Sudan: Belief That Khartoum Regime Will Reform Is Misplaced

The tendency by the United States and its allies to count on the existing regime in Khartoum to embark on serious reforms towards achieving genuine democracy and stability is illusive. Putting all the eggs in the basket of the current regime is a dangerous gamble.

It is clear that the position on Sudan of many US (and other Western) officials is based on the belief that the stability of the country and the region is dependent on maintaining the current regime in power. Recently, Ambassador Lyman – the US special envoy to Sudan – said “frankly we do not want a regime change–we want to see freedom and democracy [in Sudan] but not necessarily via Arab spring”. This position received criticism on the grounds that it might embolden the Khartoum government as it continues to practice aggression against its own people.

Many Sudanese civil society organisations, as well as other concerned parties, have voiced their fears of the country’s potential disintegration, stating that Sudan is on the verge of collapse. They believe that if the current political and economic situation continues to deteriorate as is currently the case, it is highly likely that the governing regime will lose control over the country, leading to chaos.

Sudan is already referred to by many observers as a failed state – a situation that is only getting worse with the new wars in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. These have resulted in mass displacements and instability among the populations of these areas. According to the UNHCR, “South Sudan hosts some 200,000 refugees, including more than 170,000 in Unity and Upper Nile states.” It is worth mentioning that the rebel coalition known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), which brought together for the first time Darfur movements that were once split into small factions, is now controlling 40 percent of the international border between Sudan and South Sudan. It has also been reported that the regime’s armed forces have recently suffered serious defeats by the SRF, whose rebels are surrounding Kadougli, the capital of Southern Kordofan state.

Adding further fuel to the fire, fighting on the border between armed forces from North and South Sudan has created a dire situation in terms of accessibility to basic consumer goods and other sources of livelihood. The regime announced an emergency situation along the border areas, blocked cross-boundary trade between the inhabitants and declared South Sudan an enemy state. This has stemmed from the loss of 70 percent of its oil revenue after the secession of the South, doubled by South Sudan’s halting of oil production.

Darfur remains a problem, without any progress on the latest Doha agreement/s and conflict and related crimes are still reported there on daily basis. The protests and demonstrations, which broke out in the capital city of Khartoum and many other places in the country, due to the austerity measures declared by the government, are an indication of the complete failure of the regime’s economic policies.

Despite the recent UN resolution 2046 urging the Sudan and South Sudan governments to settle the unresolved issues between them, till this day there are no prospects of implementing the agreement. Abyei is the case in point – the government is still using it as a bargaining chip, while pretending to protect the Messeriya interest. The Messeriya have never been engaged in any serious way to participate in deciding their own position, hence there is a wide dissatisfaction among them of the manner by which the government is dealing with the issue.

It has become clear that managing and resolving the many and complex challenges facing the people of Sudan at this juncture will not be realized by the current regime alone. It would be of high risk to count on this regime to maintain stability and unity in Sudan. In this critical period it is crucial to bring different Sudanese political organisations, academics, representatives of various regions and ethnic groups together to explore possible alternative arrangements to ensure peace and stability. This is imperative in order to have a political body and/or structure that can fill the gap; and preserve the integrity and unity of Sudan.

Hamdan Mohamed Goumaa, a Sudanese Peace and Development Activist, living in the USA.