By Noah Hassan Abbaker
Relationships between countries are measured by the level of progression made in political, economic and social areas at a bilateral level.
The scale of cooperation at regional and international levels also measures them respectively.
It is against this background that the Sudan-Zambia relations can be measured in this first ever attempt, out of official evaluations of its kind in this regard and for the mutual benefit of the two countries and peoples.
A look at the common history reveals that the two countries had shared identical views towards the liberation of the African continent from the shackles of colonisation.
Sudan, which attained independence in 1956, eight years ahead of Zambia, exerted all efforts through the Non-Aligned Movement and Bandung Conference, in particular the United Nations systems as well as the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to see that all colonised African countries, including Zambia would gain their independence without delay.
Friendship was growing between the first Sudanese leader, late Ismael Al-Azhari and the Zambian legend Kenneth Kaunda as efforts were coordinated between the two leaders in respect of the previously mentioned.
As Zambia celebrated Golden Jubilee of its independence anniversary in 2014 and Sudan as well toasted the 16th independence anniversary in January 2016, there is need to weigh these relations and reflect on the future.
Prior to Zambia’s independence and specifically in the 1950s, Sudan did assist Zambia in constructing railway lines to ease exports and imports of the landlocked country as well as the movement of people, goods and services across the common border. The history of railway lines tells us that hundreds of Sudanese experts participated in the construction.
As Zambia joined the continental OAU body and other international organisations, the first Republican President, Dr Kaunda was a household name in Sudan with the famous ‘Kaunda suit’, joined by former footballer and now Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwayla.
Consultations between the two countries on how to liberate the rest of the countries on the Afican continent continued in the aftermath.
Recent history shows that many Sudanese have been participating in the development of Zambia. A shining example of the Sudanese community in this respect is Dr Ahmed Hussein of the University of Zambia, School of Mines, who has been lecturing there for the last 24 years, seeing hundreds of Zambians graduate from the School of Mines and hold prominent positions in their fields of specialisation.
Others are in the education and business sectors and the UN system.
The Sudanese government has been extending annual scholarships to the Zambian students in medicine, economy, education and technology fields.
Sudan has also initiated the African Political Parties Council presided over by Zambia while the post of secretary general goes to Sudan.
This in itself is a milestone as the council membership is open to the ruling and opposition parties in order for them to share opinions on how to maintain democracy as well as balance relations among them for further harmonisation.
Zambia and Sudan have been trying hard to solve political problems affecting the Great Lakes International Conference member States.
To this effect, South Sudan has chosen Zambia to mediate in finding a lasting solution to the bloody violence between the Salva Kiir-led government and the Riek Machar armed movement.
The violence has so far left thousands dead, tens of thousands homeless and refugees who sneak into Sudan.
The government of Sudan and accorded citizenship status welcomes them. To this end, and based on the rich Zambian mediation history and goodwill by Sudan to see that South Sudan lives in political harmony, Sudan and Zambia may assume the role of trouble shooter in that country once they emphasise and exert their efforts in this regard.
The Sudanese Embassy in Zambia was opened in 1990 and since then it has been active in terms of progressing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
As the world moves from political diplomacy to economic diplomacy, the bilateral trade engagement is poor. This is despite the fact that the two countries are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
However, know-how can be shared between the two countries especially in the fields of irrigation and agro-research, which can be beneficial to the two countries taking into consideration climate change and the need to diversify the economy.
Sudan can assist Zambia in solar power generation as it manufactures its own devices at a reasonable cost. Sudan can also export the Gum Arabic product, which is used in many industries.
Sudan in this regard is the best in terms of Gum Arabic production the world over. It is also advanced in the medium industry to the effect that they manufacture planes for agriculture, police services and military training as well as drones for peaceful purposes such as gathering information about floods and drought-stricken areas.
Social diplomacy plays a significant role in shaping the destiny of relations. It is important to note that some Sudanese are married to Zambian ladies and the other way round.
Many highly disciplined Zambian men and women in uniform have been participating in the United Nations Peace Keeping Missions (UNAMID) there, and they do cherish friendships and hospitality by the Sudanese people.
This in itself calls for the establishment of a Joint Permanent Committee between the two countries as well as the Zambian Sudanese Friendship Association to promote the relations at official and popular levels, respectively.
Zambia is a giant political/economic power and a gate to the Southern African region, while Sudan is a gate for non-Arab African countries to the Arab World.
Once they put their hands together, experiences can help the two countries to progress and solve many problems facing the Continent. (The author is a Sudanese resident in Zambia)