The Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) in Doha hosted Dr. Francis Deng, who is the ambassador-at-large, the permanent representative of South Sudan to the United Nations, the former ambassador of Sudan to several countries, and the special advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in several fields. The lecture was held on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, and entitled "The Path to Stability, Peace, and Democratic Transition: Current Challenges in Sudan and South Sudan. The lecture was moderated by Dr. Khalil Othman, senior researcher at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies.
The lecture, which was held in Auditorium 02 of the cultural building at CHS headquarters and focused on the current challenges in Sudan and South Sudan— after the latter declared its independence on July 9, 2011— and the repercussions of that on the path of peace and democratic transformation in the two countries. The lecture brought together a wide spectrum of experts, specialists, diplomats, academics, and other interested individuals in Sudanese affairs - including the Sudanese community in Doha.
Dr. Francis Deng began the lecture by talking about the phenomenon of ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. He highlighted that the state of diversity that prevails in societies is in fact only a natural phenomenon, but the real problem lies in the mechanism by which such diversity is managed. Ruling regimes often confront this diversity with discrimination, exclusion, denial of belonging, and violation of rights against a particular party. When this happens, the party attempts to change the regime, reform it, revolt against it, or rebel. Most of the time, these regimes experience a state of change, revolution, or rebellion by using force and oppression against the other party, ultimately reaching a state of extermination.
The spokesperson added that in such cases it is necessary to reach a compromise that includes establishing a framework for self-government to achieve integration and harmony to develop a community identity, where there is no discrimination based on cultural, religious, or ethnic background. Dr. Deng continued his speech by addressing his vision regarding the solution in Sudan as he believes that the solution lies in expanding the concept of one state and the ability to accommodate multiple systems. He emphasized the essentiality of stopping the fights, researching the rationale of the issue of everyone's belonging, and their feeling as equal citizens. He believes that a part of the solution can be envisaged by allowing each region to have its own, context-specific system, cultural values and institutional arrangements based on local systems.
Deng believes that the institutions in the region are the product of the colonial inheritance, which constitutes another problem for the region and exacerbates the situation. The traditional institutions did not try to overcome this legacy in a way that reflects the facts and takes advantage of the context by using it to serve their interest. It was quite the opposite. Accordingly, one of the foundations of solution and settlement is to empower local administration and implement a governance system that is commensurate with the reality of societies in the African region. Dr. Deng stated that there is a difference between the systems that are reliant on punishment, and the systems that are based on reconciliation. Therefore, the African model needs to move forward towards reconciliation and never go back, although achieving unity may not be completely achieved. However, what is important is achieving a state of convergence, whatever it may be, whether it is called federal government or self-government.
During the question-and-answer session, the honorable audience discussed multiple topics. These topics included the future of Sudan and South Sudan and the extent of the possibility of a future integration between the two countries, especially if the mutual dependence between them, the conflict taking place in Sudan, and the course of the peace process are considered. To address these questions and comments, the speaker pointed out that in the context of the crisis between Sudan and South Sudan, the parties to the conflict, along with regional and international powers and the international community, reached a conclusion that secession was necessary to establish peace in Sudan. However, since then, Sudan and South Sudan have worsened the scene of violence. He explained that there is a possibility for some strategies to establish peace between the two countries, reaching official methods to set up relations and acknowledging the need for mediation by a third party from within Sudan. This assists in achieving a compromise and agreement between the two parties to ensure the elimination of every doubt that the issue of one party submitting and surrendering has occurred due to the course of the war and its events.
In conclusion, the speaker stressed the necessity of working to manage constructive diversity, keeping in mind that the primary goal in Africa is to achieve integration and not manage diversity, as managing diversity is an essential part of the nature and reality of unique groups. He added that the existence of these unique groups does not necessarily mean rivalry and conflict. It is crucial to acknowledge the issue of existing differences between groups and actions should be taken to strive towards unity as one people. He pointed out that diversity is not the main reason behind the division in Sudan, but rather the way in which this diversity is exercised. For example, religious differences are not the cause of conflict, but the way religion is practiced plays a major role in the conflict. Also, the issue of identity has nothing to do with division as it is a material, intangible part, however the issue of identity becomes an important factor in division when a certain group monopolizes authority and resources after acquiring power.
The event comes at a time when everyone is concerned about the future of Sudan and the region, especially given the absence of a significant progress in the peace process since the outbreak of the last war in mid-April 2023. It is worth noting that the lecture is part of a series that CHS had launched to discuss the conflict in Sudan, support the efforts to end it, and achieve stability as well as democratic transition in the country.
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