Outgoing British Ambassador ‘inspired by Sudanese revolution powered by women and the young’
The outgoing British Ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, has described his tenure in Khartoum, especially the period in 2019 from the fall of the Al Bashir regime to the signing of the Constitutional Document, as “one of the most intense and rewarding periods of my professional life”, and praised “the bravery, passion, humour, creativity, and determination of the Sudanese people”.
Ambassador Siddiq was received by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in Khartoum yesterday, on the occasion of the expiry of his posting to Sudan. At the meeting, Hamdok voiced appreciation for the support of the United Kingdom for the transition process and peace in the country.
“When I arrived in Sudan in April 2018, I could not have imagined that I would see the historic change that I have,” he says. “The December 2018 protest movement was an eruption of popular anger and energy over years of injustice. Powered by women and the young, it showed that determined, brave and passionate peaceful protest could bring about a change that had seemed out of reach for so many years. This was a hugely inspirational movement.”
Powered by women and the young, the December 2018 protest movement showed that determined, brave, and passionate peaceful protest could bring about a change that had seemed out of reach for so many years – Irfan Siddiq, outgoing British Ambassador to Sudan
Siddiq reflects on his initial frustration: “We tried to argue for positive change. But this had little impact, as our influence on a government that had been isolated and sanctioned for decades, was minimal.”
However Siddiq points out “the protests that led to the revolution flipped the script. It changed the whole framework of our engagement… I knew that this was a rare opportunity for change… This is why I was so glad that the UK took a lead in supporting the demands of the protest movement, defending their rights, and highlighting their cause.”
Siddiq acknowledges that he has “faced some criticism for being too outspoken”. For example, in June 2019, Sudan’s then ruling Transitional Military Council summoned Siddiq, following comments on social media critical of human rights violations in Sudan.
However, Siddiq says: “We live in a globalised world where all are interconnected. The COVID pandemic and the climate crisis show this painfully clearly. As a global citizen, I see my own interests reflected in developments in Sudan. And so I see an obligation to use my privileged position to try to support positive change. For myself, my family, my country and for the people of Sudan. What is the point of having influence, if you don’t try to use this influence for good? … So if I am criticised for interfering in Sudanese affairs, I am perfectly happy to accept such criticism. It is a small price to pay.”
Sadiq: “despite the many challenges, I leave Sudan optimistic. The success of this transition remains in the hands of the Sudanese people. The bravery, passion, humour, creativity, and determination that the Sudanese people have shown to get to this point is what makes me optimistic. I leave Sudan, but Sudan does not leave me. It will remain in my thoughts and in my heart,” he concludes.
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