By: Alula Berhe Kidani
The RCDCS (Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society) organized for three days (29 April-1 May, 2019) a very important workshop on “Institutional and Legislative Reforms for Democratic Transformation in Sudan”. There is no dispute that this is a critical issue and challenge for the coming transitional period. The importance of the issues in the framework of this workshop theme goes far beyond the papers presented as naturally one workshop cannot cover them all. So, we hope and sure that the RCDCS is planning for more to shed light on the other issues. We have chosen to start our review of the workshop Six papers with the paper titled “Confidence Building Measures in Sudan: For a Conducive Environment for Democratic Political Transformation” presented by reputable lawyer and civil society activists Dr. Sami Abdel Halim Saeed.
The thirty years (1989-2019) of the rule of military dictatorship has witnessed mass grave violations of human rights. This in turn led to the spread of armed conflicts which all political, diplomatic and civil society efforts to resolve on the base of peace and democracy has failed.
One of the main factors for this result was the lack of confidence between the stakeholders. All the agreements that have been reached with this party or that have diverted from it agreed upon path and didn’t reach its final goals, the attainment of peace and democracy.
Large part of this environment of lack of trust and non-confidence was created by the past military dictatorship and it political and media organs. It aimed at destroying its opponents to insure remaining in power for the longest possible period. The other main factor is the lack of freedom of expression and assembly, which made any form of a sustainable connection between the different components of the civil society and political parties an impossible task.
So, the relationship between these components was characterized by the lack of confidence and weak trust basically among the political parties and groups, armed groups and the civil actors, opposition and central government, youth and political and civil leaderships and between rural and urban citizens.
In the present historical period and during the transfer of political power peacefully from a dictatorship to democratic governance which should ultimately lead to routine peaceful exchange of power vide elections; also in particular after the ousting of Al Bashir and his arrest with his leading assistance in the government and the ruling party, the NCP (National Congress Party). In this circumstance, the confidence building process has a significant importance for Sudan. This will enable the consolidation of efforts to build a new modern Sudanese state and creating the conducive environment for all to participate in democracy sustainability, peace building and justice.
The importance of confidence building and the stress on its activation is driven by the awareness of the dangers that surrounds the political process, democracy and peace in Sudan.
The political and social arena since the 30 June, 1989 and until the fall of Al Bashir dictatorship was divided to more than one part even when some times has the same goals.
But there were mainly two parties on the ground.
On the one hand there was the government during the whole dictatorship period supported by some figures of the national capitalism, political parties leadership that have divided their parties, and some tribal leadership were on one side supported as well by the international political Islam ideology and financial resources worldwide.
The second part was opposition to the government was composed of the armed groups in Darfur, the SPLM-North in South Kordofan State and some parts in the Blue Nile State. In addition to the civilian opposition which included a large number of political parties which were in the political arena during the Third Democracy period (1985-1989), in addition a considerable number of public opinion leaders and the leaderships of independent civil society organizations including women and youth and rural areas groups.
In the framework of narrowing the gaps between these different groups with the aim of attaining sustainable peace and democracy, respect of human rights and sustainable development, many national and international efforts were exerted to build a sustainable peace in Sudan. In these efforts international pressure was exerted on both parties to make concessions to narrow the gaps between them. The results was conciliatory in appearance but lacked the political will and the civil society pressure that could have pushed these initiatives forward this was due to the non-utilization of the proper instruments for confidence building.
This paper aim to propose a new concept for confidence building as pro-condition for a free, compherehensive and transoerent dialogue and from the understanding of the kind of dialogue required at this historical stage in Sudan and to participate in the building of democracy, peace and justice. In the context of the expected dialogue, “Confidence building” must be understood that the dialogue will be inclusive and not limited to the armed movements.
Confidence building and Democratic Transformation
It is essential that all the active stakeholders ; the army, political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations understand the nature of the struggle bewteen them and its future implecation , the interets they want to achieve and the degree of its threat to the national interest at large.
This require to admit that despite the use of force for twenty five years evidence is ample that peaceful political struggle for peaceful solutions were the only less costly and sustsaianbel ones and in building the bases of inclusive national social coexistence.
Condidence building main that the parties in conflcts and disputies adapt attitudes in their relations that reflects seriouceness and crediability and achieving the joint aims agreed upon by the parties taking into account that many Sudanese attempts on confidence building in the past have failed. This was due to lack of crediablity ,political will. So, confidence building strategies should be part of mechanisms to create a condusive political and social environmnet that results in propsoals between the parties on the political transformation in Sudan.
Building commuincation mechanisms between the different stakeholders is the shorest way in the creation of the political agreements and sustainable peace. This makes a necessity the strengthening joint dialogue mechanisms which should be inclsuive and discuss all issues in an atmosphere of freedom and clearity.
The experience of the CPA (Compherensive Peace Agreement) have proved that an agreement between only the waring parties cannot result in a sustainable peace because it idnored the other stakeholders who had vital interests in the transfirmation from war to peace and from the sphere of dictorship to the sphere of democracy and public freedoms.
The starting point in this regard should be a general consenus between all on the principle of resolving all disputies and conflicts peacefully.
But this alone will not be enough to build confidence between the stakeholders even if there are negotiaiations between them open or secret.
So, it is necessary to take some steps to create and build confidence bewteen them and induce all to indulge in a poitive manner in the political communication.
In this context it is very important to agree by consensus on the common startegic objective of all stakeholders which the peaceful democratic trabsformation in Sudan. Then pin-point the issues of differences. Such definitions make easier the setting up of the dialogue agenda and course and start the process of confidence building. In turn this will lead to joint actions and confidence building startegies for the futiure.
In Sudan cumlutative experience, the successive military dictatorships have deformed many concepts and measures relating to confidence building; national dialiogue, national consensus, social dialogue, dialogue for peace to mention just few. This led to loss of credibility of these concpets among the public and political activists when ever the governmnet was part of the process.
So, the partners in the new dialogue for the democratic political transformation have to cross this barier of non-confidence and non-transoerancy. Because basically the loss of the crediabiity of these instrumnets was the result of its misuse not adhering to the required measurment. All the mechanisms of democracy and dialogue are based on non-violinece and are based on universal recognized principles which have proved its effectiveness in many countries.
The civil society organizations which are one of the major channels of society peaceful social activities can play a major role in the confidence building machnisms and proces. But up to now the civil society capabilities and capactities have not been fully utlized in creating the conditions for confidence building between the different stakeholders.
Confidence building measures are not binding agreements in which every signatoray has certain obligation that must be implemented. On the contrary it is measures that are taken voluntaerally and unlitarely in steps to create a conducive environmnet for reconcillation and political dialogue.
Past experines show that such measures can come from the stakeholders or on advice from friends from inside and ouside the country ,or in the form of neutral dialogue facilitators.
But in all circumstances , it is a procesess of give and take, and revolving roles. For example, the armed movements can declare a cease fire from their side for a certain period, and on the other hand the government waves the arrest warents against the leaders of these movements. Such steps can start the processes of confidence building that can be promoted further by other steps and so on.