Addis Ababa, 01 April 2015: Since January last year, when His Excellency President Omar Hassan Al Bashir called for a national dialogue to address Sudan’s challenges, the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP) has been supporting the efforts of the Sudanese stakeholders to realise a genuinely inclusive and transformative National Dialogue which will determine the future of Sudan.
At its 456th meeting held in Addis Ababa on 12 September 2014, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (“the PSC”) recognised the critical importance of the National Dialogue for Sudan, and accordingly endorsed a number of steps and principles, which had already been agreed by the Sudanese parties the previous month.
The PSC mandated the AUHIP to support the efforts of the Sudanese stakeholders to realise an effective, transparent and inclusive process, and in particular to convene a meeting at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa for the stakeholders to agree upon the relevant procedures and process issues that would enable an efficient and truly participatory dialogue.
Accordingly, during March 2015, the Panel consulted with the various Sudanese stakeholders, within and outside Sudan, including representatives of the governing party and its allies on the planning committee. All the stakeholders who had agreed to participate in the National Dialogue indicated their readiness to attend the pre-Dialogue preparatory meeting which they proposed should be held by the end of the month. Specifically, the Panel consulted in Khartoum with the convenor of the “7+7 mechanism of the National Dialogue”, as currently constituted, as the body responsible for steering the dialogue process.
On the basis of those consultations, the AUHIP invited the stakeholders for the meeting in Addis Ababa on 30 and 31 March, and proposed an agenda which focused solely on the procedural and process issues.
Despite initially indicating that they would respond positively to the Panel’s invitation to participate in the Addis Ababa meeting, key representatives of the “7+7 mechanism” later cited several impediments their attendance of the meeting.
The concerns raised included the fact that several delegates were already occupied with preparations for the coming general elections in Sudan. The group also wished to ascertain who would be participating at the meeting and to determine their political legitimacy. Furthermore, they were concerned that the meeting might be used by some participants to raise other matters outside of the agreed agenda on process issues.
The Panel responded to these concerns by reassuring the stakeholders that the agenda for the meeting was indeed restricted to process issues; that the meeting would be attended only by representatives of the key stakeholders who had agreed to participate in the National Dialogue; and, that the parties were at liberty to compose their delegations as they saw fit.
Regrettably, the Panel’s assurances and interactions with the stakeholders did not result in a change of heart by the group.
Without the full participation of all the key stakeholders, particularly the governing party, it is simply not possible to hold inclusive and credible preparations for the Dialogue as initially envisaged. Consequently, and regrettably, the AUHIP has had no choice but to suspend the holding of the pre-Dialogue meeting.
The Panel recalls the expectation that the African Union has invested in the Sudanese National Dialogue. As expressed in its 456th meeting, the Peace and Security Council is convinced that the many challenges that confront Sudan, including the situations in the Two Areas and in Darfur, cannot be resolved except in an integrated and comprehensive manner.
The broader international community has also expressed, consistently, its full support for the Sudanese National Dialogue process.
After more than six years of close engagement on Sudanese issues, the Panel is fully persuaded of the necessity of an adequately prepared National Dialogue process, in which the Sudanese people come together freely to deliberate and make choices about their common future, if Sudan is to emerge from the challenges it faces, and to achieve an enduring peace through democratic transformation.
The Panel is therefore disappointed that the pre-Dialogue meeting could not be held as planned, but it will nevertheless hold consultations with the Sudanese stakeholders who have honoured its invitation, as well as with representatives of the international community, before considering its next steps.