In the aftermath of the removal of Omar Al-Bashir from power in Sudan and his subsequent arrest, the voice of the South African government is conspicuously missing. This is a grave error, and a missed opportunity to reaffirm our democratic values and our commitment to the respect of human rights in Africa.
Following the arrest of Al-Bashir, Sudan’s military council announced its intention to lead the country for two years at the end of which period elections would be held for the Sudanese to choose a democratic government for themselves.
The protestors in Sudan who instigated a sustained campaign which brought about Al-Bashir’s removal have refused to accept the proposed military dictatorship. Instead, they are calling for a civilian-led government.
The response of neighbouring countries, multilateral institutions and influential governments is crucial now. Unless the people of Sudan find strong international support to force the military to engage with their demands for civilian rule and to respect the rule of law, the protestors are at risk of violence repression, and of losing the tenuous freedom from dictatorship that they have so recently won.
The African Union, with a passing reference to solidarity with the people of Sudan, has chosen to emphasize its opposition to the ‘military take-over’. They focus instead on “the 2000 Lomé Declaration on the unconstitutional change of Government and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, which strongly condemn any unconstitutional change of Government and commit member states to the respect of the rule of law, democratic principles and human rights.”
South Africa can now provide leadership at this critical time based on our own history of violent subjugation, our liberation struggle and our peaceful transition to democracy.
We know that the Sudanese state under Al-Bashir undermined democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights.
We know that under the bloody and repressive regime of Al-Bashir, the people of Sudan had no hope of a constitutional change of government.
We know that we contributed to prolonging the suffering of the Sudanese people by our failure to fulfill our obligation under the Rome Statute to arrest Al-Bashir when he was present in South Africa after a warrant of arrest had been issued against him on charges of crimes against humanity.
South Africa can now show solidarity to the people of Sudan. We can leverage our influence on the continent to advocate for a civilian-led transitional government. We have a unique experience in making this work, and successfully overseeing a peaceful transition to a fully democratic state.
The Democratic Alliance therefore calls on Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to reaffirm our commitment to a human-rights foreign policy approach and support the people of Sudan. South Africa owes them nothing less.