A national dialogue to address Sudan’s endemic crises requires security and basic rights for all citizens, a lifting of the state of emergency and a cessation of hostilities, say Sudanese civil society groups
Eighteen NGOs issued a statement on Thursday demanding that the national dialogue, proposed by President Omar Al Bashir earlier this year, should be inclusive of civil society.
Hafez Mahmoud, Director of the Sudanese Justice Africa, one of the signatories of the statement, told Radio Dabanga that the dialogue process should not be limited to political parties. “They lack the participation of society.”
Other signatories of the statement are the Darfur Bar Association of lawyers, the centre of Alkhatim Adlan for Enlightenment and Human Development, Nuba Relief and Rehabilitation, and Sudan Democracy First.
“We welcome calls for a national dialogue in Sudan, but we are deeply concerned as active civil society organisations that current plans for dialogue fall short of the minimum required,” the statement said:
A common approach to addressing grievances across our country is desperately needed. A de facto one party system has confiscated democratic freedoms and sought to silence dissenting voices even from within its own ranks. Piecemeal approaches to peace have failed, with the Darfur conflict now in its eleventh year and fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continuing unabated.
Full enjoyment of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, association and assembly, along with a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access are required before any meaningful dialogue can start.
“In my many travels to Sudan over the years, I have been inspired by the resilience, courage and vision of civil society leaders and activists,” said Ambassador Princeton Lyman, the former US Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan.
“I am impressed by the commitment of these non-partisan Sudanese citizens to advancing the interests of their country through open public consultations on creative proposals to resolve long-standing national problems,” which is why he is especially “concerned that the government has recently been increasingly engaged in a ‘crackdown’ on civil society organizations and leaders,” he wrote for Al-Jazeera.
“The dialogue must be inclusive of all stakeholders and not restricted to political parties and alliances within them,” the NGOs added:
The process must not be elitist, limited to like-minded political parties and lack the participation of and accountability to society at large. This will require public access to credible and independent information on the dialogue and the space to debate and reach consensus. The ultimate failure of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was its lack of ownership by the Sudanese people. This time around, representatives of victims of Sudan’s many wars, civil society, youth, women’s groups, trades unions and intellectuals must be included, as well as political parties, and society at large. The National Congress Party (NCP), National Consensus Forces (NCF), opposition groups, and Sudan Revolutionary Front must all participate.