While the masses of Sudanese people inside and outside the country cry for peace and for an end to Sudan’s long and bloody civil war, which has claimed over two million lives and displaced twice that number, our political leaders appear to be in a shambles and in complete disarray. What is more disturbing for many of us is that they have allowed mediators with vast interests in Sudan to get control over the peace process. Their influence on the situation has become apparent and itself becomes a real obstacle to the achievement of lasting peace in Sudan. Many Sudanese have began to wonder what peace are we contemplating? Is it a kind of the old Roman Peace we want? Or do we really seek a genuine comprehensive settlement for our country.
We cannot blame anybody except ourselves as we have allowed our conflict to be internationalised and invited many mediators to be involved, which in turn has widened the gap for reaching a peace settlement and weakened our chance to make peace ourselves. It is clear now the solution is beginning to slip out of our hands and control. If we allow this to continue we will one day find ourselves forced to accept a settlement which none of us really desire.
Many of our politicians talk about peace but without commitment. The word ‘peace’ is only lip service to them. We know that peace is a strenuous business and is not easy. It will need more than commitment and dedication to achieve. It needs people to be prepared to give and take and be prepared to make compromises in order to reach an acceptable and workable peace settlement. On the other hand politicians are responsible for peace building and cementing. There are issues which have divided the country for so long that need to be addressed by courageous politicians and leaders. Unfortunately most of ours seem to lack these essential elements for peace building.
Recently, the Egyptian/ Libyan peace initiative appeared to have gained a new momentum because it was revised and some principles were added to the original declaration made in August 1999 in Tripoli. This Arab peace initiative was primarily to reconcile the NIF Government and the leaders of the main traditional political parties (Umma and DUP).
In a move to speed up the peace process which had reached a deadlock in IGAD the two Arab countries, Egypt and Libya, presented their new initiative to the Sudanese Government, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Umma Party. All accepted the new initiative immediately. The Government fully accepted all the nine points in the new peace plan without reservations - while the NDA accepted it but asked for some clarification on three main issues: – the right to self-determination, separation of religion from state and the constitutional reforms.
This new peace initiative was also welcomed by many Sudanese who considered it as a good step in the right direction. However, many believe that this initiative cannot succeed on its own and needs to be integrated with IGAD to achieve a settlement. The integration of the two peace initiatives has been facing some difficulties for a long time due to the fact that the Government continues to reject participation of the NDA in the IGAD peace talks. Now it has accepted to sit with the NDA at the proposed Egyptian/ Libyan conference. This now means that the SPLA/M, one of the main partners in the NDA will be present. If that is so have we wasted seven years of peace for Sudan?
If the Sudanese politicians are really serious about finding a peace for our county they should go for a national peace conference with no preconditions and without the hegemony or influence of either Arab or African countries, with vast interests in Sudan. By so doing a peace settlement can be reached and the future of our country can be saved. It is of significant importance that the Sudanese political leaders must put their country first before any personal interest or ambition.
The remarks which were made by President al-Bashir in his recent speeches in Khartoum and elsewhere will not help to bring peace to Sudan. The President said his Islamic-oriented constitution and the principles of his 1989 National Salvation revolution will not change. He also said, "They have illusions, those who think that peace means dismantling of the Salvation …This constitution will exist and the establishments according to it will also exist."
In addition to the peace dilemma which Sudan is facing another peace initiative is being launched by the US-Government to end the war in Sudan. A Special Envoy to Sudan, Senator John Danforth has been appointed for this difficult job.
With the events which took place in New York and Washington on 11 September the whole situation could be changed as the Americans will be so busy in the fight against international terrorism that Sudan might not be on its agenda. The Sudanese Government quickly declared full co-operation with President Bush to fight terrorism and it has already gained from this disaster. Sanctions on Sudan have been lifted and Sudan has been upgraded from C-category to A-category. This means the Government is now relaxed and will be in no hurry to make peace. The pacific-sounding rhetoric will go on but there will be no meaningful peace while the killing, destruction and suffering of the Nuba people continue remorselessly.
It is now the role of civil societies in Sudan to take up their proper role to bring about peace in Sudan since our politicians - particularly party leaders and military dictators - have failed the entire nation and the people of our country.
In our view a peace can only be achieved when the Sudanese politicians are seriously committed to peace and when a peaceful democratic solution is found.