A Plan From Darfuri Women to Make Sudan’s New Democracy Work

An ambitious plan to guide the new Sudanese government’s transition to democracy has been presented by a Darfuri women’s rights group to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is also brand-new to office. Kindergarteners, above, performing in El Fasher, North Darfur, organized by the UN’s peacekeeping mission. MOHAMAD ALMAHADY/UNAMID

Niemat Ahmadi, the founder and director of the Darfur Women Action Group, has a plan for the new Sudan. The Strategic Framework for Sustainable Change was presented to the country’s prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, during his participation in the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in September — only three weeks after he was sworn in as head of the new government in post-Bashir Sudan. The framework was launched publicly on Oct. 9, 2019.

“In order to truly and successfully transform Sudan, both Sudanese leaders and the international community must understood that a country with millions of genocide-affected victims needs a comprehensive approach based on the rule of law and international human rights standards,” Ahmadi said of why the framework is critical at this juncture of Sudan’s history.

The initiative is the result of a collective effort led by the Darfur Women Action Group, with contributions from dozens of international experts and Sudanese civil society representatives. The group, which is based in the United States, devised the framework to guide the new government as it transitions the country to peace and justice and lays the foundation for an inclusive, democratic future for all of its people.

The country has come a long way. In 2003, the Omar al-Bashir government waged genocide against the people of Darfur in Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of people were murdered, most of them women and children. Government soldiers and government-backed militia, called the Janjaweed, systematically used rape as a weapon of war and method of terror. Three million people were internally displaced, and a million refugees were forced to flee the country.

In 2005, after an investigation by a UN International Commission of Inquiry, the situation in Darfur was recognized by most international parties as a genocide. That year, the UN Security Council unanimously referred the case of Darfur to the International Criminal Court — the first time the council did so. After conducting an investigation, the court confirmed that genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed, and it issued arrest warrants for several senior government officials, including President Bashir. To date, no one has been brought to justice.

Fourteen years later, on April 11, 2019, the people of Sudan finally ousted Bashir from power.

The Darfur Women Action Group framework is an advanced initiative, calling for criminal accountability for all crimes against the Sudanese people — from the old graves in Darfur to the new ones resulting from the brutal response to the recent protests in Khartoum, the capital, and elsewhere in Sudan. The framework also seeks justice for the victims of the forced displacement in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions, as well as for the systemic violation of the human rights of the indigenous communities of Sudan, including in Eastern Sudan and Nubia.

In addition to demanding the transfer of former President Bashir, who is prison in Sudan, and other International Criminal Court indictees to the court in The Hague, the framework requires financial accountability for former regime officials and full restoration of any stolen funds.

The framework identifies the necessary conditions for the safe return of all internally displaced people and refugees. It demands that the transitional government adhere to all of Sudan’s obligations under international law — including international human-rights, humanitarian and refugee law. It also calls on the transitional government to ratify all relevant human-rights instruments to which Sudan is not a party, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women.

The operative part of the framework outlines the requirements to address the immediate, short-term and long-term needs of the new Sudan.

In the immediate term, the framework accords highest priority to the safety, security and protection of all internally displaced people as well as safe access for humanitarian aid agencies to Sudan.

To produce meaningful change in the short term — three to six months — the framework predicates government service and participation in peace negotiations on the empowerment of women and the proportionate representation of all ethnic groups. The criteria for service and participation exclude any person who is either indicted by the International Criminal Court, listed on any internationally recognized sanctions regimes or has any financial or other affiliation with any known terrorist group.

In the long term, the framework envisions new institutions to ensure reconstruction, sustainable development and the rule of law, including a Ministry of Human Security.

The framework provides a clear and comprehensive strategy to guide Sudan’s transformation from a conflict-ridden, corrupt country into a just, peaceful and democratic nation.

As Ahmadi declared: “We owe it to the long-suffering people of Darfur to deliver long-overdue justice to those who inflicted the worst crimes on them for nearly two decades. Only then can Sudan heal its wounds and build a future of dignity and security for all of its people.”

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