Sudan will soon see revolution-Islamist leader Turabi
Thu Jan 5, 2012 1:52pm GMT
KHARTOUM Jan 5 (Reuters) - Opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi said Sudan
would soon see an "Arab Spring" popular uprising because President Omar
Hassan al-Bashir was unable to overcome an economic crisis and end
insurgencies in Darfur and border regions.
Bashir is under increasing pressure after his country lost much of its oil
production to newly-independent South Sudan. The loss of oil revenues is
fuelling inflation as food and other imports have become more expensive,
hitting hard Sudanese who have suffered years of conflict and U.S.
"I expect the Sudanese people to stage a revolution and I think this will
happen very soon," said Turabi, who heads the opposition Popular Congress
"I hope it will be a peaceful revolution so we can get a real multi-party
parliamentary system," he told reporters.
He said only the overthrow of the government would end Sudan's problems
because Bashir was unable to overcome the economic crisis and end
insurgencies in Darfur and two border states.
Sudan has seen some small protests in Khartoum and the underdeveloped east
that have become more frequent as inflation has risen, hitting 18.1 percent
One of the most prominent Sudanese politicians, Turabi was the spiritual
leader behind the Islamist government when Bashir seized power in 1989 but
the two men later fell out.
The security services this week closed down the al-Rai al-Shaab newspaper
owned by Turabi's party, saying it had violated professional standards.
Turabi said he expected authorities to arrest him again because of his call
for "regime change". He has been in and out of prison since his split from
Bashir's party in 1999/2000.
Popular uprisings toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya last year.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to the United
Nations, in a crackdown against anti-government protests which began in
Government officials say Sudan is different from Arab countries witnessing
mass protests and the government is capable of overcoming the crisis by
diversifying the economy away from oil.
Sudan lost two-thirds of its oil production, the main source of state
revenues, when South Sudan broke away in July under a 2005 peace deal that
ended decades of civil war.
But tensions remain between the two countries over unresolved issues such as
border violence and the sharing of oil revenues and other assets.
Washington placed sanctions on Sudan in 1993, listing Khartoum as a state
sponsor of terrorism for hosting militants including Osama bin Laden who was
an ally of Turabi. It added a trade embargo in 1997.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Janet
FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Sudan and South Sudan
Thu Jan 5, 2012 1:09pm GMT
By Ulf Laessing
KHARTOUM Jan 5 (Reuters) - Sudan and South Sudan face severe disputes over
sharing oil revenues and ending fighting in a border region, as both nations
seek to overcome enormous economic challenges.
Sudan's south became independent on July 9 after voting in a referendum
agreed under a 2005 peace deal to part from its former civil war foe.
But the two countries have so far failed to sort out major economic issues
such as dividing oil revenues and other assets, coordinating the launch of
new currencies and resolving disputes over the border or the contested Abyei
Assets at stake include billions of dollars of oil revenues, millions of
acres of fertile land and substantial mineral resources such as gold and
Following are some factors to watch:
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir visited Khartoum in October in his first
visit since southern independence, allaying fears of a return to civil war.
But clashes broke out this month between both armies in a disputed border
region, escalating tensions after the South accused Khartoum of having
halted oil exports going through the north.
Both sides have failed to reach an agreement over how to divide up oil
revenues, the lifeline for their economies. Three quarters of the former
united country's 500,000 barrels a day oil production now come from the
The South is seeking to pay less than the transit fee agreed under the 2005
peace deal of 50 percent of total revenues but needs to use the North's
pipeline, refineries and port to sell the oil.
Both sides have also failed to coordinate the launches of their new
currencies, which is hampering cross-border trade due to lack of bilateral
trade agreements or payment systems.
Politically a main point of contention is the contested Abyei region. The
north sent troops and tanks into the region in May, triggering the exodus of
tens of thousands of civilians. The U.N. Security Council has deployed
Ethiopian peacekeepers to Abyei but the Sudanese army has not withdrawn yet.
Fighting between the northern army and armed opposition in the border area
has spread to the northern state of Blue Nile. The joint border needs
What to watch:
- Continued meetings. The worst moments of the past years came when the
parties stopped talking. A series of high-level meetings would promote
- Will fighting spread further? Rebels in Sudan's Darfur, scene of a
separate insurgency, and armed groups in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states
have formed an alliance to topple veteran Sudanese President Omar Hassan
al-Bashir. How effective will such an alliance be?
- Oil revenues. Any details or signs of escalation in the dispute over the
transit fee the South will have to pay.
- Abyei. Will both sides agree on a referendum that was originally supposed
to happen with the southern independence vote?
- Nile water. Sudan's split has created a new country in the Nile Basin.
There is a bitter dispute between Egypt, which refuses to give up its major
share of the Nile waters, and other basin countries that suffer drought and
famine. South Sudan is likely to support its East African neighbours.
After years of relying on oil revenues, which make up more than 90 percent
of Sudan's exports, the growing import bill has caught up with Khartoum.
Banks are unable to meet the demand for foreign currency in the country,
forcing an effective devaluation of the Sudanese pound and driving up
Khartoum has avoided an "Arab spring", but small protests have become more
frequent as many Sudanese fret about annual inflation hitting 18.1 percent
in December from 15 percent in June. In November 2010, inflation was 9.8
The Sudanese pound has suffered a slide on the key black market due to a
shortage of dollars. With oil revenues expected to fall, it has become tough
for the government to get foreign currency needed for food and other
imports. Plans to diversify the economy are in an early stage.
The United States just renewed a trade embargo, shutting off the north from
international markets, making borrowing to fund its budget deficit
The central bank has said expenditures will need to be cut by more than a
quarter this year but the government has not provided any details how to
fund the budget next year.
What to watch:
- Will the Sudanese pound fall further? That would hit Sudan's ability to
buy imports. Will food inflation rise further?
- Any signs of further protests after Khartoum saw several small
anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks?
- By how much will Khartoum have to cut spending at a time of grave
challenges as oil revenues are expected to fall?
South Sudan in 2005 was one of the least developed regions in the world. The
ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) has struggled to find the
calibre of people to run a government and to entice talented members of the
southern diaspora back home. So development has been very slow.
Politically and militarily, the south needs to ensure it opens a dialogue
with the opposition to build the kind of multi-party democratic state donors
will want to see in return for their financial support.
The biggest challenge is to build an economy that now depends 98 percent on
oil. Investors have been reluctant to commit money due to a lack of
infrastructure, corruption and rampant rebel and tribal violence.
Annual inflation hit 78.8 percent in November, up from 57.1 percent in
Rebellions and violence in southern oil areas with fighting at the border
with Sudan could create a humanitarian emergency in the region, soaking up
aid meant for development.
Up to 50,000 people fled tribal violence in Jonglei state in January,
according to the U.N.
What to watch:
- State failure. Some analysts believe the South without its northern enemy
will descend into chaos amid ethnic rivalries, political meddling and cattle
- The South is building from scratch a new nation with a small budget. Help
from donors may be less forthcoming following the global financial crisis.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Edited by Richard Meares)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Thu Jan 05 2012 - 18:19:45 EST