As a quick reading of the current headlines out of Sudan or perusal of this blog make unmistakable, the human rights situation in Sudan is grim. With reports of government bombardments and a declared state of emergency, Blue Nile state is only the most recent area with long-standing grievances against Khartoum to disintegrate into active conflict. But as Sudanese face dramatic new national dynamics resulting from the separation of South Sudan and watch revolutions unfold across the Arab world, could Sudan in fact be facing a moment of opportunity?
In a policy essay published today, Enough Co-Founder John Prendergast considers “What the Arab Spring means for Sudan.” He wrote:
The people of Sudan certainly deserve no less than those in Egypt, Syria, and Libya. In those countries, the U.S. and Europe are actively supporting processes, efforts, and institutions aimed at creating democratic governments that can help bring peace, development and security to those countries. Why should Sudan be different?
As the concept of the paper developed, Prendergast and Enough policy advisor Omer Ismail sat down to discuss the democratic changes underway in Sudan that the United States and Europe should support. Ismail reflected on the Obama administration’s policies toward other countries where public sentiment is challenging longtime regimes.
“It’s a choice that the American policy makers made, in terms of shifting from the policy of supporting governments, to the policy of supporting people,” Ismail said. “And we can see it clearly in the speeches President Obama has given. This is a sustainable policy, because your investment is in the people of these countries, not the governments. The governments can change, but the people are there.”
Watch the full exchange:
Ismail highlighted the growing momentum behind a more unified demand for democratic transformation in the country. “There is a good chance that these powers [from Sudan’s various rebel movements] can come together inside the cities and among movements like Girifna and Sudanese for Change, and even the old political parties,” Ismail said. “They are now talking seriously, saying, ‘Whatever is left of North Sudan now needs to be changed.’”
Prendergast’s paper proposes a comprehensive peace process that addresses the grievances of all of Sudan’s rebelling regions, culminating in internationally monitored, free and fair elections. If the Sudanese government proves unwilling to meaningfully undertake this peaceful route, the U.S. government and other concerned countries should support regime change, taking the cue from the Sudanese people.