Khalid Al Mubarak
I was intrigued by the reaction of some journalists in our Arabic language press to the repeated assertions of ambassador Joseph D.Stafford that his government was not trying to bring about regime change in the Sudan. Some political analysts have questioned the sincerity of his categorical declarations.
“We believe, if there is going to be regime change, it must occur in accordance with the constitution and in accordance with the law, peacefully.” This is what Mr. Stafford said when he visited Sudan Vision on 8 August 2012.He went on to say that the US encourages Darfur rebels to join the Doha Document for peace in Darfur. He continued: ”Let me assure you that we do not view these rebel groups as entitled to use force to overthrow the government of Sudan.”
I see no reason for these words to upset us. If anything, they demonstrate that the US is not totally blindfolded and misled about the situation in the Sudan. They show that the US acknowledges the exceptional degree of statesmanship and political maturity that led the Sudanese government to pursue the pragmatic policy, which was avoided by previous governments and leaders who now ingratiate themselves with the US calling for regime change. A policy that prioritised an end to the horrific civil war and initiated democratic transformation and the equitable sharing of wealth and power. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA ensured the sharing of oil wealth ,adopted a constitution that recognises The ethnic ,cultural and religious diversity, as well as participation of SPLM in the hub of central power in Khartoum. Admittedly, the Southern referendum was a risk; but it should be weighed against the certainty of continued war and the explicit agreement of the parties to work for unity.
A sea change followed peace. Rebels emerged from “the bushes “and joined the decentralised government structure. Dr. John Garang returned and became First Vice President, Farouk Abu Eisa, Ms Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim together with Suliman Hamid-who ended years of underground hiding-became members of The National Assembly, representing the communist left. Other members of the opposition NDA National Democratic Alliance, including the present writer returned home. The Sudanese Armed Forces withdrew 100% from the South according to The Assessment and Evaluation Commission that was headed by the retired British diplomat Sir Derek Plumbly ;but the SPLA did not reciprocate, sowing the seeds of future strife by leaving two battalions behind.
The US knew all this and is too well-informed to be misled by the mantra soundbite of Israeli Lobby organizations (like the Enough Project or Waging Peace) that the Sudan does not fulfill its promises and only understand the language of force and coercion. In March 2012 Waging Peace has distributed a leaflet to the UK houses of Parliament falsifying The Sudan’s record of fulfilled commitments. The US is too well-informed to be hoodwinked by what Farouk Abu Eisa said on television on 22 December about the position of Sudanese women, because facts speaks for themselves: Sudanese women enjoy equal pay for equal work and are guaranteed 25% representation in parliament – more than The percentage in the UK and US. They hold leading positions in education, ministries, the judiciary and diplomacy.
Another factor to consider when we listen to Mr. Joseph D. Stafford’s statements is the fact that the US has helped to bring about normalisation of relations between the Sudan and Chad as President Obama himself has pointed out in his speech to The Ministerial Meeting on Sudan (New York 24 September 10) .The US s financial help to implement the CPA and the referendum as well as help to transform the SPLA from a guerrilla force into a disciplined professional army is also relevant. One could argue that the stalled and still running but incomplete effort of US and British advisers to transform the SPLM into a well organised political party, separate from the army, lies at the heart of the difficulties encountered by the Sudanese Addis Ababa negotiators, the AU mediators and the international community. This surfaced shockingly when The Southern Sudan Republic invaded Heglig, when it decided to shut down the oil that provides 98% of its budget and in the way President Kiir responded to contacts with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and President Obama. Until the US and British effort in transforming both the army and party are completed, we should be prepared for unpredictable and inexperienced actions. None of which should lead us to accept or tolerate the racist conclusion expressed by Steve Paterno in Sudan Tribune 9 December 12:”There is no one in charge in Southern Sudan…The Southern Sudanese can never govern themselves.”
The role of President Bashir as a peace and stability maker has not been given due attention. His visit to Juba before and after the referendum should have earned him accolades .His acceptance of the results (that entailed loss of a quarter of the land mass, a fifth of the population as well as 70% of oil proceeds) should have been received with more appreciation. The belated hint at ICC compromise “offer”floated in the 29 Nov.2012 International Crisis Group Africa Report is another proof that the whole ICC process was political not judicial. The IC Group’s analysis is grounded in the theory of the centre versus the deprived periphery where minorities live.The Group incites the periphery against the centre in the Sudan and advocates,like a self-appointed Guardian, the restructuring of the country the way it deems correct!
This, however, is not new. It was started ,according to professor Avi Shlaim,by the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who often argued that the majority of the inhabitants of the Middle East were not Arabs “Israelis liked to portray the Middle East as not predominantly Arab or Islamic, but as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural area … By forging an alliance with the minorities, Israel aimed at emerging out of its regional isolation and keeping the Arab world divided and at countering the forces of pan-Arabism.” (Avi Shlaim - Israel, the Great Powers, and the ME crisis of 1958 - Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History - May 1999.)
The only Darfuri organisation to refuse even negotiating with Khartoum is the one headed by Abdul Wahid Nur who has offices in Tel Aviv. The International Crisis Group is in “good” company, closing an eye to the success of decentralisation and the disintegration of Darfuri rebel groups, especially after the collapse of Qaddafi’s rule. Its half-baked assessments were exposed when it expected Sudan to challenge the results of the Southern Referendum. On the other hand a Charge d’ Affaires does not make statements lightly or loosely. His government can’t be ignorant of the real weight of the opposition and the non-existent prestige of yesterday’s men like Dr. Turabi who introduced the one-party rule and is now allying himself with the discredited communists to call for” democracy. “
What - we may ask - is the electoral weight of the ethnically based JEM whose catchments area is mainly the Zaghawa, who are only 8% of Darfur’s population? The gun is their only way to achieve more weight. Significantly, the I C Group’s political prescription does not include elections.
As for the SPLA/N ,the world has witnessed the standard of governance their mother organisation is capable of in the New Sudan (the Republic of Southern Sudan). Abdul Aziz Hilu and Malik Agar do not seek justice or fairness; their professed aim is regime change in the whole country. That’s why their battalions were left behind after secession. That’s why the SPLA/M never took DDR (Demobilisation, Demilitarisation and Reintegration in society) seriously, as documented by the Small Arms Survey project.This is a breach of CPA commitment ,similar to the campaign for secession not unity as the CPA stipulated.
Conclusion : We should welcome the statements of Joseph D. Stafford as our Foreign Ministry has wisely done. That does not deprive our analysts of making their own measured comments, including the following:
Firstly: We know, thanks to the enviable freedom of information and expression in the US democracy, that the US has secretly channelled arms (through neighbouring countries) to the SPLA rebels during the civil war (Rebecca Hamilton - The Atlantic - July 2011.)
Secondly: The US Clinton administration (that included Dr. Susan Rice and John Prendergast) has actually attacked our country militarily, destroying Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory on the basis of false intelligence. When the error was exposed, the US released the assets of the owner, Mr. Salah Idris, but no compensation was paid to him or to the families of the victims.
Thirdly: Despite a great deals of soothing diplomatic statements, the US has reneged more than once on promises to lift sanctions and moved the goals posts with new conditions. When the Sudan, as expected, successfully sought alternative routes to offset the suffocating sanctions, the result was more penalties. President Bush’s Executive Order 13412 (13 October 06) did not mention China by name, but referred to threat to US national security “by the pervasive role played by the government of Sudan in the petrochemical industries.”
Fourthly: Although the US is not party to the ICC and has not ratified the Statutes of Rome, and although congress has authorised the President to use all means (i.e. force) to free any American being tried by the ICC, the US has participated in the manoeuvres to politicise the Darfur crisis at the Security Council and ICC, against President Bashir who was the peace partner in ending the civil war.
The key to deciphering the contradiction between the statements of Ambassador Stafford and the four points outlined above, is the 14th of November 2012 “honouring” of L. Moreno-Ocampo ,the former ICC prosecutor, in Los Angeles by one of the main branches of the Israeli lobby in the USA. Thus things have come full circle. The lobby over blew the crisis through Save Darfur Coalition, agitated for military intervention (to protect, of course) was thwarted by the steadfastness of the Sudanese people, the quagmire of Iraq, Afghanistan ,and the financial crisis; but succeeded in the ICC allegations - a consolation prize given the original aim.
My view is that there is a real contradiction between the US democracy and the values it upholds and the policies and values of the far-right dominated Israeli establishment. Indeed, far-right is a muted description. The Israeli intellectual Eyal Megged puts it succinctly: “I would even dare to suggest that in Israel of the early 21st century, the fascist atmosphere with all its trappings, … reflects the public mood, more than in the classic fascist regimes of the 20th century”. (Haaretz 17 December 12). Last week, the Palestinian Knesset MP Hanan Zuabi, was deprived of the right to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming elections. The fig leaf of “we support Israel because it is the only democracy in the Middle East” is disappearing fast.
During the Ministerial Meeting on the Sudan, President Obama appealed to the International Community: “Now is the moment for all nations to send a strong signal that there will be no time and no tolerance for spoilers who refuse to engage in peace talks.”
The president knew that there was one country that would not respond to his appeal, and that in any confrontation, he would blink first. The US Charge d’ Affaires in Khartoum knows that too, as he delivers his most welcome and moderate statements.