Osman Mirghani

The Arms Held Against Sudan

However much the case of stopping the war in Sudan and achieving peace is essential, it has started to invoke frustration and suspicions among people. The Sudanese government that has put peace as its highest priorities has put itself in a very narrow corner when it optimistically put a six-month target for peace. This target, that despite being on the horizon, does not seem within reach right now. This optimism was perhaps based on a conviction that the armed militias will ride the wave of the revolution and that there will be no obstacles or conflicts to stand in the way of reaching quick agreements that would bring joy to the Sudanese people and open the way for it to focus on lifting the country from the rock bottom that it had reached under the fallen regime and work on addressing the mountain of problems inherited from that regime. However, all of the negotiations that have taken place have not reached the necessary breakthrough so far. Why is that so?

The armed militias have explicitly and clearly put the blame on the transition government. That is the problem. It would have been better for these militias to translate their words and statements during the revolution that overthrew Omar al-Bashir’s regime and the Islamists into tangible actions that would accelerate the negotiations and the declaration of peace. It should have then worked with the transition government to make this stage success and to focus all efforts for the sake of stability, construction, and development. What actually happened, however, was that the militias negotiated in a way that complicated matters and did not facilitate them. This gave people the impression that they were working as an enemy and not as an ally in the revolution, and that it seemed not to have moved beyond the past in its negotiations with the former regime. Some of these seemed to people as if they were being stubborn in the negotiations and aspired for a larger share of the positions as if it were a cake to be split. In reality, there is a heap of problems that will not be solved without the joint efforts of the different administrations, and without uniting over the notion that the revolution that put “Freedom… Peace and Justice” as its slogan that expressed what people in all regions wanted, translating all their forms of suffering and communicating their aspirations for a better future in a safe and stable country that mobilizes its resources for construction and development in all aspects.

The delay in finishing the issue of peace opened the doors for the many opportunists that want to take advantage of the revolution and to many new problems and struggles fed by certain sides that are inciting tribal and regional animosities. After the violent events in East Sudan, we witnessed conflicts that led to many victims in West Sudan. At the end of 2019 and at the beginning of 2020, there were violent conflicts of a tribal persuasion in al-Junaynah in West Darfur that left more than 40 people killed according to preliminary reports up to yesterday. During this atmosphere at the moment, some sides have started to incite tribal, regional and ethnic tensions. They released statements with the names of certain bodies that are saying that the Masalit tribe has a right to self-administer according to an agreement dated to 1919, and they are demanding that this agreement be activated. These kinds of statements that cannot be fully trusted, especially that they are not signed by known figures, aim at inciting hatred and to push the issue from limited tensions into more dangerous terrains that risk the taking the country a century back in an attempt to revive demands to self-administer, knowing that in the agreement, the Masalit chose to remain in Sudan and not join a neighboring country or form an independent body.

The people making these kinds of demands may have valid fears or grievances, but they are posing the problem and its solution inappropriately. Or perhaps, they are part of those who are trying to exacerbate the issues and to fish in murky waters for some gains. Not all those who raise the slogans of marginalization or have joined armed groups were only concerned with eliminating those grievances and achieving justice and equality. For example, some sides had successfully negotiated certain gains and positions with the former regime while people are still in very bad, if not worse, circumstances. 

The violent conflicts in al-Junaynah are unfortunate. They have disturbed the peace process and the negotiations and have led to the suspension of the latter. This means more delay, and consequently, makes achieving peace in the next six months close to impossible. The responsibility for the delay does not lie on the transition government as the claims but is equally the responsibility of both sides. Otherwise, there would be no meaning to those words in areas of conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile about them being part of the revolution and one of the Forces of Freedom and Change. Based on this, these groups need to bear some of the responsibility for making the transition period a successful move toward democratic elections. This responsibility entails that achieving peace, integrating into official governance bodies, and taking part in construction and development efforts should be accelerated.

For the government, delaying the issue of peace has implications on other matters such as the economy, knowing that both peace and the economy will more than anything else decide the course and fate of the revolution. The latter two were the reason behind the fall of every post-independence regime in Sudan. People who are serious about the revolution know this, and they hope that the armed groups are also serious about the revolution. The opportunists know this and will attempt to make the situation worse. Waiting for the peace process to commence, the government cannot but increase its efforts, take note of the importance of self-development, and utilize local resources instead of relying on foreign loans and aid. Just as peace affects the economy, the opposite also holds.