Washington is Sudan’s Gate to the World, but Change should Start at Home
By Mahmoud Al Abed
Sudan is receiving contradictory messages from the international community amidst its persistent efforts to reintroduce itself to the world.
At a time when the US is reportedly seeking to re-establish diplomatic affairs with the Arab African country, the super power was keen to deny Sudan, a frontrunning candidate for the seat at the "Community of Democracies," membership on the powerful body.
On September 13, Sudanese State Foreign Minister Ali Nimeiri quoted US charge d'affaires Raymond Brown as saying in a meeting that his country planned to establish representation.
Brown resides in Kenya, but frequently visits Khartoum to see to the functioning of the US embassy there, and “to acquaint [US] with Sudan's affairs and establish a constructive business relationship with Sudanese officials."
Nevertheless, there are criteria that Sudan has to meet in order to satisfy the world master and start to lead a normal life under its wise guidance.
Sudan’s long “sheet of charges” includes harboring terrorism, human rights abuse and dictatorship.
Sudanese President, General Omar Bashir, who came to power in 1989 through a white coup, realized the rule of the game, and winds of change began to blow.
Ambitious to hold tightly to power and at the same time polish the image of country in the eyes of the West, he started by eliminating his old friend Hassan Turabi, the powerful politicians and spiritual father of the National Salvation revolution which brought the recent government to rule.
An Islamist with a unique vision, Turabi has relations with Islamists from the Arab and Muslim countries and is a sponsor of the application of Islamic Law, or Sharia, in Sudan.
Bashir fell out with Turabi last year and proclaimed a state of emergency on December 12, dissolving parliament and dismissing the veteran Islamist ideologue from his post as president of parliament.
On May 6, the Sudanese president suspended Turabi as secretary general of the ruling National Congress party, effectively preventing him from having any political role in the country as well as from making speeches.
Bashir got away with that, though handling the internal situation was not easy a task due to the popularity of Turabi. The president then turned his face to the opposition: the Muslim in the north and the southern separatists.
So far little has been achieved, but what is new is that the US is trying to help in the reconciliation process on its way.
The efforts by the US to mediate between Khartoum and the opposition in a bid to end the 17-year-old bloody war in the Christian and pagan south came parallel to a report by the State Department admitting a halt in the Sudanese attacks on the civilians in the south.
However, Sudan is not totally satisfied with the mediation.
Arab diplomatic sources were quoted as saying that the Clinton administration has invited a range of opposition parties and government officials to attend a conference in Washington, scheduled for the end of the month.
The Khartoum-based Al Anba daily said the conference would also include representatives from Egypt, the European Union and the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
"Washington's hostile acts against Sudan do not qualify it for playing good offices for reconciliation between the government and the opposition political groups," Sudanese Information Minister Ghazi Atabani said.
President Bashir went further.
In an interview in the London-based Al Hayat daily last week, Bashir said Khartoum's relations with Sudan could not be worse. "There is nothing going on in American-Sudanese relations," he said.
Bashir said he shook the hand of President Bill Clinton during a brief encounter at the United Nations millennium celebrations last week in New York. "That's all that happened," Bashir said.
Sudanese officials point to the 1998 US attack on the Shifa pharmaceutical plant near Khartoum. At the time, US officials said the plant produces chemical weapons. The US would not apologize for the bombing or admit mistakes.
Diplomatic sources said one of Khartoum's objections to the US effort is that it does not include Libya.
Libya and Egypt have joined to help end the civil war in an effort that has dismayed Washington, said the agency.
The picture is still blurred, but few would buy Bashir’s statement on Sudan-US relations, because the only way for Khartoum to enter the world is to knock on Washington’s door and ask for permission. However, it is understandable that the Arab country also seeks the help of its neighbors.
In the final analysis, there is another master that the Sudanese regime has to please: the people of the country who have the final word on whether there is democracy and respect of human rights or not.
The recent riots against decisions to ban women from certain jobs give a negative message to the world. Rearranging its internal house should be given priority if Sudan is to move forward into the 21st century and invest its human and natural potential for the welfare of the nation, the whole nation.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)