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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Amnesty International and Mudawi Ibrahim

Last July I met a young Amnesty International researcher during a SOAS event about the Sudan

.We continued our discussions after the end of presentations by a Sudanese academic and a dogmatic Sudanese lawyer who supports the ICC and opposes UK or EU rapprochement with the Sudan. It turned out that the polite Amnesty researcher knew very little about the Sudan, because Sudanese affairs are now monitored from Nairobi. In the end, he suggested that we exchange addresses and asked me to send him the points I raised .He promised to e mail them to the qualified office in Kenya and forward the answer to me as soon as he receives it. Here is what I sent him:" Amnesty International has campaigned against the Sudan and supported our cause when we were with the opposition. The Sudanese government responded and signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA in 2005.The SPLM co-founder Dr Garang (a Christian) returned and was sworn in as First Vice-President. Many others, including myself, returned.
Why didn't Amnesty International say: Well done Sudan;but we encourage you to do more? Not responding to positive developments raises legitimate questions about Amnesty International's credibility." I am still waiting for a reply to this simple question.
Instead Amnesty International is still squandering its huge (inherited )prestige ,like a son who ,upon the death of his rich father wastes the carefully accumulated wealth .The Sudanese proverb says: even a mountain of kohl will eventually be reduced to nothing if chipped away consistently with small anvils.
Another small anvil is Amnesty's insistence on an investigation of its allegations that Chemical weapons were used against Darfur rebels. This is most inappropriate because Amnesty had already condemned the Sudan in October last year. If revealing the  truth is the purpose ,Amnesty should have called for an investigation first and based its verdict on the results. In the meantime two very significant official German and Russian statements questioned Amnesty's allegations .Moreover ,two months after the Amnesty allegations ,the US State Department's Human Rights Report 2016 was published. It said the following about Amnesty's allegations:"By year's end the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has not been presented with sufficient corroborating evidence to conclude that chemical weapons had been used". In the UK, no criticism of Amnesty's allegations was voiced ,partly because the liberal elite consider Amnesty a national icon(like the football or cricket team or the BBC) forgetting that all three  benefited from scrutiny and relentless oversight.
Yet another small anvil that is chipping away Amnesty's mountain of inherited kohl is the organisation's comments on the release of Dr Mudawi Ibrahim after months of arrest. It is disingenuous because Amnesty International kept silent when President Bashir pardoned 259 rebel prisoners, some of whom were sentenced to death  after the suicidal Attack on Omdurman in May 2008.He had also pardoned a Czeck evangelical priest and two Missionaries. Pardoning Dr Mudawi Ibrahim should be understood in the spirit of the National Dialogue ,the formation of a new government as part of the process of democratization as well as the Sacrifice Eid  which is a traditional occasion for reconciliation. Upon his release, Dr Mudawi expressed determination to continue campaigning for human rights in the Sudan. This is a worthy cause which I share; but I would like to remind my university colleague that the campaign for human rights is a long process; not only in the Sudan; but in the leading Western democracies. On the first day of September, the Voice of America displayed the strength of US democracy by publishing an article about gerrymandering which is the centuries old practice of redrawing the boundaries of districts (constituencies)in order to disenfranchise minority groups. There are court cases in several US states. If we consider the role of money in politics and the thousands of registered lobbyists, we understand the battle for human rights and governance reform in the great US democracy. In the UK ,the loss of life in the tragic Grenfell fire has shocked the nation by exposing the injustice that led to the death of the poor, despite the warnings. The way the august parliament was misled and the country dragged into war with a "weapons of mass destruction “ploy showed that democracy can be  manipulated and  distorted ,leading to the death of innocent people in Iraq and the loss and maiming of hundreds of young British soldiers.
Furthermore, the UN Declaration of Human Rights acknowledges that, human rights include social and economic rights too. In this sense it will be achieved someday in the Sudan too with certain provisos. Literacy and education, industrialization, infrastructure and development that pave the way for improved governance. Our campaigns should be long-term not half-baked and unrealistic. It was clear to most opposition activists who returned to the Sudan in 2005 that Democratisation would take time and include ups and downs. The building of roads, schools, universities and clinics is part of the building blocks of democratisation. What about the Islamists? I fully agree with the view expressed by an Economist editorial 26 August 2017 about Islam and Democracy." They can be pragmatic and they cannot be ignored. Rather than trying to crush them all which will only unite and redicalise them, the aim should be to work with the moderates...".The moderates are at the driving seat  in the Sudan. They have adopted concrete policies that prove their moderation and show that they have learned from their mistakes. The policy of cold-shouldering them has already played in the hands of the extremists who argue: look at the way the Sudanese moderates are treated. Moderation is not accepted!.Easing the sanctions last January was a very small step in the right direction. Lifting them altogether and removing the Sudan from the US Terrorist Sponsors' list would be a logical follow up ,because there is no intelligence evidence of terror sponsorship.