My Vision for Sudan

EDITORIAL, 3 Jun 2024

#851 | Prof. Johan Galtung - TRANSCEND Media Service

Dear friends in peace, Peace Be Upon You, Sala’am Aleikum!

My task at the end of this very impressive conference with 150 participants here in Hermansburg on the Lüneburger Heide is to fly above the nitty-gritty of failing implementations of the many peace agreements, report the visions, and indicate possible solutions that have been tried successfully elsewhere.

In no way do I say “do this, do that”.  But I do report what comes to my eyes at four levels: world politics, relations to neighbors, the Sudan construction and the local level, particularly Darfur, the home of the fur. Some years ago the focus was on the South.

Let me also start with a well known African proverb:  “When elephants fight, the grass suffers, and, when elephants make love, the grass suffers even more.”  You have two elephants let loose, the USA and China, both oil drunk.  You have their drug.  Some Sudan violence is a proxy war.  Your neighbors tend toward one elephant or the other; so do parts and parties in Sudan.  We are in Cold War II since USA-NATO-Japan started encircling Russia-China-India and some more, leading to SCO,the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  You risk becoming a battle-field.

You may also risk that one day they agree on quotas for your oil, and impose them upon you.  Their egoism has no space for the effects on you, yet they are afraid of an all-out war. Let me make three points in addition to letting you, the grass, grow high, and very strong, and maybe even pointed.

First, you are protected by human rights: the Convention on Economic,Social and Cultural Rights stipulates that proceeds from the natural resources of a country should accrue to its people; neither to foreigners, nor to elites only. As you might expect, the USA did not ratify that one.

Second, you might consider doing major processing yourself and pocket the value-added rather than exporting crude only.  And you would of course quote your prices in a hard currency.

Third, oil is fading out as a major key to global warming.  There are such alternatives as wind and solar energy, and you have plenty of both.  Oil may become your doom, not a  blessing.

Flying a little lower I see Sudan with its many neighbors defined by colonial borders, not by your own African nations. The border between Anglophones and Francophones is one.  Some encroach on you, some court one elephant or the other.  You might consider establishing a confederation, a community of all of you, with as open borders as possible, and much cooperation. Look beyond today’s frictions, some of them elephant-generated. And watch that EU elephant herd, now getting its acts together.

One level lower Sudan fills the horizon: one state and many nations, by religion, language, shared history and attachment to geography.  An Arab-Islamic nation claiming to own it all is as unacceptable as Western colonialism.  It generates resistance and secessionism.  In the world there are about 200 states, 2,000 nations, and 20 nation-states in the world, the rest are multi-national. But there are three alternatives to unitarianism and secessionism: devolution, federation, confederation.

There are about 25 federations in the world, housing 40% of humanity;Switzerland, India and Malaysia being very inspiring. The general formula for the about 25 functions of modern states: four are handled by the Center; joint foreign, security, finance and infra-structure. And the rest is handled by the Parts–like the 7 Sudan regions–particularly such sensitive topics as religion, language,history and the geographical attachments.  Separate, equal and united. Neither unitarian nor secessionist.

Look at Switzerland: four languages, two Christianities and none imposed on the other.  Federalism makes democracy  possible as no national majority can impose itself.  Nor can sharia be imposed.  But watch out: customary, common law also carries a cultural code.  “You have your code and we have ours” is fine.  But even better is to combine, like when the Archbishop of Canterbury opened for some application of sharia.  Courageous.

Federalism does not have to be symmetric.  Thus, the South may demand extra autonomies; and justice is not served by shoes of size 40 for all. A Constitutional Court may mediate disputes.

I then come closer to the people in this giant land, and to the worst of all problems: 90% on less than $1 a day. A golden rule: First priority to the basic needs of the most needy.  And   four basic need scan easily be identified: survival served by orderly political processes and training in nonviolence, freedom served by democracy,identity served by federalism, and wellness served by food, housing,clothing, medical services, education through an economy with people not only elite, priorities.  Best done by lifting the people up rather than threatening elites.

The land issue is at the roots of the Darfur International-Criminal-Court level violence (as you might expect, the USA did not ratify that one). A distinction between public ownership and private,adequate, “user ship” may be useful.  The right to food is a basic right.  To own land and not use it properly is anti-human, like letting fuel for cars out-compete food for humans.

There is too much suffering in the Sudan today, too much violence as monuments over conflicts in search of solutions. But reconciliation without solution is pacification, lollypops that fool nobody. Solutions of these four conflict areas, with reconciliation, is peace. Peace with us all.  Sala’am Aleikum.


Originally published by TMS on 26 May 2008 – #10

Text written prior to the declaration of the independent state of South Sudan on 9 Jul 2011.

Johan Galtung (24 Oct 1930 – 17 Feb 2024), a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, was the founder of TRANSCEND International, TRANSCEND Media Service, and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize numerous times and was awarded among others the 1987 Right Livelihood Award, known as the Alternative NPP. Galtung has mediated in over 150 conflicts in more than 150 countries, and written more than 170 books on peace and related issues, 96 as the sole author. More than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. His book, Transcend and Transform, was translated to 25 languages. He has published more than 1700 articles and book chapters and over 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Jun 2024.

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One Response to “My Vision for Sudan”

  1. Not only Sudan, 27 years of civil war in Angola, Korea, Vietnam, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, the entire Middle East, the whole of Africa, the Balkan wars, Russia and Ukraine, China and India, the are ALL “Proxy” wars

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