For the first time in the history of this Column we are today focusing on an issue in politics – not because of political persuasions or stance, but the significant role mediation is playing to shape the political lives of a people – the Sudanese
It is no longer news that the Government of former President Omar Al Bashir was toppled by the Sudanese Military on April 6 this year, following massive protests by the Sudanese people who boldly stepped out to say enough is enough.
Soon after that development which has seen the main rulers of yesterday in confinement, the people were not yet done. They needed assurances of a return to a civilian rule since according to them the new military leaders were active participants in the ousted regime. Again they poured out into the streets of Khartoum and many other cities, in response to the call of the Alliance for Freedom and Change to demonstrate in millions. According to journalists and observers, the number of demonstrators this time around exceeded the number of protesters on the demonstration of April 6, which led to the overthrow of President Omar Al Bashir.
As I write this however, the issues between the Sudanese people and the Military Junta has been resolved through mediation facilitated by African Union (AU) and Ethiopian mediators. According to news reports, the ruling Transitional Military Council and the opposition Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) have reached an agreement on power sharing during a transitional period of three years and three months. The presidency will rotate and a technocratic government will be formed by the AFC. The agreement was announced in the early hours of Friday morning July 5. A legal committee will work out the agreement into a watertight text, which is to be signed within two days. The transitional period starts when the text is signed, African Union mediator Mohamed Alhassan Lebatt said.
For those not familiar with the dynamics of mediation, the announcement last Monday that the parties had agreed on most points except one contentious issue was certainly troubling. The question then was, would the mediation succeed or fail? This situation was not helped when African Union envoy to Sudan Mohamed Lebatt and Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir called on the parties to directly negotiate to discuss the point of contention. However the Alliance for Freedom and Change renewed at a press conference on Monday evening its reservation on direct negotiations with the Transitional Military Council before agreeing on the basic issues, declaring their adherence to the joint African-Ethiopian initiative.
What you have seen play out in the preceding paragraph is the finest of the traditions of mediation. You should take an interest in the mediators’ position that the one contentious issue yet unresolved should be negotiated directly between parties. The mediators were not minded to offer any suggestions or make an input because mediation agreement is what the parties themselves have decided to do. It was not also unusual as the Alliance for Freedom and Change insisted, that they will have no direct negotiations with the Transitional Military Council; declaring rather their adherence to the joint African-Ethiopian Initiative. This is a familiar scenario that plays up often and again in mediation.
The reservation of the AFC is not without foundation. It is all so often that when contending parties negotiate directly there is the likelihood of a stalemate since each party is stuck to its position which triggered the mediation in the first instance. No one has told us how this point of contention was resolved. We may never know, because mediation is confidential.
The happy ending of the power contest between the people of Sudan and their military is a great lesson for all political observers and active players in Africa. There can be no better evidence of the use, capacity and power of the mediation process. As we say in mediation, the first victory is the willingness and or acceptance of contending parties to come to table for an attempt at mediation. During the course of mediation, certain points may be agreed upon while others remain unresolved at first attempt. When this occurs parties must remain calm and keep an open mind to a continuation of efforts to resolve the issues.
The Sudanese mediation victory should also be an eye opener for Nigerian politicians and political office holders. All it takes to lessen the tension in and around governance is the willingness to listen to voices of dissent and to share the awesome hold on power with others who indisputably have a stake.
The Nigerian judiciary has commendably taken great strides to institute the practice of mediation in the court system. An appreciation and use of these methods will deepen democracy and institute an egalitarian society. Mediation does not in any way deny you the use or the legal protection of your lawyers. When at any mediation parties have agreed on what to do, it behooves on their legal counsel who attend such sittings to reduce these into an enforceable legal text. That is what the Sudanese mediation agreements expressly stated. In a country like ours which is already blessed with a robust Attorney-Mediators and Mediation Advocates groups, we are all set for the next levels if we so commit.