Reducing Sudan to Three Nos!
Reducing Sudan to Three Nos!
It is one’s right to support the path to normalization between Sudan and Israel that began recently. The same applies to the right of opposing it and being offended by what some see as the fruit of US blackmail. The only condition that can be suggested, for either supporting or opposing this step, is that the stance be based on Sudan’s interests. Here, opinions may vary widely, but they remain subject to criteria we believe to be decisive: the move’s effects on the Sudanese economy, the Sudanese’ view on the issue, and its implications on the potential for viability of democracy in Sudan
These confines allow for a broad range of all kinds of views.
In the background of all this is the degrading reductionism of the country’s affairs expressed by some repudiating its latest policy. For Sudan is to be judged, per their tradition, based on the position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, while the latter, with its importance, is meager as compared to Sudan, in its size, role and significance.
This line of thinking becomes ridiculous when the Sudanese and their positions are judged according to the standards of the Arab Summit in Khartoum which became famous for its Three Nos: No peace, no recognition, no negotiation. The reality is, even if we disregarded its resolutions’ incredible lack of political realism, the conference was held in 1967; that is, 53 years ago. Over these 53 years, everything in Sudan has changed: several regimes and generations have come and gone, and tremendous transformations have shaped the regime’s legitimacy (Islamic law or non-Islamic law, democratic or non-democratic), popular culture, educational patterns, and so on.
Meanwhile, Sudan lost the south, or 620,000 km2 and 11 million people due to its 2011 secession after protracted wars between its two halves. It also suffered the tragedy of Darfur and its Janjaweeds, about which the Arabs did not demonstrate much interest. Then, it witnessed a popular revolution, the echoes of which continue to reverberate.
Sweeping developments like these, as well as the exacerbation of poverty and the intensification of its economic crises, make questioning Sudan’s positions on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict and Sudan’s coping with it a question of little importance. More critical, indeed, is the question of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict’s stance on Sudan and whether or not the conflict copes with it.
Let us remember, after all, some basic information primary school students are made to memorize: for when we speak of Sudan, we are talking about 1.9 million km2 and about 44 million people who neighbor an array of countries that Sudan affects and is affected by: Egypt, Libya, Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Eritrea.
For those who like to delve into ancient history, Sudan goes back to the Pharaonic era, and the Kush Kingdom was not the only great kingdom in its history. More important is its amazingly pluralistic composition, aside from Muslim Arabs, it is home to the Nubians of the north, the Zurgha in the south and the west, the Coptic minority and a plethora of minority ethnicities, close to 600, who speak more than 400 languages and dialects. Consequently, any stringent and officially binding ideological consciousness threatens the unity of this country, which has already suffered from official doctrines being imposed from above many times. To understand this, it suffices to quickly go over the reigns of Jaafar Nimeiry and Omar al-Bashir and the lethal ideological experiences they bore witness to.
Assessing Sudan per the Israeli-Palestinian issue’s standards is akin to evaluating an ocean according to an island’s metrics. This approach was tested when Egypt took the path of making peace with Israel in the late seventies; at the time, the obnoxious resorted to belittling Egypt without succeeding at amplifying their cause. Though this seemed understandable in Egypt’s case, due to its central role in the conflict with Israel, it is not comprehensible in the slightest concerning Sudan, which never played a role more central than hosting the Khartoum Conference.
To make matters worse, the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, despite its importance, no longer has a strong influence anywhere except Lebanon, Jordan, and perhaps Syria. Whether or not it is resolved - a question of justice and rights and the reduction of the toxicity running through our region and the world - the direct political returns are nonetheless puny.
We are in an era that some may believe is terrible, and others may regard as purely positive. However, in all cases, it is a very different era. The changing times require a change in us: A difference in our thinking and imagination, as well as our rhetoric and behavior. It is not a question of changing how we see justice or what we see to be just. It is a change in how we deal with justice and the ways to attain it, in addition to pursuing richer and more comprehensive meanings of justice than that of a stagnant mindset at a transformative time.