Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Sudan’s sad year

Coups, strikes, repression — Sudan saw it all this year, with no end in sight, says Asmaa Al-Husseini

Al-Ahram Weekly

In 2012, Sudan witnessed many recurring crises on all fronts. The year that followed the secession of South Sudan witnessed no peace, stability or prosperity that the Sudanese people on both sides of the border were told would follow separation. The partition occurred quickly under international sponsorship without giving either side even a chance to agree on border markers, or legal and political arrangements for this great calamity.

This is what the Sudanese people have suffered over the past year that witnessed tensions between the two Sudans, peaking in April during the war in Heglig, after which the world community quickly intervened out of fear the two countries would declare all-out war. This resulted in Resolution 2046 that penalises the party that obstructs a peaceful settlement.

Since then, the two sides have reached partial agreements without effective mediation by Africa, which fears that a setback would return the Sudanese to the point of war. The most notable of these agreements is one over oil that Juba halted in January, resulting in depriving both itself and Khartoum of revenues from it. Oil represented 75 per cent of Sudan’s overall national income before partition.

More recently, an agreement was reached to create a demilitarised zone on the border between the two nations, but Khartoum is linking all this to security arrangements — meaning an end to Juba’s support of rebels against the North, specifically, the Northern Branch of the Popular Movement which is escalating battles with Khartoum in the southern governorates of Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Northern Branch also partners with the armed Darfur rebels in the Kauda Alliance, which has meant a crisis in South Sudan and creates a second south for North Sudan after the first South seceded.

This violence has spread to the east, west, north and south of Sudan, posing a serious threat to the unity and integrity of what is left of Sudan if the ruling Salvation regime continues its policies. The regime has been in power for nearly 25 years without learning anything from its long term in power which has produced disastrous outcomes, including secession without peace and ongoing wars in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The world community, government and Sudanese parties are reproducing one crisis after another by re-proposing partial solutions that have already failed in the past, which do not take into consideration the crisis as a whole. This triggers more crises and problems despite the ceasefires and truce agreements.

Matters have evolved beyond armed operations and include protests across the country since the beginning of the year, with several Fridays of Rage taking place. Accordingly, many Sudanese citizens feel their Spring had arrived, but the regime quickly responded with excessive violence to silence them for months before they flared up again at the end of the year in many regions in Sudan. Many fear that taking up weapons and rebellion will be the only way out if the government continues to stifle peaceful forms of expression and protest, while muzzling the press, media, party activities and once again resorting to security crackdowns on all issues.

What makes it even more difficult for the Sudanese people is difficult economic conditions because the  revenue from the key resource for both Sudans — oil — has dried up. This is reflected in all aspects of life even though most oil revenues in both countries was spent on arms, politics and corruption, which leaves citizens in both countries suffering.

The biggest threat facing the regime of President Omar Al-Bashir over the past year was not his opponents whom he has tried to weaken and infiltrate during his quarter of century in power, or the International Criminal Court that is pursuing him for committing war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. It isn’t even the vicious rebels that are escalating the war against him in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The threat comes from within his own party and Islamic movement.

There were two — some say three — coup attempts last year, most prominently an attempt that resulted in the arrest of Colonel Salah Qosh, the former chief of intelligence, and other army officers. Despite the ambiguity surrounding this coup and contradictions in interpreting it (whether it was an all-out coup or the regime taking preemptive measures against parties forming a broad alliance as an alternative regime), it is a significant indicator of the turmoil and exchanges in the corridors of power and among Islamists in Sudan. Meanwhile, there is a chronic crisis across the country which in their view requires comprehensive solutions, not piecemeal or partial or truncated solutions that add fuel to the fire.

Many Islamists sense and express the need for reform and change in many forms, through testimonials for reform and actions, most notably at the Sudan Islamic Movement (SIM) conference in Khartoum which concluded with unexpected results that contradicted their ideas and discussions about reforming the ruling party, the Islamic movement and the state. These demands were not taken seriously, which recreated crises and escalated tensions.

Many observers believe that Qosh’s coup would not be the last and others like him want to save SIM and their homeland from grave danger. Al-Bashir’s mysterious illness and two surgeries have brought the issue of succession to the fore, with many circles inside and outside Sudan discussing the possible alternatives.

Both the peaceful and armed opposition also continue to repeat the same mistakes and failed experiments, without learning any lessons from the past. They continue to confront the government and masses with the same divisions, fragmentation and indecision.

Meanwhile, fledgling South Sudan seems to have inherited the same faults as the country it rebelled against and added its own mistakes. The marginalisation, corruption, constraints and mistakes the people revolted against are still being practiced in their new country. Tense relations with North Sudan and resulting security, economic and social pressures have also played a key role in directing developments.

The future of both Sudans in the new year continues to depend on the ability to overcome current circumstances and to move towards a new position based on a new formula, where no one party monopolises decisions and excludes all others. Also, desperately needed is an atmosphere that allows real comprehensive solutions that resolve, not conceal, crises or suffice with cosmetic alterations.

Without this, catastrophic scenarios and ruptures will most likely continue to unfold as conflicts continue.


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