Interview by Alula Berhe – Najat Ahmed
Q: The appearance of several coalitions and factions after 6 April, 2019 will it have a positive or negative effect on the future of the democratic transition?
A: Before the 6 April Coup there was a strong internal divisions and fragmentations and new element that entered very strongly the political arena which were not part of the political stakeholders. For example, the Ingaz ousted regime have promoted and increased tribal and ethnic loyalties to the extent that it became part of the political process.
This increased the fragmentation between the people. In addition, there ideological differences and also there are the remnants of the NCP (National Congress Party) supporters, the self-interest and corruption groups which had fast interested with the ousted regime.
So, we must distinguish between these interests and divide them to positive and negative divides. Those based on ideological concepts are positive which can be addressed by dialogue to reach common grounds and consensus with them. While those fighting for personal interests gained by corruption or the use of corrupt laws and practices have to be confronted because they will continue to the resist change and you have no alternative but to resist them. So, we must distinguish between these two groups.
So, there are positive difference and negative differences, so you must look carefully at the differences and resolve what can be resolved and confront what needs to be confronted.
Q: Will not these differences have negative effects the democratic transition?
A: Of course, if there are escalations in the differences it will effect negatively. For example, in October-1964 there were strong differences between the Professional Institutions
Front, the political parties and the left which lead to the downfall of the first transitional government at that time of Sir Al Khatim Al Khalifa. The second government changed the balance of power in favor of the traditional political parties. This was contrary to the composition of the first government in which the political power was in favor of the modern forces that lead the October 1964 Revolution; the power that implemented the political strike that ousted the first military regime of General Ibrahim Abboud.
Now, the revolutionaries are stronger and the street supports them and will allow this to happen again. But at the end the matter depends on the balance of power.
Q: Some circles say that the restriction on the participation of certain forces at the present in the political process is against democracy?
A: There restrictions in democracy but based on certain rules. For example, democratic principles give everyone the right to participate in the democratic process; to be elected to the parliament and local assemblies. But there is at the same time provisions in the constitutions that forbid the nomination and elections of anyone to an official post if convicted on charges on honesty in the last five years. This is an acceptable what is not acceptable is any restriction on ideological bases.
There those who have corrupted the political life and their participation at the present must be restricted. And the Transitional Military Council has made a rule that the National Congress Party members are the reason behind the present crises and cannot be part of the solution. But this is not an eternal decision but for certain period of time and as Sudanese have the right to participate later. Also, there are factors imposed by the political realties on the ground.
Q: There are attempts now to introduce the religious factor in the political equation will this affect the democratic transformation?
A: The Sudanese people are Muslims by nature and Islam is part of the Sudanese lives and Sudanese have no problem with their religion. The problem is with those who are trying to use religion for political aims. The National Congress Party raised religious slogans for political motives for thirty years. This have been and will continue to be rejected by the Sudanese people.
In addition in my view this had a very negative impact on the Islamic Movement by presenting for thirty years such a bad corrupt model.
So, there is no problem or danger for Islam in Sudan and Sudanese will continue to adhere to their religious values with the same consolatory manner with other heavenly and African traditional beliefs as have been the case for centuries.
Q: Will these religious political preachers have an effect on the political arena?
A: These people will try by every mean to negatively impact the democratic transformation. So, the supporters and advocates of the democratic transformation have to be very careful and vigilant towards any attempts that try to divert the course or negatively affect the national unity.
Q: What will be the effect of the corruption files on the situation?
A: The corruption files should be left in the domain of the judiciary and the Anti-Corruption Commission because it is a legal issue with fixed principles and we should not interfere in these issues. The ousted regime used to interfere and impose settlement. That is someone steals a certain amount, invest it and make huge profits and then allowed to refund the capital he stole. Now, the new Attorney General has canceled these settlements and the cases are back to courts.
So, any interference is rejected and combating corruption should be on institutional bases and solely on legal bases without interference for or against the corrupters.
Q: What are the conditions for the transitional period?
A: The, Freedom and Change Forces (FCF) have a program for the transitional period and this is open to additions and reforms.
The big difference I think will be in the ability to mobilize the people potentialities for the development project because the people during the ousted regime period were very frustrated and so where not interested in the good performance of their duties. Now, we don’t want them just to perform excellently their work but to be as well innovative. They must initiate voluntary small propjets and not wait for the big projects and which in turn can address partially the unemployment issue.
The universities should present feasibility studies that people can implement, in other words make development a popular issue.
This is very important because first of all it will absorb the energy of the youth now in the protests grounds. Also, give them an aim in life to work for and same time gradually tackles the challenge of unemployment.
Q: What will be the role of the Media in the coming period?
A: The media is facing great challenges and you may need to organize a conference on the issue. The challenge is not in the content alone because the present Information Communication Technology has changed the media concepts. Now the Social Media is more influential than the traditional media but same time the traditional media is still more professional.
We see at the present the traditional media attempting to address this challenge and same time the social media is trying to gain public credibility.
The traditional media have lost two merits that is the merits of time and space. For example, today an event in China is broadcasted in Khartoum in the TV at the same time as in Beijing. This requires that the traditional media focus more on in depth reporting and analysis of the news and on investigation reporting. So, it must adapt to the new realties and became an arena for genuine dialogue. The social media and TV stations give quick reports but not much substance and this is the gap that the traditional media should fill.
Q: Sudanese women have participated very strongly and effectively in the 19 December, 2018 Revolution. How do you see women role on the coming period?
A: I think people have to look very carefully to what happened during this revolution.
First, it is a youth revolution and no one can deny this fact. Second is the wide women participation in it. These are and still are the most prominent features of this revolution, youth and women. So, it is necessary to admit this fact and utilize this revolutionary moment to adapt the 50-50 equality formula. I don’t agree with the FCF offer of granting women 40 percent because women represent 5o percent of the society and should so receive 5o percent of the power. And even if there are not enough competent women to fill the quota there will be no problem but establish the right. Also, the issue should not be a gender issue but the concern of all women, men and youth.
Q: How can the challenge of the call for separation by some parties in Darfur and East Sudan be addressed?
A: We made a very big mistake in South Sudan when we gave legitimacy for the principle of separation (Self-determination). States don’t accept self-determination in this manner.
There is the internal self-determination that is there are states with certain sovereignty in certain internal matters. This is a internal self-determination in the framework of the national state. The external self-determination that the right to secession from the mother state is a right not worldwide used and the last two cases were in Czechoslovakia and South Sudan.
Eritrea is not part of these models because it was an independent state that was merged by force with Ethiopia. But Sudan was a unified country since 1821. But we voluntary gave the right to secession to South Sudan and so established the principle.
So, now we have to exert a great effort to convince the population in these areas that they will not be marginalized anymore and will be granted their rights in equal footing with all the other segments of the country.
Q: I have participated in almost all Al Ayam Center workshops on Social Justice during the last three years. But I don’t see the issue strongly focused on at the present?
A: There is a basic problem in the concept of social justice. In Europe, the focus was on the relation between the employer, the employee and the state and this was strongly linked to social insurance.
While in a country like Sudan we find the majority of the population is self-employed and scattered all over the country. In such a case social justice is to provide free basic services and in particular, education and health. And even if at present there is not the sufficient funds there should be a strategy and plans for gradual implementation for the provision of good quality health and educational services.
Same time can adapt the social and health insurance schemes in the urban areas. I think there is a need for a Social Welfare ministry to conduct studies and which have strong connections with the trade unions and the civil society organizations.
Q: What is the message you would like to send to revolutionaries in particular and Sudanese in general?
A: I think one of the most important challenges which is not focused on very much is the issue of Transitional Justice.
This is very important for the start of a wide ranging national reconciliation because without addressing the past grievances it will impossible to have a genuine national reconciliation. The South Africa model is a good one in this respect and there is also some Sudanese research in this area that can be benefited from in this context. There are off curse rules and conditions for the transitional justice process which should be discussed to adapt the most suitable for the Sudanese context.