Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1177, (19 December 2013 - 1 January 2014)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1177, (19 December 2013 - 1 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Is violence the sole remaining option?

Having arrived to power by force, Sudan’s President Al-Bashir has never been shy about threatening his opponents, making peaceful change virtually impossible, writes Asmaa Al-Husseini

Al-Ahram Weekly

President Omar Al-Bashir came to power through force. Since then, he has practically told opponents that anyone who wants to replace him has to fight him for the privilege.

This attitude of Al-Bashir, who has been called a war criminal by the International Criminal Court, has proved costly for Sudan.

Violence is no longer the exclusive domain of armed organisations. More sections of society — what used to be seen as the mainstream — are now feeling the brunt.

Speaking in Qadarif state, Al-Bashir once said that the “days of daghmasa ended on 9 July [when South Sudan became an independent state in 2011].”

Daghmasa is a vernacular word that can be translated as “mix”, and Al-Bashir was using it in a racial sense.

His statement was generally interpreted as one envisioning a Sudan that was more racially and religiously pure: one that doesn’t tolerate the kind of diversity once seen in the Sudan of the past.

For non-Arabs and non-Muslims with nowhere else to go, this was bad news.

For those who may have missed the point, Al-Bashir reiterated the threat. Speaking in South Kordofan at the outset of the election campaign of 2011, he said: “We will win this state through the ballots or the bullets.”

This was not an idle threat, as everyone now knows. South Kordofan, just as the Blue Nile and Darfur, has been the site of continued fighting since then.

Mohamed Sharaf, a key figure in the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur, which has joined the anti-government Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), is convinced that talking to the regime would be a waste of time.

“The Sudanese people had to fight to confront the violence of the government. We are not warmongers. We have rights and demands. We want democracy, justice, equality, and power sharing. But the regime, which has been in power for 25 years, insists on war,” Sharaf said.

Young men that took part in the recent protests that erupted in September and October 2013 have come to the same conclusion.

One of them, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that all attempts at peaceful change are doomed.

“We cannot expect this regime to change except through violence. We thought that a peaceful uprising would suffice, but we were mistaken. This is a bloody regime. We are not like the rest of the Arab Spring countries. This regime is not give in to public demands. It will fight to the hilt,” he stated.

Eyewitnesses who took part in recent anti-government protests said that the government used live ammunition against peaceful protests in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan.

The opposition also accuses the government of bringing in foreign fighters to help it in battles against rebel groups.

According to opposition forces, fighters from Sudan’s western neighbours are helping the pro-government Janjawid militia in its battles with armed opposition groups.

Kamal Omar, a key figure in the opposition’s People’s Congress Party said that the regime was waging a war of “extermination” against its opponents.

Farouk Abu Eissa, leader of the Alliance of Sudanese Opposition Parties, said that the regime was fighting on many fronts because it wanted to “weaken and distract” the Sudanese people.

The Sudanese government accuses its opponents of trying to “destabilise” the country and promised to protect the nation by defeating all rebels.

Mohamed Anjar, commander of Sudan’s Artillery Corps, promised that the army would “impose peace by force”.

Claiming that the rebels continue to reject the government’s pleas for dialogue, Anjar said that the regime would continue to fight the rebels “because they are a threat to the security of the country and the citizens”.

Meanwhile, a Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) spokesman said that the regime’s forces continue to shell various areas of South Kordofan.

The shelling has forced civilians from their homes and many have taken refuge in mountain caves or jungle areas, where they receive no humanitarian relief.

Khartoum still refuses to allow relief supplies into South Darfur.

The International Crisis Group warned recently that clashes have renewed in East Sudan, following years of a peace brought about by a 2006 treaty that was brokered by Eritrea. Now fighting between government troops and the rebels of the Baja and Rashayda tribes has resumed.

Sudanese writer Fathi Al-Daw said that this has “banished all that remained of Sudanese values and morals” and is wrecking Sudan’s ideals of tolerance and diversity.

The years of infighting have left a deep mark on the psyche of the Sudanese. Women and other vulnerable groups are paying a particularly high price for the ongoing violence.

A recent study by the Society Research Centre noted that 59 percent of women entertain revengeful thoughts about their husbands.

Hawa Suleiman, a specialist in violence against women, said that the deteriorating economic situation in the country is taking a toll on family life.

“The war in Darfur generated a lot of pent up violence among women whose husbands were killed or disappeared,” Suleiman remarked.

One Sudanese journalist reported that Sudanese women in peripheral areas have been particularly damaged by the years of war.

“They have experienced continual war for over 10 years. Many civil society organisations are trying to protect countryside women from the perils of child marriage, genital mutilation, and acts of violence. Many girls in recent demonstrations were exposed to violence. When husbands and sons are taken forcibly away to fight, this affects women too. And they are subjected to rape and beatings in an unprecedented way,” she said.

“In Darfur, women exhibit symptoms of fear, insecurity, insult, and deprivation. They have lost self-confidence and... are unable to raise children in a proper way... They suffer from anxiety, anger, loneliness, and sleep deprivation,” said the journalist.

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