opinion

Answering a Critical Question on US-Sudan Relations.

Mekki ELMOGRABI
Press Writer on African Affairs
elmograbi@gmail.com

When I wrote my article “Twelve Critical Questions on US-Sudan Relations”, I expected to receive more answers or comments on the security or economic situation in Sudan and the possible role of the USA. Surprisingly, I received about three articles and not just comments on this question:

Does secularism work for Sudan? Did Sudanese people overestimate the power of secularism advocates and liberal activists – who came to power after the change – in gaining more attention and support from the USA and the international community? Why they were abandoned by the West? Does this make secularism unpopular and give the radicals more power?

Both Islamists and Non-Islamists contributed to the answers to this question even without mentioning their ideological background but for a person involved in this debate for more than 20 years, it was easy to distinguish between them.

Two opposite views on Hamdok’s Initiative; the first one agrees with me that it should include Islamists and the second view said it should exclude them.

The three articles agree that Hamdok’s Initiative as a start for the solution could be the safest way and there should be a debate on the relation between religion and state. For me, excluding any political stream or power will push them to protest in the Sudanese streets, which is bad for the government because the situation is ready for a second revolutionary wave. Hamdok already has started his talks with political parties and leaders of armed movements from the East and Darfur.

In contrast, the result was negative! Why? Because already in the East, Islamists are at the top of the tribal leadership and there is a strong alliance between them and the Eastern armed movement (Bija Conference). In Darfur, the leader Dr. Al-Tigani Al-Sisi seems to be reluctant to accept the initiative. He demanded the government to dissolve the “dismantling committee” because it is dominated by the leftists; here again, the distance between the Islamists and the movements from East and Darfur became shorter. The alliance of freedom and change denied these two movements their very right to participate in the transition but Hamdok decided to handle the issue and to hold talks with them according to the constitutional document.

It is clear now that the initiative will be widened and possibly include Islamists as Dr. Al-Nour Hamad said. Otherwise, the newcomers need stronger guarantees from Hamadok’s government to be more independent from the leftists’ domination.

This big question led us before to discuss the “historical compromise with Islamists” that was suggested by Al-Shafee Al-Khdir one of the political figures who used to be the core of the close circle around the Abdalla HAMADOK. The leftists and the old guards in the Freedom and Change, the ruling alliance opposed Shafee’s historical compromise but still, the idea is alive and other experts around Hamadok gave him the same advice.

Long time no one defends secularism, Hamdok is getting closer to the image of a traditional centrist Muslim leader to destroy the negative campaign that launched against secularism and his government. The success of the initiative has put him in a position of neutrality!

Among people, secularism is not popular. The government, in only one week, was accused of drafting a law that gives the child freedom of religion and accused of stopping broadcasting “the Call to Prayers” or Azzan. The government denied the news and declared that there is no new law as the leaks said, and also the manager of the TV station brought back Azzan to the TV.

The public opinion is divided and the confirmed situation in Sudan now is the state of equilibrium or balance of ugliness between the former regime of Bashir and the newcomers who represent the westernization or the modernization stream. During the days after the 11th of April 2019 – when the Sudanese military ousted Bashir – the expectations were very high but people now became realistic.

South Sudan celebrated its 10th anniversary, does this remind you how was the US support the creation of the new state, and what did South Sudan get from this support? Nothing! It was planned that the new nation will be a model for secularism so the radicals in the North would lose. Secularism became unpopular in South Sudan after independence and now became more unpopular in North Sudan after the 2019 Change.

The role of the USA in supporting secularism was negative in the two cases.

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