It is regrettable that Sudan has proved to be a fault-line within the ACP-EU Joint Assembly for the last few years.
It would seem that some European members and the various European political groupings within the Joint Assembly have been out of step with their African, Caribbean and Pacific colleagues for some time. European draft resolutions on Sudan have been defeated by the ACP House in separate votes since 1998. It should be noted that there had previously been joint resolutions on Sudan supported by both Houses. It would also appear that European members have also been at variance with the broader international community with regard to attitudes towards, and changes within, Sudan.. It is equally clear that some European Parliamentary members and groupings are also at odds with the European Union itself.A Positive and Ongoing European-Sudanese Engagement
A European Union delegation, headed by Tuunanen Heikki, the director of the Finnish Foreign Ministry's Africa and Middle East Division, visited Sudan during the Finnish Presidency in November 1999. This visit led in turn to regular Sudanese-European dialogue meetings conducted by European Union member states heads of mission in Khartoum. Heikki stated that through this dialogue the European Union would get to know how the Sudanese government were implementing measures it has taken to meet its declared objectives, "especially in the fields of peace, democratisation, human rights and relations with the neighbouring countries and the international community". Mr Heikki stated that the European Union wished "to promote the peace process, the development in the ares of democratic institutions and human rights through this dialogue in which we can exchange views and experiences". This European-Sudanese dialogue had been suspended in 1996 but was restarted because the European Union had "noticed signs of improvement" in the Sudanese situation.
These changes within Sudan have included a Constitution safeguarding civil liberties and human rights, legislation entrenching multi-party politics - and the return to Sudan of all major political opposition parties because of these changes - constructive developments in the Sudanese peace process, improved relations with neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the freeing of all political prisoners. Sudan has also publicly announced the holding of multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections in Sudan in December 2000. Ongoing economic reforms and progress have also been enough for the IMF to restore Sudan's IMF voting rights.Sudan and the International Community
It is clear that Sudan has moved from a position of relative isolation to a place nearer the centre of the family of nations. Sudan's new position is partly a response by the international community to positive changes within Sudan itself. It is also clearly a response by many countries within the Non-Aligned Movement to the aggressive stance taken towards Sudan by the United States. U.S. belligerence was highlighted, of course, by Washington's disastrous cruise missile attack on the al-Shifa medicines factory in Khartoum - an attack which is widely accepted to have been a ignominious mistake on the past of American intelligence. The bombing was also a humanitarian disaster for Sudan as it deprived the Sudanese people of a factory which produced approximately two-thirds of Sudan's pharmaceutical needs.
A further indication of the new attitudes within the international community towards Sudan emerged in early 2000 when the Canadian government sought to secure a Security Council resolution on Sudan during Canada's tenure as chairman of that body. The Canadian government, normally a leader of world opinion, had to drop this idea in the face of considerable opposition from the international community. The Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Fowler, stated, for example, that:
The representations we received suggested that the timing was not right, that there were important peace initiatives under way both from Libya and Egypt. The Arab League and the OAU (Organization of African Unity), as well as the nonaligned movement, suggested to us that council engagement on this issue at this time would not be productive.
It is clear that IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the seven nation East African regional body intimately involved with the Sudanese peace process, also pointedly opposed any United Nations Security Council resolution or involvement. The organisation's executive director stated that IGAD "is strongly opposed to raising the problem at the Security Council".
It should be noted that the Non-Aligned Movement is made up of 114 nations. It was established 45 years ago as a counterpoint to the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The fact that the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organisation of African Unity and Arab League as well as the vital IGAD nations pointedly opposed Canada's attempts to raise the Sudan issue at the Security Council was a key indicator of how out of step Canada was in seeking such a resolution.Sudan and the Lifting of UN Sanctions
The shift in attitude towards Sudan has also been manifested in the international moves to lift the limited diplomatic sanctions imposed on Sudan in 1996 in the wake of a 1995 attempt by Egyptian terrorists on the life of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while he was attending a summit meeting in Addis Ababa. (These sanctions had sought to reduce the number of Sudanese diplomats in embassies worldwide and to restrict visits by Sudanese ministers or officials. The sanctions had already been largely ignored - with official visits by Sudanese foreign minister to most European Union countries, including the United Kingdom, and Canada.) South Africa and Algeria, in the capacities as chairmen of the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement and the 22-member Arab Group of states respectively called on the Security Council to withdraw the sanctions. The Organisation of African Unity, representing 53 countries, has also urged the Security Council to rescind the sanctions in question. In a letter to the President of the Security Council, OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim stated that the lifting of the sanctions was an urgent matter:
The lifting of sanctions imposed on Sudan is not only urgently called for, but would also positively contribute to efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in the region.
Of particular significance is that both Egypt and Ethiopia also supported the lifting of sanctions. The Egyptian government stated that having seen "a number of positive and encouraging indications from the part of the Sudanese government" aimed at improving Sudan's relations with Egypt, it supported the rescinding of the sanctions. The Ethiopian government said that "it is the conviction of the Ethiopian Government that the concerns that gave rise to the sanctions.no longer apply.Ethiopia is, therefore, of the view that it is now time for the lifting of the sanctions imposed on the Sudan".Sudan and Membership of the UN Security Council
In an additional indication of the shift within the international community regarding Sudan, in July 2000, the African countries selected Sudan to represent the African continent as a non-permanent member on the United Nations Security Council. The Organisation of African Unity, representing 53 nations, chose Sudan over Uganda and Mauritius to succeed Namibia for two years beginning January 2001.
It is not just from within the ranks of the developing world or Non-Aligned Movement that support for Sudan has emerged. The French Ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-David Levitte, President of the United Nations Security Council, also recognised positive developments regarding Sudan:
There are evolutions for the better in Khartoum, and France is not the only member of the Council to consider that these positive evolutions should be registered.
It is a matter of record from past Joint Assemblies that the involvement of several European Parliamentarians has simply not reflected the measured and constructive approach to Sudan taken by groupings such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the OAU and Arab League, as well as by countries such as France, Germany, Egypt and Ethiopia. Indeed, it is a sad reflection that some of the draft European resolutions on Sudan presented to ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assemblies appear to have been drafted by outside pressure groups. It is also self-evident that several of the draft European resolutions on Sudan have been out of date and riddled with factual mistakes.Why No Visit to Sudan by the ACP-EU Joint Assembly?
Why has the Joint Assembly not accepted the repeated invitations of the Sudanese Government to visit Sudan and assess the situation at first-hand? The last visit by European Parliamentarians was several years ago, and quite some time before the constitutional, political and economic reforms that have marked Sudan's recent history - reforms that have motivated quite unprecedented support for Sudan from within the Non-Aligned Movement, the OAU, the European Union and other groupings. All the northern Sudanese opposition political parties, including the Umma party headed by the former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi - himself ousted by the forerunner of the present administration - have decided to return to constitutional politics within Sudan. If they have decided that there has been fruitful political change within Sudan significant enough for them to end their involvement in armed struggle and return to politics, surely European Parliamentarians should also come to see for themselves.
To continue with stale, repetitive draft resolutions on Sudan based on questionable and partisan sources serves no purpose whatsoever except to widen the gap between the European Parliamentarians and their ACP colleagues on this issue.The forthcoming Parliamentary and Presidential elections in Sudan in December 2000 surely provides an excellent opportunity for an official ACP-EU Joint Assembly delegation to visit Sudan and examine the Sudanese situation at first hand?