(*) Due to the sensitivity of his position, the speaker prefers to remain anonymous.
El Cairo.- For the inauguration of the Foro Zorba in Cairo, we had the privilege to meet T.H., an extremely talented and highly qualified British-Sudanese young man, manager of the Sudanese Program of an organization that aims to provide a bridge between political theory and practice, generating ideas and presenting proposals to governments in countries in conflict or post conflict.
One of his roles is to act as facilitator on discussions with the Sudanese Political opposition, building up on alternatives to provide a more inclusive Government, which would take into account the high diversity of the country and the social change that is taking place at the moment, especially among the younger generations.
T.H. provided a thorough introduction to Sudan´s rich history and its context as a country at a crossroad between Africa and the Middle East, with diverse and abundant groups of people, cultures and resources. It highlighted the times of big idealisms that took place in the country since the 50s, with Communism, Capitalism and Arab Nationalism periods followed by the Sunni Islamic Revolution of 1989. According to T.H., this revolution at its origins had an initial genuine attempt to reengineer Sudanese society and serve as a model for other Islamic societies, but since 1999 it had derived into a hybrid capitalist regime open to nepotistic practices.
Discussion went on to describe the institutional, political and internal regional challenges that the country is facing at the moment. Sudan’s institutions are relatively weak, with no Army or Institutions to enforce the law over the whole of its territory, relying only on militia to control the cities. T.H. stated that the government had originally based its policy in 3 pillars: wealth, power and ideology; but these three pillars had been undermined in the last years, mainly due to a) the loss of part of the oil revenues, reducing its ability to purchase, b) the loss of military capacity and authority, leaving only the option to turn to repression to maintain control and c) the loss of legitimacy and credibility in ideological terms. Despite this, the country’s socioeconomic indicators had improved in the last years ,with some economic growth derived from oil revenues, overall literacy improvement, etc..
Other topics that were also discussed include: a) the process of separation of South Sudan, 2) the approach and proposals of the different rebel militias that are challenging the government at the moment , with its New Charter defining it as a multicultural, and multi-lingual country of many religions 3) the support of the business sector to the present government and to the opposition, 4) its recent commitment to an economic adjustment plan, with the blessing of the IMF, and 5) its potential as a hub for the provision of education and other services to the countries in the region.
The country now is facing an important social change, led by artists, intellectuals and other social groups enhanced by the new technology and a highly educated diaspora, but this change is not matched at a political level. From T.H.’s point of view, it will not be like the Arab Spring, since there is also a fear that things could get worse, too. Regarding its president, many Sudanese consider him as a relatively charismatic leader, who has the support of its tribe (the biggest in the country), the islamists, big business and some militias, and any real political change will probably have to take this into consideration.