From Crucial Issues Conference of 1995 to the Alternative Democratic Document
By: Dr. Amro M.
I must at the outset commend the Sudanese political parties, which could, in these critical circumstances in our lives, provide us with a huge achievement by any standards. I am one of those who suffered from the pressure of the Nimeiri dictatorship and the corrupt authoritarian Ingaz regime and I’m deeply convinced of the various revolutions proved over and over again, that the success of any revolution, depends on the unity and agreement between the various components. I am happy to see that this happens every day and establishes itself stronger. We have suffered from the lack of agreement in our past revolutions and from doing them only in a last minute manner and quickly. This happened in October and April, and now we have a document that is viable, debatable and ready for development. Our parties have suffered from vandalism and also suffered defections. I think that the mere ability to continue must be appreciated. We now have a clear agenda and have agreed to bring down the regime together. We have, contrary to the contemporary revolutions, a draft roadmap that will be enriched after the victory. This article is a trial to probe some of the fears and attempt to clarify some of the thoughts about future trends.
Most of the Sudanese parties -except the ruling National Congress Party and its ally National Democratic Party- recently signed one of the historic agreements in Sudanese history. This document is a continuation of a long history of agreements that lasted about twenty years.
We can say without exaggeration that the history of the Sudanese political life in post-independence Sudan is the history of struggle between the Islamic Sharia and civil constitution. By this we mean that all the core issues that created the modern history are associated with it one way or another. The call to for Islamic laws – as noted by Mr. Mohammed Bin Mukhtar AlShanqeeti – researcher at the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and in Islamic issues in general- illuminated the problems of the Islamic movements in the Arab world. He noted that the Islamic law is mostly concerned with ethics, not law, but Islamic movements want to turn all morality issues into legislations. (Al-Jazeera program in depth, political Islam in the Arab world – the political Islamic movement in Sudan, dated 04/26/2010).
Also Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi – a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the fifties – noticed that “although Hudood laws were mentioned in only ten verses of Quran, there is a focus on these ten verses and leaving six thousand verses?”. Al-Qaradawi believes that there is justification even to retreat from the Huddod laws (Al-Jazeera: Sharia and the life: the Hudood laws in the discourse of contemporary jurisprudence, 2/1/2011).
Not only that, Al-Azhar on the Future of Egypt document entered the discourse to “support the establishment of the national state constitutional modern democracy, which depends on the constitution accepted by the nation, separating the state authorities and legal institutions”. And it defines the framework of governance, and ensures the rights and duties for all members on an equal footing, so that the power of legislation is with the People’s Congresses; in line with the Islamic concept of the right. Islam had not known in its legislation, civilization or its history, what has been known in other cultures such as the religious priesthood state. Islam left to the people management of their communities and the selection of mechanisms and institutions to aid in achieving their interests, provided that the overall principles of Islamic law are the main source of legislation, and to ensure that the followers of other religions appeal to their religious rituals in personal matters.
Turkish PM Ragab Tayyeb Erdogan participated in this debate in his interview with Mrs. Mona Shazly in the 10th Hour Show, on the Egyptian Dream TV channel in Istanbul before traveling to Cairo. Erdogan said that “the Turkish Constitution defines secularism as dealing with people at an equal distance from all religions, and a secular state does not pose non-religious”. Mr. Erdogan is not secular, but he is a Muslim Prime Minister of a secular state, adding: “I say to the Egyptian people, not to have concern about secularism.” He stressed that the secular state does not mean non-state religion, and hoped for the creation of a civil state based on respect for all religions and all segments of society in Egypt. He called for a Constitution of Egypt based on principles that would establish the rules of the State to be modern civil ones and allow all to follow the religion they want. He gave the example himself by saying I am not a secular; I’m Muslim and the Prime Minister of a secular state, stressing that there is no contradiction between Islam and the concept of modern secularism (http://www.alarabiya.net/articles1995).
Crucial Issues Conference of 1995
This was a culmination of the dialogue that extended between the parties, who were members in the National Democratic Front formed after General Omer Bashir’s coup in 1989. The conference took place in Asmara, capital of the State of Eritrea under the banner of the Crucial Issues, in the period from 15 to June 23, 1995. It issued the final statement on Friday, June 23, 1995. The statement was signed by the Democratic Unionist Party – Umma Party – the SPLM / A and the armed forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation – African Sudanese parties – the Communist Party – the legitimate military leadership – trade unions – the Beja Congress – Sudan Alliance Forces and national figures.
The issues included all important national issues: war and peace, the right to self-determination; relationship of religion and politics; form of government and the elements of the future Sudan. The most prominent issues that have been agreed upon came under the religion and politics in Sudan. It was agreed that the constitution will include all principles and standards of human rights included in the charters and covenants- regional and international human rights- as an integral part of the Constitution of Sudan. In addition, any law or decree, decision or action to the contrary is null, void and unconstitutional. The statement declares full equality between citizens, building on the right of citizenship and respect for the beliefs and traditions and non-discrimination among citizens based on religion, race, gender, culture and invalidates any law contrary to this as unconstitutional. The most crucial aspect was that political parties should not be based on religious basis. However, that State was entitled to recognize and respect the diversity of religions and beliefs and commit itself to work to achieve coexistence and peaceful interaction, equality and tolerance among religions and beliefs. The state was also responsible to allow freedom of peaceful advocacy of religions and prevent coercion, or any act or conduct inciting religious and racial hatred in any place in Sudan.
Another prominent issue that has been agreed upon came under the form of government, as it stipulated that Sudan will be governed on a decentralized or an expanded federal state, based on the distribution of powers and authorities agreed between the Centre and the northern and southern entities (see the documentation for a comprehensive political solution http:/ / www.umma.org).
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005
When the Peace Agreement was approved in 2005 (between National Congress Party and Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Naivasha, Kenya) its main objective was the call for commitment to democratic transformation. It was hoped that the elections will be the culmination of a comprehensive process to end and dismantle Islamic totalitarian rule. The National Congress considered CPA a shield from international accountability and considered winning the elections inevitable by any means. SPLM considered it a significant threshold for the upcoming referendum. Americans and Europeans realized the defects and documented them, but they accepted the CPA and the results of the elections.
Arab regional organizations, the African Union, the Conference of Islamic States, dealt with the “elections” to the satisfaction of the Government(s) they represent. The elections were scandalous to any measure. The Sudanese parties, all of them were very keen on the general elections and would have defeated the alleged Islamic party (got 12% in 1986 elections) if there was a minimum degree of integrity. Eventually all stages of the elections- starting from the census of population, the demarcation of constituencies, violation the rights of Sudanese living abroad, electoral law, finance, registration, nomination, the control of the election, the ballot counting and sorting and scheduling and the election results- were invalid. The elections were stripped of meaning and entered the history of Sudan as the most corrupt elections. The ruling party received about 97% of the elections, results that never happened in history.
Post Ingaz regime arrangements (Democratic Alternative)
The culmination of the evolution of the Sudanese political thoughts and the bitter experiences in exclusionary, centralized racist regimes led to many disasters; long wars, conflicts and instability. The Document had clearly indicated the transfer of Sudan from revolutionary crisis to the revolutionary moment: people are revolting against the regime; parties reached an agreement on the path to the future and moral and legitimate collapse of the regime and confusion. We should appreciate the boldness and courage that the parties had shown to be able to go beyond their differences and unite for the completion of this document – which included all important issues of the current times.
The Democratic Alternative between the parties needs to be united with the rest of the people in this revolution, thus creating an important achievement for the revolution.
The document addressed means of political struggle by mass peaceful uprising; interim period limited to three years, the Constitutional Convention of civil democratic State based on equality between citizens, confirming that the people are the source of authority. It contains a document of human rights based on the principles and values contained in the covenants and agreements – both regional and international. Also discussed is cease-fire in all fronts and the release of detainees and sentenced political prisoners, the adoption of dialogue and negotiation to resolve disputes, restructuring the state system in order to achieve a real democracy, the application of the principle of nationalism and a national public service institutions ,independence of the judiciary, and national media outlets, preservation of dignity of Sudanese women, in culture, institutions and laws, especially a legal public order and personal status. Economic reform takes into account the social dimensions, and puts an end to corruption and waste of resources. The laws of elections are to be democratically governed and organized free and fair at all levels and finally the pursuit of a balanced foreign policy and independence to serve the higher interests; both economic and political.
There are five blocks contributing effectively in the Revolution: youth movements, civil society, Sudanese women, political parties and the Revolutionary Front (movements in Darfur and South Kordofan and Blue Nile).
We see that the document is so far binding to the parties; other partners will participate through their opinion at the time of the victory of the revolution. All parties agreed completely on most items in the document and bringing down the regime. People make revolutions; not the representatives of the peoples.
Issues of the Democratic Alternative document
The main issue in this document goes along the lines of previous agreements in October 1965, and the uprising of 1985. Where the agreement is signed between the northern Sudanese political parties and trade unions and labor – especially in the earlier revolutions, at the fall of the revolution a transitional government were formed and then calls on the armed movements to the dialogue. These agreements often led to the failure of revolutions in achieving their goals.
In previous revolutions, Sudanese people come out united in solidarity, as is happening now, and when the revolution was victorious and the regime fell, street forces go back to their homes and were confident that the representation of parties, trade unions and the armed forces will achieve the objectives of their revolution. This never happened, and also the experiences of Tunisian, Egyptian and Yemeni people’s revolutions had shown that clearly. Fields in these counties are still full of revolutionaries after two years of revolutions and force the leaders to continue achieving their goals. Autumn is coming and the Sudanese people will continue even after the success of his revolution, to ensure the complete materialization of their aspirations.
The situation now is completely different in the street; those who are leading the Sudanese Alliance are now a huge block of the populations:
- Youth movements in different organizations (Girifna, Sharara, Youth for change, change now, and others), these organizations include parties’ youth and independents.
- Organized civil society organizations working in all sectors of civil organization (such as the Shrooug forum Sunrise, the Sudanese council for defending freedoms, journalists, doctors, lawyers, kagbar, Manaseer and hundred dozen others). The East Sudan Front is part of these forces and its agreement with the regime failed and it returned to a state worse than before.
- Sudanese women entered the revolution as one of the most important actors, the reality of addressing the requirements of daily life and the preservation of families and also from the reality that women are the most present in the classroom and public functions. It is not surprising that a number of Sudanese women activists were arrested and imprisoned in the past weeks and have been subjected to beatings, torture and humiliation. The case of Mrs. Safia Ishag – a rape victim by Sudanese security forces- and the late martyr Awadia Agbna had been the most crucial motivations to attract a large number of young people to be engaged in the national action. The spark to this revolution was actually staged by brave students in the University of Khartoum boarding houses on June 16, 2012.
- Sudan Revolutionary Front (Darfur parties and the SPLM\ North), not a movement in the south, are in the heart of the event and had contributed and continue to harass and weaken the military powers of the regime and their party cadres exist in the heart of the movement of the Sudanese revolution everywhere. The Democratic Alternative (and I’m seeing right at this stage) has addressed these forces in Section II, “running the country during the transitional period of three years of a transitional government will include all political forces who signed the document for a Democratic Alternative and factions, the Revolutionary Front, taking into account the representation of women, civil society and youth movements and personalities democracy”.
Lessons learned from our past history are that any political agreement must be launched by the presence of all these forces in the first meeting after the victory of the revolution. All these forces are the product of the regime’s policies. We do not want to repeat the painful experiences of the Tunisian, Egyptian and Yemeni revolutions. I think we should initially and in the presence of all the Sudanese blocks representatives aim “for the establishment of an agreed upon a national program of a democratic alternative”.