A Show of Unity Among Sudan’s Opposition?

Posted by Nenad Marinkovic and Jenn Christian

Last week, the coalition known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front, or SRF, comprised of Darfuri rebel movements, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, and the Beja Congress, met with two prominent Sudanese opposition parties to discuss their common goal of overthrowing the regime in Khartoum. During the meeting, leaders from the SRF, the National Umma Party of the former Prime Minister Saddiq al-Mahdi, and the Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, discussed establishing a roadmap for the unity of Sudan’s opposition parties and mechanisms for uniting civil resistance movements with those carrying out armed resistance against the Sudanese government. A statement issued by the parties indicates their resolve to establish a joint committee to develop a united “programme of action” and a strategy on how Sudan will be governed and power shared following the toppling of the current regime.

The meeting represents the first public show of collaboration between the non-violent Umma Party and DUP and the SRF, the goal of which is to forcibly oust the ruling National Congress Party, or NCP, under the leadership of President Omar al-Bashir. Until now, it appeared that, while some Sudanese political party leaders were sympathetic to the SRF’s cause, they were reluctant to openly align themselves with the coalition.

If last week’s show of unity between the SRF, the Umma Party, and the DUP is any indication, this view has apparently changed. Moreover, the move appears to indicate recognition on the part of the SRF, in particular the SPLM-N, of the importance of wider coalition building among all of Sudan’s opposition parties.

The efforts of Sudan’s opposition parties to build a cohesive political strategy is wise, particularly if the coalition hopes to court international support for its fierce opposition to the NCP-led Khartoum regime. Indeed, Sudan’s opposition parties need look no further than Syria to see the ill effects of a fractured opposition force. Despite near unanimous condemnation of Syrian President Assad’s brutal crack down against opposition forces fighting for regime change in Damascus, and calls from key international actors, among them, the Arab League, the European Union, and the United States, for President Assad to step down, the international community’s efforts to support Syria’s opposition forces have been hampered, in part, by divisions among the forces those efforts aim to assist.

A similar fate could befall Sudan’s opposition, should the international community ever muster enough political will and diplomatic momentum to condemn the regime of President Bashir. Sudan’s Bashir employs the same tactics as President Assad—military assaults against civilian populations, denial of humanitarian aid, and brutal suppression of non-violent demonstrations—to marginalize and terrorize his own people. And as in Syria, Sudan is experiencing its own “Arab Spring” albeit much less publicized and with many fewer international supporters.

It is time for the international community in general, and the United States government in particular, to view Sudan’s opposition and its struggle against Bashir’s consolidation of power and wealth in Khartoum in the context of the “Arab Spring,” as it has done in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and now Syria. While the policy of President Obama’s administration towards prior “Arab Spring” uprisings has been, in part, to provide opposition forces with technical and financial support, so too should the administration initiate steps to provide Sudan’s coalescing opposition forces with the support necessary to further consolidate their coalition, build a united political platform, and develop a cohesive plan for a post-Bashir transitional government in Sudan. If last week’s meeting between the SRF, the Umma Party, and the DUP is any indication, Sudan’s political forces are committed to the task of building a united front in opposition to the rule of President Bashir. The question remains: Is the international community ready and able to take a similar diplomatic stance against a regime currently inflicting vicious human rights abuses against its own people?