Jean-Jacques Cornish

Enthusiasm about the resumption of Sudan talks

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An audience increasing in number and enthusiasm is waiting for the resumption of negotiations on the future governance of Sudan.

The most involved and therefore the most passionate are the Sudanese themselves.

They are divided between civilians seeking complete change from the 30-year regime of ousted President Omar Al Bashir and the military desperately trying to maintain the status quo by clinging to power at any cost.

The African continent is deeply immersed in the future of its second largest member.

The African Union has taken the unprecedented step of suspending Sudan under its current military junta because of the June 3 slaying of at least 118 unarmed pro-democracy activists.

The AU red card will be enforced until the Transitional Military Council hands power to a civilian led administration.

There is skepticism about  exactly what muscle the continental body can bring to bear on the generals.

However, there is no gainsaying that the AU has at last taken up the role it was designed to in 2002 when it replaced the cosy coterie of Organisation of African Unity  leaders who refused to criticize each other let alone interfere in their affairs.

The AU, following the genocide in Rwanda, determined that it would intervene to stop crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and gross human rights violations.

The reluctance all too often to take decisive actions has undermined the credibility of the body.

Those concerned with human rights are hoping the AU has turned a corner by acting against the Khartoum junta.

When it seemed that the prospect for negotiations had died along with the demonstrators outside military headquarters in the Sudanese capital, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew in to offer his services as mediator.

Both military and civilian leaders accepted Ahmed who has built a considerable reputation by making peace with Eritrea and Somalia.

He left behind in Khartoum an official  Mahmoud Dirir who is the source of optimism about negotiations resuming.

Details are lacking, but Dirir does have undertakings from the Alliance for Freedom and Change and the Sudan Professionals Association to call off the general strike which has brought the economy of the country to a standstill this week.

He also has a promise from the generals to release political prisoners taken since the June 3 massacre.

These groups have a mountain to climb.

They have made virtually no progress in talks designed to agree on the composition of a transitional administration leading to elections.

Ahmed is expected back in Sudan this week to continue his face-to-face efforts.

He is understood to have proposed  15-person body consisting of eight civilians and seven soldiers.

The civilian groups have six pre-conditions for a resumption of talks:

The removal of soldiers from the streets of Khartoum and other Sudanese cities;

An international investigation into the June 3 killings;

The release of political detainees;

Restoration of the internet;

Press freedom; and 

The Transitional Military Council accepting responsibility for the attacks on protestors.

Also headed for Khartoum is the United States Assistant Secretary of State For Africa Tibor Nagy.


The U.S. holds a big stick over Sudan because if only recently removed it from the list of terror-sponsoring countries which attract American sanctions.

Nagy’s brief is to get an assurance from the military that it will not again attack demonstrators and to secure an atmosphere conducive for negotiations.

Activist film star George Clooney, who co-founded the watchdog called The Sentinel with former African Affairs Director at the U.S. National Security Council John  Prendergast, says Washington must use political and diplomatic weapons to give substance to Nagy’s mission.

Having been involved Darfur in the early 2000s, when it was the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, Clooney is well versed in the iniquities of the Sudanese military and particularly its paramilitary terror group known as the janjaweed who now go by the more anodyne name of the Rapid Support Force.

The Sentinel is in the business of cutting off the financial stream to groups violating human rights and promoting violence in conflict zones like Darfur

Clooney says the U.S. Treasury must  issue an anti-money-laundering advisory to banks around the world to stop the illicit financial flows to human rights offenders and corrupt officials in  Sudan.

He points out that Washington has done this in Venezuela and Ukraine.

Using the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, and eliciting the help of allies in Europe and Africa,  Clooney says the Trump Administration can ensure there are consequences for the military regime in Sudan and particularly the janjaweed.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.