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Woodrow Wilson Center Ideas (For Ambassador Donald Booth’s In-Tray)

  • Category: Opinions

    What full-time anti-Sudan demonisers and over-simplifiers say and write is so crude and abrasive that it does not deserve to be taken seriously or rebutted.  On the other hand, what a highly respected and renowned Think

    Tank like the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars publishes deserves attention, because it has the potential of influencing policy makers.
    I have already written about Ambassador Alan Goulty’s “Abyei Solution” as outlined in the Woodrow Wilson Center Working Paper “The Two Sudans After the Split” (March 2012). Dr. Nuredin Satti makes a presentation in the same document that requires a response on three counts.
    He writes the following about Sudanese Islamists: “The second split within the Islamist camp is that between the Islamist movements as represented by the National Congress Party and its acolytes and the more fundamentalist factions of the Islamist camp such as the Salafis and the Wahabis.  To the extreme right of these two groups, there is now an emergent faction, which represents a relatively new strain in Sudanese society - the so - called “Takfirists” or “Apostasists”.
    However, this very significant and accurate observation seems to be disconnected from his analysis although he quite candidly underlines the US’s broken promises to the government and the reliance in US policy-making on one-sided vociferous anti-Sudan lobby groups.  He does not register the impact of the US broken promises and the sanction on the intera-Islamists balance of power or the status of the NCP-the main party in the ruling coalition-which is placed in an embarrassing position by the vocal extremist critics who ask: Show us the results of your moderate policies!  You have ousted your leader Dr. Turabi from the helm, disbanded his anti-Western Arab-Islamic Popular conference, signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that put an end to one-party rule and silenced the guns of civil war.  You shared power with the SPLM and the communists (who had 3 seats on the National Assembly), introduced an interim constitution that enshrines the Sudan’s diversity in race, religion and culture.  You accepted the referendum and respected its results that included the loss of population, land and oil.  All this did not reduce animosity towards you or lead to the lifting of unfair and vengeful sanctions.  Unless the country changes course and stops giving away “free” concessions, the US (and its strategic partner that influences policies through its AIPAC strong arm) will have no incentive to change strategies or arrive in Khartoum with bouquets of flowers.  You are pursuing a mirage”.
    Paradoxically, the US and its lobbies are in practical terms allies of these ultra-fundamentalists Islamist groups in the Sudan.  The US policies provide the fertile ground for their growth.
    This is the conundrum that will face Ambassador Donald Booth as he takes over from P. Lyman as Obama’s envoy to the Sudans.
    Another relevant point in the Woodrow Wilson Center’s document is what Dr. Satti writes about Sharia: “A harsh version of Sharia was implemented by former President Gaafar Nimeiry and continued by the current regime. “This statement is not supported by facts”.  It contradicts what he later writes about “a new contingent of some prominent NCP leaders that seem to have learned the lessons of the past and advocate for the observance of the “functional” mandates of the State and not solely its religious or spiritual identity”.  It contradicts what the anonymous introduction refers to as the “soft stand” of NCP.  Actually, there was a great deal of flexibility: the South was exempted from Sharia. Christians in the North- were exempted and although the “hudud” remained on the penal code, there is no comparison between the way they were interpreted during Nimeiry’s time (leading to the formation of a society of amputees!) and a situation in which after the 30 June 1989 Islamist take-over harsh literal application was the rare exception not the rule.
    It seems Dr. Satti is unaware of the proceedings and resolutions of the National Congress Party’s 3rd General Conference (24-26 November 2011). He refers to what President Bashir has said in a mobilisation speech and overlooks the NCP conference which stated clearly that governance is “a civil function with an Islamic reference”.  This means that there is no “holiness” in the administration of the State apparatus.  No political organisational action can be carried out on behalf of God.  Governance is a human endeavour to be agreed upon among human beings who observe and uphold certain values.  It called for collective discretion ijtihad corresponding to the times and taking into consideration the peoples’ needs for an honourable life” and “promote the Afro-Arab Sudanese identity that is unified in harmony and consideration of the diversity in its constituent parts.  Citizenships should be the basis of rights and duties whereby all are equal regardless of their colours or races, enjoying constitutional and legal rights without any discrimination”.
    The 3rd conference also acknowledged the existence of “many political problems, errors and challenges”.
    What is amusing in the whole Woodrow Wilson Center document is the avoidance to refer to the small detail that the Communist Party is the main plank of the so-called “secular” opposition in the Sudan.  Indeed, many US financed NGOs inside the Sudan and abroad are run by members of the Communist Party.  Strange bedfellows with US dollars.
    To his credit, Dr. Nuredin Satti did not shie away from putting his finger on what the US political establishment does not like to hear namely that the constant theme impacting Sudanese US relations (during military or democratic rule in Khartoum) is Sudan’s stance on the Palestinian cause. He wrote what is well known; but seldom written that the same people and forces that fronted Save Darfur Coalition (Mukesh Kapila – Congressman Frank Wolf – George Clooney and the Enough project) have now joined a revitalised campaign about South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.
    Their latest ploy (in the light of the successes of Darfur Regional Authority and the universal recognition it received) is a change of the goal posts and call for a “holistic” solution to all conflicts.  The same magic word is repeated in several coordinated campaigns and political statements, including the anonymous introduction to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s document which repeats the opposition’s “Comprehensive Conference” call.

    By Khalid Al Mubarak
    (Sudan Vision Daily)

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