“Freedom, peace and justice.”
That is the slogan I saw everywhere – on banners, walls and buildings – when visiting the Sudan in September. It was the slogan of the freedom movement, a movement that drew most of its support from among young Sudanese women and men.
After 30 years of ironclad dictatorship, they achieved what had seemed scarcely possible – namely, casting off the oppressive regime of al-Bashir through a non-violent uprising.
The fact that the Sudanese Government is now looking to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in the case of al-Bashir is a sign of how much the transitional government wishes to both address the crimes of the past and build trust among the population.
To the surprise of many, the transition process – a collaborative effort between the military, old elites and young civil society – has been quite successful to date. Politically, this revolution, which is also unique in the region, is having an impact far beyond the Sudan. Many in Africa and the Arab world are keenly interested in, and filled with hope by, the Sudanese model.
In all honesty, it must also be said that, after decades of dictatorship, the political transition still stands on shaky ground. What is more, the economic situation is highly precarious, and corruption inherited from the al-Bashir era is widespread.
All this poses nearly insurmountable challenges to the very young democracy movement, as becomes apparent when you take a closer look. That is why we made a conscious effort to be the first to travel to the Sudan after the peaceful revolution, and we used our trip in September 2019 to offer assistance.
We wanted to make clear that we support the transitional government as it sets out on the difficult path towards democracy and opening the country’s economy. The fact that the German Federal President, too, will soon travel to Khartoum sends an important signal.
The extent to which those in positions of responsibility in the Sudan are especially counting on Germany’s support became perfectly clear to me during the three meetings I had with Prime Minister Hamdok. One reason for this is that we never forgot about the Sudan, also during the al-Bashir era. For some time now, we have been the only Western troop contributor to the UNAMID peacekeeping operation. Already during the al-Bashir regime, we maintained reliable channels of communication, including with actors who are now in positions of responsibility in the Sudan – thanks, among other things, to a mediation project that we supported there.
Achieving peace in the Sudan, and revitalising the country’s economy are the two great priorities that the transitional government has set for itself. Our assistance, too, is designed to support these aims.
With regard to attaining peace, Khartoum has taken brave first steps towards solving the conflicts in Darfur and other parts of the country together with local rebel groups. That is certainly no easy task.
However, the unrest that broke out early this year in West Darfur showed once again that the path to peace remains long. This is why the government of Prime Minister Hamdok – unlike its predecessor – has expressly requested an extension of UNAMID, the United Nations peacekeeping operation. Consequently, the text of the Security Council Resolution that we negotiated and drafted together with the United Kingdom and the motion that we are bringing before the Bundestag today take this into account.
At the same time, esteemed colleagues, we are already planning a civilian follow-on mission. Because the future of the Sudan ultimately hinges on the willingness of the international community to recognise transition as a political task and to provide continuous and long-term support in this regard.
That is what we want to do, and hopefully the signal we will send today.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations will soon submit his own proposals to the Security Council. Moving forward, we will make sure that the United Nations are and remain the key pillar during transition and post-conflict peacebuilding.
However, esteemed colleagues, we will continue to support reconciliation bilaterally, as well – because this is desperately needed. That is why I have told Prime Minister Hamdok that we are willing to maintain our mediation efforts, if the Sudanese side so desires. We have kept our promise to support the transitional government by having the Max Planck Foundation help with the drafting of an interim constitution. That is happening right now.
The country has not only been politically suppressed, but also economically exploited by the al-Bashir regime. If we don’t want the peaceful revolution to fail due to people’s economic hardship and unfulfilled expectations, then we must also do something about this. We have therefore created a group of international supporters, the Friends of Sudan. Its aim is to rally support among, and coordinate, the international financial institutes and donors.
In this connection, we urge that bilateral US sanctions, which are an additional burden on the country’s economic development, be fully lifted. This will be key to giving the Sudan a brighter economic future.
To make rapid progress, we are also pursuing bilateral stabilisation projects, especially in the energy sector, which has been particularly neglected. That, too, is needed to rebuild functioning infrastructure in the Sudan.
If the German Bundestag were to vote today to re-engage in bilateral development cooperation for the first time in more than 30 years, this would send a strong political signal; my colleague Minister Müller will also be speaking about this shortly.
Investing political capital in the future of the Sudan is a worthwhile endeavour. Every success, as well as any failure, of the new Sudanese model will have an impact far beyond the country’s borders. That is why Germany has made clear from the beginning where we stand: on the side of the women and men of the Sudan who demonstrated for peace, freedom and justice.
They are the ones whose future is at stake when we today vote on our continued participation in the UNAMID peacekeeping operation and the resumption of our development cooperation – both of which I urge you to support.
Thank you very much.