Dr. Elshafie Khidir Saeid
While the essence of democracy remains permanently unchanged & fixed, the forms of its practice varied according to the peculiarities of each country and society. This fixed and unchanging essence of democracy is a set of universal values and principles which, in time and space, could never be abandoned or reduced.
They include the endorsement of pluralism and diversity, the commitment and adherence to human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers, the peaceful constitutional transfer of power, and the social dimension related to the provision of the material needs of the people, especially the livelihood. All forms of democracy, no matter how its owners call it liberal democracy, socialist democracy, popular democracy, revolutionary democracy, Islamic Shura, or Tawali democracy as invented by the Ingaz regime… etc., will have nothing to do with democracy unless it expresses those permanently unchanged & fixed values and principles.
In Sudan & some other countries in the region, some people consider those unchanged & fixed values as characteristics specific to the West and liberalism alone, and the political practice in our countries doesn’t need to adopt it. Of course, this claim has its objective foundations in the fact that liberalism was the first to formulate those values and principles, institutionally & directly. This is a great exploit and a historical achievement of the bourgeois revolution after the darkness of the Middle Ages. But, saying that these values are characteristic of liberalism alone is a shortsighted hypothesis since it contradicts the essence of democracy and its absolute permanent values.
The different forms of democratic practice vary according to the ground on which this practice takes place. In this regard, liberal pluralism grew, flourished, and well-established in the industrial capitalist countries, while it is immature and fragile when practiced in our countries, and is always subjected to expropriation, its forms, and its essence, the fixed and permanent absolute values and principles. In Sudan, we applied the liberal, or “Westminster” democracy three times, for example, after independence 1956, after the October 1964 Revolution, and after the April 1985 uprising, we were applying.
But, the failure in the three experiences was evident, and the alternatives were even incomparably worse, referring to the oppressive and anti-democracy regimes of General Abboud1958, General Nimeri 1969, and General Bashir 1989.
The recurring defect associated with the practice of pluralist democracy in Sudan does not mean that democracy is not suitable for our country, nor it is an excuse to confiscate democracy & impose tyranny under the slogan that Sudan, with its social, economic, and cultural composition associated with the characteristics of the pre-industrial societies, is not ready yet for democracy, and what is needed is the “Just despot/dictator”!
Moreover, the failure of this form of democratic practice or does not indicate the failure of the principle itself. In other words, the essence and content of democracy will remain the same in whatever country. The form of democratic practice in the United Kingdom is inappropriate for Sudan. Hence the challenge that faces the elites & the political thinkers in Sudan is how to create a form of democratic practice suitable for our country, a form that preserves the permanently unchanged & fixed essence of democracy, but at the same time carefully takes into account, and assimilates, the distinctive characteristics of the Sudanese reality with its ethnic, tribal, political, religious and sectarian complexities…etc. Such a formula can be easily reached within the framework of a free and democratic dialogue; if all the parties concerned strive for that.