The 2020 Democracy Awards: Honoring Sudan’s Civil Society

July 22, 2020
09:30 am - 12:00 pm

About this Event

Sudan now faces a historic opportunity for democratic transition. For more than six months preceding the formal power-sharing agreement in August 2019, the democratic civic movement of Sudan engaged in peaceful, countrywide protests, demanding a transition to civilian rule and respect for democracy and human rights.

The National Endowment for Democracy(NED) paid tribute to the people of Sudan and their historic 2019 revolution when it honored three organizations working tirelessly to strengthen civil society in Sudan with the 2020 Democracy Award. The three organizations represent the key populations engaged in the protests: young people, women, and those living in the countryside on the periphery.


9:30 a.m.: Welcome from NED Chairman of the Board Andrew Card, NED President Carl Gershman, and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Africa and The Sudans, Ambassador Makila James

9:40: Remarks from Acting Foreign Minister of Sudan, Omer Ismail

9:45: Conversation with Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield

10:15: Presentation of the 2020 Democracy Award featuring remarks by members of Congress

10:50: Conversation and Q&A with Democracy Award Recipients moderated by PBS Newshour’s Nick Schifrin

11:45: Closing Remarks from NED President Carl Gershman

All media must register with NED public affairs. Please email to register as a member of the press.

About the Honorees

Regional Centre for Development and Training of Civil Society (RCDCS) trained hundreds of youth across the country on democracy, activism, and local engagement. The Centre’s overall aim is to strengthen and empower youth and civil society organizations to play a more effective role in achieving peace, democracy, and sustainable development in Sudan.  It is currently working to formalize pathways for youth to engage in and be heard by government decision-making processes and political parties, as well as supporting local committees to maintain citizen engagement during the transitional period.  Receiving the Democracy Award on behalf of the Regional Centre for Development and Training of Civil Society is Abdel Mitaal Mohammed Ahmed Girshab.

Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA) trains women activists to engage in peace processes and activism on local issues and national respect for women’s rights. It is currently working to advance a national women’s agenda, pass legal reforms to protect women’s rights, and identify and train women to serve in the transitional national assembly. The Association campaigns against sexual and gender-based violence and for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in Sudan. Receiving the Democracy Award on behalf of the Nuba Women for Education and Development Association is Kamilia Ibrahim Kuku Kura.

Darfur Bar Association (DBA) supports marginalized people to advocate for their rights and provided legal assistance to vulnerable activists before and during the protests. The DBA provides legal assistance to Darfuri and other human rights activists targeted by the Sudanese government because of their ethnic identity or advocacy for human rights and democracy. The Bar Association will be vital in legal reform, peace negotiations, and transitional justice and accountability efforts. Receiving the Democracy Award on behalf of the Darfur Bar Association is Abdelrahman Mohamed Al Gasim.

About the Speakers

Kamilia Ibrahim Kuku Kura is the founder and executive director of Nuba Women’s Education and Development Association (NuWEDA), a non-governmental organization focused on empowering Sudanese women, youth, and children from marginalized and conflict regions. A passionate activist and long-term community organizer for women’s rights, Ms. Kuku Kura is a member of the Sudanese taskforce for engagement of women in the peace process, and a coordinator for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in Sudan. Upon receiving her diplomas in Community-Based Psychosocial Intervention and Christian Ministries, Ms. Kuku Kura decided she must speak out on behalf of human rights, as frequent fighting took place in the Nuba Mountains. Despite the risks and dangers, she worked tirelessly to ensure that the basic needs of women in the camps were met, running various aid programs for these communities. In 2006, Ms. Kuku Kura and other women were arrested in the Nuba Mountains, eventually freed following the pressure from several humanitarian organizations. With determination as strong as ever, Ms. Kuku Kura develops her skills by attending capacity-building trainings in Sudan and internationally, and NuWEDA continues to lead the way in advocating for women’s rights in Sudan.

Abdelrahman Mohamed Al Gasim is a co-founder of the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), a Sudanese organization established by a group of lawyers in 1995 that aims to protect the rights and freedoms of all human beings. Mr. Al Gasim first worked as a legal aid and protection secretary, and after being forced into exile, currently serves as foreign relations secretary, advocating internationally for the activities of the DBA. As a result of his human rights activism, which focuses on international justice and the need to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Mr. Al Gasim has been subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, and a criminal trial that lasted about seven months — in addition to the months he spent in solitary confinement, and the pre-trial period, when he faced criminal charges that lead to the death penalty.  Due to the international pressures on the government of Sudan, Mr. Al Gasim was released. Despite the dropped charges, the security authorities did not stop harassing and following Mr. Al Gasim, so he fled to Kampala, where he continued to practice his activism against the Omar al-Bashir regime until its fall. In 2018, he was recognized for his efforts with the International Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association and a fellowship from the American Bar Foundation. A graduate of Cairo University Faculty of Law, Mr. Al Gasim is also the co-founder of Sudanese Human Rights Monitoring 2008 and served as a member of its Board of Trustees.

Abdel Mitaal Mohammed Ahmed Girshab is the director general of the Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS), a non-governmental organization based in Khartoum which works to strengthen and empower civil society organizations, to promote more productive state and civil society relations, and to further citizen participation in policies and decision-making that affect their daily lives. During his work at RCDCS, Mr. Girshab helped to create a network of non-partisan civil society organizations in northern Sudan to encourage free, fair and non-violent elections. He also helped to form a large alliance of Sudanese civil society organizations, institutions, and individuals committed to a transparent, inclusive, and participatory constitution-making process that reflects the diversity of Sudan and leads to a constitution based on democracy and fundamental human rights. Prior to joining RCDCS, Mr. Girshab previously worked at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for 15 years as the Regional Development Coordinator for the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region and was a Fulbright visiting professor to Clemson University.

Omer Ismail is the Acting Foreign Minister of Sudan. Previously, Acting Foreign Minister Ismail worked as a humanitarian and human rights activist, including as a Senior Advisor to the Enough Project, and was a fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. He graduated from Khartoum University.

Ambassador Makila James, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa and The Sudans at the US Department of State.  Prior to taking up these responsibilities in September 2018, she was on the Faculty of the National War College and served as the Director of the International Student Management Office at the National Defense University (NDU) (2016-2018).  She was the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Swaziland (now the Kingdom of Eswatini) from 2012 until December 2015.

Senator Ben Sasse was elected in 2014 to represent the great state of Nebraska.  Senator Sasse serves on the U.S. Senate Committees on the Judiciary; Select Intelligence; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and the Joint Economic Committee.

Congressmember Karen Bass was re-elected to her fifth term representing the 37th Congressional District of California in November 2018. Congressmember Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. Congressmember Bass also serves as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik proudly represents New York’s 21st District in the House of Representatives in her second term in office. She is a Member of the Armed Services Committee, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. On the Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Stefanik serves as Chair for the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and is a Member of the Subcommittee on Readiness.

Senator Chris Coons was elected to represent the state of Delaware in 2010. He serves on the Senate Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Ethics committees.  Senator Coons co-founded and leads the Senate Human Rights Caucus.

Congressman Eliot Engel represents the New York’s 16th district and serves as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Before becoming Chairman, he served as the Committee’s Ranking member and as the Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

Congressman Michael T. McCaul is currently serving his eighth term representing Texas’ 10th District in the United States Congress. At the start of the 116th Congress, Congressman McCaul became the Republican Leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In his capacity as the committee’s Republican Leader, McCaul is committed to ensuring we promote America’s leadership on the global stage. In his view, it is essential the United States bolsters international engagement with our allies, counters the aggressive policies of our adversaries, and advances the common interests of nations in defense of stability and democracy around the globe.

Congressman Dan Kildee represents Michigan’s 5th District in the House of Representatives. He holds various leadership positions in Congress including Chief Deputy Democratic Whip. Rep. Kildee serves on the prestigious Ways and Means Committee. In June 2019, Congressman Kildee introduced a resolution condemning the attacks on peaceful protesters and supporting an immediate peaceful transition to a civilian-led democratic government in Sudan.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a Senior Counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, where she draws on her long and distinguished career as a U.S. diplomat to help the clients of ASG’s Africa practice. She joined ASG after serving as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (2013 – 2017). In this capacity, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield led U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on peace and security, democracy and governance, economic empowerment and investment opportunities. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Endowment for Democracy.

Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour’s foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series “Inside Putin’s Russia” won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club’s Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence.