#SudanPoorGovernance: A movement for change

#SudanPoorGovernance: A movement for change
A day of protest is being held globally on June 30 against governments cozying up to Omar al-Bashir.
4 min read
19 Jun, 2018
For longer than I've been alive, Sudan has had the same president. As of Saturday 30 June 2018, Omar al-Bashir, the man who led a coup to take control of the country, will have acted as its head of state for 29 years.

And Bashir is not just any head of state. This is a leader who has waged wars so brutal that they earned him International Criminal Court indictments for crimes against humanity and genocide.

This is a leader who, like Syria's Bashar Al-Assad, has bombed and allegedly even gassed his own citizens. A leader so catastrophically incapable of governing his country and economy, that even the residents of the traditionally privileged capital, Khartoum, can now not afford staples such as bread, and queue for fuel, though are often left empty-handed. A leader so repressive that as recently as this January he used the pretext of demonstrations over these dire economic conditions to round up and torture political dissidents and human rights activists.

Sudan's status in the world has varied over the past 29 years, from one of an outsider met largely with indifference, to a pariah regime perceived to be at the forefront of a global political Islamic movement, to what is fast becoming a partner for Western governments looking for cooperation on migration, trade, and counter-terrorism intelligence. 

This is a leader who has waged wars so brutal that they earned him International Criminal Court indictments for crimes against humanity and genocide

Chief among those offering Sudan an olive branch is the United Kingdom, the country's former colonial power, and what was once a "critical friend" steadfast in its commitment to the respect of human rights in the country.

April saw the fifth meeting in a bilateral "strategic dialogue" process that has so far lasted two years. 

This is an elite-to-elite dialogue, with representatives of both governments and their civil servants meeting privately in a room and only sharing outcomes in mutually agreed communiques, which seem only to contain vague promises to "do better". It is not broad-based, and in fact, during the latest talks, the UK delegation actually held its consultative meeting with Sudanese civil society only after their government meeting, leading me to question whether they know what consultation even means.

One group that has never been consulted is the British public, and included in its number are the 50,000 or so Sudanese who have emigrated or been forced to seek asylum in the UK. Nor has the British parliament, whose members are often shocked to learn from us that a normalisation process is underway that will see Sudan brought in from the cold, with no change in behaviour warranting this new approach.

Many are rightly sceptical that it is only political expediency, and specifically the need to find new partners post-Brexit, that has brought us begging to Sudan's door.
Please add your voice to theirs on 30 June and show them someone is listening

This is why the Sudanese diaspora in the UK is joining others worldwide on Saturday 30 June to protest against poor governance in Sudan that may have tipped the country into terminal decline. They are asking the UK to ensure its engagement is based on benchmarks around human rights, humanitarian access, equal citizenship accepting of racial and cultural difference, and democratic transformation. 

The people we work with tell us that each time they hear that a peaceful protester has been detained; that a young woman has been sentenced to death for defending herself against her rapist (#JusticeforNoura); that market sellers have been targeted and killed by bombs; or when they are told that their families cannot afford to buy basic staples, that they are reminded of the poor and deeply dangerous way Sudan is governed, and the way in which Western governments now ignore this in favour of pursuing their own narrow domestic interests.

Please add your voice to theirs on 30 June and show them someone is listening.

The demonstration will assemble at the Sudan Embassy in London at 1pm on June 30

Maddy Crowther is Co-Executive Director of Waging Peace, a NGO that campaigns against human rights abuses in Sudan, and together with its sister charity Article 1, supports Sudanese refugees to build meaningful lives in the UK.