Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Sudanese regime lashes out

Isolated and unpopular, the Khartoum regime of Omar Al-Bashir is cracking down on opposition activities, writes Haytham Nuri

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Sudanese opposition has called for a boycott of elections slated for April as part of its demands for a government of national unity and a transitional phase leading to democracy.

Politicians and military commanders of various opposition groups have vowed to block the elections through a variety of means, some peaceful and some less so.

The government of Omar Al-Bashir dismissed the campaign as “propaganda” and claimed that the opposition is too weak to pose a real challenge to the regime.

But in several regions of the country, the government has deployed its security forces to break up opposition gatherings, and has arrested activists calling for a boycott.

Nine rounds of negotiations between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the government failed to break the deadlock between Al-Bashir and his opponents.

On Monday, the SPLM-N ruled out any deal with the government that doesn’t include its allies in Sudan Call, a new group of opposition members formed three months ago.

For now, the SPLM-N said it is willing to attend a round of national dialogue in Ethiopia, but only if the government is willing to call off elections. In earlier talks, the SPLM-N also said that all armed groups in Darfur should be included in the negotiations.

Sudan, the SPLM-N said, deserves a true peace process that ends the current turbulence. It accused Al-Bashir’s government of dragging its feet and paying no attention to the nation’s suffering.

Last Friday, SPLA-N vowed to start a military campaign against the regime. A SPLA-N spokesman said that the opposition would use all available means, including force, to stop the elections and end Al-Bashir’s rule.

Clashes were reported in various areas of Sudan, including the towns of Kaluqi, Tusi, and Al-Rahmaniyah in South Kordofan. Fighting also took place in Jabal Murrah in Darfur.

The government military spokesman, Colonel Al-Sawarimi Khaled, admitted that battles took place in the Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur. But he played down threats from the opposition.

“Claims by the rebels that they started military campaigns in the name of Sudan Call are mere propaganda. Their presence is limited to small pockets and they are incapable of engaging in large military operations,” he said.

Walid Sayyed, a key figure in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), said that Sudan Call is trying to give a boost to “Leave”, a campaign demanding the removal of Al-Bashir from power.

General Yasir Arman, the secretary-general of SPLM-N, said that his movement is not coordinating its actions with the peaceful activists of Sudan Call. “There is no link at all between Sudan Call, which embraces peaceful means, and our military campaign,” he said.

In Khartoum, the Leave campaign, which borrowed its name from the peaceful movements of the Arab Spring, continues its bid to challenge the government. The campaign picked up pace following the failure of the dialogue Al-Bashir launched late last year.

Now the government is sending its security forces to break meetings held by Leave activists.

Mahjoub Mohamed Saleh, a Sudanese political analyst, says that the regime’s excessive reaction is based on concern for its own future.

Police attacked meetings connected with the Leave movement in Al-Obeid, Sennar, Dongola and Halfa. The National Ummah Party (NUP) said that the clampdown reflects the “concentration of power in the hands of a single person.”

Police recently broke up a meeting of Leave supporters held at the NUP offices in Dongola.

NUP official Abdel Rahman Al-Ghali said the clampdown is proof of the regime’s vulnerability and fear of change.

In the district of Abu Hamad in northern Sudan, the NCP candidate was having trouble with his campaign, while his opponent was drawing large crowds to his rally, said Sudanese journalist Ismail Qasam Al-Sayyed.

According to Al-Sayyed, the NCP candidate attended only six sessions in the five years he held a seat in the outgoing parliament.

Abu Hamad is a crucial district, as most of its inhabitants lost their land when the government built the Marwa Dam. The inhabitants, who say they received no compensation, complain that they are not even connected to the electricity the dam generates.

In Darfur, a tribal leader by the name of Musa Helal, who was formerly a close associate of the government and an alleged leader of the much-feared Janjawid, is said to have turned against Khartoum and is demanding a postponement of elections.

Waddah Taber, general coordinator for the Arab Alliance for Darfur, predicts further deterioration as the regime feels more threatened and isolated than ever before.

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