The statements made by the President of the Republic on his meeting with the Media last Wednesday 6 Feb. on the Public Order Law came to most as total surprise, especially the strong and hard words that he used saying that the “Public Order Law implementation contradicted 180 percent the Sharia Code adding that it was used for embalmment and the defamation of people reputation and character. The president also pointed to that he will meet with the competent authorities to discuss this law.
The first point that must be stressed on that the president statement must result in strong safeguards so that the law cannot be used again in such a manner.
It may be useful in this context to revert to an expert legal opinion. In a paper (Constitutional and Legal Perspectives in the Freedom of Religion and Belief in Sudan) presented to the Workshop on: Religious Freedom in Sudan organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on last 29 Jan, the reputable legal expert and former Dean of the Faculty of Law in the University of Khartoum, Dr. Ali Suleiman man Abdala wrote:
Section 152 (Indecent and Immoral Act-Public Act), whoever commits, in a public place, an act, or conduct himself in an indecent manner ,or a manner contrary to the public morality or wears an indecent or immoral dress, which cause annoyance to the public feelings ,shall be punished with whipping ,not exceeding forty lashes ,or with fine ,or with both.
This section has acquired much and, notoriety due to the way it has been implemented in practice, notably in relation to what amounts to an “in does decent or immoral dress”. There does not seem to be any defined criterion as what amounts to a decent or moral dress. The matter is usually determined by the exercise of discretion and personal understanding of the law officer enforcing the provision. Not long ago a journalist was arrested and charged with this offence and was freed by the court which saw nothing wrong with the dress she was wearing. According to s.152 (2) , “the act shall be deemed contrary to public morality, if it so considered in the religion of the doer ,or the custom of the country where the act accrues”. How determines this? The Magistrates? What criteria can he use? Listening to expert witness?
What seems not to have been fully understood up to now by the political elite in both the government and the opposition is that the recent wide spread protest are not just a bread and fuel protests.
The reality is that it is a movement led mainly by youth for new radical restructure of the whole old political, economic, social and cultural structure that failed to deliver genuine development in all these spheres since Independence in 1956 and up to now.
It have not only failed with distinctions in these areas but have even failed to preserve the meager development achievements of the colonial rule.
So, cosmetic change or repackaging the dormant self-interest concepts to keep the old elite in the arena to safeguard their unjustified political, economic and social positions will lead to now where. It will only make the human and economic cost of radical change more costly as we seen now days but in the end will not stop the movement of history for change.
Same time the call for such a change goes beyond any initiative presented by these forces up to now which means that the message have not reached them in full yet.
There have been a lot of naïve comments and statements by the political elite that the protests movement has no real agenda for change which contradict the reality. Many agenda for change have been tabled and even from inside the ruling party but where not implemented because it contradicts with self-interest of certain small powerful groups.
The most recent initiative for change have come from a group of prominent academia in the University of Khartoum and which can be an excellent base to build on for a more comprehensive structural change agenda and programs.
What is important at this stage is to agree on what is the major target or targets of the intended radical change and, on its base will formulated the strategies, policies, programs and plans.
In our view this major target should be the establishment of the Democratic Developmental State on the base of a consensus on a new social contract and this approach can be the solution for the chronic crises that have besieged the country since the 1956 Independence.
The, Social Contract should compose wide consensus on addressing the major challenges that are facing the building of the modern Sudanese democratic developmental states. These issues include on the top; developing a national identity that encompasses the country ethnic, religious and beliefs diversity, the different regional cultural, traditional and norms diversities. It should also include the guidelines for Good Governance and the Rule of Law (guided by universal norms). Such a contract should contain a Sudanese Bill of Rights which later should form the foundation of the Permanent Constitution. The other issues that should be included is the principles for electoral law, reform and modernization of the public administration and institutions. Same time the adaptation of certain national principles that should guide the work of all political parties in the context of the democratic developmental state.
All these directives should be strictly adhered to in the formulation of the national permanent constitution.
The news story published by Al-Jareeda Newspaper last Thursday 8 Feb. have contained a lot of accusations and implications. The story is based on a report by the Auditor General in which accused the Ministry of Interior of not properly accounting for revenues amounting to SDG 299.4 Billion.
These allegation and in particular in the present situation require urgent action from all the competent authorities. It may be useful here to mention two of them, first copies of such reports are sent according to our knowledge to the Presidency, so we hope there will an action on this.
Same time, the Prime Minister (PM) should pay great attention to this report or alternatively say good-bye to his advocacy for the electronic governance as the report indicate very clearly that so far it have failed to deliver in the Ministry of Interior.
I was surprised when reading this story in Al Tayar Newspaper last Thursday of the total political and social insensitivity of some officials and in particular in these critical times. The issue was about the demolishing of 78 shops plots in the Al Shabia market in Omdurman in favor of an ex-high official (female). And even if the procedure is correct was this the proper time to implement it and could it have been postponed for some time.
Also, what kind of justice is this that favor the interest of one influential ex-official over that of 78 families? Is this some kind of administrative corruption?
Here again the PM have to take this story into consideration to give creditability to has so far verbal campaign against corruption.
In maybe important here to point to an important study published in 2002, which was published by the World Bank and written by Paul Collier (World Bank) and Anka Hoeffler of the Center for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University). This study which covered more than 40 countries, had rather a very unique title (Greed and Grievances in Civil Wars).
The authors have come to the conclusion that actions of economic greed by influential politicians in the government and opposition have built gradually grievances and by the passage of time lead to violent conflicts and civil wars.
The action we discussed above in our opinion comes in this context. So, the Omdurman market case is maybe one more classical model that we can add to this study.
Sudanese politicians and groups have an amazing ability in advocating for contradicting positions and statements. And this actually happened recently in the National Dialogue Parliamentary Group press conference last Thursday.
The Group called on the government to open dialogue routes with the Sudanese Professional Group which is leading the present demonstrations.
Then added that have the National Dialogue Outcome Recommendations been implemented seriously the country could have avoided lot of hardships and crises.
So, if the main objective of the presence of this Group in the National Assembly is to oversee and promote the implementation of the National Dialogue Recommendation, what have they been doing all his time .