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November 2011 - Posts

The DUP: tragedies and farces

By Magdi El-Gizoul

November 28, 2011 — Now its official, the Chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, told al-Sharq al-Awsat yesterday that his party will join the forthcoming cabinet of President Bashir, the promised ‘broad-based government’. The announcement of the new cabinet, according to President Bashir, will take place once the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) wraps up its third national convention.

Mirghani stated that the two parties have managed over the past four months to hammer out a common programme as a basis for their coalition. Press reports in Khartoum claim that the DUP will be granted approximately one third of the positions in the national cabinet, more or less the same share that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) had occupied during the interim period of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), as well as a presidential assistant post, a generous cut of cabinet positions in the state governments, and of course a cohort of ambassador posts and representation in the judiciary.

It is highly unlikely that the DUP will survive this decision unscathed. Leading figures of the party declared repeatedly their rejection of a coalition with the NCP. Prominent DUP functionaries including the influential Khatmiya figure Hassan Abu-Sabeeb walked out of a meeting of the party leadership that reportedly approved the deal. To counter the resistant Khartoum block of the party Mirghani invited his captains in the states to deliberations in the capital and eventually pulled the party over.

The division between the fussy Khartoum intellectuals and the sly merchants of the Khatmiya brotherhood is arguably the defining characteristic of the party born out of the convenience arrangement between several factions of the Graduates Congress and the Khatmiya chief Ali al-Mirghani in the 1940s. The effendiya perceived the Khatmiya as an electoral vehicle, a cheap conduit to power, while the business web that constitutes the core of the brotherhood with the Mirghani family at its helm sought to tame the ambitious effendiya into submissive service. In 1956 the party that had just coalesced in 1952 under the name of the National Unionist Party cracked into two, the Khatmiya split with their own People’s Democratic Party while Ismail al-Azhari and his crew attempted an autonomous path sustained by the credentials of having presided over the country’s independence.

Eventually, convenience overruled, and the two blocs reunited in 1966 under the name of the Democratic Unionist Party in what was essentially a reconciliation process between the Khatmiya patron Ali al-Mirghani and Ismail al-Azhari mediated by King Faisal bin Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia. Ali al-Mirghani died in 1968, and his prestige passed on automatically to his son Mohamed Osman. The effendiya commanded no ready mechanism to replace Azhari when he died in Nimayri’s detention in 1969. However, they found their hero in the person of Hussein al-Hindi. Like the young Sadiq al-Mahdi Hussein was an educated aristocrat who united in one the advantages of wealth and descent as well as the modernist inclinations so dear to Khartoum’s effendiya. His father, Yusif al-Hindi, was the patron of the Hindya brotherhood, the Khatmiya’s junior partner. From this position of merit Hussein al-Hindi advocated for the separation between the religious leadership of the brotherhood and the political leadership of the DUP, and consequently aligned himself with Azhari and his fans against Ali al-Mirghani and the Khatmiya notables during the 1956 split. Thus, Mohamed Osman inherited the leadership of the Khatmiya from his father Ali, and Hussein stepped in as the chief of the DUP following Azhari’s death.

The two men, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani and Hussein al-Hindi, cohabited in contradiction. Nimayri’s 1969 coup was their moment of divergence. The Khatmiya patron preferred to appease Khartoum’s new rulers and allegedly nourished cordial ties with the young officers of the May revolution. In a statement published on 11 July 1969 Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani acknowledged the legitimacy of the new regime and announced his approval of its announced Arab nationalist ideology. Hussein al-Hindi, on the other hand, took the DUP into the opposition after consultations with the imprisoned party chief, Ismail al-Azhari. Hussain’s DUP constituted together with the Umma Party and Turabi’s Islamic Movement the opposition National Front. In exile, al-Hindi became the most prominent spokesman of the National Front and coordinated its catastrophic July 1976 military offensive against Khartoum from bases in Libya. Hassan al-Turabi and Sadiq al-Mahdi made their peace with Nimayri in 1977. Al-Hindi however preferred his London exile and eventually died a general without an army in an Athens hotel room in February 1982.

Two men had good reasons to claim Hussein al-Hindi’s political legacy, Ali Mahmoud Hassanein who served as his captain in Khartoum, and Zein al-Abdin al-Hindi, his brother and the patron of the Hindiya. It was the complacent Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, however, who emerged as the chairman of the DUP when Nimayri’s regime collapsed in 1985, while Zein al-Abdin was named secretary general. The Khatmiya patron had caught up with the DUP, but at a considerable price. The performance of the party in the 1986 elections was the worst in its history. It won a meagre 63 seats in parliament out of a total of 234 compared to the Umma Party’s 100. One faction of the party that traces back to Azhari’s National Unionist Party rejected the dominance of the Khatmiya and fielded its own candidates. They did not win any seats in the house but they split the DUP vote sufficiently as to provide a welcome advantage to the National Islamic Front (NIF) in the graduates’ constituencies and the urban centres. The DUP’s share of the votes in Khartoum for instance dropped to 35 per cent from the 1968 level of 53 per cent.

The NIF turned the table on the whole lot in 1989. Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, John Garang’s 1988 peace partner, became the chairman of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) joining Khartoum’s chattering classes and the rebel SPLM. Mirghani shuttled between Jeddah, Cairo and Asmara in the hope that the regime would soon atrophy into oblivion. It did not; and Mirghani was eventually forced to sign a truce with the government in December 2003 known as the Jeddah framework agreement. By then they were at least two DUPs, an opposition DUP led by al-Mirghani and the ‘registered’ faction led by the secretary general Zein al-Abdin al-Hindi. The Hindiya chief had in 1996 signed a separate allegiance arrangement with President Bashir and secured a fixed quota of positions for his smaller flock and associated business network in the national government. Zein al-Abdin died in 2006 and the ‘registered’ DUP split further in an amoebic fashion. Apart from Zein al-Abdin’s faction several other DUPs emerged to challenge al-Mirghani’s leadership. One such group was led by Ismail al-Azhari’s son, Mohamed, never much of a politician but allegedly a great guitar player. Mohamed died in a car accident in 2006, and his sister Jala succeeded him at one of many DUP tops.

Having agreed to join the cabinet of President Bashir Mirghani is likely to win back the loyalty of the ‘registered’ DUP that once formed around Zein al-Abdin al-Hindi, and simultaneously pit himself against several ghosts from the DUP’s recurring past. Among these Ali Mahmoud Hassanein stands out as the likely candidate to lead a new breakoff DUP. The man can boast a history of resistance to Nimayri and a consistent record of opposition to the NCP regime. In what seems like an attempt to re-enact the legacy of Hussein al-Hindi Hassanein chose a self-imposed exile in London and currently heads a fuzzy alliance named the Broad National Front that seeks to bring down the Khartoum regime, not a particularly imaginative name I presume.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He can be reached at m.elgizouli@gmail.com

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front: Right way to the united and new Sudan

By Gamal Adam

November 26, 2011 — The Sudanese problem was misleadingly defined as the problem between ’the African Christian and animist South’ and ’Muslim Arab North’ until it finally resulted in the secession of the South in July 2011. The same mistake is again currently repeated by Sudanese Arab nationalists’ regime and the representatives of some international organisations and countries as the problem between Darfur and Khartoum, Nuba Mountains and Khartoum, and Southern Blue Nile and Khartoum. However, at least 80% of Khartoum’s population is also seriously victimised and held on the margins of the society. The segmentation of Sudanese problem as the Darfur problem, Nuba Mountain problem, Southern Blue Nile problem, and so forth is the definition chosen by Sudanese Arab nationalists’ regime led by the most racist president in Sudan’s history, Omer al Bashir, in order to protect the Arab nationalists’ clan-based politics and prolong the Arab nationalists’ rule of the country even if it will ultimately result in many miniature Sudans in the long run.

Like Sudanese Arab nationalists, representatives of many international organisations and diplomats of most countries ’concerned’ about the Sudanese problem also prefer the segmented definition of the problem even if some of them are aware that such a definition leads gradually to the fragmentation of the Africa’s giant – mother Sudan — in smaller warring entities. Some of these foreigners followed the Arab nationalists in their definition of the problem out of naivety, finding it too difficult to trace the Sudanese problem to the nub, while others do so in order to protect the geopolitical interests of their countries and still others simply want to add something new to their CVs. They all prefer the quick fix, but sort lasted solutions. Again, some individuals from what are known in today’s Sudanese politics as the marginalized regions of Sudan are also used by the Arab nationalists to accept the half and instant solutions out of naivety or opportunism.

However, the Sudanese problem has always been one since its independence in 1956: racism imposed in the name of Islam by a few blind minded individuals of the Sudanese elite descending from some specific areas of Northern Sudan, most particularly from today’s Wilayat Nahr al Nil (the River Nile State), who believe that Sudan is their individual property and that they have the right to run it the way they like. Their unshakable belief is that, because they think that they are Arabs, Sudan has to be run as an Arab country even though the history and social geography of the country tell completely an opposite story. The Arab nationalists found Islam as the most suitable means for the realization of their project of Arab nationalism even though in streets of Arab countries most of them are seen as non-Arabs and are addressed with the same racial slurs individual Fur, Nuba, Funj, and Beja are addressed. Like their Arab identity, the Sudanese Arab nationalists’ Islam is also questionable: their behavior is totally against the tenets of Islam and against the principles of most religions known to the humanity. They simply use Islam as the tool of intimidation and a disguise for their satanic discriminatory behaviors that victimize all the other Sudanese, including even the Arabs of Darfur, Kordofan, Central Sudan, Eastern Sudan, and liberal thinking individuals and non-clan members from Wilayat Nahr al Nil itself. So, the Arabism disguised in the name of Islamism is the problem of the whole Sudan, but it has devastated some regions more than others because of their location and the structure of their population – it is a racist problem that follows the Sudanese individually everywhere they move within the country favoring some of them and victimizing others. It also emptied the Sudanese society of good mores and refilled it with hatred and all types of crimes most of which would have made the hair of Sudanese stand on end had they heard of them a couple of decades ago.

As the all attempts for reaching a just and lasting settlement through peaceful negotiations always failed seriously, prolonged the suffering of victimized population, and further divided the country, the change of Arab nationalists’ regime and its replacement by a decentralized democratic regime, which will equally embrace the Sudanese regardless of their ethnic, cultural, religious and regional backgrounds, is the only option that has remained for the suffering Sudanese. Naivasha, Abuja, Cairo, Asmara, and Doha all proved to be instant palliatives to the pain of dying boy (Sudan), but they are healthful to its killer virus – the Arab nationalists’ regime led by Omer al Bashir who always reminded the non-Arab Sudanese, in every single public speech he delivered, that they do not have a space in Sudan and addressed them with all racial stereotypes in private meetings with members of his clan. They are simply classified as “dangerous” other by al Bashir and his circle, whereas categories such as Egyptians and Chinese are probably the second closest people to al Bashir’s heart immediately after his clan members: he can relinquish any amount of Sudanese land to Egyptians even if they take it by force and reward them with more land and cattle and sheep at the expense of starving Sudanese; his regime also gives a Chinese street vendor in Khartoum the right to call the police for a Sudanese street vendor who tries to display a couple of items beside him in order to feed his weary hungry family. Therefore, al Bashir and his Arab nationalists are Sudanese only in their appearance, but internally they feel to be non-Sudanese and live with souls somewhere else with other people. The internal conflict of their bodies is reflected by their unjustifiable crazy behavior of wounded buffalos which encourages the politicians of some Arab countries such as Doctor Tawfig ‘Akasha of Egypt to include the annexation of Sudan to their political campaigns because it is a country run by fools. Consequently, Omer al Bashir and his Arab nationalists are unfit to rule Sudan in anyway and the change of their regime with its institutions is necessary for the existence of Sudan.

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front is the right way toward ending the racist era of Arab nationalism in the history of Sudan and establishing a new strong and respected Sudan that is for all the Sudanese regardless of their races, languages, religions, cultures, colors, and so forth. The following are among the points that will make the Sudanese Revolutionary Front the savior of Sudanese peoples from Arab nationalism (and its incompetent crazy leaders) which has to be replaced by a civic nationalism based on the rule of law:

1) There has to be a clearly drawn vision of a new decentralized democratic Sudan based on citizenship. The vision has to be made available to Sudanese in both Arabic and English.

2) An appeal should be launched to all Sudanese to join the front and the front’s doors should be open to all Sudanese who believe in the united new Sudan, which is for all of us, and are ready to work together toward its realization.

3) The leaders of the front should not be distracted by mediations leading to half solutions and further division of the country, as the Arab nationalists’ regime will endeavor to find ways leading to half solutions because its survival is based on half solutions.

4) All kinds of individual interests should be superseded by the objectives of the front. Therefore, the movements which constitute the front should completely fuse in it and individual factions’ names should be eliminated to avoid any schisms in the future.

5) The front’s structure should be quickly agreed upon and a right person should be in a right place based on experience, knowledge, and commitment to the cause.

The author can be reached at gamaladam@yahoo.ca

Reading self-interest into public debate can be anything but academic

By Lam Akol

November 22, 2011 — A friend sent me an article Dr John Akec wrote recently following the conclusion of a conference on “Future of Higher Education in South Sudan” held on 14-15 November 2011, in Juba. I take exception to the following provocative assertion he made in the article. Quote.

"All, with the exception of Dr Akol’s paper, urged for need to expand access to higher education. However, it was noted by this author that Akol’s position paper that advocated for fewer universities (maximum of three) was based on personal intuition and preference which sees the whole issue as a zero-sum- game; as opposed to research-informed and evidence-based perspectives bore by cohorts’ papers." (Emphasis is mine). Unquote.

Dr John Akec was making that comment about a paper I presented to the same conference. My paper was entitled “Tertiary Education in South Sudan”. I presented it as an academician and not in the name of my party. I stressed this distinction to the organizers and the audience when I presented the paper, but Dr John Akec would want to insist that SPLM-DC was among the participants! This is not, however, the reason why I am putting pen to paper.

This article is prompted by Akec’s allegation that my paper is just “personal intuition,” and not “research-informed and evidence-based,” thus challenging my academic credentials. The insinuation is that somebody of my stature can write a paper that is not “research[ed]". I wonder what research has Dr Akec conducted and how many academic papers did he ever publish in reputable journals. Since he claims to have a PhD in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, then I would certainly know the journals he could possibly publish in.

The truth is that after I presented my paper, Dr Akec followed me to lunch and he sat with me on the same table with two other lecturers from Juba University who listened and contributed to the discussion he raised. At least all of us on that table except him advocated consolidating the meagre resources we have on the only three established universities at the moment. What came out clearly from Dr Akec was a dispirited defence to keep the University he had been VC of going. I actually assured him that he should not be unduly worried as I did not have the power to implement my proposal! Dr Akec knows the two gentlemen who were with us on the same table, and if he insists on distorting facts so as to serve his personal project, I will be left with no choice but to disclose their names for the public to know.

The last four words in the quotation above do not make sense to me, much so his assertion that my paper sees the whole issue as “a zero-sum-game.” I am not sure whether Dr Akec understands what is meant by this expression. If he did he could not have used it in this context. My paper is available with the Secretariat of the conference and was also on the internet. But for the benefit of those who might not have come across it, let me summarise what I said that ruffled the feathers of the Vice Chancellor. Simply put, it says that the facts available on higher education in South Sudan at the moment lead one to the conclusion that it is better for us to consolidate the already established universities of Juba, Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal and not to open new ones. I underline the last part of the sentence because Dr John Akec would like to misrepresent facts. In plain English, what this means is that at the moment we should have only three universities. If our situation improves and studies support introducing more universities, this can be considered in the future. Nobody in his right mind would rule out the increase in the number of universities in the distant future.

Dr Akec opens his statement above thus: “all…..urged for need to expand access to higher education”. A preliminary year student will not fail to discern that expansion of access does not necessarily mean increasing the number of universities. It is possible to expand, if that comes as a result of a serious study, by increasing the number to be admitted to the already existing universities. As an example, in 1970, the University of Khartoum saw the biggest expansion in its history in the Science-based faculties. Admission to the Faculty of Science tripled for the Biology section and doubled for the Mathematics section. The first fed the faculties of Medicine, Pharmacy, Agriculture, Veterinary Science, etc., whereas the second fed the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, and both fed the Faculty of Science. Because Dr John Akec is preoccupied with holding tenaciously to being a Vice Chancellor, he does not see any solution to the increasing of access to higher education except through keeping or introducing more brief-case universities. Who, now, can be accused of advocating a “zero-sum-game?"

Can Dr John Akec tell us what feasibility studies were carried out to introduce, for example, Northern Bahr El Ghazal University or Rumbek University? What new faculties will be introduced in these universities that are not already there in the existing ones? How many secondary schools to feed these universities with students? etc.

My argument was based on the real difficulties facing our universities at the moment: no enough lecturers, no sufficient buildings, no research facilities, our lecturers are poorly paid, lack of accommodation for both the staff and students, etc. You cannot have a university worth the name without addressing these vital matters. Is Dr Akec denying that these problems do exist? If not, what “evidence” is he looking for? Is Dr Akec not aware that lecturers of Juba University are now on strike because they did not get their salaries for a number of months? Can Dr Akec tell us what percentage of the national budget goes to higher education?

The thrust of my argument was therefore to make use of the little resources we have to solve these problems in the running three universities. The advantage of increasing access to higher education within existing ones is that duplication in all the above areas will be avoided, thus saving resources.

Dr John Akec must be careful when peddling unfounded allegations. Everybody knows that he has no case except to defend his current position of being a Vice Chancellor. It does not matter to him what that title serves.

His article is hallow because in a conference attended by academicians and researchers, the recommendations must be scientific, concrete and clear-cut; presenting to the Ministry of Higher Education quantifiable, budgeted and implementable recommendations, not the kind of ’wishy-washy’ meaningless recommendations we read these days in the mass media. When an academician would like research to render a predetermined result, in Akec’s case a mushrooming of universities, rather than what facts lead to, then he is not worth carrying the title.

* The author is a former lecturer at the University of Khartoum, and leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - Democratic Change.

Sudanese forces for change: beware of Sadiq Almahdi

By Abdullahi Osman El-Tom

November 20, 2011 — Last week witnessed the birth of a new alliance enjoining four major military forces from Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile under the name Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Within less than a week of its establishment, the SRF received applications for membership from two important rebel movements, Kush of the Nubians of the Northern Region and the Beja Congress of Eastern Sudan. As the SRF has declared, it intends to oust the Khartoum government by all means. That Albashir has been critical of the SRF is understandable. What has infuriated Sudan’s activists was the stance taken by Sadig Almahdi, the head the Umma Party and twice prime minister of Sudan.

In a nutshell, Almahdi warned that accession of the people of the margin to power will lead to disintegration of Sudan and cause a replication of Rwandan genocide inSudan. The statement comes amid expectations of demise of the hegemonic power of minority groups from the Northern Region over Sudan, coupled with likelihood of accession of the marginalised majority that compose the SRF to power in Khartoum.

Almahdi’s thesis does not only reveal his true nature as a staunch opponent of the marginalised people in the country and who have kept him in power for far too long. Rather, his views affirmed in spectacular fashion that he and Albashir are in the same camp and represent two faces of the same coin. Not surprisingly, Almahdi has consistently acted as ’momentum brakeman’ in the opposition against Albashir. Every time a thrust of popular uprising could be seen looming on the horizon, Almahdi intervened and delayed popular action until the momentum is lost. Such is his dedication to preservation of the current genocidal junta of Khartoum.

The assumption that the people of the margins of Sudan cannot share power in the centre without breaking up the Sudan or causing genocides is, to say the least, absurd. Far from it, it is the monopoly of power by a tiny minority that has led to such undesirable outcomes. In a recent critical online article, Namal Din Jameela Alla reminds us of the peril of domination of the Northern Region Elite over the country. In his words, top officials drawn from the Northern Region include: the President; Vice President; Assistant President; Head of Ruling Party and his Deputy and Secretary General; Ministers for Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs; Head of National Security System; Head of Central Bank; Head of National Police System; Military Chief of Staff; Governor of National Capital; Head of Constitutional Court; Head of National Bar Union; Head of National Workers Union; Head of Farmers Union; Manager of Khartoum International Airport and many other. Much worse, most of these personnel come from certain, limited ethnic groups in the Northern Region, leaving many Northerners as powerless as their fellow citizens in other peripheral areas of the country.

Many analysts find Almahdi’s crusade to preserve the current government quite bewildering. A US-based Sudanese group described Almahdi’s defence of GoS as “political senility,” thus confirming doubts of many whether Almahdi is till in full retention of his faculties. Surprisingly, Almahdi does not seem to realise he has long past his sell-by-date. He had his chance twice as a Prime Minister but left nothing behind but embarrassing legacies. His premierships were riddled with entrenchment of marginalisation, massacres, injustice and incompetence. Much more, Almahdi has contributed to many of the problems, which necessitated establishment of the SRF, subject of his bizarre criticism. Here are some of them:

If we are to look for a godfather for the Janjaweed of Darfur, we need to go no further than Sadiq Almahdi. Albashir simply consolidated what he had long invented and perfected in South Kordofan during his second premiership before moving it to Darfur. Well, he and his old friend Gaddafi and whom he is now trying disown had long harboured an insidious plan and explanation for the poverty in Darfur. Prunier, the eminent French anthropologist writes: “[...] in the 1980s, Colonel Gaddafi and Prime Minster Sadiq al-Mahdi gave an answer: Darfur was poor and backward because it was insufficiently arabized. It had missed out in the great adhesion to the Muslim Umma because its Islam was primitive and insufficiently Arabic.” (Prunier, the Ambiguous genocide 2005:162 ).

The revelation above absolves Almahdi of responsibility for sustaining poverty in Darfur and throws the blame on the victim. At the same time, such diagnosis also provides him with a perfect excuse for indulging in population engineering through importation of Arab groups from neighbouring countries.

In the 1980s as well, some misguided Arab supremacists submitted their famous manifesto of the Arab Gathering. The manifesto suggested certain actions aimed at achieving Arab control over Darfur and Kordon in 20 years. Admittedly, the manifesto was a work of a callous misguided minority among Arab ethnic group and was certainly not shared by many. There was no evidence that Almahdi admonished authors of pamphlet or rejected its contents. The manifesto itself was inspired by Alhmahdi’s approach to Islam and Arabism for he had already blessed Gaddafi’s importation of foreign Arab groups into Darfur. The group came under the name the Islamic League’ and settled in Darfur during Governorship of Tigani Seise, now head of LJM.

Gaddafi’s generosity to Almahdi knew no bounds, nevermind the fact the latter has been exceptionally mean-spirted to his late friend. It was Gaddafi who financed Almahdi to regain Al-Kurmuk from the SPLM; it was Gaddafi who paid for his botched attempt at toppling the Khartoum government in the 1970s and; it was Gaddafi who funded his successful electoral campaign in 1986. What kind of upbringing that man had, and which makes him bite the very hand that feeds him?

The contempt of Almahdi for the people of Darfur is unimaginable. Nevermind that it was they who secured him his first and second premiership, that Princess Magbula, the grandmother of Almahdi was a Fur from Darfur and that it was Darfur which provided the rank and file troops for his unsuccessful coupe in 1970s. Strangely enough, his Darfur soldiers were called mercenaries, a term he never protested to this date. Instead, when he later got in power, his first agenda item concerned compensation of his family for its nationalised properties, a plan torpedoed by Communist Party MP Izza Aldin Amir. It never occurred to Sadiq to investigate extra judicial killing of his Darfur troops, or even compile list of those who were lost in the process for their families.

That Almahdi never bothers about investigating massacres of marginalised people is part of his political biography and hence his current opposition to ICC-Albashir case. During his second Premiership, thousands of Dinka people were burnt alive in train carriages in the middle of El Dein city, a massacre that was courageously exposed by Baldo and Ushari. Almahdi, did nothing except unleashing his media dogs to castigate and demonize Baldo and Ushari for bringing the massacres to attention of the world.

Almahdi’s notorious despise for the marginalised people featured again when JEM invaded Omdurman in 2008. Almahdi spoke about them as mercenaries and called for the harshest punishment to be visited on them. He must have been pleased that his advice was honoured; for many of captured JEM solders were killed in contravention of international conventions while others are sill languishing in Kober prison.

If the reader is confused as to why Almahdi sacrifices even the most fundamental justice principles of Islam as well as humanity in protection of the status quo in Khartoum, the answer is easy to guess. Changing the current status quo threatens the bases of his power, anchored on two axes: A particular brand of Arabism and a particular brand of Islam.

Almahdi is not only an Arab. Allegedly, he is a direct descendant of Prophet Mohamed and thus secures both axes to his power and qualifies for ruling the Sudan. Forget that no half decent anthropologist, historian or genealogist would fall for that ancestry story and I wouldn’t be too disappointed if the Arabs across the Red Sea would. The new aspirants to power in Khartoum, whether from Western Sudan, Blue Nile, Northern Sudan or Eastern Sudan challenge these very bases of Almahdi’s power. They are fighting for a new system in which Arabism and Islam do not privilege a citizen over others, in politics otherwise.

When Almahdi visited my own hometown, Umkeddada in the 1960s, I saw his followers rushing to kiss his hands. Having been pushed back by his bodyguards, they dived to gather some ’holy sand’ from the tracks of his Land Rover. For the benefit of the ignorant and the uninitiated in these matters, the holy sand was fully charged with Almahdi’s Baraka (blessing) and was exceptionally good for medication as and other purposes! May be that was why Almahdi gave no clinics or hospitals.

Well Mr Almahdi, that kind of servitude and indignity is over. Umkeddada has no more time for imams and their holy sand, fake or otherwise.

Abdullahi Osman El-Tom is Head of Bureau for Planning and Strategic Planning. He can be reached at: Abdulahi.El-Tom@nuim.ie

Sule rebellion: Some must come clean

By Isaiah Abraham

November 15, 2011 — Politicians in the Republic of South Sudan have no intention yet to detach themselves from military activities against their own brothers and sisters on the other side of political divide. This is the case in point about our big brother and elder Mulana Peter Abdulrahman Sule of the United Democratic Front, one of the numerous Southern registered political parties. Brother Sule was caught in military attire, observing training of youths for a rebellion against the state in Munduri East County of Western Equatoria State. His men opened fire and there were deaths on both sides, an unfortunate thing indeed to believe in this point when we have already crossed to the very ’Promised Land.’

The incident had shocked so many people in the land except in Khartoum and those who have been wishing the South to fail; our own brothers and sisters whose loyalty is stretch between their heads and stomachs. Mulana Sule has no military taste since he was young, and people started to scratch their heads in disbelief whether the report is real or imaginary. The old man is now under detention along with a few others, and the big question that comes is, whether the old man was alone or under a larger picture we must eagerly wait to see. The latter hypothesis is what this piece is all about: whether Mulana Sule was indeed acting unilaterally or from a stand point view of others, probably groups that boycotted the Transitional Conference debate earlier this year.

Role of Security Operatives

But before we discuss further, I have an issue with the security system in our country; the very people we rely on to protect the Southern interests from spoilers outside and inside the country. The system of security has come under serious challenge, something the authorities concerned must look into before something unthinkable or terrible occurs to our democratic nascent system. Either informers or their bosses know little about what it takes to avert a damage or danger or the group itself is full of saboteurs that want the elected government of the people of Southern Sudan to fall.

Security experiences of last year show that there was a great lapse in the security operations. We had an incident where several officers were massacre by renegade George Athor in Dolieb Hill Military Barrack. The deaths could have been avoided had the security people were for their jobs. Gen. Athor intention became much crystal when he moved his headquarters to his home place of Korfulus. No proper proactive actions were taken to contain him and attempts later after the incidents didn’t help the situation. In few words, the entire security operation is in serious credibility problems.

Rebels have their backers elsewhere

Allow me to move a notch higher to implicate some quarters (probably later deviate heavily on one perennial problematic character) related to brother Sule military activities in the Munduri land. How could someone come to a busy place like Eastern Munduri and stayed for four good weeks without the conviction of the host authorities or the knowledge of the security? How did that happen before the watchful eyes of the entire State Authorities and its Legislative Organ in Yambio? What of the Commissioner of the County in question with its administrators as well as the MP, aren’t they not part of the plot to overthrow the government in Juba and if not how do you leave them out in this scenario? I look forward for more queries on the side of the people around Western Equatoria State in general and people around Munduri in particular! Someone or group of people are on the know, about Sule treason activities and the law shouldn’t spare anyone.

The place where Sule and his men were doing training (military camp for Sule rebels) and the County headquarters is a few kilometers apiece, and you wondered what did the people think shouldn’t have been asked about that happening. To be exact, the authorities and the people there need more explanation about episode leading the presence of military camp before the nose of the authorities.

What of the MP for that area (Munduri East) is he innocent, and if yes, what was his effort through his people to denounce and disown the presence of Sule Military activities there. We all know that the very MP is estranged member of the SPLM who has been in and out of the party from time to time, and had all along he has been trying to go with a wind that conspire against his party the SPLM. Dr. Richard K. Mulla and the Commissioner of that County to my view are to be quizzed. The Commissioner is a close ally of Mr. Mulla and the two have connived this time around in a big way.

Is Dr. Lam’s presence in Juba a factor in the Mr. Sule rebellion?

Sule yes, could now be behind bars (according to impeccable sources, says the head of state), but others are still at large something the security should pursue with the vigor it deserves. Is Dr. Lam Akol presence in Juba a factor in this development? The two men (Sule and Lam) have are birds of the same feathers; the two had a shared conspiracy tendency from their Nasir rebellion in the 1990s when the former was co-opted from his Imatong Liberation whatever. They left together for SPLM-United accompanied briefly by late Arok Thon Arok, after Lam broke rank with Dr. Riek Machar in 1994.

During referendum time, the two men made inflammatory releases suggesting that the referendum should be held back until leadership issue in Juba is sort out. They called Juba administration a Dinka thing and must be replaced. How could someone do just that? The sickness that Dinka are always bad guys must be used to undermine their place in our society. Let this old and tired policy finger pointing be refused at whatever cost.

About Lam, the man never voted during referendum and so did his supporters. If anyone didn’tt vote in the referendum, what stake does such a Southerner has about the South really? Should Lam be left alone to go on mobilizing as this is his wish and that of some quarters, then we must be prepared for another shocker! Dr. Lam wants power, power and only power and unless this is done, the people of the South will not find rest they badly desired.

Dr. Lam strut our streets, the very place he had wanted annexed to the North for fifty more years, and I wonder why allow him to do so. Mr. Kiir sees nothing with that! The president has been played into Lam dirty tricks once more, just to believe a lie that nothing is wrong for him campaigning in the capital city. The old man isn’t about cooperation with the government of the day on matters of ‘national interest’ but planning a back door stage scene. I failed to see this man changed! I don’t care whether there is a deal the two leaders had actually struck behind everyone knowledge, but the truth is that Dr. Lam presence in Juba is a threat to our national security; our people will pay a cost once more, and Sule incident is a case in point for more queries towards the man who thinks he knows everything and should be left to rule the people he once betrayed.

Now you may ask where I got this hunch about Lam factor here. History is a good teacher, his past political records are volumes of folders about a conspirator who isn’t yet tired of becoming quiet at his age. I sincerely doubt his two public appearances in Juba in less than two weeks. One in Nyakuron a week ago, and again on Friday the 11/11/2011; this makes me suspicious that the man is struggling to fight a guilt of something. He mentioned ‘no violence democratic change’ more than five times. His body language among other things then tell it that something was afoot, that must be denied and cleared. It is the same Lam who repeated happy to called Garang a ‘dictator’ and a charge that never struck. The man himself wasn’t better in his series of journeys from one party to another. Imagine he came late in 1986 and start immediately to call for change for a system he never participated in its formation, what a nosy man that was!

Old theories, same person

In Northern Upper Nile as Zonal Commander in 1988, he requested some powers which he used draconically to kill and lord over everything to coerce revolutionary members who were opposed to his dictatorial style of managing guerrilla affairs. Garang removed him elsewhere. When he found a new space as spokesperson of the Movement due largely to his sly and commands of crank and deign, he started to go over board about everything concerning others. In Addis Ababa and then in Itang at the end of the 1990s, Dr. Lam character became subject of discussion to some members after he chose to question anything done in the field and around there.

Just before Itang evacuation in June, 1991, the writing was already on the wall that something is going on, and everyone knows. In Nasir the coup was already known even to Garang weeks before the actual announcement. My Cadet colleague told me in July that year that Lam had talked to them about a plot. Funny, Nasir coup leaders didn’t know that everything was everywhere! In short and for the sake of our people Dr. Lam should be exiled. To bring him to the government won’t help, leaving him out either would be a disaster. Sule case has awaken patriots that there is a need to search souls about Dr. Lam presence in the capital city Juba.

But learning through Southern Sudan Television on that fateful evening about brother Sule when the army spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer Panyang, I felt more in-secured than when I was in the bush; it is unacceptable therefore to have someone plotting against the people’s government on the behest of Khartoum and foreign spoilers, and our leaders allow it to go unchecked. President Kiir and our beloved Vice President should carefully rethink their today’s business with the opposition groups.

Suggestions

These people have no regards for the welfare of the people of South Sudan but their stomachs. I hereby suggest the followings: the so-called Opposition parties are to be vetted and new law regulating the political parties enacted quickly. This means that there are some individuals that called themselves parties that are bankrolls by Khartoum to destabilize the South and these people activities are to be thoroughly and regularly monitored and if needs be muted it. If it means cracking down or closing down their activities in the South, so let it be!

Secondly (related to the above), our President must watch his back as to his relationship with the Democratic Change in particular and other so-called opposition groups. This man called Lam can’t contribute anything positive for the South. He is still the same character of many years ago. He has full presence in Khartoum as we speak, and in Malakal South of Renk. What does he wants? Without him, the South will move on. The country doesn’t need Dr. Lam; he is a bad politician! The Head of State should stop his endless reconciliation bids and go for the medicine Sule had wanted dosed on the people of South Sudan.

Third, I look for a country where citizens exercise discipline in pieces or in total. We have lost that element and someone must enforce it. Under Kiir things are getting out of hand so slowly but surely. He must burry his heads that things are rosy because the South has become an independence state. People aren’t anymore listening. The South has more collaborators than during the war, people who pledge allegiance in their lips when their hearts are elsewhere. Mr. Security, bring Sule sympathizers to book, and go against rebellions in Upper Nile. Governor Bangassi J. Bokosoro please sir form an inquiry against the Munduri East County Authorities and around the place of incident.

Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he is contactable on: Isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk

Kurmuk: the limits of liberation

By Magdi El-Gizouli

November 14, 2011 — A triumphant President Bashir landed in al-Kurmuk on the first day of Eid al-Adha, 6 November, flanked by his defence minister and his security director, and, of course, the crucial minister of presidential affairs, Bakri Hassan Salih. The four gentlemen were then joined by a second cohort of military personnel including the caretaker governor of the Blue Nile and the force commander of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in the state. The President and his entourage entertained the SAF contingent that had subdued al-Kurmuk, the major stronghold of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in North Sudan (SPLM-N), and declared the town ‘liberated’. While under the control of the SPLM the town was also referred to as ‘liberated’. The area and its inhabitants suffered the two variants of ‘liberation’ several times during the course of the 1983-2005 civil war. The first cycle was in November 1987 when the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), under the leadership of the late John Garang, managed to gain control over the town and its less famed neighbour, Gaisan. In the same year the SPLA mounted its first sustained campaign in South Kordofan after it had signalled its military presence in the region with the 1985 surprise raid on al-Gardud. At the time, Sadiq al-Mahdi was the master in Khartoum presiding over a coalition government that joined the National Umma Party (NUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In parliament, the opposition National Islamic Front (NIF) headed by Hassan al-Turabi grilled the NUP over the military defeat in Kurmuk. Exasperated, Sadiq al-Mahdi’s captain, the late Omer Nur al-Daim, told the house, so what if al-Kurmuk fell, Berlin fell, not a particularly felicitous parallel I suppose. Similar to today’s al-Intibaha the NIF press back then, al-Raya, al-Sudani and Alwan, ridiculed the hesitant peace efforts of the NUP and the DUP as mere ‘capitulation’ to the SPLA and whipped up public support for the war effort.

The SAF armed with Libyan weapons managed to reclaim al-Kurmuk in December 1988. The town continued to be the object of competition between the SPLA and the SAF until the former managed to ‘liberate’ it again in 1997. This time around, there was no opposition in the parliament to grill the government of President Bashir and Hassan al-Turabi over the defeat. The event was largely ignored. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005 al-Kurmuk was still under the control of the SPLA. The April 2010 elections delivered the governorship of the Blue Nile state to the SPLM’s Malik Agar. Later in the year, he declared the transfer of the state capital from al-Damazin to al-Kurmuk. The decision was never implemented, possibly due to stiff resistance from Khartoum and the lobbying of the Damazin merchants and big landowners. The pro-SPLM Khartoum newspaper Ajras al-Hurriya professed that al-Kurmuk, the state capital to be, would soon become “Africa’s Dubai”, a regional hub of commerce and tourism. Well, it didn’t.

True to custom, President Bashir promised the few civilians who were there to attend his Eid al-Adha address in al-Kurmuk beside the troops that rehabilitation and development under government aegis would soon soothe the war wounds of the town, now that it has returned to the bosom of the nation. In the heat of the moment, President Bashir told his troops to bring in Malik Agar alive and threatened South Sudan with war in case it continues to support the rebels of the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Instead of haraka (Arabic for movement) the President kept saying hashara (Arabic for insect), to the delight of the audience. The SAF, he declared, has crushed the hashara for good, probably not I presume.

The President, well informed by his experience as the SAF commander in Mayom, Upper Nile, in the 1980s, probably has a better grasp of the virtual invincibility of guerrillas in the Sudanese war zones. He controlled Mayom once, but only Mayom. The SAF today has Kurmuk in its grasp; so what, Omer Nur al-Daim could have asked.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He publishes regular opinion articles and analyses at his blog Still Sudan. He can be reached at m.elgizouli@gmail.com

The Doha Agreement in Perspective

Revolution for the Region but a Shallow ‘Band-Aid’ Peace for Darfur

By Elfadil Ibrahim

November 13, 2011 — Darfur, a place which was once was the centre of humanitarian attention, has now warped into a largely forgotten cause, in light of the revolutionary changes taking place in Sudan’s backyard over the course of the past year. The newspapers in Sudan have certainly not forgotten, as the front pages of all outlets have drawn attention towards the recent return of Dr. Tigani Sese, leader of the Liberation and Justice Movement, who has returned to Sudan following extensive negotiations with the Sudanese Government in Doha where the Doha Peace Agreement (DA) was concluded.

The first questions that come to mind for many is to ask who this man is, and why looks nothing like the gun-wielding rebel groups that tried to seize Khartoum in 2008, or the Janjaweed, or any of the armed movements that have been at the heart of the violence in the region which Colin Powell used the ‘G-word’ in describing in 2004. In light of the human rights ruckus over Darfur, where banditry, lawlessness, and the like have lent a direct hand in creating the dire humanitarian situation, one immediately questions whether Sese can be representative of Darfurians, and whether or not the Doha agreement is yet another attempt at ‘cosmetic’ peace.

Why Bother? The Tactical Game at Work

Like many of the initiatives for peace in Darfur that have proved futile in delivering real results on the ground, The Doha peace agreement is likely to be yet another addition. Dr. Sese, a former minister for the region during the previous administration, has never been a combatant, nor was he even present in Darfur for much of the hostilities for which the region became infamous over the last decade.

The Liberation and Justice movement, an artificial creation to mend the increasingly fragmented movements, shares many features with other ‘anonymous acronyms’ to emerge out of the earlier steps for peace in Abuja. Typical characteristics include leadership by intelligentsia, many of whom have little to no military power, and almost no visibility amongst the internally displaced peoples, tribal leaders, civil society or even rival factions in Darfur.

What then, is the point of the Doha Peace Agreement signed between the Liberation and Justice Movement and the Government of Sudan? I suggest two possibilities in this regard.

Firstly, perhaps this is an attempt at a resolving the problem via the backdoor. The agreement offers something in the way of addressing the marginalisation of the region that is in fact at the root of the discontent, prior to exacerbation by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and its enemies (domestic and foreign) as leverage to further their own interests with the threat of increasing instability in Sudan.

Second and more importantly, in light of what’s been happening in the region, the Sudanese government will certainly be keen to capitalise on its ‘accomplishment,’ seizing the timing of the Doha agreement as a show-and-tell for its own citizens and the global community that concrete steps are being taken. Timing here is of the essence, the stakes are high as populations are growing impatient with poor governance, and experiences within Sudan’s peripheries have proved capable in regards to completely uprooting political regimes, making them relics of the past overnight.

Is the DPA all that bad? In short, yes, but not completely so. On paper, one may applaud what the agreement offers, a vice president from Darfur, a bigger slice of the pie for the region in the long term and compensation for victims of the hostilities. However, the recently appointed Vice President, Haj Adam Youssef, is yet another ‘suit,’ a soft-spoken academic and long term resident of Khartoum. He may have the best of intentions, but his appointment will do little in the way of delivering lasting peace for the region. Perhaps, the only meaningful provisions in the Doha agreement are those indicating funds to be provided (by the Qatari’s) for the compensation of victims. In the midst of a crippling economic crisis facing Sudan, it is hard to see the Sudanese government raising the two billion dollars that Qatar will be injecting into the fund. This is the only pillar of the agreement not plagued by dim prospects as addressing the material hardships faced by the victims of the conflict is a key and critical element to any peace arrangement?

Prospects for the Future

Media interest in Darfur, which was superficial and simplistic in its coverage to begin with, has waned as the death toll has decreased. The issue has drifted from the attention of media, lobby groups and lawmakers in Washington only to become a less significant leveraging tool (behind the more recent crises in the Blue Nile State, and Nuba Mountains) for America’s carrot-and-stick policy towards Sudan. The Sudanese government has in response, attempted to conjure up the façade of genuinely striving towards peace.

Negotiations for peace in Darfur will fail until three obstacles are addressed. Firstly and most importantly, peace will be hard to envisage unless the peace process is made more attractive to the armed rebels. Heavy concessions are required here by the central government, and they must calculate the decision wisely, since without them there can be no cessation of hostility in the immediate future.

Secondly, support of the ICC indictment against Sudan’s head of state and high ranking officials has alienated a necessary participant in the process. Until the international community understands this contradiction, little progress can be achieved. Lastly, while negotiations have failed with the armed rebels, they’ve also failed at incorporating the most relevant parties, refugees, tribal leaders, and the civil society in Darfur. Scott Gration, the former US envoy to Darfur recommended this approach, and while it is remarkably far-sighted, his proximity to the Khartoum government had many in Washington accusing him of being ‘in cahoots’ with the NCP.

Foreign involvement, particularly by the United States and the EU has had great potential, but because this side has been quick to resort to labeling and polarising the players and problem rather than pursuing a deeper understanding of the crisis and a subsequent push for meaningful change, the involvement of this camp can be summed up as problematic and indecisive thus far. Until the Sudanese government, the United States and the global community develop a serious desire to bring lasting peace to the region, all that may come out of any such efforts is the Band-Aid diplomacy we’ve seen time and time again.

Elfadil Ibrahim lives in the Sudan and is a recent graduate from the University of Aberdeen with an LLM (Masters of Law) in Oil and Gas Law. He can be reached at elfadil.ibrahim@gmail.com

Statements of Umma’s Mahdi add insult to injury

By Mahmoud A. Suleiman

November 11, 2011 — The political position of the National Umma Party (NUP) leader, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, in relation to the genocidal regime of the National Congress Party (NCP), continues to be flawed. Apparently, lessons from the kind of insults and humiliations inflicted by the NCP regime upon his National Umma Party (NUP) and the atrocities it committed against the National Umma Party constituents in Darfur have not yet been learnt by Sadiq al-Mahdi.

The London-based Arabic newspaper, ASharq Al-Awsat Reporter, Ahmed al-Tahiry interviewed Sayed al-Mahdi who made his usual statements on several issues among which he included the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in an unsavoury assertion repeating the very allegations orchestrated by the NCP regime’s propaganda machine (SMC), Al-Mahdi made random accusations without evidence against the Darfuri movement, rehearsing what the elements in the NCP despotic establishment have been chanting. In that he has claimed that JEM leader was given save haven by Colonel Gaddafi and offered him enormous moral and material support. Al-Mahdi also alleged that huge amounts of weapons and large quantities of money entered Darfur through Libya.

Nevertheless, Sadiq al-Mahdi did not dare to say a word about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements who have been camping in the North Darfur State capital al-Fasher to guard the chemical and other potentially dangerous weapons reportedly looted during the chaos caused by the Libyan uprising. In doing so, the Ansar Imam has joined those who spread myths and fantasies about the Sudan Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). This is in spite of the alliances which the National Umma Party (NUP) signed agreements and alliances to reconcile the political positions against the ruling Nationals Congress Party (NCP).

Moreover, some political observers believe that the attitude of the Imam might be attributed to his mixed feelings of threat from and envy towards the Darfur rebel movements who are the future political parties when a just and sustainable peace is achieved. The real threat felt by al-Sadiq is the potential loss of the traditional constituents who used to cast their ballots papers automatically to the Umma Party.

Political analysts and historians in recent Sudanese affairs indicate that al-Sadiqal-Mahdi should be the last person to talk about Colonel Gaddafi’s support. The following facts speak for themselves:

1- In the 1976, Sadiq al-Mahdi was the Leader of the National Front which attacked Khartoum from Libya. That front was trained, financed and used the Libyan territories as a base for its fighters.

2- Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi received the late Colonel Gaddafi’s support ever since. He visited Gaddafi very recently, just 2 months before the start of the Libyan Revolution, seeking support. There were unconfirmed rumours that he received a substantial amount of money from the former Libyan leader.

3- It was a well known fact that al-Sadiq al-Mahdi received the support of the late Colonel Gaddafi during the general elections of 1986, in the form of money and four wheel drive vehicles.

4- Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi was the first to allow entry of weapons to Darfur in the 1980s through the ’Islamic Legion’ of Gaddafi. Furthermore, al-Mahdi was prime minister of Sudan in 1987 when a group calling themselves ’Guraish’ wrote an ’Arab letter,’ adopting the infamous ’Arab belt’ ideology of Gaddafi, demanding recognition and support.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, then the Prime Minister, put up with that letter which carried Qaddafi’s expansionist dreams. The letter was open and unashamed of its supremacy claim over other citizens in Darfur. The ’Arab belt’ ideology was the seed for the real foundation of the notorious Janjaweed organisation in Darfur. Ironically, at the time, Dr. Tigani Sessei was the Governor of the Greater Darfur Region. Tigani Sessei, an Umma Party affiliate, turned a blind eye on the Islamic Legion violations and crimes against the civilian population in Darfur. The rest is history.

Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi was aware and knowledgeable of the situation of the leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Dr. Khalil Ibrahim, in Libya. Since Dr. Khalil and his entourage were denied to cross the borders to his forces in Darfur by the Chadian authorities, he had been virtually under house arrest in Tripoli. His stay in Libya was a result of a coordinated conspiracy by various entities that planned to force him to sign a forged done deal at the Qatari capital Doha with the National Congress Party regime, renowned for revoking covenants and abrogating agreements. There were number of groups who had vested interest in Dr. Khalil Ibrahim to remain as a hostage in a Tripoli hotel, deprived from joining his forces in the field in the Darfur region.

Political analysts indicate that Sadig al-Mahdi’s statements, even to his Umma party base, can be described at best as foggy, confusing and controversial at worst. More and more people are viewing his stands are counterproductive, or even suspicious and conspicuously conspiratorial; helping the National Congress Party (NCP) government agenda rather than the interests of his base and the cause of the Sudanese people.

Many observers believe that Sadiq al-Mahdi is no longer has any significant political role useful to for the people of Sudan of today. The Sudanese public find what he says or writes on the current political events in Sudan as repetitive, tasteless, meaningless and serves the interests of his associate and ally, the ICC indicted fugitive Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir.

Al-Sadiq’s foggy position with the NCP is one of the factors that are facilitating to prolong the chances of the regime staying in power and hampering the potential uprising of the Sudanese youth to oust the hateful NCP government. Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi has recently claimed that the coalition of the marginalised people will result in repetition of the atrocities of Rwanda. In saying that Al-Sadig forgot that there could not have been a Mahdist revolution if not for the role played by the people of the margin; and he could not have ascended to the seat of premiership without the people of the margin.

However, the people of Sudan have teamed up through their different organisations to bring about regime change. The main goal of which would be uproot the remnants of the infamous National Islamic Front (NIF) and throw them into the garbage bin of the history as has happened recently to its counterparts in the neighbouring Arab countries.

The Sudan Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has always reaffirmed that it bears no animosity towards any ethnicity or people from a certain regional background. The behaviour of its forces in Omdurman on 10th May 2008 during the military codenamed Operation Long Arm (OLA) was clear evidence that its target was the NCP regime that replicated the atrocities of Rwanda all over the Sudan and damaged social fabric of the Sudanese people beyond repair.

Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached at mahmoud.abaker@gmail.com

Teaching Islam in South Sudan schools

By Luk Kuth Dak

November 10, 2011 — Justin Maker Bol is one of my favourite people. He did what no other South Sudanese in the United States has ever done. He’s his own boss. Besides, he is an outspoken, smart and conservative man, who cherishes family values. He attends all of his son’s football games cheering him on the side line. My daughter, Mirry Dak, is lucky to have him as her uncle.

If he were born in the US, where talents could have been discovered early on and developed, he could have been like Bill O’Reilly, of the O’Reilly Factor, Rush Limbaugh, or even Larry King, respectively.

Maker remains one of the few voices of wisdom and reasoning with in the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM). A few weeks ago, I rang him up at his residence in Ohio, to inform him that the party he’s been so loyal to his entire life has just made an irreparable harm by importing Islamic teachers from the North, to teach Islam in public schools in South Sudan!

Here’s Justin in his own words:

“The history of Sudan teaches us since the Mahdist, Aboot, Nemiry, through Al- Bashir, now that Islam was/is a source of intolerance, extremism and Jihad. During both civil wars, he continued, the Anyana one and the SPLA, North Sudan had declared Jihad against South Sudan. Islam was used as a weapon to rape, enslave, and kill the non-Muslims in South Sudan. More so, conversion to Islam was more than enough qualification for a South Sudanese to get a high government position in Sudan. The list of brutalities committed in the name if Islam is never-ending.”

He went on to say: “But today’s opinion is not about the past, but the future for South Sudan, the choices that must be made, and certainly, the priorities the government has to undertake in securing that future. Currently, and for the obvious reasons, the Arabs states and governments are flowing in support to South Sudan’s Muslims (SSM.) From the invitation of 100 pilgrims by Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdulazziz, to the establishment of (Al Madrasa) by pragmatist, to this extreme idea by the ministry of education in the government of South Sudan to bring in hundreds of teachers from North Sudan to teach Islam in our public schools. Really, is South Sudan national interest reliance upon Islamic teaching? The burning question is: Did the ministry of education complete its priorities in setting up primary education? Sounds good for a ministry of education who has equipped its schools with high technology standard.”

“I am not against Islam. Truly, the South Sudan Muslims have the right to enjoy full religious freedom, but the inconsistent standards, lack of vision, accountability, absence of curriculum, extremism, and radical ideology impose real risk that should not be ignored.”

I could not agree more with Maker. Having lived in America for decades, I do not believe that the state has any business in dictating practices of one religion on its people, especially those who have been victims of that religion.

The state and religion should stay independent of each other. In particular, South Sudan has a long road to stability. So, a secular form of government should be employed.

The author is a former anchorman at Juba Radio. He can be reached via e-mail at lukedak@hotmail.com.

Is US without leverage in confronting Khartoum over atrocity Crimes?

The Obama administration would have us believe, in the words of special presidential envoy Princeton Lyman, that we can do nothing but "encourage talks" between the increasingly militarised Khartoum regime and its countrywide adversaries. Privately, Lyman says the US has no leverage, "no cards to play," no effective way of pressuring Khartoum. Is this true?

By Eric Reeves

November 9, 2011 — In speaking about the ongoing human suffering and destruction in Sudan, Princeton Lyman, the Obama administration’s Sudan policy spokesman, declared in a September interview with Radio Dabanga that the US can do no more than "encourage and facilitate ... negotiations" between the parties in Sudan. Privately, Lyman makes explicit what is already implicit in this public declaration, insisting that the US has no leverage, no cards to play, no way to apply pressure on Khartoum. Is this true? Is the Obama administration really claiming that we are helpless as humanitarian access is resolutely denied to many hundreds of thousands of newly displaced civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile? These people have consumed all reserve foodstocks and have had their agricultural season profoundly disrupted by Khartoum’s military violence; violence that includes indiscriminate aerial bombardment of villages and fields. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has concluded that the harvest in Blue Nile will fail (see below); the same is almost certainly true of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan.

And yet, without vigorous condemnation or facing any specified consequences, the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime continues to deny all international humanitarian access, despite the vast scale of the crisis. The US has done nothing to secure international support for the creation of humanitarian corridors into these border regions. Nor has the US moved with any evident determination to halt Khartoum’s ongoing bombing of civilians and civilian targets, including agriculture. While offering tepid and sometime disingenuous condemnations of Khartoum’s actions, Lyman continues to profess that the US has no option but to "encouraging negotiations."

Here we should note that the "negotiations" Lyman speaks of necessarily involve a regime in Khartoum that has a long history of reneging on signed agreements, including multiple agreements regarding humanitarian access over the past twenty-two years; in the current crises the regime has simply---repeatedly and categorically---denied all international humanitarian access. Other agreements abrogated by Khartoum include various key terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the South (CPA). This is most conspicuously so in Abyei, where the regime’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) refuse to withdraw, as Khartoum had perviously committed to doing, and thus continue to obstruct the return of some 120,000 Dinka Ngok who fled the SAF invasion of May 20. The only agreement the regime has signed of late---the June 28 framework agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North---was renounced three days later by President Omar al-Bashir. This agreement committed both Khartoum and the SPLM/A-N to: (1) negotiate a political settlement to differences on governance in the regions, (2) negotiate the future of SPLA-N soldiers, and (3) negotiate a cease-fire. It was signed on the regime’s behalf by long-time senior official and presidential advisor, Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e.

But in a clear signal of changes in the power dynamic within the regime, al-Bashir completely renounced the agreement three days later, and re-committed to a brutal military campaign:

"Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said the army would continue its campaign in the flashpoint of South Kordofan, state news agency SUNA said on Friday [July 1], dashing hope of a cease-fire ahead of southern secession. In his first comments since returning from a visit to China, Bashir seemed to contradict comments by a northern official this week that north and south had agreed ’in principle’ on a cease-fire in the northern oil state."

"’He directed the armed forces to continue their military operations in South Kordofan until a cleansing of the region is over,’ SUNA quoted Bashir as telling worshippers during Friday prayers." (Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], July 1, 2011)

There is increasingly broad consensus among Sudan analysts that senior generals in the army, three of them senior Ministers, have increasingly taken control of political power and decision-making in Khartoum. As the International Crisis Group argues:

"The loss of South Sudan has had a profound effect on the National Congress Party, and senior generals led a soft-coup within the party. They have outflanked more pragmatic elements in the NCP who seek a negotiated strategy. Encouraging progress in the post-separation arrangements between North and South was blocked [by these generals and their political allies]." (emphasis added) ("Conflict Risk Alert," September 26, 2011)

What we are seeing, I have argued, is a "creeping military coup," and beginning with the seizure of Abyei in May, the generals seem determined to settle all issues militarily in the new "south Sudan"; this is the name increasingly used for the border regions whose people have long felt closer to what is now the independent South Sudan---politically, militarily, culturally, and ethnically. The generals have directed the NIF/NCP to spurn all negotiations with the SPLA/M-North, and most insistently to deny the presence of any international third party in negotiations with South Sudan, using various civilian spokesmen to make the point, including President (and Army Field Marshal) al-Bashir:

"In his Thursday [October 13] address, Al-Bashir maintained his tough stance towards the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), which is fighting the country’s army in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. ’There will be no negotiation with the SPLM-N because it was the one that started the war’ he said, adding that ending the state of war in the two states is contingent on the SPLM-N’s acceptance of the elections results in South Kordofan and surrendering its arms to the Sudanese army. ’There are no more negotiations or protocols, this is our position,’ Al-Bashir declared." (Sudan Tribune, October 13, 2011)

It was, of course, Khartoum that initiated hostilities in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile, following its well-planned military invasion and seizure of the contested Abyei region. Two weeks earlier al-Bashir had made the same point with respect to outstanding issues with Juba, including Abyei, oil revenue-sharing, rights for Southerners who have remained in northern Sudan, as well as border delineation and demarcation:

"Sudan wants to end all conflict with newly-independent South Sudan through dialogue but without any foreign mediation, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Saturday [October 1, 2011] ahead of a visit by his southern counterpart. ’We need to sort out all issues through dialogue but without any foreign mediation,’ Bashir said." ("Sudan’s Bashir rejects mediation in talks with South"; Reuters [dateline: Khartoum], October 1, 2011)

Agence France-Presse had reported on September 28 from Khartoum:

"Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir claimed on Wednesday [September 28] that the army would soon capture the rebel stronghold of Kurmuk, in Blue Nile state, insisting there would be no UN-supervised negotiations. ’The armed forces will be saying prayers of thanksgiving soon in Kurmuk,’ he was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency, during a speech in eastern Sudan. ’The rebellion will be put down and the country’s outlaws defeated ... Sudan will not repeat the experience of being obliged to negotiate and sign protocols under UN supervision,’ he said."

"Sudan will not repeat the experience of being obliged to negotiate and sign protocols under UN supervision"---the rejection of a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile could hardly be clearer, even as the consequences of such conflict have been devastating for civilians, particularly since Khartoum has---it must be emphasized yet again---resolutely denied all humanitarian access to these highly distressed regions.

This rejection clearly extends to the UN, to Thabo Mbeki, representing the "African Union High-Level Panel" (originally commissioned to address the crisis in Darfur, a mission abandoned after a miserably unsuccessful effort), to regional actors (e.g., Ethiopia, which has provided the troops for the UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei)---and most clearly, to the US and its special envoy, Princeton Lyman. For the US special envoy to ignore the new political and negotiating environment in Khartoum, to continue to mouth platitudes about the value of diplomacy and the limitations of U.S negotiating leverage, is not only deeply disingenuous in the present context, but ignores options for securing humanitarian access for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who are so deeply imperiled.

Rather than profess limitations, Lyman and the US, as well as the rest of the international community, need to ask what can be done---now---to compel changes in Khartoum’s policies and negotiating posture. Above all, they need to address with appropriate urgency a question that has grown excruciating exigent over four months now: How long are the US and the international community prepared simply to watch as Khartoum denies all humanitarian access to Blue Nile and South Kordofan? How long will the abrogation of the terms of the Abyei interim agreement be allowed to be so flagrantly flouted (the SAF remains in full military control, and prevents nearly all returns by displaced Dinka Ngok)? How long will the condemnation of daily aerial bombing attacks on civilians and humanitarian targets be perfunctory in nature, even as these attacks have done so much to create the vast displacement that has left this year’s harvests in ruins? And will Darfur continue to be a mere parenthesis in US and international response to Sudan’s multiple crises?

These are urgent questions, and it is deeply dismaying that Lyman and the Obama administration will say only that they can do nothing but "encourage negotiations" in which Khartoum quite explicitly refuses to participate---that the US has no "cards to play," no means of pressuring the regime and its newly powerful generals. What this really reflects is an expedient cynicism, not a poverty of options.

Let’s look at several possibilities:

[1] Shut down all talk of debt relief for Khartoum:

It would be difficult to overstate how distressed the economy of northern Sudan is at present. Inflation is over 20 percent; foreign exchange reserves are in extremely short supply; the regime is removing subsidies for sugar and petrol, and has already deeply angered many Sudanese in and near the capital; although the regime has produced "balanced" budget proposals, they make no serious attempt to account for the loss of oil revenues, even as the regime is publicly shameless in declaring what it has endured in the way of lost revenues; the IMF predicts negative growth in the northern economy this year and next, and arguably much longer; the Sudanese pound has experienced massive devaluation this year, and remains in freefall; the demographic of the "Arab Spring"---young, unemployed people under 30 who are frustrated by the lack of job opportunities---is clearly in evidence in what are so far relatively small, but more frequent and more robust demonstrations against economic mismanagement by this corrupt and brutally tyrannical regime.

Perhaps most tellingly, the regime continues to devote inordinate amounts of the national economy to military procurement and salaries. Along with the extensive funding of the intelligence services, these expenses altogether are likely over 50 percent of the total national budget. For in addition to the well-paid and well-equipped National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), the regime is prosecuting expensive wars in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan---and it maintains a significant military presence in Abyei. In Blue Nile, Yasir Arman of the SPLM-N has indicated that the Movement is in possession of evidence that Khartoum is supplementing its forces with Arab mercenaries from Niger and other countries to Sudan’s west (the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the UN/African Union force in Darfur (UNAMID) will not commit to monitoring the transport of these militia fighters). All this represents another very large line item in the budget, as do purchases of extravagantly costly advanced weapons systems.

But what makes the economic situation in the North completely untenable is $38 billion in external debt, which the regime cannot service, let alone repay. The economic future of the North will not improve without debt relief, and here is where the US can make its voice heard in Khartoum. President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should declare publicly, emphatically, and in a stand-alone announcement, that:

"The United States will do all within its political and diplomatic power to ensure that all progress on debt relief for the Republic of Sudan is halted until the following actions are seriously and credibly undertaken:

Angel Immediately open humanitarian corridors to the hundreds of thousands of civilians in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in desperate need of food, primary medical care, shelter, and clean water;

Beer Immediately begin negotiations, under international auspices, with the SPLM-North to bring about an end to hostilities in the regions;

Coffee Commit to a political settlement of economic grievances, the future of the SPLA-North military forces, and role of the SPLM-North in the politics of northern Sudan;

Drinks Commit to provide reparations for those who have lost land, possessions, and family in the violence of the past five months."

"If these conditions are not met, the US will use all its power within the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) to halt all discussion of debt relief. The US will be equally vigorous in opposing all discussion of debt relief in Paris Club meetings."

President Obama or Secretary Clinton could utter these words today, and they would be heard in Khartoum with sufficient concern that real pressure would be felt, including by the generals.

Some will argue that this threat is already in place, but that’s not the message Khartoum is getting. Most recently Germany is reported by the Sudan Tribune to have sent encouraging signals (October 18, 2011):

"Germany has been engaged in talks with Sudan regarding debt relief, Berlin’s deputy envoy to Khartoum revealed, saying that these communications are expected to yield results by early 2010. The Sudanese privately-owned daily Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Tuesday [October 18] that Johannes Lehne, deputy head of Germany’s diplomatic mission in Khartoum, said his country had been discussing with the Sudanese government ways of writing off its debt. Lehne said that Germany had offered Sudan to pay its debts in the form of development projects rather than paying them in cash to his country. ’Sudan actually sent proposals [on development projects] that we are currently considering. Procedures to write off [Sudan’s debt] on the basis of these proposals will begin early next year,’ the German diplomat was quoted [as saying]."

This is outrageously bad timing by the Germans, and gives the regime the sense that despite "difficulties" along the north/south border---and in Darfur---Europe believes it is better to deal with the regime in "positive" terms. This is a reprise of the ghastly foolishness of former US envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration, who notoriously declared that he planned to offer the regime "cookies," "gold stars," and "smiley faces" as a means of spurring diplomatic progress on Darfur---this even as genocide proceeded by a grim attrition on the ground throughout the region.

Whether multilaterally or unilaterally, the US has more than enough power within international financial institutions to halt completely further discussion of any broad form of debt relief. For its part, the regime clearly hopes that debt relief will be on the agenda of a conference slated for Istanbul this December 1 - 2 (sponsored by Turkey and Norway); the US representative should use the occasion to reiterate the firm opposition of the US to any form of debt relief for the regime.

What makes Khartoum’s pleas for debt relief particularly outrageous are the shameless claims that the international community is somehow obliged to help the regime-governed economy, even as the regime’s military ambitions are costing the international community many billions of dollars for current UN peacekeeping missions (which face worldwide budgetary squeezes), and regime violence over the past twenty-two years has created the need for more than fifteen billion dollars in humanitarian relief:

"The Sudanese economy faces collapse unless the international community steps in to provide assistance in the area of debt relief, [Khartoum’s] foreign minister Ali Karti said on Thursday [September 29]. ’We are working also on debt relief with France and others, because debt servicing incurs more than $1 billion annually,’ Karti told reporters in Paris following a meeting with his French counterpart Alain Juppe. He said that the world could not simply stand back and watch the economy collapse, describing the economy’s woes as ’really serious.’ Karti’s grim economic warning marks a departure from his peers in the government who sought to downplay the magnitude of Sudan’s troubled finances." (Sudan Tribune, September 30, 2011)

Of course what is "really serious" is the fate of the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees that Khartoum’s wars on civilians have created. Given the evident French reception of Ali Karti, a US announcement on halting further discussion of debt relief becomes all the more important. Here we should recall that even as some of the worst human rights abuses in the world have been committed in Sudan over the past two decades under the NIF/NCP, German and French companies have been eager participants in commercial projects funded by the regime’s oil wealth, most coming from oil extracted at great human cost in South Sudan. It would be useful to know precisely what these two European powerhouse nations hold in the way of Sudanese debt.

Even were the proposed US conditions met, there should be further pressure on the regime to engage in fundamental economic reform, particularly in appropriations for the military and security sectors. The IMF has done a spectacularly poor job of reporting on such expenditures over the past decade and more, and this has created an almost total lack of transparency, preventing any clear understanding of the real military and security budget, as opposed to the one made public and available to the IMF. Any future debt relief should carefully monitor military expenditures, and ensure that they do not exceed what is necessary for self-defense.

De-militarizing the regime will be extremely difficult in its present configuration, and regime change has long been the only real means of reforming northern Sudanese political culture. The NIF/NCP, however, will not go quietly.

Other measures by which the US can change Khartoum’s thinking:

[2] Declare that the actions by the SAF and its militia allies in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are acts of terrorism, and that the clock won’t start ticking for removal from the State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations until these actions are halted (it is a statutory requirement for such removal that the State Department certify that no acts of terrorism have been committed or supported by a regime on the list for the six prior months). All aerial bombardment of civilians, including in Darfur, should also be considered acts of terrorism for the purposes of potential removal from the State Department list.

[3] Make public US satellite reconnaissance showing military actions against civilians: using appropriate satellite resources, the US should publicize the scale and nature of Khartoum’s military ambitions and their consequences for civilians. Unlike the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), the US intelligence community has no limit on resolution (pixels per square centimeter) in its photographs, or weather constraints on its surveillance capabilities. So far, however, the Obama administration has been inert in responding to or augmenting the critical findings of SSP. If even some of the prodigious power of U.S intelligence were dedicated to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the heretofore unique work of SSP could be quickly and effectively supplemented.

[4] Move to convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to press for humanitarian corridors into Blue Nile and South Kordofan: these are essential for the survival of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The US should declare further that the denial of humanitarian access by Khartoum is a clear threat to "international peace and security," thus coming within the ambit of the most important mandate of the Security Council. The US and other Council members should introduce a resolution authorizing, under Chapter 7 auspices, the creation of such corridors "by all means necessary." The US should be prepared to assist in the protection of such corridors, in coordination with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The present UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) should deploy substantial forces to the border regions between South Sudan and Blue Nile, and be prepared to escort the tens of thousands of refugees who have now fled from the Nuba Mountains; these people will continue to flee as the dry season begins and Khartoum ramps up military ground actions. Sections of Unity State bordering South Kordofan are particularly at risk.

China is of course very likely to veto such a resolution, but it is important that it be made to do so, and thereby reveal to the world---and especially to the countries of Africa---just how cynical Beijing is when it comes to the people of Africa, as opposed to the continent’s extractable resources. The US should continue to introduce such a resolution so long as the vast and growing humanitarian crises persist in these border regions. To date, the US has introduced at the Security Council no resolution of consequence concerning either Blue Nile or South Kordofan.

[5] Accelerate defensive arms deliveries to South Sudan, particularly anti-aircraft weaponry, as well as surveillance and communications equipment. The UN has recently declared that refugees from South Kordofan are at risk of aerial bombardment even when they reach South Sudan (see below). At the same time, the US should share with the Government of South Sudan satellite reconnaissance intelligence bearing on the location, size, and armaments of the Khartoum-sponsored rebel groups that continue to ravage the South, especially in Unity and Jonglei states. That Khartoum is supporting these groups has long been evident, and recent analyses by the Small Arms Survey---of weapons captured from these groups by Southern military forces (the SPLA)---make clear that this brand-new, Chinese-manufactured weaponry could only have come from Khartoum in the quantities seized.

In fact, many months ago a helicopter from Khartoum, carrying senior officers loyal to rebel leader George Athor, was seized by the SPLA when it accidentally landed in the wrong location, and much incriminating evidence was found aboard. Nor is it an accident that these rebel leaders are often found in Khartoum, or in bases just across the border in northern Sudan. More recently the senior intelligence officer in the SPLA declared the South had "credible evidence" that Khartoum’s "Sudan Airways" is providing "logistical and financial support to the various militia rebels" in South Sudan (Sudan Tribune, November 1, 2011).

Devil Use military force to deter the bombing of civilians: There has been for months a plea from military and political leaders in Blue Nile and South Kordofan---and most urgently from civilians---for the imposition of a "No-Fly Zone." This has typically entailed no clear understanding of what is required for such an operation, and officials in the Obama administration have been eager to assert that it is completely impracticable, given the locations to be protected. But what the people of Blue Nile and South Kordofan want is not a particular military operation. Rather, what they desperately wish for is an end to the daily assaults by Antonov "bombers," retrofitted Russian cargo planes that drop their typically crude, shrapnel-laden barrel bombs out the rear cargo bays---at high altitudes and without benefit of bomb-sighting devises. These planes are far too inaccurate for real military purposes; they are designed to hit large, "soft" targets such as villages, hospitals, water supplies, cattle, and fields. These they can hit, and thus they are terrifyingly effective in compelling civilian movement and displacement. These deliberate, widespread, and completely indiscriminate attacks are all war crimes---and in aggregate they constitute "crimes against humanity."

From Blue Nile, the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (October 12, 2011) provides a grim account of what happens when civilians are targeted. Dr. Evan Atar, highlighted in the report below, is one of those in Blue Nile calling for concerted international pressure on Khartoum to end the bombing:

"Kurmuk hospital in Sudan’s southern crisis-hit Blue Nile State is struggling to cope with an influx of war wounded, according to hospital doctor Evan Atar. So far he has treated 626 people for shrapnel injuries since clashes began last month .... A man on the operating table cries out in pain, but Atar says the hospital has no more anaesthetics to give him. Cotton, gauze and saline solution will run out this week if aid does not arrive, he says, adding that six months of supplies have been used up in the past six weeks. ’The problem is that there is no way we can get the drugs in here now because of the Antonovs bombing the area, making it very dangerous to fly supplies in from Kenya.’ Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will not allow foreign aid agencies inside Blue Nile or the neighbouring state of South Kordofan ... Atar is the only doctor in Kurmuk, which has the only hospital between state capital Damazin and neighbouring Ethiopia." [Kurmuk fell to the SAF on November 3]

In response to such barbarous attacks, the US, and whatever allies will join in the effort, should make clear to Khartoum that every time an Antonov---or any other military aircraft---attacks civilians or humanitarians, the US will destroy one such aircraft on the ground at el-Obeid (the major air base from which Antonov and other military aircraft have attacked Blue Nile and South Kordofan). It is doubtful that the generals in Khartoum would watch for long as their air force was destroyed, seriatim, before them; aerial military attacks on civilians would almost certainly stop.

This is not an "Iraq-style NFZ"; on the contrary, there would be no patrolling by fuel-consumptive combat aircraft, no need for refueling aircraft or AWACS, no need to secure over-flight permission from Sudan’s nervous or ambivalent neighbors---the decision to act would be on the basis of a confirmed attack, and there are many means of such confirmation, including satellite reconnaissance follow-up on the reports of daily bombing attacks:

[There are many news reports and accounts from the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile that speak of "daily" or "near daily" attacks; a few examples, with datelines from within Sudan, include the New York Times, Inter Press Service, UN Integrated Region Information Networks, as well as the leaked UN human rights report on events during the initial fighting in June.]

Destroying aircraft on the ground---for example, with cruise missiles---would minimize the possibility of collateral damage; and relentless, sequential destruction would steadily ratchet up the pressure on Khartoum to halt these war crimes. To be sure, this would, as Lyman has said baldly in explaining why he is opposed to any such action, "take us into a confrontational situation in Sudan." But military "confrontation" is path that Khartoum has chosen, and from which it appears determined not to deviate, even as many hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk; and while it sounds diplomatic for Lyman to say further that "our efforts are concentrated in getting the parties back to the negotiation table," one of these parties has made clear it has no intention of negotiating, and certainly not with US auspices (see above).

Notably, the regime recently turned down an invitation to join a broad discussion in Washington, organized by Lyman and his office, to discuss Darfur, where the failed peace agreement promulgated in Doha (Qatar) this past July all too clearly leaves much work to be done. Khartoum for its part is determined to do nothing that might give the appearance of re-opening negotiations, and refuses to make even an appearance.

Indeed, on Darfur al-Bashir recently made clear his robust views of UN Security Council Resolution (2003), which authorizes for another year the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, and which in Khartoum’s view sought to extend incrementally the mandate of the mission:

"Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir has bragged about his country’s ability to emulate Israel in breaking resolutions of the UN Security Council (UNSC), vowing to expel those who attempt to implement the latest UNSC’s resolutions on Darfur’s peacekeeping mission. Al-Bashir, who was addressing a conference of the youth sector of his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Thursday [October 13], said that Sudan had successfully defied the UNSC’s Resolution 2003 to amend the mandate of the UN-AU Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) as well as Resolution 1706 to expand the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to include deployment in Darfur. ’They can shove the new resolutions’ Al-Bashir said, reiterating his threats to expel whoever is tempted to implement the Resolution 2003." (emphasis added) (Sudan Tribune, October 13, 2011)

Most recently (November 4, 2011) Khartoum rejected out of hand a US proposal for ending conflict in South Kordofan. This is not, as Lyman implies, the attitude of a regime that can be coaxed back to the negotiating table; it is the attitude of an almost fully militarised security cabal in Khartoum, and to ignore this reality is both disingenuous and cynical.

How urgent are the humanitarian crises in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur?

Ominously, it must be said first that we don’t really know: Khartoum’s refusal to grant access to humanitarians of course extends to journalists and human right monitors (this despite weak pleas for an "independent and credible international investigation" of atrocity crimes from Lyman, US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and various UN officials). But the evidence at hand---from refugees in Ethiopia and South Sudan, from intrepid journalists who’ve made their way into both Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and from the reports of Sudanese themselves, by means of a range of communications and intermediaries---is overwhelming. And this evidence aggregated, seen in light of conditions prior to the outbreak of fighting (e.g., dwindling food reserves), makes abundantly clear that many people are either now dying from malnutrition and disease, or soon will be. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) "235,000 people [are] on the brink of starvation in Sudan’s embattled southern border region because of fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan" (October 10, 2011). But this is not so much because of fighting per se as it is because Khartoum’s aerial violence relentlessly targets civilians; and this in turn has created such a staggering figure for people in acute distress. Violence now deeply threatens the agricultural season and the (already compromised) harvest in both regions.

Agriculture

The effects of continual aerial bombardment are likely to be the major military instrument of death, having so profoundly disrupted the agricultural cycles in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Agence France-Presse reports:

"The fighting has disrupted the major crop season in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan---two of Sudan’s main sorghum producing areas, according to the Rome-based agency. In South Kordofan, people fled at the start of the planting season and were unable to sow seeds, while in Blue Nile, fighting erupted later in the season so seeds were planted but people were forced to abandon their crops. ’The latest fighting coupled with erratic rainfall means next month’s harvest is expected to generally fail,’ it stated. The shortage of food stocks has already led to a doubling of prices, which are expected to continue to rise steeply. The agency also pointed out that seasonal livestock migration has been disrupted in both states causing large herds to be concentrated in small areas along the border. ’This is causing overcrowding and could lead to outbreaks of livestock disease,’ said Cristina Amaral, Chief of FAO’s Emergency Operations Service. ’Tensions between farmers and nomadic herders over water and land access may also be exacerbated.’ All international aid agencies have been barred from Blue Nile .... " (emphasis added) (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Kurmuk], October 10, 2011)

The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks reports from Kurmuk (October 17, 2011):

"Khidir Abusita, the chief of Maiyas village, in Sudan’s crisis-hit Blue Nile state, points to a bomb and the shrapnel that ripped through two ’tukuls’ (conical mud and thatch huts) on 2 October. That day, the Sudan Armed Forces’ Antonov bomber planes literally broke apart two families and left the village terrorized by their almost daily appearance. Abusita spoke to IRIN about the damage caused to his village: ’The Antonov came here at around midday [on 2 October]; it bombed the place, killing six people, including one child. Among the people who died were two pregnant women.’"

The extended narrative continues:

"’In one of the affected families, three people died and three are remaining, so we took these three behind the mountain to hide. In this other family, two died and three are remaining. Another man who was just passing by to visit his neighbours was killed too. They were just farmers. His leg was cut and we tried to take him to hospital but he died. The other injured man is lying at Kurmuk hospital after the [bomb] cut his feet and stomach. Yesterday [1 October] there were two Antonovs around the area. They just circled overhead for one hour, so we are very scared.’"

"’Most of the people have stayed here, but behind the mountains. We sleep near the river during the day and come back to the village at night. We just eat from these small, small farms; we just [grow food] near our houses because this year we haven’t been able to go to our farms in the valley to cultivate. Few bits of food remain, mostly only sorghum. We don’t have sugar, we don’t have tea, we don’t have coffee. Also there is no medicine, people are just depending on the traditional medicine.’"

On the basis of such reports and what has been observed of the crops, and the time prior to harvesting, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted in October that "next month’s harvest is expected to generally fail." And yet the NIF/NCP regime denies access to the UN’s World Food Program, as well as all other UN agencies and international relief organizations.

Denial of humanitarian access

To date Khartoum has shown no inclination whatsoever to relent on this virtually total embargo on international humanitarian aid and assistance. Instead, the regime has made preposterous claims about its own provision of relief, especially in Blue Nile, where Khartoum insists that it controls 90 percent of the territory and "is providing services to 95 percent of its residents" (Reuters [dateline: Kurmuk], October 13, 2011). With the fall of Kurmuk, this claim will perhaps have some plausibility for the uninformed; but the statement, from a regime that lies constantly and shamelessly, tells us nothing about realities on the ground, and what it means to be displaced and without humanitarian resources in a region where the coming harvest will "generally fail," and where all food reserves have now been exhausted.

The international community, including the US, has not done nearly enough to raise the alarm about what is impending without Khartoum’s immediate reversal of its unspeakably callous decision. Certainly there has been no willingness on the part of the UN to fulfill its explicit "responsibility to protect" civilians endangered in ways that are conspicuous in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (paragraphs 138 and 139 of the unanimously approved UN World Summit "Outcome Document," September 2005)

•Refugees

Bombing attacks, those that Princeton Lyman declares the US is not prepared to halt except by "encouraging negotiations," have also done most to generate the large and growing number of refugees in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Tens of thousands have already fled the two regions, and many more are in flight now; civilian flight could become wholesale if humanitarian access continues to be denied, and this may well be a deliberate "demographic reorganization" of both Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan by Khartoum. Many of those fleeing will never return to their homes, and the many who die will also contribute to a changed demography (here we should recall the genocidal jihad that this same regime directed against the Nuba people in the 1990s, and which came perilously close to annihilation). "Change the demography" was the notorious exhortation by Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in a memo that was widely circulated among Khartoum’s security services during the early phase of the Darfur genocide:

"You are informed that directives have been issued ... to change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes ’through burning, looting, and killing’ of intellectuals and youths who may join the rebels in fighting.’"

Now a "change in demography" is proceeding in Blue Nile:

" ... aerial bombings in Sudan’s Blue Nile state were driving a new wave of refugees into Ethiopia, with nearly 2,000 arriving in the last four days alone. According to UNHCR, ’The new arrivals at the border area of Kurmuk, one of several refugee entry points into Ethiopia and considered to be the busiest, are mostly women, children and the elderly. ’They tell us they fled bombings and fear of bombings by Antonov planes in areas including Bau, Sali and Dinduro, all located between Kurmuk and the Blue Nile capital, Damazine,’ UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in a statement." (AfricaOnline, October 31, 2011)

The New York Times reports (October 31, 2011, Nairobi) on a journalist, Peter Muller, who made it into the war zone to file his observations:

"[Muller] found that the civilian population had almost entirely fled the Blue Nile area in face of attacks from the forces of the Bashir government. Many fled into Ethiopia and others crossed the border into South Sudan. ’There was a lot of concern over food shortages and the continuing bombing campaigns,’ Mr. Muller said. ’The hospitals are running out of supplies and they can’t replenish those stocks.’"

Other reports have come out steadily, certainly before the fall of Kurmuk (November 3). There can be no claim that we haven’t known exactly why these people have fled to Ethiopia:

"In another hospital bed [in Kurmuk], 65-year-old Altom Osman is recovering from a deep shrapnel wound in his back and one in his arm after a bomb hit the village of Sali an hour north of Kurmuk. ’I was taking some sorghum flour to my wife. We were passing our farm and then the Antonov came immediately and bombed,’ Osman whispered."

"Two hours further north, in Maiyas, village chief Khidir Abusita points to a hole a bomb from an Antonov made that he said killed six people, including 55-year-old Hakuma Yousif and her 20-year-old daughter Soura in their hut. ’Yesterday there were two Antonovs and they were circling for an hour. We are very scared ... We sleep by the river during the day and come back at night,’ Abusita said." (Agence France-Presse [dateline: Kurmuk], October 10, 2011)

Many refugees in South Sudan have ended up in remote and almost inaccessible areas, given UN security restrictions on movement and the inability of UNMISS to secure humanitarian corridors for food delivery. Yida is the site of many of the thousands of refugees from the Nuba Mountains that have made it to Unity State---but they have run out of food, according to a highly reliable source on the ground, and the UN’s World Food Program is not responding with either urgency or effectiveness. And even in South Sudan, refugees remain at risk of aerial bombardment, a matter that should be of urgent concern to the Security Council, since these are now attacks across an international border:

" ... refugees in South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity state are in danger of aerial bombardment after fleeing fighting across the border from Sudan, the United Nations said. At least 1,000 people arrived in Unity state in the past week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today in a report. ’These individuals remain in an insecure location at the border with Sudan which is close to areas where regular aerial bombardments have taken place,’ OCHA said." (Bloomberg, October 26, 2011)

Yet the refugees continue to flee, fearing the relentless aerial bombardment and having lost their lands in the violence. The UN High Commission for Refugees recently declared that:

"’Humanitarian partners are concerned that the number of people arriving to Unity might double before the end of the year if fighting continues in Southern Kordufan. In anticipation of a continued influx, other locations are being assessed as potential alternative sites as well,’ [UNHCR] said." (PANA [dateline: Khartoum], November 3, 2011)

In late September the UN estimated that 25,000 civilians were refugees from Blue Nile who had crossed the border into Ethiopia; this figure was increased to 27,500 less than a week later. Four weeks later still, given the reported rates of entry into Ethiopia, the figure may well exceed 40,000. One humanitarian organization reports 22,000 refugees have made the arduous trek from the Nuba Mountains and elsewhere to Unity State in independent South Sudan. Here also there have been extremely high rates reported for daily and weekly increases in the number of refugees. And there is no sign that the exodus is slowing down; indeed, in the absence of humanitarian relief, this flow will become a flood of humanity.

Military assaults on civilians

We have known for many months now---certainly since the leaking of a UN human rights report at the beginning of July---that Khartoum has chosen to wage war in the most brutal fashion possible, both as a means of terrorizing civilians into fleeing and as a means of stoking ethnic and racial tensions. The UN human rights report on South Kordofan, prepared before Khartoum expelled all monitors from Kadugli, South Kordofan, was explicit on what could be observed or reported from this extraordinary vantage during the first three weeks of fighting in June:

"Interviews with witnesses and victims reveal that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and security forces have a list of Nubans wanted for being sympathetic to the SPLM/A, which supports the allegation that people in Southern Kordofan were targeted based on ethnicity. Witnesses also mentioned that persons of Nuban descent and ’other dark skinned people’ were being targeted by SAF and Arab militias.” (§49)

"With the reinforcement of SAF, Central Reserve Police and militia elements, the security situation deteriorated on 7 June, with indiscriminate shelling of Kadugli town apparently targeting densely civilian-inhabited areas. This led to the secondary displacement of thousands of IDPs who had taken refuge in churches and hospitals to the UNMIS compound where they were sheltered in an area adjacent to the compound that was set up specifically to receive IDPs and provide them security and humanitarian assistance (Protective Perimeter)." (§9)

Some 7,000 Nuba sought protection in this UN "Protective Perimeter"; but on June 20 they were forcibly removed from international custody by regime security agents disguised as Red Crescent workers. To this day, the U.N. has not been able to give an account of where these people were taken, though the mass gravesites revealed in Satellite Sentinel Project reports suggest a grim possibility.

But again, the greatest human destruction will certainly proceed from relentless aerial bombardment, also reported by the UN human rights investigators:

"Since the eruption of the conflict, the SAF has carried out daily aerial bombardments into the Nuba Mountains and in several towns and villages populated by Nubans. The consequences of these bombardments on the Nuban people and in particular civilians, including women and children, are devastating. They have resulted in significant loss of life, destruction of properties, and massive displacement. UNMIS Human Rights has received photographs of mangled and mutilated bodies of civilians, some cut into halves, including women and children." (emphasis added) (§39)

The Enough Project has recently published a "field dispatch," reporting on interviews with refugees along the border between Blue Nile and Ethiopia:

"’Soldiers with small arms were chasing the civilians. They were supported by the Fellata [an ethnic group in Blue Nile], who captured some of the civilians and slaughtered people,’ said Asma, who witnessed the outbreak of conflict in the town of Um Darfa. She said the militias and government forces did not spare children and pregnant women. ’It’s all because we are black,’ she said. When asked whether the militias or soldiers said anything to the civilians in their pursuit, Asma said the militias were shouting directions at each other, saying, ’Grab the slaves.’"

"Her account was corroborated by Kasmero who, when fleeing from the state capital of Damazine, ran through Um Darfa when fighting began. He said after the SAF attacked the town with helicopter gunships and Antonovs, the ’janjaweed’ and Fellata began to indiscriminately kill civilians. ’I saw bodies all the way from Damazine to Ethiopia,’ he said. ’There is no discrimination, the common theme is you are black.’ Two towns he passed while fleeing, Ardaiba and Kambelle, were also burned to the ground, Kasmero said."

"Aziz, who fled from Baw town, told Enough that government militias---who were sent to bring back those who had fled to the mountains nearby---kidnapped and detained some of the displaced women and young girls in a school. ’At night they had visitors and they did whatever they wanted with them,’ he said, referring to SAF soldiers and government militias. Two young girls were killed as a result of being raped by around 30 men, said Ali, who also fled from Baw and spoke to Enough with Aziz." (Herkoles Refugee Camp, Ethiopia, November 1, 2011)

Ryan Boyette, an American aid worker who has married a Nuba woman, reports from his own first-hand experience that in addition to observing an "extremely low" food supply, he "interviewed eyewitnesses who have ’described very clearly seeing soldiers enter houses, pulling people out and killing them, in front of their families, killing them in front of their community’" (Voice of America, October 21, 2011).

And the Blue Nile Association of North America reports that in the lead-up to the capture of Kurmuk, the SAF "used aerial bombardment, heavy artillery and helicopter gunships targeting the city of Kurmuk and the surrounding areas destroying water storage tanks, churches, schools and civilians’ homes leaving tens of thousands of indigenous people dead, injured and many more fled to the Ethiopian border" (statement of November 6, 2011).

The View from South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei

What must these people think of those with the power, the means to assist them? A reliable source reports that the perception among residents of the two regions is increasingly that the US feels no further commitment to either Blue Nile or South Kordofan---and that this extends to the US Agency for International Development. And who could blame these people for holding such a view? What has Lyman or other Obama officials said that offers them hope of international action or help of any sort?

The need is---as it has long been---for a comprehensive view of the perverse dynamic by which Khartoum is able to divide international attention, to play one crisis off another (as it did for years with Darfur and the quest for a North/South peace agreement). The threat of all-out war continues to loom closer, and certainly if Khartoum provokes South Sudan to join the fighting, what is already widespread conflict will become truly national in scope. In September the International Crisis Group recently warned that,

" ... hardliners within Mr Al Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party wanted a military solution rather than negotiations. ’This, however, is pushing Sudan’s disparate rebel movements and opposition forces together and could trigger a civil war for control of the country,’ the [ICG report found]." (September 26, 2011, "Conflict Risk Alert: Stopping the Spread of Sudan’s New Civil War")

In a speech following Khartoum’s capture of Kurmuk, al-Bashir offered his most bellicose remarks since the secession of South Sudan on July 9, warning that his regime---

" ... was running out of patience in the face of ’continued provocations’ by South Sudan, saying that Khartoum is ready to return to war .... Addressing a rally on Sunday in Al-Damazin town, the state capital of the Blue Nile State, president Al-Bashir declared that Khartoum was ready to go to war with the south should the latter fire the first shot. The Sudanese president also claimed that his country was in possession of evidences indicating that the south was preparing to launch a war against the Sudanese Army (SAF), threatening that his country would respond in kind. He further said that Khartoum had observed ’too much patience and self-restraint’ in the face of ’continued provocations’ by the southern army in Abyei and elsewhere." (Sudan Tribune, November 7, 2011)

This is clearly the language of the generals, and the instancing of Abyei highlights not only the mendacity of the regime, but its determination to achieve its goals militarily: it was the Sudan Armed Forces and its Misseriya militia allies that invaded and seized Abyei on May 20, after months of clearly visible preparation that the international community chose to ignore; it is the SAF that retains control of Abyei and refuses to withdraw, despite the agreement with South Sudan that brought Ethiopians troops to the region under UN auspices; and of course it was the regime that denied Abyei the self-determination referendum promised by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The specious justification for this denial, which entailed repudiating the "final and binding" ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (The Hague), strongly suggests that there was never any intention to allow a self-determination referendum. And at the insistence of the generals, the military invasion has created a fait accompli on the ground in Abyei.

These are the "provocations" al-Bashir ignores, even as "patience and restraint" on the part of the Government of South has been extraordinary. Al-Bashir’s absurd but dangerous comments are a hallmark of what one close observer in Khartoum has called "the hour of the soldiers."

It must be emphasized, as Julie Flint has recently done in her superb account of the crisis in the Nuba Mountains, that "the risks of doing nothing are enormous," whether in Abyei, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, or Darfur. In South Kordofan the risk is---

" ... most immediate for Nuba civilians, who fear a counter-insurgency campaign similar to the one seen in Darfur, especially if the SPLM-N seeks to re-ignite conflicts in Darfur and eastern Sudan. Such an intensification of the war would risk escalating into a wider north-south war, and hardening international positions against Sudan." ("Return to War in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains," US Institute of Peace, November 2, 2011)

As Flint clearly recognizes, the Khartoum regime would---

" ... would prefer a partial solution based on the particularities of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. That solution would likely be supported by internationals who are still focused on north-south issues, including Abyei, and reluctant to alienate Khartoum by challenging it on the big issues of democratization and governance. This would be a mistake."

For as Flint also rightly observes (and this is largely true for Blue Nile as well):

"The rank and file of the Nuba SPLA seeks rapid progress toward transformation of politics at the center. Failing that, we can expect new emphasis on the fall-back agenda---the right of self-determination. This would not generate international backing. But the Nuba, feeling betrayed by previous international-mediated agreements, might not be in a mood to take heed. The war in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile needs to be mediated before the parties’ positions become even more polarized and any reasonable settlement slips away."

And as Flint emphasizes, there is economic leverage that can be used to modify the regime’s military and negotiating positions, and thus encourage the "new South" to participate in negotiations, despite the betrayals to date:

"With the government of Sudan facing a crippling financial crisis as a result of a 75 percent drop in oil revenues after partition in July, there is enormous international leverage over Khartoum on economic issues. The decision to risk war in Southern Kordofan by disarming the Nuba SPLA was a decision taken at the national level, against the advice of senior National Congress Party figures in the state and some army commanders. The international community must therefore put pressure on the national government to negotiate, and on the leadership of Sudan Armed Forces to seek a process of reform and rebuilding, with international partnership, to reduce risk in conflict areas." (emphasis added)

This is a tall order, and indeed is unlikely without regime change. But international pressures will surely strengthen the hand of those who are most likely to help Sudan make the extraordinarily difficult transition from a long tradition of authoritarian governance to something like democracy. The regime will never open up political space on its own; and the international community can’t create that space within Sudan. But a range of international actors can create the conditions that make regime change possible and ultimately a fundamental change in the political culture of northern Sudan.

The limited and short-sighted commitment of the US and other nations, including the perverse failure to exert pressure on Khartoum, seems to ensure "an intensification of the war," and that "civil war for control of the country" is increasingly likely. Those such as Lyman who claim limited means, inadequate tools, or insufficient leverage should ask themselves whether they are prepared to accept such bloody and destructive conflict as appears in the offing---and the inevitably vast attendant humanitarian crises. This is especially true of the U.S., which gives many signs of allowing Khartoum’s provision of "counter-terrorism intelligence" to trump the extraordinarily great human needs of millions of human beings throughout Sudan. [See my lengthy analysis of this skewed administration priority: "What Really Animates the Obama Administration’s Sudan Policy?" Sudan Tribune, October 11, 2011]

Certainly without a much greater commitment of diplomatic, economic, and potentially military resources, there will be no credibility for those who plead that "they did all they could" to stop the renewed outbreak of war in Sudan, war that now appears increasingly likely. This will be a lie, and the evidence is all too conspicuously before us now.

A follow-up analysis will focus on the consequences for Darfur of international attention that seems, disastrously, unable to respond to more than one Sudan crisis at a time.

*Eric Reeves has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide.

Confusion and poor service on Ethiopian Juba-Addis Ababa flights

By Jacob K. Lupai

November 8, 2011 — On Sunday 30 October, in the late afternoon there were two Ethiopian flights from Juba to Addis Ababa, ET493 and ET495. As Juba International Airport still has neither a system of announcing departures through microphones nor a system of announcing through computerised screens, an official of Ethiopian came to the lounge and announced to passengers to start moving for departure to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian flight ET493. Some passengers who did not know there were two flights were a little bit confused. Passengers who were on ET495 were confused and asked the official for confirmation. The official indeed confirmed there were two flights and the first was ET493 followed by ET495.

The interval of the two flights to Addis Ababa was about 15 minutes. It really didn’t matter much because the passengers on both flights were expected to arrive in Addis Ababa simultaneously within the hour. One noted difference, though, was that the passengers on the first flight ET493 were on an aircraft that looked like a Boeing 736 while those on the second flight ET495 were on a tiny 2-propoelled engine aircraft similar in appearance to a Fokker which is the focus here.

When passengers were boarding Ethiopian ET495, a flight attendant announced at the entrance that the flight was "free seating," which passengers understood to mean a passenger could be seated anywhere in the cabin. Indeed, passengers helped themselves to the front seats towards the cockpit. However, an Ethiopian official walked in and demanded to inspect the boarding passes of those passengers who sat in the front seats. After inspecting the boarding passes the official gave some passengers marching orders to vacate the seats. Passengers were confused. One even protested that the number on his boarding pass was within the numbers of the front seats. The official was adamant and claimed the numbers on the boarding passes meant nothing. He refused to entertain any complaint even though some of the front seats remained vacant until the final destination.

The point here is the apparent confusion between the official and the flight attendant in their conflicting messages to passengers. It seems there was poor communication in the arrangement for flight ET495. How could the flight attendant welcome passengers on board flight ET495 and advised it was a free seating flight only for the official to harass passengers by ordering them out of what was their given free choice. If this was not confusion on flight ET495 one couldn’t know what was it. To confirm the confusion a passenger accommodation voucher in Addis Ababa showed the passenger was to have flown on ET493 but the passenger instead flew on ET495. Again if this is not confusion it is difficult to know what it is.

The Ethiopian flight ET495 took off from Juba exactly at 5.45 pm and landed in Addis Ababa at 7.30 pm. The flight time was precisely one hour forty-five minutes. When the aircraft was climbing to the expected altitude flight attendants started arranging for services to passengers. In the meantime something that caught the eye was a pair of curtains partitioning what was supposed to be the business class from the economy class. The curtains were attached to the roof of the cabin with some self-adhesive material. However, the curtains were falling off from the roof repeatedly such that flight attendants had to duck when crossing from business and economy class and vice-versa in providing services to passengers. One flight attendant, who was visibly fed up of the nuisance caused by the poorly fixed curtains, tore off the curtains altogether from the roof and used the overhead lockers to press them down. This kept the business and economy classes for the rest of flight without any partition.

Shortly after takeoff a flight attendant announced that snacks would be served for a meal. Indeed tiny snacks were served on a flight of one hour forty-five minutes. There was no choice because the snacks were mainly of beef ham and mayonnaise-like cream, and nothing more. There was neither tea nor coffee. For a drink there were only fruit juices, soda and water provided. There was no alcohol provided as though Ethiopian was operating a strict Islamic Sharia flight on its Juba-Addis Ababa route.

In contrast, Kenya Airlines provides meals with a choice not merely snack. On Juba-Nairobi flight Kenya Airlines provides tea and coffee in addition to the provision of alcohol on a flight time of about one hour twenty minutes which is less flight time than that to Addis Ababa. Also, the Kenya Airlines ticket from Juba to Nairobi seems to be cheaper that Ethiopian ticket from Juba to Addis Ababa. Asked why there was no alcohol on ET495, a flight attendant answered because the distance from Juba to Addis Ababa was shorter. It was not clear whether the distance was measured in hours or miles. At any rate that was a very strange answer indeed in contrast to services provided on Kenya Airlines flight.

It can be seen that there was confusion and poor service on Ethiopian flight ET495 from Juba to Addis Ababa. For the comfort of passengers they should not be sent mixed messages. Services should not be poor to passengers who pay so much. One other observation is the use of 2-engine propelled aircraft on international route such as Addis Ababa-Juba route. Such an aircraft should be for domestic destination within Ethiopia. For Ethiopian Juba is not a domestic destination so that a 2-engine propelled aircraft should be used. We expect the likes of Boeings as passenger carriers to land in Juba International Airport on their international routes.

South Sudan is an independent country and a lucrative destination for many foreigners seeking greener pastures. It is therefore important that foreign investors are considerate in investing in South Sudan. The level of services provided should be competitive. It is regrettable that Ethiopian services on its Addis Ababa-Juba route are below standard. This is unexpected of Ethiopian which claims of providing quality services worldwide.

In conclusion, despite Ethiopian’s confusion and poor services on flight ET495 on Juba-Addis Ababa route, I would still fly on Ethiopian. This is because courtesy on Ethiopian is simply second to none. Also, on transit as may be appropriate, Ethiopian provides excellent hotel accommodation with a high level of service. This all makes the choice of flying on Ethiopian memorable. The only advice to give Ethiopian is that it should improve services and use wider jet engine aircraft on Addis Ababa-Juba route as part of its international route. For now Ethiopian seems to use Addis Ababa-Juba route as though it was a domestic one within Ethiopia. Hopefully things will change soon for the comfort of passengers.

The author can be reached at jklupai@googlemail.com

Khartoum’s jihad ghosts

By Magdi El-Gizouli

Recently Sudan Television resumed airing its notorious propaganda programme fi sahat al-fida, sloppily translated as ‘in the fields of sacrifice.’ The weekly thirty minute long programme accompanied the jihad campaign of the 1990s against the insurgency of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) and went off air in 2005 to mark the respite of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Throughout that period, the programme provided the audience of Sudan TV with a visual experience of the war effort of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF). On a weekly basis viewers were bombarded with video footage of the fallen martyrs and their fellow combatants, brandishing their AK-47s, reciting the Quran, shooting at the enemy through the bush, and celebrating jihad in song and verse.

Once the death toll in the riverain heartland crossed a critical threshold the programme lost its initial allure. An entire generation of the Islamic Movement’s student cadres had bled their lives away on the sacrifice fields of those years. To replace this committed vanguard, the voluntary pioneers of the PDF, and maintain the thrust of its war effort the government initiated a compulsory military service, al-khidma al-ilzamiya, targeting primarily school leaving youngsters. Military service was made a condition for university admission, and coercion replaced voluntarism.

The doctrine of jihad was seriously tested when the Islamic Movement split into two camps, the ruling National Congress Party headed by President Bashir and the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan al-Turabi, the veteran chief of the Movement. In the initial phases of the split it was not necessarily evident that President Bashir would eventually win the round, but win it he did.

Hassan al-Turabi, revered by the mujahideen as the sheikh of the Islamic Movement in both a religious and a political sense, declared the jihad he once championed a non-jihad and the esteemed martyrs merely dead. How could he otherwise? John Garang, whom sahat al-fida repeatedly condemned as a communist atheist racist conspirator on a crusade to defeat Islam, became virtually overnight an ally of the old sheikh when the SPLA/M and the PCP inked a memorandum of understanding in 2001.

A year later, the NCP and the SPLA/M signed the Machakos Protocol. When the implementation of the CPA took off in 2005 the PCP refused to take part in the process arguing that the 14 per cent allotted to the opposition parties in the national legislature was unsatisfactory.

Turabi, now a victim of the regime, shed off his jihadist credentials and became the ‘sheikh of freedoms.’ The believers of the Islamic Movement were shocked twice, once when Bashir humiliated Turabi out of power and gaoled him time and time again, and twice when Turabi ridiculed the jihad years as a mistaken adventure.

Stained by a dirty power struggle that compromised the jihad legitimacy of the 1990s both the NCP and the PCP were obliged to reframe their shared working ideology. The PCP refashioned itself a liberal force with the face of Islam and the NCP nourished the chauvinism of the riverain heartland highlighting Islam as the defining component of a distinct (North) Sudanese identity.

I watched a single episode of the 2011 sahat al-fida. The martyrs on display were borrowed from the 1990s and the message was embarrassingly particular with no universal Islamic reference to support it. Instead of the jihad chants the soldiers of the SAF plagiarized a slogan of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The Defence Minister visiting the troops in al-Damazin shouted "crush them" and they replied "kul al-guwa al-Kurmuk juwa," (all the force into al-Kurmuk) a rephrase of the JEM’s ‘kul al-guwa Khartoum juwa’ (all the force into Khartoum).

Officially, Khartoum has not declared jihad in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and the term was conspicuously absent from the commentary. This time around it’s bombing pure and simple, counterinsurgency with no added value, no collaborating angels and no heavenly breezes to lure the martyrs. Actually, only First Vice President Taha used the term jihad to depict the SAF campaign against the forces of the SPLM in North Sudan, possibly enacting his role as the successor sheikh of the Islamic Movement within the NCP. Otherwise, President Bashir and the top officials of the ruling party have largely refrained from legitimizing the military drive in religious terms.

The notion is too explosive I suppose; a precarious terrain to re-probe unshielded. Internally the NCP’s religious authenticity is challenged by the more doctrinaire fringe movements in the field. Some of these forces even consider the NCP regime itself a legitimate target of jihad considering its subcontractor role in the US war on terror.

This October, Khartoum set free members of a jihad cell led by a certain Osama Ahmed Abd al-Salam, a biochemist, who were arrested in August 2007. Abd al-Salam and his accomplices reportedly established a domestic workshop to develop explosives in al-Salama, Khartoum. Their activities were uncovered when an accidental blast aroused the attention of their neighbours.

They allegedly repented their radical views after an extensive counsel with team members of the prominent Wahhabi circle, the Sharia Clerics League, featuring the media-savvy Abd al-Hai Yusif and Ala al-Din al-Zaki. These gentlemen supply the government with fatwas on demand and function as the NCP’s extended arm to its fuzzy right flank so to speak.

The Clerics League declared members of the SPLM and the Communist Party infidels and instructed Allah-fearing Moslems to refrain from dealing with them in any form whatsoever. In fact, it is Abd al-Hai Yusif and his fellow sheikhs who have usurped the Islamic authority of the NCP in client mode.

This bond of convenience notwithstanding the Clerics League recently diverged from the declared position of the NCP government regarding the situation in Syria. The League together with the Just Peace Forum (JPF) organized a demonstration in Khartoum in support of the Syrian opposition on the grounds of Islamic solidarity, effectively defying the pro-Assad stance expressed by President Bashir.

Although Bashir repeatedly affirms his commitment to shari’a this claim is increasingly being questioned not only from the secular opposition but within the wider Islamic camp. The proposed constitution of the JPF and allies is an attest to this shari’a thirst as it were. For Abd al-Hai Yusif and fellows, let alone Abd al-Salam and partners, there can never be enough shari’a.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He publishes regular opinion articles and analyses on his blog: Still Sudan. He can be reached at m.elgizouli@gmail.com

Sudan’s women where are you? The world is calling

By Dalia Haj Omar

Almost a year after a disturbing video surfaced on the web of a Sudanese woman being flogged at a Khartoum police station, Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison wrote a letter directly addressing the woman in the video and indirectly all Sudanese women. She writes, not with pity nor advice but with encouragement for resisting a vicious regime and showing dignity under the most undignified and inhumane situations, saying, “You did not crouch or kneel or assume a fetal position. You shouted. You fell. But you kept rising . . . It also moved me to see your reactions; I interpreted them as glimmers of hope, of principled defiance.” Morrison ends her letter with optimism, trusting that Sudanese women are fighting for their rights the best they can, she says, “Each cut tearing your back hurts women all over the world. Each scar you bear is ours as well.”

This, to me, is a direct call of solidarity with the strife of Sudanese women. A reminder that we are not alone, and that the very little that is shared with the world — especially through visual online content and Satellite TV — is causing ripples of shock and creating sisterly bonds.

However, these bonds remain weak, and will not become stronger before women in Sudan and Sudan’s women’s rights movement start to communicate better within themselves and link with a wider following inside Sudan and with the outside world intentionally, frequently and directly.

The Sudanese women’s rights movement is one of the most vibrant in the country, and its struggle for women’s rights spans decades and has seen many successes. However, lately they tend to get too busy and forget to reach out to the rest of the world. Even within Sudan their reach, and their ability to change hearts and minds and to mobilise Sudanese women and men around pivotal issues that affect women’s lives, is lacking.

This is the not the first time that we have seen hands extending and calls of solidarity from the global community. We saw that in 2009 when the case of Lubna Hussien (dubbed the ’trousers journalist’) captured the imagination of the world. And again in early 2011 with the case of Safia Ishag, the young activist who was brutally subjected to multiple rape by state security agents in Khartoum, and was the first Sudanese woman to ever speak publicly of being raped.

Both these women where courageous and selfless by speaking up against injustices that were not only inflicted on them, but that are a daily reality for countless Sudanese women around the country. Rape (used most systematically in Darfur) and harassment by public order police for ’indecent dress’ (a problem all over the country) are the state’s ’weapons of mass destruction’ directed at the dignity and pride of women in Sudan. Lubna and Safia gave these two forms of state abuse a face and a voice that talked to all Sudanese citizens and to citizens of the world.

Using satellite TV channels and the internet (mainly through the technical support of the Sudanese Diaspora community), these two women took tremendous risks and defied social pressures to tell their stories. They challenged a regime that capitalises on a conservative society’s silence and shame when it comes to violence against women. Their personal stories were more compelling than any statistics and abstract reports from the human rights movement and international NGOs.

Their voices were hard for the regime in Khartoum to ignore, prompting the government to start its own propaganda to justify these acts by spreading despicable lies and rumors about these women — a usual tactic aimed at distracting attention from the real issues and that, unfortunately, Sudanese citizens fall for each time. The regime’s security agency went as far as filing a case against several journalists who wrote about the rape of Safia Ishag in national daily newspapers.

The women’s rights community was also quick to react, organizing protests, press conferences as well as initiating an ongoing campaign called ’No to the Oppression of Women.’ They demanded a transparent investigation by the state into the case of the woman in the video as well as Safia’s case; and that Article 152 of the penal code that justifies the flogging of women and men is eliminated.

Today, article 152 is still in place and neither of the two cases were transparently investigated. In Darfur the incidents of the rape of women and girls are on the rise and in Khartoum the regime heralded its ’second republic,’ and openly shared its intention to annul all rights under the Interim National Constitution (Sudan’s first constitution with a Bill of Rights) and return us to the dark ages and an extreme interpretation of Shari’a law that fits its needs.

Wondering why the human rights and women’s rights community in Sudan are not able to keep the momentum and visibility on issues related to violence against women and specifically the public order law and the targeted rape of women in Darfur and elsewhere, I directed my questions at some prominent women rights activists.

Niemat Koko, an old-time activist and one of the founders of the Gender Center said, “we are constantly reacting and never following through an issue for a long time, because we are stretched thin with limited resources, and the problems and challenges are plenty.” She added that, “the problem with the campaigns for Lubna and Safia is that we rallied around two personalities, that at the time gave us an opportunity, but the personalities eventually overshadowed the issues and that was a tactical mistake."

A poster from a demonstration organized by Sudanese women residing in Kenya in support of the elimination of the Public Order Law, September 15, 2009, Nairobi. Nahid Mohamed Al Hassan, a young writer and activist and one of the founders of the, “No to the Oppression of Women” campaign, gave me a more nuanced critique of the campaign and the women’s rights movement in general. According to her, the women’s rights movement lacks strategic direction and is not able to have in-depth discussions and to agree on the intellectual and legal framework linked to women’s rights. She agrees with Koko on the reactionary character of the movement and the lack of long-term strategic plans. And points to internal personal conflicts among the older generation of women in the movement, which tends to hinder constructive debate.

Al Hassan adds that, “although there is a lot of potential and talent, the organisational, human resource and funding challenges are stifling progress.” She explains that most activities by the movement are funded through personal donations and that organizations that are funded are avoiding the real issues because they don’t want a clash with the government. For example, she says that, “no one is dedicated to working on CEDAW, because it is a delicate topic with the regime.”

Al Hassan also adds that the women’s rights movement lacks a grassroots reach and is not able to mobilize the street. “When we organise protests there are about 50 women who are usually ready to hit the street on women’s rights or political issues.” She clarifies that most of these activists belong to political parties and are not fully dedicated to women’s rights issues, because of the demands of their parties, which do not prioritize women’s rights. “In all honesty, the political parties are not committed to women’s issues. To them this is a distraction from the more important goal of regime change,” says Al Hassan.

The author is a Sudanese human rights activist. She posts weekly articles on her blog: Thoughts, Hopes and Speculations.