[Dehai-WN] Weekly.ahram.org.eg: Khartoum's bickering border states


[Dehai-WN] Weekly.ahram.org.eg: Khartoum's bickering border states

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2011 15:24:27 +0100

Khartoum's bickering border states


Sudan's ruling National Congress Party is missing a golden opportunity to
restore the country's territorial integrity, laments
<mailto:gnkrumah_at_ahram.org.eg?subject=Region%20::%20Khartoum%27s%20bickering
%20border%20states> Gamal Nkrumah

17 - 23 November 2011

  _____

Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) guards its privileges jealously
in the name of religion and Arab nationalism. It insists that it is
protecting Sudan's cultural identity at a time that its detractors point out
that the NCP's intransigence has cost Sudan dearly. The country lost a third
of its land mass, a quarter of its population and 75 per cent of its oil
wealth, when South Sudan became an independent and sovereign nation in July.
The NCP's attitude was a defiant "good riddance". Now is the time to heal
festering wounds, though, a moment that should not be squandered. Instead, a
new south is in the making in the peripheral border areas between Sudan and
South Sudan.

The debate about timelines is almost over. A new formidable military
opposition grouping announced last Friday the commencement of its crusade
against the NCP. The armed opposition group, the Sudan Revolutionary Front
(SRF), has already cautioned that if Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile
go, so goes the Sudanese nation as we know it. The SRF's political star is
on the rise in Sudan. Yet it would be rash to extract an anti-NCP resurgence
from the SRF threat.

It has been a long time coming, but the recent formation of an armed
alliance against the Sudanese government has finally ushered in a new era in
Sudanese domestic politics. The much-heralded move promises a manifesto for
political change and social justice in Sudan. The new alliance is playing to
a powerful secularist Sudanese non-Arab majority long marginalised and
burned up with moral outrage against Arab hegemony.

This may look like poetic justice to the peoples of the peripheral parts of
Sudan such as Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, whose inhabitants insist
that they may be Muslim but they are certainly not Arabs. The SRF fighters
sport dreadlocks and consider that they are black Africans and not Arabs.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir's anxiety is understandable.
Khartoum's trump card is its Pan-Arab posturing.

South Kordofan and Blue Nile may look like Darfur writ large. However, the
truth about the sinister happenings in the huge swathe of Sudan bordering
South Sudan is far more complex. Darfur is in disarray. A quieter hope was
that its predominantly Muslim population might save it from secession in the
mould of South Sudan's. Darfur is an oversize South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

President Al-Bashir triumphantly visited Kurmuk, the provincial capital of
Blue Nile last week after the Sudanese government forces liberated it from
Sudan People's Liberation Army -- North (SPLA-N) control. He claims that
South Sudan is supporting the insurgents in Blue Nile. The SRF vowed to
retake the town. Insurgencies are gaining momentum in the border states --
Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile -- and a growing number of Sudanese are
impatient with the economic malaise gripping the country. The South Sudan
secession is also viewed as a tactical error on the part of Al-Bashir and
the NCP. His political and economic blunders turned a natural religious
right wing and Pan-Arab constituency against the Sudanese president.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court based in The Hague,
Netherlands, for committing alleged war crimes and genocide. Khartoum,
meanwhile accuses South Sudan in connivance with the West of supplying the
insurgents in the border states with arms and ammunition, a charge Juba
hotly denies.

The formation of SRF has highlighted how badly Al-Bashir has handled the
Sudanese economy and the secession of South Sudan. "This is a military and
political alliance," remarked Ibrahim Al-Hilu, a spokesman for the SRF. "We
will coordinate fighting to end this government which wants no peace,"
Al-Hilu stressed. Some SRF stalwarts go further and demand that Bashir be
served up a la Gaddafi.

The international community, however, was not impressed by the SRF's agenda.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged the SRF and the Sudanese
government to "refrain from the use of force". He also expressed his "deep
concern" about developments in Sudan and called on the Sudanese government
and its adversaries to "recommit to negotiated settlement".

The SRF is composed of four main armed groups -- the SPLA-N, Darfur's
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the two splinter groups of the Sudan
Liberation Army (SLA). The SLA is split largely along tribal lines. One SLA
group is headed an ethnic Zaghawa leader, Minni Arkou Minnawi. An ethnic Fur
Abdel-Wahid Mohamed Al-Nour leads the other SLA group.

The SLA began as a predominantly ethnic Fur organisation, the Fur being the
largest of Darfur's ethnic groups after whom Sudan's war-torn westernmost
province was named. Later members of the two other main ethnic groups in
Darfur, the Zaghawa and the Masalit, joined forces.

"The objective of the SLA is to create a united, democratic Sudan," Minnawi
explained. "Sudan's unity must ultimately be based on the right to
self-determination and the free will of the various peoples of Sudan‚Ͷ on
an economic and political system that addresses the uneven development and
marginalisation that have plagued the country since independence," he
extrapolated.

JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, author of the celebrated The Black Book:
Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan, concurred. He warned that Arabs have
a disproportionate representation at top levels of government and
administration in Sudan which is bound to engender an uprising to rectify
the historical injustices committed against the indigenous non-Arab peoples
of Sudan. As a political manifesto his book is considered a rallying cry to
the disadvantaged groups in the country.

Ibrahim's declaration of his more contemplative faith has been steered by
his spiritual mentor Sheikh Hassan Al-Turabi Sudan's chief Islamist
ideologue and the leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party. A onetime
close political associate of President Al-Bashir, Al-Turabi is now one of
his most vociferous adversaries.

Al-Turabi has a large following in Darfur, but a majority of the SLA groups
are secularists and leftists. The political orientation of the SRF alliance
as a whole is progressive and anti-militant Islamist.

The Sudanese government claims that the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
was JEM's chief backer, a charge Ibrahim hotly denies. Ibrahim's quest for
social justice does not necessarily extend to other aspects of political
Islam. Yet JEM adopts popular Sudanese open-minded and liberal thinking on
political Islam. It refuses to play to the religious rightwing gallery in
the ruling clique of Khartoum. JEM and other groups within the SRF alliance
abhor the militant Islamist agenda adopted by the ruling NCP.

The storm clouds are gathering in the border states and if Bashir doesn't
step down or make radical concessions in the immediate future, his prospects
look very dark.

 




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