Help our local partners realise their vision of hope for their communities
It is now just over two years since the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir who had ruled Sudan since 1989. He presided over a 22 year long civil war during which 2.5 million southern Sudanese died and 4 million were displaced. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, which created an autonomous government for Southern Sudan and led to independence for South Sudan in 2011, has failed to achieve peace.
Following the overthrow of President Bashir in 2019, transitional institutions and procedures were put into place, including the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereignty Council as head of state, a new Chief Justice, and a new Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok. The IMF and World Bank, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates have invested considerable sums to assist the rehabilitation of the country. On 3 September, Hamdok appointed 14 civilian ministers, including the first female foreign minister and the first Coptic Christian, also a woman.
However, progress since the transition has been slow. Many are still worried about the balance of power between civilians and military. Tribal conflicts and ‘jockeying for power’ continue. There is a legacy of militarisation of the population and there has been no disarming of civilians so weapons are widely available.
Meanwhile, old regime elements continue in the civil service. Civil parties are divided. Corruption is rife. There continue to be food and fuel shortages, and there is inadequate capacity to deal with the complex and multiple economic, social and political challenges facing the country. There has been a delay in promised reforms whilst politicians engage in power struggles. Violence, induced by a range of ethnic, religious, political, environmental and economic factors, continues in many areas of the country. Despite the hopes raised by the events of 2019, there has been an increasing distance between government and society.
All these factors are complicated by political instability in neighbouring Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Despite these many problems, western governments are determined to try to re-establish economic and political stability in the country. The following priorities have been identified:
• To support the government to bring together normally disparate groups.
• To provide the mechanism for a platform for civil society.
• To provide humanitarian resources for refugees.
• To establish economic reforms, including fuel subsidies and exchange rate reforms.
• To work for transitional justice and recognition of decades of crimes.
• To build capacity and provide training for authorities to be able to deal with the administrative, political and economic challenges.
• To encourage the military and civilians sectors to work together.
• To ensure the continuation of the peace process with consultation at grass roots level.
• To underline the primacy of civilian government and working with all parties.
• Overcoming corruption.
Each of these priorities represent a major challenge. Yet, on December 7, 2020, Sudan was removed from the ‘Special Watch List’ of the US Government ‘International Religious Freedom Act’, “based on significant, concrete progress undertaken by their respective governments over the past year. Their courageous reforms of their laws and practices stand as models for other nations to follow.”
This proves that progress is possible. And it is vital that, whilst calling for accountability for past and on-going violence against civilians, we support ongoing efforts in order to establish the hope of economic and political stability in both Sudan and South Sudan in the future.