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Bashir Moves Sudan to Dangerous New Ground
Bashir Moves Sudan to Dangerous New Ground
Peacekeeping troops from China, deployed by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), patrol outside the premises of the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Juba, South Sudan, on 4 October 2016. AFP/Albert Gonzalez Farran
Report 288 / Africa

中国在南苏丹的外交政策尝试

中国长期以来抵制对他国事务的干预,但正在南苏丹前所未有地尝试和平缔造者的角色。中国带来了独特的影响力,但也受制于经验与专业知识的不足及地面人员的短缺。这一尝试可能预示着中国的全球角色将更为主动,不过其对冲突的干预仍会因自我利益保护和风险规避而趋于谨慎。

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随着中国的足迹在全球不断延伸,其长期以来采取的不干涉他国内政的外交原则也在不断演变。随着其海外投资和业务联系不断变广加深,中国公民、经济利益和国际声誉所面临的威胁也日益加剧,中国因此不得不直面其传统的“不插手”外交立场的固有局限性。中国做出的逐步调整将深刻定义其在国际舞台的角色。其最引人注目的外交尝试在非洲大陆,而南苏丹是焦点。中国的行动一方面以保护中国公民和国家经济利益为目标,另一方面推动停战、促进人道主义救援。南苏丹因此成为中国采取更主动的国际角色的一个试点。

在此之前,中国曾尝试加深介入苏丹事务,但主要迫于国际舆论的压力。中国长期支持苏丹,因此苏丹政府对达尔富尔叛乱的血腥镇压为中国招致强烈的国际批评,甚至引发了抵制2008年北京奥运会的呼吁。中国因此利用对苏丹政府的影响和在联合国安理会的地位,协助确保苏丹接受联合国于2008年在达尔富尔部署维和部队。2012年,利比亚爆发内战,中国政府成功转移当地公民,此举一方面在国内激发了强烈的民族自豪感,另一方面也提高了中国人和投资者对政府的国际影响力的期望。在这两次事件中,中国拉伸了其传统外交原则的界限,表明当其利益受到威胁时,中国越来越愿意采取主动行动。

当2013年末南苏丹爆发内战时,主张对不干涉内政政策作出更灵活解释的这一派中国决策者们看到了机会,可以尝试用新方法来保护中国的国家利益。在这一过程中起作用的有以下几个因素:国有企业——中国石油天然气总公司在海外有巨额投资,这决定了它的角色既是经济伙伴也是政治参与者;同时,中国与战争调停者和西方大国等其他各方的利益不谋而合,大家共同寻求冲突的结束。通过与西方各国以及负责协调南苏丹和平进程的非洲之角区域性组织——东非政府间发展组织 (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development---IGAD,伊加特)联手合作,中国的决策者相信,自己能够在维护声誉的同时,做出建设性的干预举措。

中国在南苏丹迈出了超越其传统外交政策的重要一步:即便大体上遵守不干涉他国内政的原则,中国仍旧可以利用其影响力,使交战各方回到谈判桌上,弥合西方大国和南苏丹领导人之间的分歧。中国参与在埃塞俄比亚举行的和平会谈进程,在苏丹召开参战派系之间的谨慎会谈,策划联合国安理会的行动,向联合国南苏丹维和行动(UNMISS)派遣维和部队,并加入了2015年8月和平协议的监督机构。

总之,中国仍旧可能反对干涉他国内政,但该外交政策的定义变得更富有弹性空间。中国继续划清界限,拒绝对他国内政事务进行干预;反对政权更迭或单方面军事干预;认为表达尊重,而不是施加压力或惩罚,才是促进合作、改善治理的良方。因为自己是制裁的受害者,也饱受公开批评,所以中国更倾向于通过谨慎的说服工作来解决问题。但当内部冲突跨越国界,威胁到地区安全和稳定,或是造成了大规模的人道主义危机,同时在得到区域和地方当局以及联合国许可时,中国的直接干预行动就变得合理化了。在这些情况下,中国更倾向于支持政治对话,而不是将结果直接强加给谈判各方,除非中国公民或海外投资的安全受到了威胁。

我们很好理解为什么中国在外交政策的转变上采取试探性的步伐。中国知道自己在国际和平与安全努力的领域刚刚崭露头角,特别是通过多边机构展开外交努力方面尚属新手,因而格外注意避免过界行为。中国积极地学习自身的过往经验,同时还借鉴其他潜在和平缔造者的成功和失误。中国外交队伍的人员和培训尚不完备,但中国巨大的经济和政治实力意味着,无论是在南苏丹或其他地方,一旦中国介入,无可避免地会带来传统调解努力无法达到的影响力。

尽管合作方式迥异,但迄今为止在南苏丹的合作使中国、西方国家、其非洲合作伙伴以及南苏丹人民都受益匪浅。各方应该继续贯彻这种合作。现在是南苏丹和平进程的关键时刻,也是中国尝试崭露新角色的重要关口。两者兼顾,互利共赢,至关重要。

北京/内罗毕/朱巴/布鲁塞尔, 2017年7月10日

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is seen during a swearing in ceremony of new officials after he dissolved the central and state governments in Khartoum, Sudan February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
Statement / Africa

Bashir Moves Sudan to Dangerous New Ground

Faced with the most serious protests against his 30-year rule, President Omar al-Bashir’s declaration of a state of emergency will not save his bankrupt, unpopular regime. Instead, security forces must halt worsening violence, Bashir should step down and all sides should work on a broadly inclusive transitional government.

President Omar al-Bashir’s address to the nation on the evening of 22 February attempted to defuse the crisis that has engulfed his administration in the longest wave of protests in decades. Instead, the president’s words infuriated protesters and steered the confrontation, pitting the regime against a diffuse, still-peaceful protest movement into a new, more dangerous phase. Bashir spoke of the need for dialogue but in declaring a state of emergency, he placed more obstacles in the way of talks. He dissolved the government at the federal and provincial levels and, shortly after his speech, appointed security chiefs to head all 18 of the country’s regional states. He has in effect allowed the armed forces to run the country for a year.

Protesters greeted Bashir’s words with derision and anger. The president offered what seemed like a concession in declaring that parliament, which is dominated by the ruling party, would defer proposed amendments to the constitution designed to allow him to run in 2020. But this did not satisfy protesters calling for him and his circle to step down and for the formation of a transitional government.

The embattled president has played this card before. In 2013, following large protests by university students unhappy with the state of the economy, Bashir promised not to stand for election in 2015 only to renege. Although intelligence chief Salah Gosh told the media before the president’s speech that Bashir would resign as head of the National Congress Party (NCP), which would have ruled him out as a candidate in 2020, Bashir made no such announcement. More importantly, by suspending the constitution and giving the security services the lead role in maintaining order, Bashir deliberately set the stage for a lopsided dialogue which the opposition has already rejected. This too is a card Bashir previously played in 2013 when he used massive repression against protesters and then called for talks with a weakened opposition a year later.

Demonstrators poured into the streets in large numbers, [...] braving a police response that included use of live ammunition and tear gas.

This is not Sudan’s first state of emergency. Previous rulers faced with mass protests have often turned to this blunt tool. Bashir himself has repeatedly declared an emergency in several provinces since 2011 in a bid to quell uprisings. In practice, this means deploying more troops – with fewer restraints on their behaviour – and erecting multiple roadblocks in an effort to control the civilian population’s movements. Under the terms of the decree, security forces can raid premises without warrants and seize property. The order also grants authorities power to ban organisations without explanation.

Shortly after Friday’s announcement, armed security forces surrounded the offices of physicians who have been at the vanguard of protests, firing tear gas to force them out before detaining several of them, according to activists. Unarmed doctors have been among the most active professionals taking part in weekly protests calling for change. The regime also detained dozens of protest and opposition leaders Friday night and Saturday morning. Credible reports are emerging of isolated clashes between units of the National Intelligence and Security Services (seen as most loyal to Bashir) and army units siding with protesters in Port Sudan and other cities. Despite the increased danger, demonstrators poured into the streets in large numbers in several cities and towns around the country a day after Bashir’s speech, braving a police response that included use of live ammunition and tear gas. The risk of an escalation of violence is higher now than it has been at any time since protests broke out in the third week of December.

Sudanese police and its various armed forces already operate under notably permissive laws, enjoying immunity from prosecution. Human Rights Watch reports that security forces have killed at least 51 civilians since the latest round of protests began. With the regime’s back to the wall, these forces are likely to behave with even greater brutality.

Although a new wave of repression against civilians represents the most pronounced danger in the coming weeks and months, it is not the only one. Prolonged unrest has widened pre-existing fissures within Bashir’s regime. According to officials with close links to senior members of the ruling party, by dissolving the government Bashir sought to pre-empt a potential coup from within the NCP. Indeed, the regime appears more divided than in the past. The most prominent divide reportedly pits the senior military establishment (whose loyalty Bashir attempted to further cultivate by appointing 16 out of 18 state governors from their ranks) on one side and an Islamist wing whose leaders are said to advocate a more positive response to demonstrators’ demands on the other. If the split deepens, it could raise the spectre of a dangerous confrontation between these well-organised and well-armed camps. 

Bread and More

Protests began in mid-December in Atbara, a mid-size town 350km from the capital Khartoum and the historic home of Sudan’s once-powerful trade union movement. The immediate trigger for the public outpouring of dissent was a cut to a government subsidy that tripled the price of bread.

Protests are about much more than the price of staples, however. Anger has focused on the failures of what they see as an insular, security-focused regime whose ruinous policies and wanton corruption have created a sclerotic economy with few avenues for socioeconomic advancement. The scale of the current economic crisis, amid rampant inflation and biting foreign currency shortages, is illustrated in long queues of depositors trying to withdraw their funds from banks and reports of account holders having to bribe cashiers to cash their cheques. Scrambles around vans delivering money to banks add to the sense of an economy in freefall. Many families survive on remittances from relatives working abroad.

That some of the most intense protests have occurred in Bashir’s strongholds, in the wealthier centre of the country, is a potent new development.

More than in previous rounds of protests, Bashir’s opponents have proved unexpectedly resilient. Protesters come from mixed political and economic backgrounds. Professionals, particularly doctors and engineers, have teamed up with opposition parties, many younger ruling party members and the Girifna, a coalition of youthful anti-regime university students formed in 2009. That some of the most intense protests have occurred in Bashir’s strongholds, in the wealthier centre of the country, is a potent new development. The regime has veered between repression and promises of reform including supposedly fair elections in 2020, but all this has not been enough to stop the protests.

What Should Be Done

Bashir has a reputation as a survivor but this latest challenge to his rule is especially acute because he has no tool to fix the economic crisis – and no external partner willing to invest the billions that could stabilise the economy. Indeed, the president has reached out to Doha, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, as well as Cairo and Moscow, but extracted little more than verbal promises of support. Despite having given Bashir substantial funds in the past and wishing that Sudan not collapse into chaos, Gulf partners prefer not to pump substantial money into Khartoum, believing the economic crisis is structural and requires a substantial change in state policies before a recovery can begin. Qatari defence minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah arrived in Khartoum shortly before Bashir’s speech but authorities did not issue a statement on the content of his discussions with officials.

U.S. senior envoy, Cyril Sartor, Special Assistant to the U.S. President and Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council, travelled to Khartoum in the third week of February to confer with top Bashir administration officials. According to the U.S. embassy there, among subjects discussed were “U.S.-Sudan relations, including concerns about the frequent use of force by the Sudanese government’s security forces to quell recent demonstrations”.

As Crisis Group stated in January, for external actors, the first priority should be to minimise bloodshed on the street. Western partners should warn Bashir and his circle that they will not extend badly needed financial assistance, debt forgiveness, further sanctions relief or normalise relations if the regime keeps up its bloody crackdown against protesters, who have been remarkably peaceful since the uprising began. They should signal to officials close to Bashir that they will be held individually accountable for abuses against civilians. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, all of whom have ties with Khartoum, should likewise counsel Bashir that the course he has taken will do little to resolve Sudan’s deep crisis.

Bashir appears to be falling back to the script used in 2013 when paramilitary troops killed hundreds to quell large anti-regime protests.

These partners should encourage all sides, especially the government, to abandon a zero-sum approach that could lead to a prolonged stalemate. They should instead consider a broad-based transitional government for a limited period to implement reforms that would set the stage for credible elections. Such a government must exclude Bashir. Because of the dominance of the ruling NCP and the dysfunction of mainstream opposition parties, most protest leaders have good reason to think holding credible elections in 2020 is not possible and are asking for a multi-year transitional government that can hold freer elections in two or three years.

Faced with dwindling options, Bashir has chosen the path of confrontation. By declaring a state of emergency, he has concentrated power even more in his hands and set the stage for a bloody crackdown on protests. Bashir appears to be falling back to the script used in 2013 when paramilitary troops killed hundreds to quell large anti-regime protests. Outside powers can take some steps to help prevent this disastrous scenario:

  • The U.S. and the EU should make clear that they will not normalise relations with Khartoum if the government gives its forces carte blanche to kill and detain protesters. These partners should maintain incentives for Bashir to step down, including the potential deferral of his case at the International Criminal Court under Article 16, but specify that such an offer is conditional on listening to protesters’ demands and enabling a peaceful transition. African leaders who enjoy influence in Khartoum could also encourage Bashir to step aside by offering asylum in a friendly African country. At the same time, international actors should be aware that Bashir’s exit alone will not satisfy the demands of protesters who want the fall of the “regime and its head”, as they chant on the streets, and that forming a broad-based transitional government would be the only acceptable option if Bashir steps down.
     
  • Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom have good access to key decision makers in Khartoum, should counsel the regime to avoid further bloodshed and to set the stage for credible dialogue with the opposition and the various leaders of the protest movement so all sides can agree on a way to end the stalemate. They should urge Bashir to suspend the state of emergency to pave way for such talks. They should also emphasise to Bashir and his inner circle that speed is of the essence. The longer the crisis persists, the more likely a dangerous descent into chaos.
     
  • Western powers and Khartoum’s allies, including African leaders who maintain contacts with various elements of the government, should reach out through backchannels and lean on them to persuade Bashir to lift the state of emergency and refrain from further violence against protesters. Sudan desperately needs substantial financial assistance to stabilise its economy. Bashir has opted to privilege his own survival over the needs of the nation – a move that should deeply concern elites around him. A state of emergency will further limit economic activity, lock out desperately needed foreign investment and send the economy deeper into the doldrums.
     
  • As far back as 2012, Crisis Group advocated formation of a transitional government for a fixed period including the ruling party, the opposition and civil society to implement defined reforms as one model for a managed transition to end three decades of Bashir’s rule. This remains a credible option that would require concessions by all sides. The opposition would need to accept that the NCP must form part of such an arrangement. The NCP in turn would need to accept that it cannot dominate such a coalition.
     

The sustained wave of protests, gradually mounting since December, has highlighted the frustrations of a wide cross-section of Sudanese with Bashir’s regime. The scale of the economic crisis leaves Bashir with few tools to respond. He seems ready to deploy violent repression to ensure regime survival. All those with access to him should make it clear that this is a losing bet. Further violence will only compound the crisis and could lead to chaos – with a high cost both for him and for Sudan.