Ethiopia’s Successful mediation and Sudan’s political compromise

For months, the political pendulum in Sudan has been swinging once to the left and another time to the right, one time slowly and at another time violently, leaving every Sudan-watcher and the embattled people of the country, in a state of anxiety and suspense. The pendulum seemed to have stopped its violent swings only late last week with both the ruling military council and opposition parties agreeing on a settlement brokered by Ethiopia and the African Union, according to sources close to the talks. African Union envoy to Sudan Mohamed al-Hacen Lebatt and Ethiopian special envoy to Sudan Mohamed Drir are said to have played a crucial role in reaching the deal.

Reporting on the power sharing deal between the military and the civilian opposition, brokered on Friday July 5, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper said that, “Sudan has taken the first step towards a democratic transition…” The reaction from the street in Khartoum and in other big cities has been one of cautious optimism, while some doubt has expressed as to whether the tentative deal would hold. The next step is the formation of a civilian-military governing body that would oversee the three-year transition period before elections will be held.

In the last three or four months, Sudan’s political future hang in the balance. Both the reformist wing of the military establishment that overthrew the 30- year old rule of dictator Al Basher and the people of Sudan who brought about the democratic revolution were unwilling to change their positions. The Revolution is the work of the Sudanese people. But as it is the case in many African countries, the military establishment is always ready to snatch the fruits of decades of sacrifice and this has happened more than once on the continent.

The doubts and suspicions expressed by analysts of the recent events was well-founded indeed. The Daily Nation quoted experts who said that, “the power-sharing accord is far from a long-term solution to the country’s overall political crisis” Given the fact that the balance of political forces between the military and the popular masses was delicate and likely to break down at any moment without clear winners has apparently persuaded both sides that the best outcome would be power-sharing and temporary accommodation until elections will be held sometime in 2021.

It is here that Ethiopia’s and OU’s mediation efforts came into the picture. The aim of diplomacy in this particular case was to avoid all out conflict and bring the contending parties to the negotiating table in a step by step process although there was little for both parties to revisit their positions and work out a more palatable solution. As they say, politics is the art of the possible and what Ethiopian and AU intermediaries have done was to bring both side to what is possible and not what is in the best interest o each of the parties. They looked for a win-win outcome and the secret of its success was that both Ethiopia and the AU are neutral partners deeply committed to avert a repeat of the Libyan debacle in 2011.

Ethiopia, along with the African Union, was the architect and initiator of the peaceful settlement in Sudan, by speaking to all sides since day one of the confrontations and as such it deserves commending and appreciation for his leadership role in the negotiations. The Sudanese military leaders too deserves praise for not deciding to cling to power at any cost as it is the tradition in Africa and for listening to wise counsel of the negotiators.

They have demonstrated that a new dawn is breaking over Africa’s political firmament whereby taking power by force and maintaining through bloodshed has become not only unacceptable but also passé. Most credit should be given to the Sudanese people themselves who initiated the revolution and did not abandon it when the going got tougher, and for their patience, farsightedness and strength for not letting history cheat them once again.

Ethiopian diplomacy is committed to peace in Sudan not for its own sake. Peace and stability in Sudan matters most for Ethiopia for obvious reasons. The absence of stability in Sudan or the a power vacuum there would spell an uncontrollable traffic of arms and ammunitions across the border together with international terrorists and arms dealers intent not only on making huge profits but also serving the interests of anti-democratic forces. An unstable Sudan would be the source of a terrible influx of refugees and the attending humanitarian complications.

Without peace and stability in Sudan, Ethiopia’s ambition project known as the Great Renaissance Dam might face unpredictable difficulties. The domino effects of all these developments would indeed be catastrophic. So, by extending a diplomatic helping hand to Sudan, Ethiopia is also protecting its own peace and stability. Sudan’s national interests converge with Ethiopia’s and this is what they call win-win diplomacy. In this sense, Sudan’s win is also Ethiopia’s gain.

However, the Sudanese political settlement cannot be taken as a panacea for all the problems the country is facing. It is a temporary solution that needs continued commitment from all sides until the baby of democracy is born. This requires vigilance from all sides, the honesty from the power brokers and patience from the popular masses.

Sudan has seen many upheavals and tragedies in its modern history and all parties are thus expected to make the present crisis a final one by keeping their eyes on the ball, by maintaining dialogue and guaranteeing basic freedoms and protecting human rights without which no democracy is likely to be born. By avoiding the worst, the Sudanese people have in a way avoided both the abortion of democracy and its premature birth.

The Ethiopian Herald, Sunday Edition July 14/2019

BY MULUGETA GUDETA

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