Khartoum should not be gagged about its territorial integrity and national
sovereignty, but it should start learning from the grave errors it committed
in the past, postulates
29 September - 5 October 2011
There is a whiff of sauve qui peut over Khartoum. The tempo of the struggle
for greater participation in the decision-making process in Sudan has been
stepped up. The campaign for greater civil liberties has entered a new phase
and the pressure on Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir is mounting. It
is, however, too soon to write off the regime of Al-Bashir.
In an exclusive interview with the London-based Pan-Arab daily Asharq
Al-Awsat, President Al-Bashir warned that the escalating violence in South
Kordofan and Blue Nile is the work of foreign agents provocateurs aiming at
toppling the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum. It is
precisely the fanatical tone that led to the Darfur uprising and made the
people of South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur determined to secure their
own autonomous status within Sudan or even outright independence.
The nuance in Al-Bashir's pronouncements has been overwhelmed by his
soundbites. Al-Bashir disclosed that Egypt under Mubarak was part of a wider
design to overthrow the NCP government. The Sudanese president, however,
praised Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and stressed that Cairo
now considers Sudan a prerequisite component of Egypt's national security.
He also stated that his government was one of the most tormented by the
regime of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
For all the flaws in Al-Bashir's argument, he may have achieved his chief
goal. He aims to detract attention from the troubles brewing in South
Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur and focus on the alleged interference by the
Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) -- the ruling party in the newly
independent South Sudan -- in the internal political dynamics of North
Perhaps the most discernible ministration Sudanese President Al-Bashir
delivered to his people has been to get on, in defiance of the catcalls,
ruthlessly with the job at hand. A long-time advocate of the imposition of
stricter Islamic Sharia laws, his latest hobby-horse is to promote the
Arabisation of peripheral regions such as Darfur, Blue Nile and South
Kordofan. The indigenous populations in these regions do not consider
themselves Arabs and have been subjected by social mores and successive
Sudanese governments to institutionalised racism tantamount to slavery.
But there is a strengthening sense of inevitability concerning the political
future of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The frontlines in the next battles
over the two provinces' destinies are now delineated.
Sudanese officials know this well. And so do their protagonists in Darfur,
South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Darfur, in particular, hit the headlines this
week with the discovery of vast reservoirs of gold deposits in South Darfur.
Ethnic tensions flared among the various warring factions and Al-Bashir has
managed deftly to play one militia against the other. The most influential
of these militias, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) received a
shattering blow with the political demise of the former Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi. JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim is said to have fled Libya in the
aftermath of the fall of Gaddafi, his chief benefactor, and rumoured to be
at large in Darfur.
A number of key JEM leaders have dissented and formed their own rival
militias. Gaddafi had united them with his largesse and now they fight as
soldiers of fortune for the highest bidder. Alleged dissenter Mohamed Adam
Bekheit has warned that JEM is in danger of disintegration and will never be
the force that it once was.
The people of Darfur are also keen to know the whereabouts and fate of JEM
leaders in Libya such as General Mohamed Ahmed Abdel-Rahman and Colonel
Ezzeddin Youssef. They concur with the leader of the Liberation and Justice
Movement leader Al-Tijani Al-Sisi who signed a peace accord with Al-Bashir's
government in Qatar recently. He upholds the Doha Document as the basis for
lasting peace in Darfur.
In the meantime, Al-Bashir is currying favour with the peoples of eastern
Sudan. Al-Sudani newspaper disclosed that Al-Bashir is to meet his Eritrean
counterpart President Isaias Afeworki this week to officially open the $9
million highway between the two neighbouring countries that is being paid
for by the Qatar government.
According to the daily Al-Sudani, Al-Bashir in conjunction with Governor
Mohamed Youssef Adam of Kassala Province in eastern Sudan have jointly
inaugurated several development projects designed to improve water and
electricity supplies in the underdeveloped region predominantly inhabited by
the non-Arab albeit devoutly Muslim Beja.
The Sudanese president is keen to appoint well-known and influential local
politicians with enough clout to give his Islamisation campaign an
attention-grabbing voice and face but one unlikely to overshadow his
How this is to be done remains a mystery. Of course, Al-Bashir is entitled
to air his views, even though not all his arguments are convincing. His
obstinacy, meanwhile, could trigger all manner of unintended consequences
including an intensification of demands for self-rule in marginal, non-Arab
fringes of Sudan.
This will inevitably provoke further disillusionment in Al-Bashir's already
Certain evils must be avoided at all costs. Al-Bashir's policy of coercion
and brutish clampdown campaigns in South Kordofan and Blue Nile will
generate even more instability in the two provinces than exists now.
Al-Bashir also noted that North Sudan has forfeited an estimated $10 billion
in revenues because of the loss of oil reserves to the nascent South Sudan
nation that now has a monopoly over oil production, exploitation and export.
If the point is to stave off economic ruin in North Sudan this monopoly of
oil usage by South Sudan must take into account compensating North Sudan for
loss of oil revenues. Restoring political backing for North Sudan in its
endeavours for economic reconstruction and development is a necessary
condition to stop the trust of investors in Sudan from eroding further. But
such a policy is not sufficient.
The Sudanese political and economic landscapes are ingrained with vested
interests -- Arab, Asian and Western. Endemic kleptocracy, cronyism,
corruption and nepotism have crippled the Sudanese economy. Lack of
political leadership and the deliberate peripheralisation of the
predominantly non-Arab fringes of North Sudan partly explain the country's
economic travails. Furthermore, Sudan's key trading Asian and Arab partners
have persistently failed to hold the Arab and NCP elite in Sudan to account.
Al-Bashir vowed to do "whatever it takes" to bring the far-flung backwaters
of Blue Nile and South Kordofan under the firm grip of the powers that be in
Khartoum. As a result it has become virtually impossible to reverse
Al-Bashir's system of populist support for his militant Islamist cause.
Take all this together and we can be sure that the rebellions in South
Kordofan and Blue Nile will exacerbate further. The only way to avoid
disaster is for peaceful co-existence between North and South Sudan. Even
the Sudanese president himself conceded that Khartoum and Juba must
collaborate more closely together to iron out differences and ease tensions
between the two countries. He also acknowledged the pre-eminent role Juba
plays in the politics of Blue Nile and South Kordofan since both provinces
are geographically adjacent to South Sudan and share long borders.
Ethically, morally and politically, South Sudan must be acknowledged as a
nation that has vital interests and kith and kin allegiances with the
peoples of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The prominent role played by the
SPLM in these two provinces in particular must be publicly admitted and
It is undeniable that South Sudan has important national security interests
in South Sudan, Blue Nile and North Sudan as a whole. It is equally
unthinkable that after 40 years of largely inconclusive war, the time is
ripe for a new approach to protecting those interests as well as the
interests of the peoples of Blue Nile and South Kordofan who fought
alongside the Southern Sudanese under the leadership of the SPLM.
The uprisings in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are perfectly capable of
remaining a thorn in the side of Khartoum for years to come if the crisis of
confidence between the SPLM and the NCP is not resolved.
Unless such problems receive prompt observance, the political situation in
Sudan is destined to remain volatile and unpredictable. The forces fighting
Sudanese government troops in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are distinct
indigenous movements with exceptionally close cultural and political links
with South Sudan.
More glaringly, it would be absurd to expect Khartoum to pretend that those
bonds do not exist. South Kordofan and Blue Nile could scupper a new deal
with Khartoum inspired by South Sudan.
Khartoum and Juba are not the only capitals that count, of course. Al-Bashir
is on firmer ground in his criticism of Western interventionist policies in
the domestic affairs of Sudan. Western powers, China and Arab countries have
a stake in an economically viable and politically stable Sudan. That is a
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Received on Wed Oct 05 2011 - 18:14:54 EDT