Sudan’s Future: An Interview with SudanChangeNow Spokesperson Amgad Fareid El Tayeb

On November 17, 2012, Sharnoff’s Global Views spoke with Dr. Amgad Fareid El Tayeb, spokesperson of SudanChangeNow. Born in Khartoum, Sudan, Amgad is a medical doctor and currently a PhD researcher in Life Science at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is involved in politics and has called for democratic change in Sudan since secondary school as a member of the Democratic Front for Sudanese Students and after graduation member of the Democratic league of Doctors.

Since 2008, Amgad has worked with different youth movements and was a co-founder of Girifina movement which worked during the 2010 election to remove the old Sudanese regime and tried to document the violation in the elections. Later that year he participated with others in creating SudanChangeNow movement as a wider platform for political change. He is married to Dr. Sandra Farouk Kodouda and has two kids, Eva & Farouk.

SGV: For at least a decade, Sudan has suffered civil war and genocide. Since 2003, approximately 400,000 Muslims, Christians and Animists have been murdered in Darfur and 2.5 million displaced by the Khartoum-backed Janjaweed militia. Today Sudan barely receives coverage in the United States. Has the Sudanese government complied with international demands or does violence and the refugee crisis persist?

AFT: As you said, and it is not for the last decade only but since the military coup that overtook the democratic system and brought the current regime in 1989, Sudanese people have suffered a lot. The ongoing massacre in Darfur was preceded with a similar bloodshed in the South under the banner of the holy jihadist war and followed with an ongoing bloodshed in Nuba Mountains and South Kordofan.

During all that, the violations of the basic human and social rights of the Sudanese people in all other areas of Sudan never stopped. The country witnessed illegitimate arrests, torture, media censorship, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, rampant sexism enforced by law and sustained notion of corruption, mismanagement and squandering of public funds by the regime.

The international coverage of all these crimes was selective and biased and most of the time affected by factors other than what happens on the ground. It is a classic case of conflict of interests in which the international community and media are turning a blind eye and co-existing with a criminal regime and ignoring taking serious actions against such crimes since elements of their political interests are kept protected. For example in this month alone, Darfur, East Jebal Marra area, witnessed a large-scale aerial bombardment (which is a stable habit of the regime forces in civil conflict areas in Sudan).

Just a few days ago on November 14 several displaced citizens were killed and other faced daily bombardment which is commonplace in Nuba Mountains. Last week the state government of South Kordufan arrested dozens of women; accusing them of espionage in unknown places and condition. There is a case of Jalila Khamis Koko, a teacher, mother and activist from Nuba Mountains, who is still kept under arrest and being held in Khartoum by security forces since last March without setting any charges against her for reporting on the humanitarian situation in the Nuba Mountains. Do you find all this in the news? Is it covered? The answer is no; it is not of interest to the media anymore, although the crimes are still taking place.

SGV: Tell us a bit about your movement, SudanChangeNow. When was it created and what are your goals and vision for Sudan?

AFT: SCN is a social and political movement established in 2010 by Sudanese activists from various backgrounds who recognized the vital need for democratic and civil change in Sudan as a right, duty and necessity for the Sudanese people. In 2008 the idea emerged as the need for a new approach to Sudanese politics was needed; one that is not built on compromises or political negotiations.

We stand firm in saying that political practices and objectives should be about the actual needs and problems of the people. Our vision is to create a civil and democratic society, where the people choose their leadership through peaceful means, and a proper monitoring process through ballot boxes and parliamentary representation. To realize this alternative, we need to remove all the obstacles on the way of change, starting with overthrowing the current regime and all its distorted establishments, and constructing a civil model for the state of  Sudan.

A state that guarantees the prosperity and stability of the nation, and establishes a system based on representation and accountability. SCN charter is calling for fourteen main goals which can only be accomplished with the change of the current regime:

  1. Overthrowing the current regime in Sudan, as well as dismantling all its legislative and executive institutions, and other politicized state agencies.
  2. Establishing a framework for accountability through the courts of law, and bringing to justice all perpetrators of political crimes, corruption and human rights violations, and reclaiming the nation’s stolen wealth.
  3. Laying the foundations and pillars of a civil, democratic and pluralistic system that guarantees and protects the basic rights against public authorities violations, and ensuring  fair and balanced share of the national wealth.
  4. Abolishing all freedom-restricting and oppressive laws, and other articles of the Sudanese laws that are in contravention with the international human rights conventions, as well as ensuring constitutional rights and equal, unbiased political engagement for all the Sudanese.
  5. Implementing the principle of separation of powers, and ensuring the independence and professionalism of the judiciary and the enforcement of its judgments.
  6. Ending all forms of discrimination and exclusions, which have been deepened by the present regime through its unilateral policies against different regions and ethnicities of the Sudan, as well as stopping the marginalization of Eastern Sudan, Kordofan, the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, the Blue Nile and all other regions, and maintaining peace through realizing social justice.
  7. Stopping the ongoing war in Darfur and cement peace in the region by bringing all perpetrators of war crimes to justice, and compensating the victims and realizing their legitimate demands.
  8. Addressing the social, economic and environmental negative impact of imposed infrastructure projects that consume the natural resources, which resulted from the regime’s greedy economic policies. We intend to make every effort possible to achieve justice by involving those affected; we also aim to address the problems of displacement, resettlement and other violations, and provide adequate development compensation to the people affected by the construction of these projects.
  9. Restitution for all the victims of political dismissals and terminations from the civil and public service, as well as addressing the negative consequences of appointments based on political affiliation.
  10. Reviewing the economic policies that led to the depletion of the poor natural resources and abandonment of the productive projects in both the industrial and agricultural sectors (e.g. Gazira Project). Addressing issues of non-prioritized government expenditure that led to the deterioration and collapse of the national educational institutions and health services, resulting in increased unemployment and deteriorated living conditions.
  11. Ensuring the provision of a free and democratic education, as well as the independence of educational institutions.
  12. Ensuring positive discrimination of women to enable them to address their issues, and assume their required role in society, as they have always been the main victims of the regime’s atrocities and wars, on top of their historical hardship.
  13. Protecting the historical relationships between the peoples of the Sudan by maintaining positive relations with the Republic of South Sudan, as well as addressing the issues of citizenship and guaranteeing the rights of citizens in both countries to allow for peaceful coexistence, reduction of the negative effects of the secession, and opening up the necessary opportunities for a fair and equal future reunion.
  14. Rebuilding Sudan’s international relations on the basis of cooperation to benefit the Sudanese people, and correcting the regime’s wrong policies towards the international community and neighboring countries in order to strengthen cross-border interrelations, serve common interests, enhance regional integration and reinstate the sovereignty of the country.
READ  The Arab Human Rights Fund

SGV: One of your objectives is the overthrow of the current Sudanese regime. Is this a call to launch a violent coup to depose the regime or are you advocating regime change through peaceful, democratic means?

AFT: We believe that change should be toward a sustainable and stable model, and to guarantee this, change can’t, and shouldn’t take place by proxy. It has to happen collectively by people and use their collective power as well. Thus we stand firmly against any violent or military tactics for change and adopt the methods of peaceful civil resistance as our blue print.

We know that might take more time, and need more effort in mobilizing people and raising awareness citizens’ rights – but SCN believes that this is the only way for the Sudan which we want and dream of. We have developed local models for civic education via various tools and we call the people to stand for their rights explaining that the role of governments is to serve them not the other way round.

We have participated, coordinated and organized several public protests and strikes since the establishment of SCN, and we believe that SCN is about hope and rights. There are no easy roads to overcome a dictatorship while keeping your principals in the same time but we keep walking. And since you can’t be defeated while you are still fighting, we will keep fighting but we will always use our own peaceful tools.

SGV: In 2008, the International Criminal Court declared Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as a war criminal for crimes against humanity and genocide. The following year a warrant was issued for Bashir’s arrest, but it was opposed by the Arab League, African Union and Russia and China. What is your message to Arab and Muslim leaders who sided with Bashir and helped shield him from prosecution?

AFT: Our stand is that all those who committed crimes should be brought to justice… And it is not only the direct support but the irresponsible silence and turning a blind eye that is also not acceptable. We understand that sometimes international politics might have its complications and agendas, but there is no way on earth that supporting the killing of children and civilians and the systematic rape and crimes which are committed by this regime can be accepted.

Our struggle is clear in our eyes; our fight is with this corrupted and failed regime ruling Sudan today not anyone else. Those who choose to support the regime should understand that they are antagonizing the people of Sudan by supporting their killers.

SGV: After years of Civil War, South Sudan formally seceded from Sudan and became an independent country in 2011. How has independence changed the conflict?

AFT: The independence of South Sudan was a sad event in our hearts but it stands again as clear evidence of the intentions of the regime which doesn’t hesitate to separate the country in order to save its seat of power. The conflict of the Sudanese people with the regime still continues, we in Sudan still suffer from illegitimate state violence, the corruption and mismanagement of the regime thus the resistance continues and needs to continue.

The major change was that there is an international political element is now involved between two states when the Sudanese regime tries to bully and harasses south Sudan people and country.

SGV: What is the current relationship between the South Sudanese government and Sudan?

AFT: It is tense, especially after the signs of war that took place in April this year. The problem is that the Sudanese regime didn’t foresee that it will pay such a high price for its arrogant refusal of making unity attractive to the South which led to Sudan losing 75% of its annual income after the independence of the oil rich South. This money was actually used to suppress the Sudanese people and maintain the stability of the regime and now it is gone leaving the revolutionary winds looming.

Thus they tried to militarily harass South Sudan instead of having some political wisdom and trying to reach an agreement that serve the interests of both Sudan and South Sudan people. However, there are multiple international players putting pressure on both states in order for the war not to recur but I think that there will be no stability, peace nor sustained development in both countries while the current Sudanese regime is ruling.

SGV: Does your movement play any role in post-conflict reconciliation between North and South?

AFT: Actually yes, and we furthermore started a larger campaign named “This war is not in our name” when the tension rises and the military clashes between the two countries start to recur. For more information, please visit links here and here.

SGV: What are the challenges and opportunities for Sudan Change Now and for Sudan in the 21st Century?

AFT: We believe we have a long road to walk for our nation and our homeland, but the first begins with overcoming this regime. The fascistic manners, the failures and injustice of this government can’t continue forever. It has to stop and to stop now. And as I said previously, we then look for a civil democratic state in Sudan that maintains and protects the citizenship rights and duties.

SGV: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.