WASHINGTON - During his recent visit to Washington, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said one goal looms above all others as he leads the country’s transitional government: bringing peace to the war-ravaged nation.
“Our number one top priority is to stop the war and build the foundation of sustainable peace,” he said. “Essentially to stop the sufferings of our people in the IDP camps and the refugee camps. We think the opportune time of stopping this war is now.”
Hamdok did not specify which war he meant; Sudan’s government has been fighting rebels in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions for years. The capital, Khartoum, saw deadly conflicts between protesters and the military earlier this year.
He did say he was heartened by the resiliency on display when he visited the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced people in Darfur, where a war that began in 2003 has never entirely stopped.
“It was a very moving moment but the climax of it was… a woman who took the floor and delivered the first speech. She articulated so well their interest, their expectations about the transitional government, how they see the peace process. After that, she was followed by six speakers… They all said our sister articulated our issues and were very satisfied with what she said.
“All the sufferings and the miseries they went through, it taught them, educated them and made them strong enough to be able to say from now onwards we know what is good for ourselves and nobody can dictate on us anything. This is very liberating,” Hamdok said.
Unlike the administration of his predecessor, Omar al-Bashir, Hamdok’s government has pledged to allow unfettered access for aid organizations to reach those in need.
Hamdok spoke at the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think tank in Washington. He visited the American capital in an effort to repair Sudan’s relationship with the U.S., which was strained to nonexistent during the entire 30-year reign of former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who the military ousted in April after months of mass protests.
One of Hamdok’s goals is for the U.S. to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan was put on the list in 1993, at a time when al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden was living in Khartoum.
Although Sudan is still on the list, the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors.
U.S. officials have said the process of removing Sudan from the terrorism list will be a long one. Hamdok stressed that his country is prepared to meet the requirements which may include paying restitution to victims of terrorist attacks.
“We Sudanese as a people have never supported terrorism before. It was a former regime that supported this,” he said. “We are also as a nation, victims of terrorism that was inflicted on us by the regime. But we accepted this as a corporate responsibility. And we are negotiating.”
Hamdok, an economist and diplomat who has worked for the U.N., was named the country’s transitional prime minister in August. In deference to the leading role women played in the revolution, Hamdok made history by naming four women to his cabinet.
Walaa Esam AbdelRahman, Minister of Youth and Sport, was an activist who participated in sit-ins and street protests. She and other activists faced live fire and tear gas and were forced to go into hiding in between protests in fear of reprisals from security forces.
“It was very dangerous. But the more that they were aggressive, the more that we went to the street. That's why we went so far,” she told VOA.
Now AbdelRahman and others are seeking to institute a series of changes, including legal and political reforms, paving the way for a democratic, free and fair election in 2022.
“The road is not easy but we went so far and we were very determined to reach to the final destination of this transitional period because I always say that these [upcoming] three years is part of the revolution. It's another level,” she told VOA. “We will finish the level of protesting and marching. Now we need to build the new Sudan.”