followed by a so-called round-table meeting in which more than 80 political parties and organizations took part and reached agreement on formation of a dialogue mechanism consisting of 14 members divided equally between the government and the opposition parties, that is, seven members each side. In implementation of the resolutions of the round-table meeting, the government issued a number of decisions to back up the dialogue and guarantee its success in addition to building confidence. Those decisions included one instructing the concerned authorities in the center and the states to enable the political parties to exercise their activities inside and outside their offices in accordance with the law. Other decisions provided for the press freedom and pledging safety to leaders of the armed movements (rebels) who arrive for participation in the dialogue. The political parties of the national unity government (i.e the pro-government) named their representatives in preparation for the dialogue while the opposition parties have not yet agreed on naming their representatives.

Democratic Unionist Party leader al-Mirghani
Democratic Unionist Party leader al-Mirghani


The agenda and challenges of the dialogue:

Peace, security, economy, identity and external relations have been decided as the main issues for the dialogue. The comprehensive national dialogue faces a number of challenges and threats the most outstanding of are the lack of confidence between the government and the opposition and the pre-conditions placed by the opposition, particularly the one on dismantling the regime. Moreover, there is the wide gap in differences between the political forces about the downfall of the regime as the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the National Consensus Alliance parties believe that President Beshir’s call for dialogue is nothing more than a ploy for prolongation of the regime which they think is approaching its eclipse, especially after deterioration of the economic, security and political conditions and, therefore they are calling for its downfall. Another challenge facing the national dialogue is disagreement of the political forces on a call by the European Union for holding the dialogue in Germany. The NCP and a number of other parties are reserved over this call, while the Reform Now Movement, according to its leading official Hassan Osman Riziq, demands international guarantees for the dialogue. NCP leading official Mustafa Osman Ismail, for his part, warns against external intervention in the national dialogue, recalling his experience during Naivasha negotiations in Kenya and east Sudan talks in Asmara and how British and American envoys as well as others used to intervene in the talks. Those parties would not permit success for the dialogue unless it would serve their own interests, he said. Dr. Ismail also indicates the media as another threat to the dialogue but he did not elaborate.


The international attitude towards the dialogue:

While the call for a comprehensive national dialogue was internationally and regionally acclaimed by a number of states and institutions, including Britain, the United Nations and the African Union, the viewpoints of the opposition political parties differed on the process of dialogue and divided into two groups: the rejectionists and supporters of the dialogue.


Dr Bashir ADam Rahama, PNC opposition party
Dr Bashir ADam Rahama, PNC opposition party

The rejectionists group:

This group is led by a number of opposition forces as represented by the Communist Party, the Arab Socialist Party, the Sudanese Congress and the SRF which demand taking radical arrangements starting with the freedoms and ending up with formation of a transitional government. According to a statement issued by the external relations committee of the opposition National Consensus Alliance (NCA) following a meeting with EU ambassadors, the NCA delegation told the ambassadors that the opposition group accepts the dialogue in principle but is putting forth a number of conditions to set the scene for the exercise, recalling previous cases of failure by the government in implementation of concluded agreements. They placed an end to the war, guarantees for freedoms and acceptance of a transitional government at the top of their demands for participation in the comprehensive dialogue that they say would ultimately lead to dismantling the current regime and restoration of a democratic system.
The supporters group:

Dr Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani - Reform Now leader.

This group consists of parties which were part of the opposition National Consensus Alliance, including the National Umma Party (NUP), the Popular Congress Party (PCP), the Reform Now Movement and the parties of the national unity government which include the NCP and the group of parties which are taking part in the government. These parties advocate the dialogue it is a way for averting collapse. The Reform Now Movement leading official, Hassan Osman Riziq calls for flexibility and for seeking points on convergence and averting disagreement. He advocated emphasis on finding grounds in common for the success of the dialogue, believing that the current economic crisis and the international developments constitute an impetus for sitting down together for dialogue. Riziq called for paving the dialogue climate and for permitting peaceful demonstrations. For his part, NUP senior official Mohamed al-Mahdi believes that the success of the dialogue depends on more concessions by the ruling NCP, declaration of a ceasefire on the part of the government, amnesty to opponents sentenced to death penalty and warding off internationalization of the process of dialogue.

A state of optimism-cum-pessimism prevails within the Sudanese public opinion with regards to the process of national dialogue as some people call for an accelerated dialogue ignoring the rejectionists, recommending that the process starts by the end of May instant or early June saying there is no point in waiting for the rejectionists who are waiting for the outcome of the negotiations between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to determine their position. The disagreement between the rejectionists and supporters of the dialogue may lead to one of two opinions, refusal by the opposition to take part in the dialogue and intensify efforts for toppling the government while waiting for Addis Ababa talks on the two regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile which will reinforce the position of one of the parties. The second alternative will be convening the dialogue after the viewpoints are brought nearer and the opposition agrees to participate. However, the results of the dialogue remain unguaranteed due to the absence of confidence between the two sides.
Mas/ As

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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