With stalled negotiations and tensions escalating between North and South
Sudan regional players are at a loss as to how to resolve the crisis, Asmaa
24 - 30 May 2012
Against a backdrop of skirmishes along the disputed border between North and
South Sudan, chief African mediator and former South African President Thabo
Mbeki is racing against time shuttling between Khartoum and Juba trying to
convince the two capitals to start serious talks that would meet the
three-month deadline set by the Security Council resolution. Despite these
efforts, however, talks remain stalled with Khartoum insisting that security
issues, namely Juba's support for armed opposition in the North, must first
be resolved. The North's contention is with the revolutionary front or what
is known as the Kauda Alliance -- rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan and the
Blue Nile regions. Juba, on the other hand, believes talks should start by
resolving the dispute over oil which it stopped producing in January to
punish Khartoum for insisting on collecting $36 on each barrel of oil that
travels across its borders.
The situation has created a great confusion in both countries, especially
regarding the repercussions of the war in the Heglig region and the
international resolution on it. This has resulted in several domestic
proposals to resolve the dispute, most prominently an initiative by former
prime minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, leader of Al-Umma Party. Al-Mahdi views
the situation in Sudan as an unprecedented tacit revolt against the failed
Islamic regime whereby the Sudanese people are seeking a democratic future
that removes the dominating ruling party and its oppressive security
apparatus from power.
"The people of Sudan share the same injustices and aspirations as other
peoples in the region," Al-Mahdi told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Islamic slogans will
not protect the regime, just as nationalist slogans will not protect Syrian
President Bashar Al-Assad because Islam's fundamental principles are
freedom, dignity and justice. These are inconsistent with Sudan's
experience; the trouble with the Sudanese regime is deeper than this." He
then explained: "The peace treaty had specific goals to make unity
appealing, establish peace and a transition to democracy. What happened
during implementation, however, was contrary to the agreement's
stipulations. Unity was not alluring -- there was no peace or transition to
democracy. This was its first shortcoming."
The second failure, he continued, was the destruction of Darfur. "There were
many problems in that region before Salvation came to power, but when it
began governing four new problems arose that had not existed before," he
noted. First, politicised ethnicity; second, armed resistance against the
central government; third, human rights violations; and finally,
international prosecution for human rights abuses. "These were all part of
the failure," he added. "It's true that the regime succeeded in using oil
but managing resources was a disaster. Instead of investing oil revenues in
renewable production, in agriculture and industry, they were wasted on
political, security and administrative spending."
The former prime minister argued that neither did the regime prepare for the
secession of South Sudan which seemed, as far as he was concerned, as a
great surprise. "Of course it was expected," Al-Mahdi retorted. "The regime
should have been mindful that most oil fields are located in the South and
that partition was more likely as time went by, but the regime made no
arrangements for this possibility."
Another shortcoming, he explained, was that after adopting the slogans of
ideology, reality forced the government to revise their rhetoric creating a
backlash. "Sudan's experience created fanatic Islamic groups who believe the
regime had abandoned Islamic principles, and believed there should be
exaggerated and fanatic application of Islam," stated Al-Mahdi. "There is a
sizeable majority that believes and embraces this logic."
Meanwhile, there is a trend on the Left that asserts that the entire Islamic
project has failed and so religion must be extracted from politics with a
move towards secularism. "This has resulted in two currents that emerged
from the failure of the experiment; the secular trend has now formed a
revolutionary front for change through force, while the movement on the
right is proposing various degrees of fanatic application of Islam," he
said. "This has caused confusion inside the country about creating Islamic
goals and then failing to meet them."
The revolutionary front is composed entirely of armed forces and is no doubt
closely connected to the South because of the protocols in the peace treaty
regarding Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. "These protocols lay
down the foundations for certain rights, but these rights were not
recognised or exercised by the end of the transitional phase," explained
Al-Mahdi. "At the end, the regime in Khartoum believed the South broke away
and the North is free of its obligations to special rights in these regions.
"It was imperative that before South Sudan left the union there should be a
solid agreement and implementation of protocols," argued Al-Mahdi. Since
partition occurred before these issues were settled, there should have been
an appendage peace agreement over contested right. The lack of such an
agreement has triggered further escalation. "No doubt, attempts to overthrow
the Khartoum regime on this premise will result in all-out war between North
and South," he explained.
A popular uprising in Sudan, like those seen across the region in the Arab
Spring offers another path to the ouster of the regime, but the likelihood
of this being a viable solution for Sudan has been thrown in to doubt and
the prospect of foreign intervention in such a scenario would only make
"It beckons too much bloodshed and foreign intervention, and so we are
considering a third option for change that does not rely on a sweeping blow
but instead on settlement as in the case of South Africa," said Al-Mahdi. He
added that a solution similar to the Convention for a Democratic South
Africa (CODESA) would be ideal but that "this does not happen spontaneously
and requires struggle and extensive action to create domestic and
international pressure in support of this step."
He asserted that "change in Sudan is inevitable, and if it does not occur
through pre-emptive action it will be by other means that have more dire
repercussions and consequences which is what we are trying to avoid by
accepting the pre- emptive CODESA plan for change."
Al-Mahdi went on to explain that the regime in Khartoum is under
international pressure as well as grappling with its domestic failures
including international prosecution meaning that remaining in power is
impossible: "It is for this reason that there must be action which makes use
of all this pressure to adopt the CODESA plan as South Africa did," he said.
"We are currently drafting and advocating a just and comprehensive peace
treaty in which we address all political and armed forces inside and outside
Al-Umma leader said that "war between North and South Sudan is suicide; it
may start for political reasons but could incur other ethnic and religious
issues that would engulf the entire continent." Al-Mahdi said it would be a
grave mistake to allow this war to break out and it can be avoided.
"We are currently trying to find resolution for disputes between the two
countries, most prominently the lifeline issue of oil. It is reckless for
Khartoum to say that it will levy $36 per barrel and be paid in kind; it is
also reckless for the South to say it will turn off oil pipelines. We view
this as mutual suicide, and for this reason we formed a technical committee
of economists and experts who estimated a fee of $11-$14 per barrel because
the oil goes through five stages in the North."
Al-Mahdi said the report was sent to presidents Omar Al-Bashir and Salva
Kiir and urged them not to take unilateral action if they disagree, but
instead continue producing oil and refer the issue to the International
Court of Justice. "We also proposed solutions for all the other issues of
dispute, and we will hold a shadow peace conference to discuss all of them,"
he revealed. "If differences are not resolved, then they should be referred
to arbitration that is mutually agreed upon, and given enough time for
resolution instead of resorting to violence or unilateral action."
Within three weeks, he promised, they will propose a comprehensive solution
for all issues including the matter of power in Khartoum. "We believe this
solution will be adopted by the UN and African Union, and will include a
roadmap for a new regime," Al-Mahdi concluded.
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Received on Wed May 30 2012 - 18:11:31 EDT