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May 2013 - Posts

Sudan’s Crisis: incremental versus a holistic approach

By Ahmed Hussain Adam

May 31, 2013 - The political crisis of Sudan has reached its most precarious phase with complete paralyses of the impetus leadership that lost its moral authority, legitimacy and human dignity. The crisis proves vividly that the current Sudanese state is too dysfunctional and weak to survive. The empirical evidence supports that the status quo will never persist according to law of nature and human experience of history; the conditions are not only ripe for change but also the incoming leadership is eager to position Sudan to be a productive part of international community to enhance the world peace, security and prosperity.

The question is whether the change will be a peaceful or by force. If the leadership of revolutionary change embraces the values of justice, freedom and democracy, then certainly revolution can lay the foundation for a democratic and prosperous country. In this context, let us remember the lessons of the American Revolution. Given that the entire Sudan is marginalized by ruling elites in Khartoum that are detached from the rest of the country, the unfolding armed struggle of the Sudanese people spearheaded by the revolutionaries in Darfur, Kurdofan Blue Nile and perhaps the East of Sudan has been expanded effectively to submerge the so-called Hamdi Triangle (the detached ruling elites triangle). The military confrontations between the Bashir’s regime and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) has already extended to Umrowaba City (around 300 kilometer to the Capital-Khartoum) in north Kurdofan and SRF is hovering around the main artery that link Khartoum to the West of the country.

The recent statements of the SRF’s leaders indicated that their plan to overtake the capital is in its final stage, it is do or die. Bashir‘s recent statement made in May 27 in which he ruled out the option for a negotiated settlement, it seems that SRF will continue its military operations and advancement into the Capital City -Khartoum, in a similar way that the Justice and Equality Movements (JEM) did in May 2008.

Relatively, the current national, regional, and international circumstances are favoring the SRF than in May 2008. Recent reports show that Bashir’s regime is experiencing a critical internal power-struggle, which resulted in some serious divisions within its core constituencies including security, military and political ideologues. Most importantly, the recent military confrontations demonstrated that the Sudanese army and the government’s militias are very disillusioned and reluctant to fight. That is why President Idriss Deby of Chad deployed his army in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan to rescue his fellow dictator from sinking; however the load is too heavy, it will sink both of them. It worthy to mention that the ongoing engagement of the Chadian army in the military operations on the side of the genocidal regime of Bashir constitutes a clear volition of the founding provisions and principles of the United Nations (UN). Regrettably, the international community has been mute about it. The good side was that some elements in the Sudanese Armed Forces refused to fight alongside with the Chadian forces against their fellow countrymen.

It is obvious that the current phase of the military confrontations between the regime’s forces and those of the SRF will continue, unless there is a swift intervention by a competent, willing, and strong third party to bring the Sudanese stakeholders together to negotiate a national solution for the entire country.

The recent confrontation between the SRF’s forces and the regime’s forces suggests strongly that the international incremental policies on Sudan have failed to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in Sudan. For the unfolding conflicts to conclude peacefully the international community should abandon its current piece-meal strategy and adopt a comprehensive approach towards the Sudanese conflicts or the conflicting parties will continue the current fighting. However, in case Iran and Hezbollah continue to involve themselves in the conflicts, the last scenario not only leads to the collapse of the Sudanese State but also undermines the regional and international peace and security.

There are many valid reasons and factors which suggest the urgency of calling for an immediate and robust international third party intervention with a clear mandate of a holistic approach to facilitate a comprehensive, inclusive, peaceful and democratic transition in Sudan. The following are the main factors:

First, it is obvious that the regime cannot win these multiple wars because the balance of power on the ground isn’t in the regime’s favor. Furthermore, the economic and financial hardships have pushed the populations of the urban areas to revolt against the regime and join force with the revolutionary agents of change.

Second, the SRF founding documents, including the New Dawn Charter (NDC) which signed by the majority of the civil opposition parties and groups in January 5, 2013, have enshrined the peaceful democratic change or peaceful uprising as a first option for change in Sudan.

Third, the piecemeal approach has produced many flawed agreements which have been fueling and exacerbating the ongoing conflicts by killing and displacing thousands of innocent civilians. For instance, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Darfur Peace Agreement 2006(DPA), the East Peace Agreement (EPA) and the Darfur Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), have failed to address the root causes of the conflicts, realize democratic and structural transformation, and or even to shake up the status quo. On the contrary, the regime has exploited these agreements to advance its genocidal campaigns against the innocent civilians.

Fourth, the root causes of Sudan’s conflicts are similar on their national dimensions. Therefore, the ongoing conflicts cannot be resolved without addressing the national crisis and re-structure the center. President Thabo Mbeki (the Head of the African Union High –Level Panel on Darfur) in his Report on the Darfur Conflict in October 2009, he correctly defined the Conflict in Darfur when he stated that, "the crisis in Darfur is a manifestation of the Sudan’s inequitable distribution of wealth and power, and the Panel therefore, defines it as “Sudan’s crisis in Darfur”.

I would suggest that there should be an internationally sponsored process on Sudan, supported by the US and the UN Security Council, comprising of two phases to facilitate and assist on devising an exit strategy to end the current deadlock in Sudan. Phase one should bring together the conflicting parties on the ground to discuss the humanitarian assistance, security, and protection of civilians in Darfur, South Kurdofan and Blue Nile. The protection and well-being of the civilian populations in the conflict regions should be given the priority. Furthermore, the conflicting parties should also discuss a clear road map that leads to a new democratic and managed transition.

Phase two should bring together the stakeholders to a national and an inclusive all Sudan conference to discuss a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in Darfur, South Kurdofan and Blue Nile. The conference also should discuss the basis of comprehensive peace including constitution, governance, Identity, state and religion, the relation between the peripheries and the center and strategic relationship between Sudan and South Sudan. The proposed conference should form a national transitional government with a clear mandate and program for a managed transition that shall realize a lasting and comprehensive peace all over Sudan as well as a democratic transformation in Sudan.

The US and other key players of the international community should facilitate a new transition in Sudan. The African Union (AU) should take the lead in building a consensus in Africa and beyond for a new national, peaceful and managed transition in Sudan. The State of Qatar should recognize that the Doha Peace Document is a failure which has been inflicting a lot of suffering on the people of Darfur. Therefore, Qatar should support the inevitable change in Sudan just like the way it involved in Libya, Egypt and currently in Syria.

The NCP has to decide whether to be a part of the solution by allowing a peaceful change or to continue in being a part of the problem and bears the consequences of such intransigence. This is the only way that a revolutionary change will be averted and a peaceful and meaningful change will be materialized in Sudan.

Ahmed Hussain Adam is a Visiting Scholar and Co-Chair of the Two Sudans Forum at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), Columbia University in the City of New York. He can be reached at:

The collapsing Sudanese economy

By Eric Reeves

This essay was written in early January 2013; little has changed in the macroeconomic picture for either Sudan or South Sudan. Recent mutual threats of an oil stoppage would of course dramatically increase the economic crisis depicted here, and which is already threatening of peace in a range of ways. Inflation continues its relentless rise in Sudan, despite "official figures" suggesting otherwise. The connection between fighting in Jebel Amer (North Darfur) and the Khartoum regime’s desperate need of foreign exchange currency has become steadily clearer.

December 2012 commentary on the purported “coup attempt” in Khartoum provided little in the way of consensus about how serious the “coup” was or precisely who was truly involved or how far planning had moved to an actual attempt.[1] The timing may have been governed by President al-Bashir’s health and an inevitable diminishing of power (he has throat cancer, according to multiple sources); what the stance of the military is or will be on the occasion of a transition is unclear. Official comments from officials in Khartoum were contradictory and showed no commitment to provide an honest account. What can’t be doubted is that the events, insofar as we can discern them, reveal growing domestic unhappiness with the current regime, which after 23 years in power has still failed to bring peace or broadening prosperity to Sudan. The public discontent of last June and July may now be coming to fruition.

But to date political commentary has generally failed to provide a comprehensive account of how current struggles in Khartoum take place in the context of an economy that is in free-fall. There is some acknowledgement of distress over high prices, shortages, and lack of employment; but there has been relatively little in the way of fuller and more probing assessment of how far advanced the economic collapse is—or what the consequences of such a collapse will be in shaping Sudan’s political future. But any analysis of current political machinations and maneuvering will be meaningless without an understanding of how a series of critical choices—military and economic—have been forced on the regime as a whole. These choices are inevitably interrelated, and how they are made will define the future of greater Sudan.

Discussion of Khartoum’s political elite often relies on a traditional division of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party into “moderates and “hardliners”; this is better cast, in my view, as a distinction between variously pragmatic elements within the regime who cohere in their views to a greater or lesser degree, depending on international pressures. The analytic task at hand is to capture how current economic circumstances will govern the survivalist political instincts that are common to all these ruthless men. The advantage of a focus on “pragmatism” is that it highlights how “unpragmatic” so many recent actions and decisions have been in the economic sphere, and how these decisions actually increase the threat to regime survival. These brutal men may control the press, the news media, the security forces and the army—at present. But the impending maelstrom of economic disarray will bring to bear pressures that many in the regime and the military clearly have not anticipated or do not fully understand.

An overview of factors precipitating the collapse of the Sudanese economy would include the following.[2]

[1] A recent assessment found that Sudan is the fourth most corrupt country in the world (only Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia rank lower)[3]; corruption eats at the heart of economic growth, derails rational capital expenditures, and breeds resentment. It has long been endemic in Sudan, and its current ranking reflects that fact.

[2] The IMF’s most recent assessment has found that Sudan’s is the worst-performing economy in the world.[4] This in itself is simply extraordinary for a country with so many natural resources, including vast tracts of arable land.

[3] The best barometer of the extent of economic collapse is the revised figure for negative growth (contraction) of the economy: the April 2012 prediction from the IMF was -7.3 percent for 2012; most recently the figure stands at -11.2 percent, a depression by some measures, strongly suggesting a continuing downward spiral.

[4] The most current (October) estimate of Sudan’s rate of inflation is 45.3 percent, up from 41.6 percent in September, 22.5 percent in March, and 15 percent in June 2011. In fact, this figure is already dated by the weeks intervening between data collection and present prices—and certainly understates the rate of inflation for essential commodities such as food and fuel. The official year-on-year inflation rate for food is 48.6 percent; The Economist notes (December 1, 2012) that “the price of fool, Sudan’s traditional bean breakfast, has risen from $0.33 to $1.16.,” over 300 percent.[5] The inflation rate for fuel is just as high as that for food generally, with ripple effects throughout the economy.

Moreover, Yousif el-Mahdi, a Khartoum-based economist, estimated in September (2012) that the real overall inflation rate was closer to 65 percent—this when the official rate was still 42 percent. He is far from alone in believing that in the past, the actual inflation rate has been consistently understated; but when the bad news comes fully home, it will inevitably make those holding Sudanese pounds even less trusting of the currency. [Based on a number of reports and assessments, my own current estimate (May 2013) is roughly 75 percent annually—ER]

In fact, Sudan is rapidly approaching the point at which hyper-inflation will govern economic calculations and transactions, sending the pound into free-fall as desperate bank depositors and others with cash holdings in pounds convert to a hard currency or valuable commodities (gold, silver, even food) at almost any exchange rate. Once hyper-inflation sets in, it is almost impossible to reverse expectations of yet more hyper-inflation, particularly if there are no resources with which to back the currency under assault. The cash economy in Sudan will grind to a halt. Here it seems appropriate to recall that former President Jaafer Nimieri was brought down rapidly in 1985 amidst protests generated largely by hyper-inflation.

It should also be borne in mind that Khartoum has leveraged its oil resources as much as possible, and owns only a very small percentage of the two oil development consortia operating in Sudan and South Sudan (in the form of Sudapet’s 5 percent stake, which has been challenged by Juba). Sales of additional concession blocks have generated little income, and nothing has been held in reserve.

Gold exports have been much in Sudan news, but the quantities being talked about by the regime—and thus the hard currency purportedly to be received—have been greeted with considerable skepticism.Devil Reports seem to come exclusively from the regime-controlled news media in Khartoum, and have an air of desperation about them. In any event, increased gold production alone cannot begin to reverse current trends in the near- or medium-term.

[5] The cutting of fuel subsidies from the budget—demanded by the IMF as a condition for debt relief—has been largely abandoned in the wake of Arab Spring-like demonstrations last summer; these expensive subsidies will again represent an enormous part of the non-military/security budget, even as the expense receives no honest reckoning in public comments by the regime. Yet budgetary realities have become ever more grim, as the Sudan Tribune notes (December 7, 2012):

“The Sudanese government tabled its draft 2013 budget before parliament this week which projects 25.2 billion Sudanese pounds (SDG) in revenues and 35.0 billion SDG in expenses leaving a deficit of 10 billion SDG ($1.5 billion) which equals 3.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The deficit will be financed up to 87% (7.6 billion SDG) from domestic sources including 2 billion SDG from the central bank.[7]

But the central bank has no real money, only what it prints in the way of Sudanese pounds that are rapidly declining in value. As of December 2, 2012, $1.00 bought 6.5 pounds—a record low, and a further 3 percent decline from the previous week (the black market rate was about 5 pounds to the dollar early in the year, suggesting a decline of approximately 30 percent). The official exchange rate is approximately 4.4 pounds to the dollar.

And while the IMF continues to insist that Sudan should cut fuel subsidies further—beyond what was cut in June—the Fund acknowledges that to do so will incur public anger and more instability of the sort seen last June, July, and August.

Devil The reason for the continuing decline in the value of the pound is a lack of foreign exchange reserves, the direct consequence of having no oil export income. As a result, imports purchased with Sudanese pounds are not simply more expensive—in some case prohibitively so—but harder to obtain at all, given the lack of available foreign exchange currency. Food imports are hit particularly hard, as are businesses that depend on imported parts or services. Sudan imports some 400,000 tons of sugar annually (it is a key source of calories for many in the north); these imports will only grow more expensive, pushing the inflation rate for this particular commodity well above 50 percent.Music

Efforts to secure US$4 billion in foreign exchange deposits from rich Arab countries have largely failed, with the exception of Qatar, despite various claims by regime officials that large hard currency deposits have been made into the Central Bank of Sudan. While providing temporary relief from “black market” speculation against the Sudanese pound, the long-term effect of such dishonest claims about foreign currency infusions is to diminish further the regime’s credibility about all matters financial and economic.[9]

[7] The oil sector as a percentage of GDP has declined precipitously following Southern secession. Oil now provides only 20 – 25 percent of revenues going to the regime; and beyond this massive loss in revenues, the oil sector now accounts for only 3 – 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), down from about 15 percent, according to the IMF.[10]

Oil production is also being consistently overstated by Khartoum in order to suggest that more foreign exchange will be received than is the case. The “Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2012” by the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts current production in Sudan at 70,000 barrels per day, rising to 90,000 bpd in 2014 and dropping back to 60,000 in 2017.[11] And yet long-time Sudanese oil minister and NIF/NCP stalwart Awad al-Jaz claims that Sudan is currently producing 120,000 bpd, which may rise to 150,000 bpd by the end of 2012. Gross misrepresentation of data is nothing new for the regime, but such transparently motivated manipulation of key figures is a sign of just how desperate the economic crisis is, and how urgently Khartoum feels the need to be perceived as having or receiving more hard currency than is credible.

Notably, in its April 2012 semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the IMF changed the classification of Sudan: from an oil exporter to an oil importer, making nonsense of al-Jaz’s claim.[12]

Music The agricultural sector, long neglected by the regime, cannot provide enough food to avoid substantial imports; disabled by cronyism and a lack of commitment over many years, the agricultural sector is collapsing along with the rest of the economy. Much of the arable land between the White and Blue Niles has silted and become unusable, even as a once enviable irrigation infrastructure has badly deteriorated.[13] Large tracts of valuable farm land have been sold or leased to Arab and Asian concerns to provide food for their own domestic consumption.[14] There is simply no strategic emphasis on self-sufficiency in food, even as Khartoum counts on the UN to provide Sudan with huge quantities of food every year. As Agence France-Presse reported earlier this year (February 27):

“‘The economic situation is deteriorating further and further,’ and the economy is in crisis, says University of Khartoum economist Mohamed Eljack Ahmed. [Of Khartoum’s ’rescue plan’] economists say the plan seems unworkable in the short term. Ahmed says agricultural infrastructure, once the country’s economic mainstay, has collapsed and neither farmers nor industrialists have an incentive to operate.”

[9] The NIF/NCP for years has survived in large measure because it controls the security services (often overlapping) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF); estimates of what percentage of the national budget is devoted to the security services and the army vary, but range as high as 70 percent, with “over 50 percent” the closest to a consensus figure; this makes finding spending cuts in non-military sectors of the budget extraordinarily difficult. Moreover, these military and security personnel are now being paid in Sudanese pounds that are rapidly loosing their purchasing power, and this will breed intense resentment, defections, and possibly participation in civilian insurrection.

[10] Resentment is also felt by those in the vast—and very expensive—patronage system that has provided the regime with political support. The patronage system has been key to regime survival. It was built-up during the early take-over of banks and the most lucrative parts of the Sudanese economy following the NIF coup of 1989, and then extended further by the rapid increase of oil revenues that began in 1999. Now the patronage system is simply unaffordable, and the disgruntled within it can no longer be counted on to provide political support when it is most needed.

[11] The demographics of the “Arab Spring” are the same in Sudan as they are in the rest of the Arab world, especially in the regions in and around Khartoum: there are a disproportionately large numbers of people under 30 years of age, many educated but with little prospect of employment commensurate with their education, or indeed any form of employment at all. They are especially vulnerable to economic hardship.

[12] Massive external debt—estimated by the IMF at US$43.7 billion in 2012—is on track to reach US$45.6 billion in 2013, again according to the IMF. This represents 83 percent of Sudan’s 2011 GDP. Such debt—largely in the form of arrears accrued under the present regime—cannot be serviced by the present Sudanese economy, let alone repaid.[15] It is a crushing burden on the economy, and yet Khartoum shows no sign of adhering to IMF recommendations for obtaining debt relief, Moreover, the regime’s military actions throughout Sudan should work powerfully against debt relief among the Paris Club creditors who own most of this debt. Certainly it would be unconscionable to negotiate debt reduction with a regime that devotes so much of its budget to acquiring the means of civilian destruction—in Darfur, in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul declared in October that there is growing “international acceptance to write off Khartoum’s … external debt.” The efforts of Western, African, and Arab civil society should be to make debt relief under present circumstances thoroughly unacceptable for politicians in Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris.

Current Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul also declares, despite these grim realities, that “the 2013 budget shows that we have overcome the secession of South Sudan.”[16] But former Minister of Finance Abdel Rahim Hamdi—whatever his own role within the regime during the 1990s—felt compelled to speak out about the current extraordinary mismanagement of the economy. Sudan Tribune reports his broadest assessment: the current regime “is no longer able to manage the economy and lacks solutions to handle the crisis.”[17] Hamdi noted that “conflicting economic policies [have] led to soaring inflation levels and astronomical increases in prices. Speaking at the Islamic Fiqh Council, Hamdi pointed out that 77 percent of revenues goes to cover salaries and wages as well as federal aid to states.” He was also scathing in his assessment of projected revenues, which the regime has consistently oversold in a ploy to keep the psychology of inflation from taking hold (e.g., in celebrating artificially high estimates of gold production, boasting of hard currency transfers from Arab countries that never materialize). Current Minister of Finance Rasul speaks to none of this.

For those not living in the world of self-serving mendacity from which regime pronouncements about economic development emerge, the truth is conspicuous: the economy is in a complete shambles, and hyper-inflation is relentlessly approaching. The brute economic realities outlined above cannot be talked away or cajoled into more palatable form. Indeed, if the current budget needs—including a substantial continuation of subsidies for fuel—are not met with real revenues, the regime will be compelled to turn on the printing presses and create an even more precipitous decline toward hyper-inflation.

Why Does Khartoum Pursue Policies so Destructive of the Economy?

Despite the already acute and growing danger of complete economic implosion, the regime persists with immensely expensive and unproductive policies, including war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as hostile actions along the North/South border, and the supplying of renegade militia groups inside South Sudan. For a regime that is ruthlessly survivalist, this makes no rational sense: current economic realities are diminishing the chances that the regime will survive. So why is it persisting in policies and actions that work against a resumption of transit fees for oil originating in South Sudan and passing through the northern pipeline to Port Sudan? Why is the regime creating a situation in which the generous transit fees that Juba is willing to pay have been forgone? This seems even more peculiar, given the grasping nature of Khartoum’s greed, revealed earlier this year when Southern engineers discovered a covert tie-in line to main oil pipeline, capable of diverting some 120,000 bpd of Southern crude.[18] This subterfuge has not been forgotten by the South, and only makes more exigent the question: why has Khartoum put oil transit revenues in jeopardy?

At full capacity—350,000 bpd—these pipeline revenues could do a great deal to close the yawning budget gap that Khartoum faces; and this is on top of Juba’s agreement to assist Khartoum financially during a difficult transition and also to allow the regime to keep the more than $800 million sequestered during the stand-off over transit fees (the amount of oil was peremptorily calculated by Khartoum on the basis of its outrageous $36/barrel fee proposal).[19] What keeps Khartoum from finalizing the deal on oil transport, thereby creating further doubts in the minds of Southerners that this pipeline will remain a viable means of export? Why does Khartoum continue to wage a brutal economic war of attrition against South Sudan, which should be its largest and most important trading partner? The reality of lost oil income is inescapable:

Prior to [the secession of South Sudan], about three-quarters of crude production came from the south and accounted for more than 85 percent of Khartoum’s export earnings, which reached $7.5 billion in the first half of 2011, according to the World Bank. ‘They’ve lost that (oil) income. It’s gone for good,’ an international economist said, declining to be identified.”[20]

Here again the common distinction between “moderates” and “hardliners” is better understood as referring to differences within a regime that is at various times more and less pragmatic, or at least has very different views of what is “pragmatic.” Ali Osman Taha, for example, is often cited as a “moderate” because of his central role in the Naivasha peace talks; it is rarely remarked that in February 2004, a year before those talks would culminate in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Talks, Taha left Naivasha to “address the Darfur crisis.” As anyone who followed the course of events through 2004 and into 2005 knows, this was the period marked by the very height of genocidal violence and destruction. An October 24, 2004 report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service notes:

“In February 2004, First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, the government [of Sudan’s] chief negotiator [in Naivasha], told the mediators that he had to leave the talks to deal with the Darfur problem. In February 2004, the government of Sudan initiated a major military campaign against the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement and declared victory by the end of the month. Attacks by government forces and the Janjaweed militia against civilians intensified between February and June 2004, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee to neighboring Chad.“[21]

As we know now, many tens of thousands of people were also killed by the violence of this period, and the killing continued long after Taha’s intervention, with total mortality now in the range of 500,000.[22] The number of internally displaced persons would, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, grow to 2.7 million. The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 280,000 Darfuris remain in eastern Chad as refugees. That Taha the “moderate” played such a central role in the Darfur genocide is far too infrequently acknowledged, suggesting again that within the NIF/NCP “pragmatism” may take many forms.

After much shifting in language and positions, Khartoum would now have the world believe that it will uphold the agreement on oil transport only if Juba agrees to various “security arrangements.” But of course just what these arrangements are keeps changing, even as Khartoum ignores the most fundamental requirement for security in both Sudan and South Sudan: a fully delineated and authoritatively demarcated border. This of course should have been achieved in the “interim period” of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 9, 2005 to July 9, 2011). That it was not is almost entirely the fault of Khartoum, which evidently thought—and still thinks—it can extort borderlands from the South and incorporate them into Sudan. The military seizure of Abyei (May 2011) was simply the opening salvo. Military ambitions may in fact extend to seizing more Southern oil fields and arable land.

More recently, Khartoum’s demanded “security arrangements” have come to include Juba’s disarming of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, an utterly preposterous notion—indeed, so preposterous that it must be viewed as a means of stalling negotiations. In this respect it is very similar to Khartoum’s initial proposal of a US$36/barrel transit fee proposal during negotiations on that issue: this was not an opening gambit, not a serious proposal from which compromise could be reached. It was meant to halt negotiations and indeed resulted in Juba’s decision to shut down oil production altogether.

So, too, the current “security arrangements” proposal is meant to put a hold on negotiations by demanding what the South cannot possibly offer or provide, even as senior officials in Khartoum continue to insist that they will not negotiate with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, insisting that the “alliance” between Juba and the SPLM/A-N must first be ended.[23] And yet no evidence of substance is offered to suggest any military alliance. We may understand why the NIF/NCP wishes the army of South Sudan to disarm northern rebels, primarily in the Nuba: Abdel Aziz al-Hilu’s forces are manhandling SAF troops and militias, chewing up entire battalions and parts of some brigades and in the process acquiring a great deal of ammunition, weaponry, fuel, and other supplies (despite this, Ahmed Haroun—indicted war criminal and governor of South Kordofan—insists that the SAF will achieve victory soon).[24] But does anyone living in the real world think that Juba will help to disarm the SPLA-North? These are former comrades in arms, deeply connected by the years of suffering and fighting together, and by a deep mutual suspicion of Khartoum. In the absence of any substantial evidence that Juba is aiding the rebels in the Nuba in a significant way, we must conclude that something else is going on here.

It is important to remember that while the regime has been in power for 24 years, individual members and factions of this regime have relentlessly jockeyed for power, often ruthlessly pursuing their own interests, and have found themselves on occasion in significant ascendancy or decline. The most recent example appears to be Salah Abdallah “Gosh,” once head of the extremely powerful National Intelligence and Security Services; further back, we have the sharp split between al-Bashir’s cabal and Islamic ideological leader Hassan al-Turabi in the late 1990s. But ambition within the regime’s central cabal has never, in any quarter, been “moderated” by a desire to do what is best for the people of Sudan.

The most notable recent ascendancy is that of key senior military officials in decision-making about war and peace; this too has gone insufficiently remarked, despite very considerable evidence that on a range of issues, military views have prevailed. The nature of this ascendancy, and the motives behind it, were first emphasized by Sudan researcher Julie Flint in an important account from in August 2011, based on an extraordinary interview with an official in Khartoum. The official, whose account has been corroborated by other sources, warned that a silent military coup was already well under way in Khartoum before the seizure of Abyei (May 2011). There seems little doubt that if this official’s account is accurate, and there has in fact been a successful military coup from within, then there will be very little room for civilians in the new configuration of power when it comes to issues of war and peace:

Angel well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan’s two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5, five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan’s southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership.”[25]

“They got it,” the source says. “It is the hour of the soldiers—a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one’s interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering—but they had come to the conclusion they weren’t. Ambushes in Abyei…interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound…. Lack of agreement on oil revenue….” “It has gone beyond politics,” says one of Bashir’s closest aides. “It is about dignity.”

How well borne out by subsequent developments is this assessment?

When the senior and quite powerful presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie signed on June 28, 2011 a “Framework Agreement” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, it seemed for a moment in which war in the Nuba and Blue Nile might be averted. Three days later President al-Bashir emphatically renounced the breakthrough agreement, declaring after Friday prayers (July 1, 2011) that the “cleansing” of the Nuba Mountains would continue. This was clearly a declaration made at the behest of the generals, specifically Major General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi—head of Military Intelligence—and Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain— implicated in Darfur atrocity crimes because of his role as SAF director of military operations, he is identified in the “Confidential Annex” to the report by the UN panel of Experts on Darfur (Annex leaked in February 2006).

These men and their military colleagues are the ones whose actions have ensured that Abyei will remain a deeply contentious issue in growing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan; certainly they knew full well the implications of taking military action in Abyei—military action that directly contravened the Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This action ensures that Abyei will continue to fester and may yet lead to confrontation if—as is likely—both the African Union and the UN Secretariat and Security Council continue to temporize over the AU proposal on the permanent status of Abyei, a proposal subsequently endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council but rejected by Khartoum. And as long as Abyei festers, negotiations over other issues are made gratuitously more difficult, and it becomes ever less likely that sustained oil transit revenues from use of the northern pipeline will resume. After losing almost a year’s worth of oil revenue, the South will certainly proceed with plans for an alternative export route. Khartoum’s sequestration of almost a billion dollars of oil revenues due to the South since independence (July 9, 2011) left Juba feeling deeply uneasy about any viable long-term arrangement with the current regime, despite the decision to allow Khartoum to keep the oil revenues it had illegally sequestered.

From the standpoint of a rational management of the economy, the military decisions made have been consistently disastrous. This is true whether we are speaking of genocidal destruction (and economic collapse) in Darfur; renewed genocide in the Nuba Mountains, which has prompted a ferociously successful rebel military response; massive civilian destruction and displacement in Blue Nile; the military seizure of Abyei; the extremely ill-considered assaults on forces of the SPLA-South in the Tishwin area of Unity State in March/April of this year; support for renegade militia groups in South Sudan; the growing assertion of unreasonable claims about the North/South border; and the repeated bombings along the border over the past year and a half, including the “Mile 14? area of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal. This is an extraordinary catalog of offensive military actions. And none of them reflects a concern for economic problems that may well bring down the regime. On the contrary, these decisions represent a bitter, vengeful desire to “get even” with South Sudan for exercising its right to self-determination. But vengeance will not rescue the failing northern economy, and absent the resumption of oil transport income, the economy will continue in free-fall, with hyper-inflation daily more likely. Normal corrective measures in economic policy are impossible in the context of current military commitments; corrections that would in any event have been highly challenging in light of the precipitous cut-off of oil revenue are now unavailable.

So long as decisions about war and peace are being made in Khartoum by the generals, without regard for the effects of continuing and renewed fighting on the broader economy, Sudan will remain both brutally violent and ultimately untenable under present governance.

International Response

There is one decision the international community, and Paris Club members in particular, can take, which is not to engage in any discussions of or planning for debt relief for Khartoum until the regime disengages from all military campaigns that target civilians, and ceases military actions so indiscriminate as to ensure widespread civilian destruction such as we have seen most recently in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, previously in Abyei, and for very nearly ten years in Darfur. The international banking system as well as international financing resources should do nothing that will convince Khartoum it may escape paying a heavy price for its continuing atrocities in these regions. For its part, the regime continues to speak confidently about its prospects for international debt relief. It’s hard to know whether this proceeds from expediency—even the artificial prospect of partial debt relief would help the northern economy immensely—or cynicism: the international community has capitulated before Khartoum’s demands, has accepted the validity of its commitment to signed agreements, on so many occasions that the regime may calculate it will prevail yet again.

This must not happen. The international community has failed greater Sudan for too many years now, has accommodated a murderous, finally genocidal regime in Khartoum since June 1989, and now is a moment for moral clarity and principled decision: will the world fund this regime? Will it accept massive atrocity crimes in Sudan in the interest of something other than the well-being of the Sudanese people themselves?

Civil society in those countries most significantly represented in the Paris Club are obligated by these circumstances to lobby their governments to state publicly that the unqualified priority in Sudan policy is ending civilian destruction throughout greater Sudan. Unequivocal evidence that this “priority” obtains in national policies must be demanded; despite the excessive caution that typically governs the imposition of multilateral sanctions, such are what vast numbers of people from greater Sudan wish, as do many well-informed friends of the region.

It is a simple “ask”: no debt relief for a regime that continues to commit atrocity crimes against civilians on a wide scale. This debt was accrued in large measure by profligate military expenditures on weapons that are even now being deployed against hundreds of thousands of noncombatant civilians. Yet as simple and apparently reasonable as such an “ask” is, there are very good historical reasons to believe that it will be refused; rather, some factitious “occasion” will be found to provide Khartoum with a financial life-line—a decision defined by its expediency, not its moral intelligibility. There could be no more irresponsible use of international economic and financial resources.

Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Should Africa Withdraw from ICC?

By Mapuor Malual Manguen

May 29, 2013 - On Sunday, African Presidents supported a petition calling on the International Criminal Court to drop crimes against humanity charges facing President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya. President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are charged at the ICC in connection with the 2007 post-election violence in which 1,300 died and over 500,000 others displaced. The leaders want the trials brought back to the national courts.

However, the Western-backed human rights groups considered demand by the African leaders as an attempt to shield Kenyan leaders from justice. Apart from Botswana’s President, 53 presidents supported the motion to send back Kenya cases. Botswana President argues that the ICC should be allowed to handle the case in accordance with its mandate.

The concept that ICC is targeting African leaders is gaining momentum in the continent. ICC has issued arrest warrants for the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, two other senior officials in his government, and a militia leader. The Hague based Court is also pursuing cases in DR Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Uganda, and Libya. Former Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo is detained in the Hague on electoral related violence in 2011 during which he refused to concede defeat to his main rival and election winner, Allasane Ouattara. Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor is serving 50-year-jail term after he was found guilty of abating crimes committed in neighboring Sierra Leone. His trial was conducted at the Hague after he was arrested in Nigeria and extradited to Netherlands.

Crimes against humanity committed in other parts of the world such as Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine perpetrated by Israel, America, Britain and their NATO allies did not attract ICC despite the fact that these cases are of the same magnitude or higher than cases investigated in Africa. African leaders use this as justification of the West using ICC to target them. So the question is should Africa withdraw from ICC? If so, are Africa’s local courts capable of trying such cases fairly and independently…?

It is not uncommon in most African states that the ruling elites use judiciary to rubberstamp maladministration cases in their favor. This led to a decayed judiciary in Africa. In any case, electoral related violence is the major challenge for judiciaries in this continent. Apparently, losers do not solve electoral disputes in courts of law; they choose street violence. The government has to send its security squads to clear streets of these rioters. The result is death of civilians and crimes against humanity. And this is how ICC comes in and net African leaders.

Of course, African leaders when they are in their club called African Union can say anything to exert their full authority over affairs of the continent. They can call for mass withdrawal from ICC as Sudan’s Bashir demanded. But will the said withdrawal bring the badly needed independence judiciary lacking in majority African countries?

African leaders are correct to condemn unfair hands and monkey business of the ICC. Their point is genuine as corroborated by facts surrounding ICC dealings with continent vis-à-vis crimes against humanity cases committed in other continents by superpowers. However, if this argument is to carry Africa’s populace weight, African leaders should equally work to ensure respect for independence of judiciary of local national courts in the continent. They should cease using AU as Club for abating bad governance. The AU must be an organization for progress of African people and an avenue where problems facing people of this continent should be discuss for benefits of all.

The author is journalist and columnist based in Juba

The Sudanese: between a rock and a hard place

By Magdi El Gizouli

May 28, 2013 - The National Congress Party – Reform Platform (NCP-RP), a semi-clandestine association of disgruntled Islamists that developed as a carrier of the memoranda politics preceding the Islamic Movement’s November 2012 general conference and the political vehicle of the ensuing coup attempt of Brigadier-general Mohamed Ibrahim Abd al-Jalil (Wad Ibrahim) and fellow officers, issued on Saturday a statement declaring a mass revoke of allegiance to President Bashir. The NCP-RP author(s) used the Arabic word bai’a to define the relationship with President Bashir, a term from medieval Islamic jurisprudence that modern Islamic movements beginning with the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood under Hassan al-Banna have rehabilitated to refer to organisational subjugation and almost unconditional obedience to an all-knowing leader.

The NCP-RP, dissident civilians of the ruling party and members of the military, announced a replacement pledge of allegiance to Wad Ibrahim arguing that President Bashir had failed to adhere to the conditions of the bai’a he enjoyed since 1989, namely the imposition of sharia and the rule of justice. Bashir failed to maintain the unity of the country’s territory as inherited from our forefathers and did not implement Allah’s sharia, said the statement. The blemish was not limited to President Bashir though. “Khartoum is today one of the most corrupt Arab and Moslem cities, and since its president is a dancer it is the habit of its inhabitants to dance”, added the statement paraphrasing a known Arab idiom. The Arabic word fasaad, translated here into corruption, carries strong connotations of sexual morality, and would better be translated into debauchery judging by the example of the dancing president and the idiom it refers to. In any case, the apparently sharia thirsty NCP reformers are obviously not impressed by the lifestyles of the new Khartoumians.

The statement went on to deplore President Bashir’s tolerance of the financial corruption of his brothers and the nepotism of his ministers, referred to in the text as ‘racism’. The Minister of Oil Awad al-Jaz , said the reformers, manned the whole ministry with people from his ‘tribe’. The eclectic character of the NCP-RP’s criticism is noteworthy. From the Salafis they borrowed abhorrence towards the alleged promiscuity of the capital’s inhabitants, from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) the algebra of ethnic power-sharing, from the opposition parties the secession blame and from their own ranks the envy of junior cadres towards scandalously rich seniors. The reformers pledged obedience to Wad Ibrahim in order to carry out the battle to change this government which they said ruled in their name as ‘mujahideen’ and army servicemen but reneged on its promise to apply Allah’s sharia. A sympathiser might argue that the sharia rhetoric of the NCP-RP is only tactical in nature intended to challenge the ‘religious’ legitimacy of President Bashir as Moslem ruler. What matters however is not so much the actual practice of sharia but rather its function in political discourse. In that regard, the NCP-RP is rehashing a theme that goes back to the 1960’s when the emergent Islamic Movement, shocked and attracted by Khartoum’s offerings of pleasure, harassed President Abboud’s government and the political class at large with accusations of loose sexual mores. The campaign of the Islamic Movement peaked following the overthrow of Abboud in 1964 with mounting pressure on parliamentarians to ban prostitution in the capital.

As if on campaign, Wad Ibrahim accompanied by the former head of the NCP’s parliamentary caucus Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani and a crowd of ‘Saihoon’, have been touring the native towns and villages of the coup plot officers attending one celebration of their release after another. They recently landed in al-Zubeirat in Gezira. Wad Ibrahim, nursing his political self, declared commitment to the path of reform, and his fellow officer Fath al-Raheem asserted that they were partners in the ‘Salvation Revolution’ of President Bashir and not mere footmen. The cautious Ghazi reiterated the call for reform stressing that it was a lengthy process and not merely a campaign against a few corrupt individuals. Between Wad Ibrahim and Ghazi, I wonder who pledged allegiance to whom. The situation is certainly familiar. Osama Tawfiq, identified as a Saihoon leader, kept the channels patent with President Bashir unlike the authors of the NCP-RP declaration. The President, he said, refused the prosecution of the coup officers and immediately signed the order of their release once it was presented to him. “These are not the men to be tried,” Bashir reportedly said.

As the NCP-RP loads reloads its sharia guns the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in North Sudan (SPLA/M-N) and its allies in the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) are ravaging the countryside in South Kordofan and adjacent areas of North Kordofan with real gunfire, real enough to busy the medical corps of the demoralized Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) around the clock. Yasir Arman, the SPLA/M-N Secretary General, told US and Sudanese activists on Saturday that the SRF’s recent offensive was meant to convince the population yet unvisited by war that the government was sufficiently weak to be toppled through the combined military might of the SRF and the ‘revolutionary’ initiative of the political forces and civil society organisations that seek to overthrow the regime by peaceful means. Sudan is a failed state, said Arman, and a new “social contract that does not discriminate between the Sudanese” is necessary to reconstruct it, one that he proposed could be achieved if the ruling NCP agrees to negotiations with the SRF as a whole and not only the SPLA/M-N in order to end the wars in the country. In earlier statements, Arman instructed those who reject armed resistance to the NCP to escalate mass political action, rather than subdue to the ruling security-military complex. Arman’s message to the allegedly complacent heartland, rewritten, is simply rise up or endure the consequences of failing to do so. The reasoning is a Manichean one, either with us or with the enemy, mirroring rather than transcending the NCP’s mobilisation propaganda.

The ‘change’ that has eluded the NCP-RP, officers and civilians, from within, the SRF is dashing to achieve by the reach of its guns from without. Between the disciplinary edge of the Islamist reformers’ renewed sharia passion and the gun-mediated secular social contract pledged by the SRF there is a uniting chain, coercion. The barricades are littered with the ethnically labelled corpses of the ‘Sudanese’.

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

Africa and the ICC: a dynamic relationship

By Tiina Intelmann

May 24, 2013 - The relationship between Africa and the International Criminal Court (ICC) is remarkable in its history, and dynamic.

Africa and the ICC share the fundamental value of fighting impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. Africa was one of the key players in the inception of the Court. African States participated at the Rome Conference in July 1998, where the Rome Statute, the founding treaty for the ICC, was drafted. Forty-seven African states were present; many of these countries were members of the Like-Minded Group that pushed for adoption of the final Statute. In the historic vote that was taken at the end of the Rome Conference, the vast majority of the 47 African countries involved in drafting the Statute voted in favor of adopting the Rome Statute and establishing the ICC. In a matter of months, Senegal became the first country to ratify the Statute, followed by a steady flow of other African countries. This contributed to reaching, in a rather short period, the required number of ratifications for the entry into force of the Statute on July 1st, 2002.

Today, the Rome Statute has 122 States Parties, 34 of which are African, thus constituting the largest regional group.

Almost eleven years into its existence, the International Criminal Court is increasingly busy. It is dealing with eight active situations which have largely come to the Court’s attention through requests by the States concerned that the ICC get involved and start investigations because the domestic options to investigate crimes could not be used. Indeed, the ICC was created as a court of last resort, to become active when everything else fails. The referrals by States of their own situations constitute a practical vote of confidence in the Court and they have emanated from Africa. Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic referred their own situations within less than three years after the Court started functioning. Yet another African State, Mali, referred its situation to the Court last year, and a few days ago Prosecutor Bensouda received a request from Comoros to start an ICC investigation. It is also good to know that Côte d’Ivoire, which became a State Party very recently, made several declarations accepting the jurisdiction of the Court before that, allowing the ICC to start investigations on its territory.

In all the situations described above, the ICC, the institution created by us collectively in Rome, is rendering service to States Parties.

Unfortunately, the perceived Africa-only focus of the ICC has created resentment in Africa and difficulties in African States’ relationship with the ICC.

Let us not forget, however, that the current focus on African situations also means a focus on African victims. Significant voluntary international contributions have been used through the Trust Fund for Victims, established under the Rome Statute, to assist more than 80 000 victims of atrocity crimes, including victims of sexual violence. It is fair to assume that without the activities of that Fund, all those African victims would have received little or no assistance at all.

I sincerely hope that the recent voluntary surrender of Bosco Ntaganda to the ICC will serve as an example for other persons who are sought by the Court and are trying to evade justice.

More generally, ICC decisions – like those of ad hoc international criminal tribunals – will have a much wider significance than simply punishing those persons that have been found guilty of committing international crimes. It is telling that the former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, stated the following when the Thomas Lubanga guilty verdict was delivered by the ICC: “In this age of global media, today’s verdict will reach warlords and commanders across the world and serves as a strong deterrent.”

What is important is the universality of the message that those who commit the most serious crimes under international law will be punished, that we are working towards establishing the rule of law on national and international level, that we are addressing the urgent need to build solid national institutions to end impunity.

We should not forget that the ultimate goal is to prevent crimes from happening, to end large-scale violence against the most vulnerable. The historic decision of 1998 to establish the ICC should also be viewed in this context.

Ambassador Tiina Intelmann is the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court. She can be followed on Twitter @Tintelmann

NCP Parliament Speaker will not negotiate with those who carry arms

By Mahmoud A. Suleiman

May 24, 2013 - This article comes on the backdrop of the war drums beating campaign orchestrated by the National Congress Party (NCP) regime Parliament Speaker, Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir in Dongola. Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir is quoted by the News Media as saying that the Sudanese armed forces (SAF) have the ability to resolve the situation militarily and the liberation of all the occupied territories. Al-Tahir added indicating that the Northern State announced the formation of a battalion of the political parties to be supportive and a shield for the army. Furthermore, Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir said that he will not negotiate with those who take up arms and kill innocent people in the area of Abu Kershola and city of Um Rawaba. Moreover, he said at a mass meeting in the capital of the northern state of Dongola that victory is underway. He thanked the alleged steadfastness of the Sudanese people and the Mujahideen behind the armed forces that fought before in the darkest circumstances. He praised the political parties, whom he did not name, which confirmed their alignment to the homeland and offered support to the armed forces! It is clear that stormy whirlwind is in reference to the successful quantum military operation carried out by the alliance of the armed movements under the umbrella of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) against the forces of the NCP government and its militias in North and south Kordofan.

Political analysts hinted that while Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir, speaker of the (NCP) parliament dares and declares he would not negotiate with anyone carrying arms, he might have forgotten that he might be challenging the master of his grace, Omer Hassan al-Bashir in Dongola away from Abukarshawla! Al-Tahir was, at the time, behaving like a swollen cat simulating the Charge of the Lion! This member of the NCP gang seems to have forgotten the statement made by his master of grace Omer al-Bashir Hassan Ahmed in early2003. Al-Bashir said addressing his audience that he would not negotiate with anyone who did not carry arms, in defiance to the Darfuri rebels, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement/ Army (SLA) who were asking the legitimate rights for their people. The response to that statement was an unprecedented joint military operation carried out, on 25 April 2003, by the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) entered al-Fasher and attacked the government air base destroying seven Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships on the ground. Seventy-five soldiers, pilots and technicians killed and 32 captured, including the commander of the air base, Major General Pilot Ibrahim Bushra. Thus, the armed movements are forced to take up arms and accepted to challenge the NCP regime and counter-force by force against force in the face of denial of legitimate citizenship rights.

Political observers say it was more appropriate for Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir to have gone instead to his constituency to meet the desert tribal groups of Majaneen and others in the locality of al-Mazroub in North Kordofan. His voters (constituents) suffer from lack of basic public services, poverty, hunger, thirsty and disease. They deserve to be offered their legitimate rights as citizens of this country blighted by racism and corruption. Instead of going to Dongola, the capital of the Northern Riverain state at this time, al-Tahir could have done a better job. But he forgets his people in lieu of the fleeting grace and the downtrodden wealth he enjoys now during the era of the NCP Sudan. He forgot the voters who carried him on their shoulders and brought him to the prestigious position that he has assumed.

The putschists in the NCP regime abandoned the Sudanese moral code and got addicted to lying and have become geniuses of lying par excellence. It is a tragedy that formal religiosity that claimed by the NCP hypocrites has plagued our country. In the same context, the Vice President of the NCP for party affairs, foul-mouthed insulting crab poured his filthy disrespect; Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, lashed out at the opposition political parties and challenged them if they alert in the way of Almighty Allah to fight. Furthermore, Nafie Ali Nafie stated that the rows are clearly differentiated between jihad, pride and dignity versus betrayal and agents for foreigners. The leading architect of the notorious ‘Ghost Houses “and the Génocidaire in Sudan, Nafie Ali Nafie talked about what he called the “fifth column and foreign agents in Khartoum will have neither a place nor a say among the people of Sudan.” And that they are digging their graves and sacrificing with their parties and political future”. These are the stereotypical phrases used by the NCP gang elements over the past 24 lean years of their hateful reign. Whenever the noose is tightened around them and the direction for exit is narrowed as a result of the evil actions they have been committing, they resort to profanity insults. The parable goes: “every vase exudes its contents when it is opened”!

Allied armed movements under the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) are now seeking to topple the NCP regime. The latter option is resorted to after the failure of all peace agreements concluded with the government of Omar al-Bashir. The SRF aims for a complete change in the structure of governance in Sudan and to lay the foundations of justice and equality for all the components of the Sudanese people of various colours, languages, cultures, race and beliefs. This will be followed by the establishment of the rule of law and good governance, where prevail the foundations of democracy and freedoms and a decent life for the peoples of Sudan without discrimination.

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

OIL: is it a curse or a blessing in South Sudan?

By Jacob K. Lupai

May 18, 2013 - In the late 70s when for the first time oil was discovered in Southern Sudan there was euphoria that poverty would be a thing of the past, replaced by a high standard of living. After all when oil was discovered in the Arabian Peninsula the Arabs made gigantic strides in development and the economic boom raised the standards of living. However, although the oil was discovered in Southern Sudan, the South was not to become the major beneficiary. The central government with focus on the interest of Northern Sudan had other plans to deny Southern Sudan development opportunities.

To exploit the oil resources of Southern Sudan, the central government made sure the refinery was sited in Northern Sudan. In addition, the oil from wells in Southern Sudan was to be transported to international markets through Northern Sudan. Siting the refinery in Northern Sudan and the subsequent transportation of the oil to international markets deprived enormously Southern Sudanese of employment opportunities and income to reduce poverty. Also, lack of revenues to Southern Sudan for vital development projects, as a result of siting the refinery in the North, was obvious. Arguably, the discovery of oil was hardly a blessing in Southern Sudan when it was an integral part of old Sudan.

One would expect oil as a blessing in independent South Sudan. Between 2005 and 2011 Southern Sudan became self-governing and with it got a better deal on wealth sharing with Northern Sudan with reference to oil revenues. This was an arrangement in a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) between Northern and Southern Sudan in 2005. In the arrangement Northern and Southern Sudan agreed that 2 per cent of oil revenue derived from oil producing wells in Southern Sudan should be allocated to the oil producing states in proportion to output produced in such states. It was also agreed that 50 per cent of net oil revenue derived from oil producing wells in Southern Sudan should be allocated to the Government of Southern Sudan.

In the CPA the wealth sharing arrangement was indeed a relief in light of acute underdevelopment and poverty in Southern Sudan. In independent South Sudan oil production indeed would be a blessing because South Sudan would have 100 per cent of revenue from its own oil. However, the extent to which oil revenues will be used for an impact on living standards will indicate whether oil is a curse or a blessing in independent South Sudan.

Indicators of especial interest to be used are poverty and insecurity. This is because when oil is a blessing there shouldn’t be a high prevalence of poverty and insecurity because of the expected adequate budgetary allocations. Naturally oil is seen to produce substantial revenues that can be used to eradicate poverty and insecurity. Nevertheless, others may argue that it is not oil that may be a curse but corruption. On the other hand a counter argument can be made, though simplistic, that when oil creates corruption then oil is a curse. However, oil in itself may neither be a curse nor a blessing as when it is underground but then it depends on how it is managed above ground.

Unity State in South Sudan was the lead oil producer which should have been getting 2 per cent of oil revenue from its wells according to the CPA. However, its consumption per capita per month was lower than non oil producing state like Western Bahr el Ghazal. Similarly Upper Nile was the lead region in oil production but its consumption per capita per month was low in contrast to consumption per capita per month in non oil producing Equatoria.

On poverty Unity State as oil producing has 68 per cent of its population living below the poverty line while the population of non oil producing Western Bahr el Ghazal is 43 per cent below the poverty line. This seems to suggest that oil is not everything. With or without oil a state or region can still flourish. So there is no way an oil producing state or region should boast.

On services oil seems to have no impact. Salaries were not received promptly. Insecurity was rampant when people were murdered by armed gangs who were nowhere to face justice, and this happened when the budget for security was one of the largest. There was hardly any running clean drinking water in the majority of residential areas and availability of electricity was a joke. People depended and are still depending on food items imported from the neighbouring countries even when the oil was flowing. Roads in cities and towns were of little difference with roads in remote rural areas. The list of poor services could be long in a country that was oil producing.

What guarantee is there that the resumption of oil flow will make any difference as a blessing in reducing poverty and insecurity? With or without oil life will be as usual with people who have experienced life in South Sudan since 2005. What may rid people of poverty and insecurity are radical reforms and a thorough cleaning up of the system of incapability otherwise the number of millionaires will grow up spectacularly with the resumed flow of oil. Sugar-coated lies and naked intimidation to silence genuine dissent will not work because people are already alert and may have been fed up with words without concrete action since 2005.

In conclusion, hopefully South Sudan will not enter the Guinness Book of Records as a failed state barely within two years of gaining independence because when oil revenues are mismanaged and with insecurity so rampant; oil becomes more of a liability than an asset or rather more of a curse than a blessing. The religious may need to offer a prayer for divine intervention and the secular may need to use all their mental faculties for a decent and peaceful way out.

The author can be reached at

JEM and its internal conflict with Bashar’s splinter group

By Abdullahi Osman El-Tom

May 16, 2013: Last week’s armed confrontation between JEM and its splinter group of the late Mohamed Bashar has attracted wide attention in the international media. While some have deplored the conflict as yet another regrettable infighting among Darfur rival groups, others, like AU, UNAMID and Qatar, have seized this opportunity to incriminate JEM and re-ignite their enmity against the organization.

Bashar incident gave the AU/UNAMID a good opportunity to divert attention of the international community away from its spectacular failure to deliver its mandate: that is protection of Darfur civilians and IDPs. In a pathetic statement, the AU Commission Chief, Dlamini–Zuma described the incident as “cowardly” and appealed to GoS to cooperate with the AU in order to “bring perpetrators of this crime to justice”. Perplexingly, UNAMID wants to commission Al-Bashir’s junta to bring its newly discovered criminals to justice while it has adamantly refused to call the same people to submit to the ICC and hand over those have been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and blatant breach of human Rights. Strangely enough, when Dr. Khalil was assassinated, UNAMID and its AU overseers went mute and did not see any reason for protestation. But now, protection of combatant has come easier for UNAMID than saving lives of Darfur IDPs who are unfortunate enough to be placed under its protection. Just 24 hours after the death of Mohamed Bashar and others (Sunday May 12th), the Janjaweed stormed Al-Salam IDP camp at Nyala. The Janjaweed looted the camp under the watchful eyes of UNAMID forces, and who are there to guard the habitation. The looters got away with everything they could take including 100 goats. IDP leader Sheikh Tabaldiya appealed to UNAMID for protection, protesting that in the last month alone the Janjaweed killed 14 and injured 27 IDPs at the camp. UNAMID’s response was as shameful as usual: “UNAMID cannot protect the camp because its forces are outnumbered by the Janjaweed but it will compile a report on the attack”. Thus, the mandate of UNAMID has been reduced to competing against Radio Dabanga for reporting such attacks, a contest in which the former is no match for the latter. Perhaps Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma is waiting to study the report before she can at least condemn Al-Salam attackers, never mind, she is willing to condemn JEM-Mainstream before any investigation. It is time UNAMID realises its primary mandate is to protect the IDPs, not the combatants of resistance movements. Barring that, JEM cannot see how UNAMID justifies support of Western taxpayers and get away with doing nothing but reporting on atrocities of the Khartoum government and its sponsored militias.

It is important to take note of the following facts before pontificating about the conflict. Rebellion of Mohamed Bashar within JEM was part of a series of squabbles and splits that almost crippled the organization. When Dr. Gibriel Ibrahim took over presidency of JEM, Mohamed Bashar was under detention, awaiting trial for his role in the attempted poisoning of Dr. Khalil Ibrahim. Arko Daihia who lost his life with Bashar and Ali Al-Wafi, now a captive among others, were also under JEM detention. They were senior members of JEM and were caught making unauthorized contacts with GoS and the Doha splinter group of Mohamed Bahar.

When Dr. Gibriel Ibrahim took over presidency of JEM, he opted to start with a clean slate and announced general amnesty for all JEM detainees. His pardon was so generous that it included even those JEM members who had committed the most heinous of all crimes: treason, a crime Bashar was facing.

For those who do not know how armed movements operate, we remind them JEM is an open organization. People are free to join and leave the organization at will and some current members of JEM have done so several times. However, there is a rule, well known to all, particularly to senior members like Bashar, Arko Dahiya and others. Those wishing to leave can do so under two conditions: a) hand over JEM properties- guns, vehicles, phones and b) cease using the name of JEM. They are free to establish or join any other organization as long as it is under a title other than JEM.

JEM splinters like Bashar and others did not respect the cardinal departure rule. In particular, Bashar and his group announced a rebellious move in JEM whereby they dismissed the President and his cabinet. Much more, his Chief of Staff, Dabajo stole and ran away with 27 armoured vehicles belonging to JEM. With further help and instructions from Deby of Chad, Bashar’s group became indistinguishable from Chad, so much that it is now referred to as JEM-Deby Branch. At the Doha negotiations, they masqueraded as mainstream JEM and announced several times they were the only JEM in the field.

JEM-Deby Branch could have spared us lots of agony, had they stayed away from us. That was not to be for the simple reason that both Deby and Al-Bashir wanted them to destroy JEM or at least distract its army away from Khartoum. The last attack on us was not the first. Few weeks ago, we had to defend ourselves against them near Umbaru, north Darfur. In the hostility, we were able to retrieve our own stolen weapons, perhaps a bit more, thanks to President Deby. The last lethal confrontation followed the same pattern, but let us separate the chaff from the grain. The incident in which Bashar lost his life was part of Deby’s grandiose plan to destroy JEM-Mainstream, exactly as he promised his financiers, Al-Bashir and the Emir of Qatar. Here are the details of the incident.

Bashar’s force crossed the border from Chad boasting anything between 130 to 200 fighters on 23 land cruisers and four ammunition and logistical trucks. The land cruisers were mounted with 221mm, 23mm and 12.5mm Artillery guns and Katusha and SPG-9 rocket launchers. The personnel were armed with JIM4 and RPG-7 rifles. Baffling as it was, the car driven by the late Mohamed Bashar also had around 50 shackles and it is a riddle to us what he was intending to do with them. Perhaps the shackles were reserved for senior JEM captives along the way.

The engagement took place few Kilometres inside the Sudan and away from Sudan-Chad border, which is heavily guarded by the Sudanese-Chadian Joint Force. The two JEM forces met inside the Sudan at Bamina (Lat 23’00, Lon 15’17; HIC Darfur Atlas), north of Tina. Political borders of African countries are messy but not in this case. The border town of Bamina is split by Tina valley in a north-south direction. Thus you have Chadian Bamina west of the valley and Sudanese Tina to the east of the valley. The battle took place four Kilometres east of the town, a location that is clearly in the Sudan.

Following brief exchange of heavy fire, Bashar’s group lost control and went into disarray. Most escaped but some surrendered, injured or killed. Mohamed Bashar, Arko Dahiya and few others were among the last category. JEM lost two soldiers while eight of its troops were injured in the battle.

Soon after the battle, it was realised that Mohamed Bashar was among the casualties. Had JEM been interested in sheer massacres of the invaders, it would have not spared the lives of the 20 or so who are now in its captivity. Most of those captives are members of JEM, yes, JEM-Mainstream and are subject to rules and regulations of the organisation. JEM will have to decide on the fate of other captives who have no connection with the Movement.

Osman Nahar, the spokesperson of Bashar’s splinter group has never been a member of JEM. According to our intelligence, Nahar and for that purpose also Adil Tayara are members of the National Intelligence Service of Sudan (NISS). To date, they are on the pay sheet of the NISS and whatever they report has to be seen within that context. Their primary allegiance is to the government of Khartoum and not to Darfur people and their movements, Bashar branch or otherwise. We urge media outlets to vet their sources before making any judgement.

Capitalising on the last strife within the organisation, some circles are now gathering force to indict JEM for obstruction of peace in Darfur. JEM is up to the challenge and will always be. As its history shows, JEM has been on the far front of peaceful solution of Darfur/Sudan problem. Let us not forget the Doha Platform and which is now turned into a negotiation circus owes its existence to JEM. JEM had also signed and implemented several peace accords with Khartoum. In every single case, the process was derailed or destroyed by the other party, not by JEM. JEM has not lost its stamina for non-violent resolution of the conflict, but only if it is comprehensive and compliant with justice, dignity and equal opportunity, and for all, irrespective of creed, ethnicity, region or faith. No more, no less.

Author is in Charge of Bureau for Strategic Planning of JEM. He can be contacted by email:

Abu Karshola: liberation stands accused

By Magdi El Gizouli

Mai 15, 2013 - More than two weeks have passed since the hit and run attack of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) on Um Rwaba in North Kordofan a day after of the collapse of talks between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in North Sudan (SPLA/M-N) and the Sudanese government mediated by Thabo Mbeki’s African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in Addis Ababa. The SRF combatants, mostly fighters of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) seasoned in the art of ‘Toyota war’, drove into sleepy Um Rwaba to clash with the unlucky policemen on duty that day killing seven, and withdrew after a few hours. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has no presence in Um Rwaba at all but maintains a large garrison and military airport in neighbouring al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan State. In the process, five civilians were killed, the town’s power plant severely damaged and according to government reports petrol stations ransacked and banks looted by the attacking liberation fighters.

On the return trip from Um Rwaba the JEM contingent reportedly passed through the road stops outside Allah Kareem and al-Simeih to refuel and then together with a force of the SPLA/M-N descended on Abu Karshola in the north-eastern end of South Kordofan. The small town is the centre of a horticultural zone where pastoral routes converge from northern Kordofan in the dry season bringing crowds of Bideiriya and Shanabla herders and their livestock. The June 2010 census in South Kordofan, the re-run after the SPLA/M contested the results of the 2008 count, registered 45,377 souls in Abu Karshola. Up to forty thousand people fled the town and surrounding areas since the SRF takeover to the safety of al-Rahad in North Kordofan, reported the United Nations (UN) a few days ago. When asked by a Khartoum newspaper why he thought the SRF attacked Abu Karshola, the chief of the Hawazma community in the town al-Nur al-Tahir al-Nur referred to results of the South Kordofan gubernatorial elections in May 2011. Out of a total of 26,010 registered voters 12,059 cast their ballot for the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) candidate Ahmed Haroun and only 7,433 for the SPLM’s Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu, detailed al-Nur to support his claim that the SPLA/M-N assisted by its SRF allies targeted the town out of “electoral vengeance”.

Vengeance was the explanation given by the displaced in al-Rahad for allegations of extra-judicial killings committed by the SRF in Abu Karshola under the command a senior SPLA/M-N officer. In al-Rahad, the son of the Abu Karshola imam held a funeral for his slain father and three of his uncles who administered a khalwa, a traditional Quran school, in the town. Others reported the killing of several NCP functionaries and supporters. Sudan’s Minister of Information Ahmed Bilal Osman described the reported incidences as “ethnic killings” suggesting that the SPLA/M-N specifically targeted the Arab Hawazma. Two men were killed in al-Rahad on suspicion of being SPLA/M-N rebels by an angry mob in the town market, said one news report and by fighters of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) said another. The Hawazma chief al-Nur said the SPLA/M-N’s guns ripped apart the tender social fabric of Abu Karshola inhabited predominantly by the Arab Hawazma and the Nuba Tagali. The Khartoum press likened the SPLA/M-N takeover of Abu Karshola to the SPLA attack on the neighbouring al-Gardoud back in 1985. One hundred unarmed residents of the village, mostly Arab Hawazma, were killed in the raid often identified as the start of the first war in South Kordofan (1985-2002). Paraphrasing Mao’s famous dictum, a shrewd commentator wrote that the SRF offensive was an attempt to poison the water that sustains the NCP fish.

Abu Karshola abuts the Taqali massif, the geography of the Nuba Mountain’s unique attempt at state formation, spurred, challenged and eventually obliterated by the cataclysms that engulfed the riverine Sudan in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Taqali’s highland communities surrendered long-distance trade and management of relations with the world beyond the massif to their mukuk (warrior-kings) but not their lands. This particular configuration of power, a precarious sovereignty, precluded the commoditization of land in the area. The mukuk were in no position to usurp land for themselves and shielded their highland subjects from disposing of land through a monopoly of trade with the outside world. The ‘one hundred hills’ of Taqali constituted a natural castle network that protected the kingdom from invaders as did the mukuk’s diplomacy in slaves and other forms of tribute. The patronage of the mukuk extended to herders of the plains below the massif, directly and through the mediation of itinerant traders and fuqara (Moslem preachers/holy men), although limited by the incapacity of the mukuk to grant land outside their domestic royal domains.

Taqali’s most celebrated mak (pl. mukuk), Adam Um Dabbalo, whose reign extended between c. 1860 and 1884, received Sudan’s most influential faqeer (pl. fuqara), Mohamed Ahmed, sometime in the dry season of 1881. Mak Adam instructed his Arab Kawahla allies of the plains below to provide the holy man with grain and livestock. Mohamed Ahmed went on to become the Mahdi declaring revolution against the Turkiyya in Aba Island on the While Nile only weeks later. Unlike his predecessors, Adam Um Dabbalo also known as Adam al-Arabi (the Arab) was bound to the plains by blood. He was the son of an Arab Kawahla woman, Halima Fadlalla, and following royal tradition was critically dependent on his maternal kin for support. The kingdom that resisted the torments of the Turkiyya could not withstand the convulsions of the Mahdiyya though. Adam Um Dabbalo himself died a captive of the Mahdi on the victorious march to Khartoum.

The Anglo-Egyptian colonial regime completed the Mahdist pacification of the hills with the superior terror of the state- raid while conscripting able Nuba into its army. It was the predominantly Nuba 11th Sudanese battalion stationed in Talodi that mutinied while attending military exercises in Khartoum in 1924, the central episode of the White Flag League revolt. In response, the British authorities decided to disband six hundred of the battalion’s soldiers. Two hundred were confined to a cotton-growing colony close to Kadugli. The colonial authorities introduced mechanized farming to the Nuba Mountains but wide-scale expropriation and commoditization of land was the accomplishment of the post-colonial governments. Established in 1968 upon request of the World Bank, the Mechanized Farming Corporation (MFC) facilitated the expansion of large-scale mechanised agriculture into South Kordofan, the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Loans provided by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development empowered the elite clients of the MFC, often retired army officers, civil servants and well-connected businessmen, to acquire some of the richest lands in central Sudan displacing countless small producers. The ‘development’ policy devastated the natural and communal ecology wherever it was enforced. Conflicts erupted between title holders and evicted peasants and pastoralists, between pastoralists and peasants as the former were forced out of their grazing routes by the expansion of state-guarded private schemes, and between the state as the major supporter of the scheme-owners and the peasants and pastoralists reduced to squatters and trespassers.

Abu Karshola lies one hundred kilometres west of al-Abbasiya, the historical centre of the Taqali kingdom. Supporters of the SPLA/M-N spoke the language of indigeneity to argue for the rebel takeover of the area. The town is one of the oldest in the eastern Mountains inhabited historically by the Nuba Taqali, wrote al-Shazali Tira, dismissing in the next sentence its Arab Hawazma residents as recent immigrants. Tira noted that the battle to liberate Abu Karshola was led by the SPLA/M-N commander Hassan Adam al-Sheikh, a native Nuba Taqali born to a prominent family in Abu Karshola. The officer was appointed military governor of the town and as such is burdened with the allegations of deadly vengeance made by its displaced population in al-Rahad. The SPLA/M-N brushed off the allegations of “ethnic killing” as hollow NCP propaganda, lumping the accusation with claims made by officials in Khartoum that SRF and SPLA/M-N chief of staff Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu was mortally wounded in an air-strike carried out by the SAF against a convoy of six cars that carried him and other senior commanders of the SRF. The daily al-Intibaha, as expected, offered a particularly imaginative version adding that al-Hilu was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in South Sudan’s Wau where he eventually died and was hurriedly buried. The rumour backfired in a sense and the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) issued a statement affirming that al-Hilu was indeed alive and continues to lead the SPLA/M-N operations in the eastern Nuba Mountains. On Monday 13 May the Sudanese al-Ray al-Aam reported that al-Hilu had been flown two days before to Brussels for treatment. The SPLA/M-N and SRF top military commander suffers from severe head injuries and multiple fractures, it said.

Whether in Um Rwaba, Abu Karshola, al-Simeih or Allah Kareem the SRF guns dodged the coercive apparatus of the state to shoot at the ‘subject to be liberated’. Hassan Adam al-Sheikh captured the geography of Abu Karshola but lost most of its population. Mao would have sneered.

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

5 reasons why Sudan’s Nafie ali Nafie is not welcome in the United States

By Esther Sprague

May 13, 2013 - The White House has invited Nafie Ali Nafie, the Advisor and Assistant of Sudan’s ICC indicted President, to the United States for high level talks. Since Nafie’s proposed visit was announced, reasons, such as the following, have surfaced almost daily to explain why the visit would be inappropriate and counterproductive.

He is a terrorist. Known as the architect of state sponsored terror in Sudan and an accomplice in the assassination attempt of Egypt’s President Mubarak, Nafie has long relationships with rogue states and extremist groups. While it may take a terrorist to find a terrorist, former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, Richard Williamson, who had access to intelligence from Sudan, recently indicated that the information “isn’t worth the spit on your shoe.” If the U.S. is seeking Mali extremists, Joseph Kony and others, surely more reliable and appropriate sources and allies are available. Working with the host government of terrorists and murderers (and a government that will orchestrate matters in order to appear “valuable”) is of dubious benefit.

Nafie’s visit would violate President Obama’s August 4, 2011 Proclamation suspending entry into the United States to anyone who “planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of human rights, or who attempted or conspired to do so.” According to the Office of the Prosecutor’s application for the first ICC arrest warrant for Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, “Many senior members of Al Bashir’s Government participated in recruiting and mobilizing Militia/Janjaweed – including…Presidential Assistant and NCP Vice President Nafie Ali Nafie.”

Nafie is powerless to stop the war in Sudan. Nafie signed the June 28, 2011 agreement between the Sudan government and the SPLM-N that was immediately rejected by President Bashir. Furthermore, Nafie’s proposed traveling companion, Ibrahim Ghandor, could only deliver the empty non-starter message to the SPLM-N (give up your weapons for positions in the government), which quickly ended recent and failed negotiations in Addis. In addition, it is misguided to think the U.S. could influence the development of Sudan’s constitution with a regime that refuses to abide by its existing constitution and bill of rights and is currently mobilizing forces, under Nafie’s direction, to eradicate Sudanese who have expressed a genuine interest in an inclusive constitutional review process.

Advancing Nafie’s career and thereby prolonging the NCP’s deadly decades-long grip on Sudan helps no one. As a transition in Sudan is inevitable, Nafie has been making his way around Europe and now possibly the U.S., in an effort to establish his place as Bashir’s successor. Within the NCP’s leadership, there are no good replacements for Bashir, but Nafie is considered by most as the worst possible option. The only appropriate place for Nafie to visit (and stay) is The Hague.

Nafie violates our principles and he hurts our friends. Through relationships with the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan and thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, Americans have grown to love the people of Sudan and South Sudan. It offends us deeply that someone who purposely planned their destruction would be allowed to follow them to their place of safety. It also concerns us that America’s reputation for upholding human rights will be forever tarnished because of one President’s decision to host the “Butcher of Sudan.”

The Administration’s invitation to Nafie is the latest example of a weak and perhaps non-existent U.S. policy on Sudan and South Sudan. If the U.S. is truly interested in building peace in Sudan and between Sudan and South Sudan, instead of inviting a should-be-indicted war criminal to the U.S., the Administration should read and implement the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act of 2013. This legislation was written by Members of Congress who have been in place long enough to observe and understand the nature and tactics of the regime and therefore are in a position to craft policy recommendations that will actually save lives, support Sudanese-led change, and ultimately protect U.S. interests.

It would serve President Obama (and his Cabinet and Staff) well to remember his own words from the August 4, 2011 Proclamation:

“Universal respect for human rights and humanitarian law and the prevention of atrocities internationally promotes U.S. values and fundamental U.S. interests in helping secure peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises around the globe.”

President Obama recently urged Ohio State graduates not to become “discouraged and cynical” about our government. I’m asking President Obama to give me a reason to feel differently by listening to thousands of Americans who have protested Nafie’s visit and by rescinding Nafie’s invitation to the United States.

Esther Sprague is a co-founder of Act for Sudan and the founder and director of Sudan Unlimited, a non-profit that seeks to support all Sudanese and Southern Sudanese in their efforts to secure and enjoy freedom, justice, equality, democracy, peace and prosperity.

The devil in resolving decades of Abyei conflict

By Ngor Arol Garang

The past days have seen global community watching members of the Nine Ngok Dinka of Abyei, together with their cousins in the South Sudan shedding tears unabated. They are grieved by the unexpected, untimely and the sudden death of Kuol Deng Kuol, the paramount chief of the area, who, on Saturday 4th, was gunned down in a terrorist style act, when he fell into an ambush strategically planned by the members of the Arabs nomads of Misseriya in the Lenger area, north of Abyei.

He was part of the joint high-level government delegation which was visiting the area from Juba and Khartoum for a consultative meeting to find a common ground and to hasten discussions on the need to form a temporary joint administration in the area so as to facilitate return of the displaced persons and the conduct of the referendum.

He was traveling in a military convoy of the Ethiopian troops serving in the area as members of the United Nations peacekeeping force tasked with responsibilities to ensure that the area is free from any armed groups and provide adequate security and protection of civilians under imminent threat and their properties as mandated by the United Nations Security Council resolution which established the mission for the area.

The Council normally approves such a resolution to establish a Mission if it finds that the situation in any part of the world shows sign that it would deteriorate and develop into threat to the stability, break of peace or act of aggression. The situation in Abyei warranted the establishment and the government of Ethiopia offered to send troops to provide and maintain peace and security in the region until such time when the two sides shall agree to end the dispute but situation since deployment of the UN troops to the area remains volatile despite resolution of the UN Security Resolution, which called for unconditional withdrawal of the armed forces, as well as any other armed elements.

The decision to deploy foreign forces was part of the international attempt to diffuse tension and prevent a return to a full blown war after the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) took control of the town earlier in May 2011, forcing over 110,000 people, mostly unarmed civilians to flee. Several others were killed and many more remained unaccounted for until today.

With calls to exercise restraint and maintain peace from the regional leaders and the international community, the government of South Sudan, since no country exists in isolation of the other, immediately responded and pulled out its troops which were component of the Joint Integrated Units during the six years of interim period under the terms of the 2005 peace accord, which ended over two decades of civil war between the successive Khartoum based government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Sudan was expected to do the same but decided to remain in the area until in 2012 when authorities in Khartoum, wanting to draw international attention and renew contacts, decided to reduce the strength of it forces, which had entered the region. A significant strength equipped with modern weapons and conventional knowledge remained in the form of oil police in contrary to the resolution.

In September 2012, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on Sudan and South Sudan presented to the two presidents a peace proposal to resolve the conflict. The proposal recognised and allowed members of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms as indigenous people with voting rights at the referendum together with other residents with permanently settled in Abyei.

The government in the South, including its president Salva Kiir Mayardit, immediately accepted the proposal without any conditions but the government of Sudan under its president Omer Ahmed Hassan El-Bashir quickly rejected it entirely, calling for either partitioning of the region into the north to be administered by his government and the south to be administered to be administered by the government in Juba, or inclusion of Misseriya in the vote. Khartoum sees this suggestion, which was one of the proposals by the AUHIP in 2010, as part of the attempts to resolve the dispute but which Juba had rejected, citing its lack of basis in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It is this difference that has always left the area in limbo and the killing of the paramount chief had highlighted the level the dispute has reached between the two communities.

Late Kuol Deng Kuol

Having lived in Abyei I extensively interacted with Chief Kuol while covering a myriad of issues of national value, including the future of the region. Chief Kuol was not only a great leader, but wanted to see the two countries embracing each other to live side by side in pursuit of mutual benefits and build trust to promote the idea of two viable states.

He was also a great thinker and a peace strategist who had wanted the region to play a strategic role in fostering harmony by properly utilising the concept of Abyei being molded into a bridge between two independent and viable states without each taking advantage of the other.

His ideas were always appearing shaped by the national interest, thus the reason he was an admired as a leader in his community and beyond. He had more friends than adversaries. He never scorned at anyone whether big or small. He was always humble and ready to pay a listening ear. His death can never be celebrated even those who killed him may be feeling the guilt of their act. He will be remembered by the generations as someone who immensely contributed to the liberation struggle of not only the people of Abyei and their cousins in the South but also marginalised groups in both countries. The fact that he was killed on national mission accompanying the delegation shows the level of love of his people and the country.

Why the people of Abyei could not secede with the south?

Described as “a bridge between the countries” in its protocol under the 2005 peace agreement, the region, known for its fertile agricultural land and prevalence of oil, lies at the border between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan which was formerly part of the united Sudan until on July 9, 2011, when she gained her full independent status, becoming the 193rd member of the United Nations and 54th member of the African Union.

Although the majority of the area’s inhabitants are ethnically, socially and culturally linked to those in the South, it could not secede with the new nation, because it was transferred to Kordofan province in Sudan in 1905 during British rule for administrative purposes. Attempts aimed at persuading successive Khartoum-based regimes since the British left in 1956 have repeatedly failed, forcing natives to join rebellions waged in the South against Khartoum, hoping that any deal with Sudan would include their case and eventually get lasting peace. Such efforts were seen when the South signed a deal with Khartoum to end the first civil war which lasted for 17 years in 1972.

In that deal, Abyei was granted “special status” and was allowed to vote in a referendum but the vote did not take place when the agreement was abrogated by Sudan’s then military president, Jaafar Mohamed Nimery, triggering a return to war in 1983.

Angered by the failure by the government in Khartoum to allow them exercise their right under the agreement, the people of Abyei decisively joined the second war in numbers and fought with the South this time as part of the marginalised group wanting broader change in Sudan, especially the system. Many of the youth abandoned studies and joined the movement at its inception. Others followed after finishing their studies and they became some of the senior members of the movement by the virtue of their education.

With the singing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Khartoum and the rebel group predominantly fighters from the South, the area got the same right of self-determination as it did in 1972 but it has proved equally difficult to make the vote happen as the two sides have not been able to agree on voter eligibility. The government of Sudan wants the members of the Misseriya Arab nomads who seasonally access the area to get water and pasture for their cattle to be part of the vote, while the government of South Sudan maintains that voting rights should be limited to members of the Dinka Ngok.

It is against this backdrop that the region’s situation continues to remain unpredictable despite the presence of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) which has absolute power to clear the region of any armed groups. This leads one to wonder as to how and when the status of Abyei can be resolved. Normally, there are universal ways to resolve such conflicts. One way is peaceful settlement through negotiation. The other way is the involvement of an independent and competent court of arbitration lest they fail to reach an understanding after involving third party. Another option and which is universally acceptable is to conduct referendum so as to allow people involved in the conflict make decision of their choice.

In this case of Abyei, everything has been exhausted. The two sides negotiated the deal. They also involved the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague over the territorial dispute of the area and it was resolved. But the devil has been maintaining the spirit of negotiation to implement the outcomes of the talks. The territory of the area has been defined by the International Court of Arbitration in July 2009 and the decision was accepted by both sides but the implementation has not take place. The referendum was supposed to have been conducted simultaneously with the referendum on the South’s independence in January 2011 but could not take place, because of the differences over voting rights. How can this now conflict be resolved?

Some options to resolve the dispute

There are some options to avoid escalation of the conflict. One of these options is for the international community, particularly the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council to use its legitimacy to unilaterally and independently, on the basis of the its communiqué endorsed by the UNSC resolution 2046, conduct the referendum for the people of Abyei so they can decide where to go within the territory defined by the court, or allow the two sides to return to war, which will have a lot of consequences that may affect peace and stability in the region.

The other option is to make it totally an independent state from Sudan and South Sudan and letting it be administered by the United Nations. Aid together with resources generated from the area, should be exclusively and meticulously used for developing it.

How the people of Abyei should honour Chief Kuol

There is no any other better way for the people of Abyei to honour Chief Kuol Adol, than to come together and clearly demonstrate their interest and resolve to the entire world that they will work together with his replacement, Bulabek Deng Kuol. To do this, there needs to be conference in which distinguished leaders at different levels come together to strategise on the future of their area. They must show that they are united behind a common interest. There should be no separate conference and resolutions on Abyei. There must be one, whether in the diaspora, in the South, in Sudan they must come together as one to decide what they want for Abyei and its future generations. Uniting for the common interest and voting unanimously to decide the destiny of Abyei is the only way to realise the objective of the cause for which the chief has died.

It is important that they come together in Sudan to learn how to see things for themselves, as well as listen for themselves and think for themselves. If they do it, then they will eventually come to intelligent decisions for themselves. But if they continue with the habit of going by what they hear Westerners say about their future, or going by what they think about the current leadership in South Sudan and Sudan is telling them, instead of going and searching those things for themselves and seeing it for themselves, they will be walking west when they should be going east, and walking east when they should be going west. They must have an ultimate say in issues which relates to the affairs of the region, as did by the Nuba Mountains. They did not want anybody to tell them what to do.

If they don’t, then they will always be manoeuvered into fighting themselves. It is already clear that someone has planted the seeds of division in the area, which means there is no longer any genuine concern for each other.

They shouldn’t also forget the fact that the area represents one of the most important, if not the most important, fields of battle against all the forms of exploitation existing in the world. There are big possibilities for success for the people of Abyei, but there are also many dangers. The positive aspect includes general hatred for expansionism, racism and discrimination. But there is also the principal danger of the possibility of division among the peoples, which appears to be continually rising. I have concrete reasons for fearing this danger. There are many problems and challenges but the unity could be strength to find solutions. They are perfectly capable of deciding upon their own future. They have capable people, most of them great leaders of the caliber of Dr..Francis Deng, Dr. Luka Biong, Edward Lino, Juac Agok, Deng Alor, Dr. Chol Deng Alaak, Arop Madut Arop, Deng Arop Kuol, just to name a few of the committed personalities. What they need is to exert much more, and break out of the vicious cycle of dependence on others, especially those who see Abyei as a small area of few square kilometres to be compromised for peace between Sudan and South Sudan.

Breaking silence on Abyei

By Beny Gideon Mabor

“I don’t know what’s right and wrong anymore”, he said, tears streaming down his cheeks. “On the one hand, I am warned that you are the tool of oppression against our people, an enemy of the Christians and an agent of the evil. On the other hand, when I am with you, I see a kind and compassionate person whom I cannot believe could be evil man I am warned about. Oh! Uncle Ali, what shall I do? Whom shall I believe?” Cry of the Owl. Francis Mading Deng p.131

May 9, 2013 - I struggled within myself for ages over Abyei contestable identity between the Republic of South Sudan and the Sudan. Historically, I made remarkable recollections and decided to break the silence. It was not a pleasing night on date 5 April 2013 when I wake up at 2:15 am midnight and start to think about endless issue of Abyei. I concluded that Abyei saga exactly fall within the context of the above mentioned quote between Elias Bol Malek, a southerner and captain Ali of northern Sudanese nationality.

Certainly, I must tell you this is current situation of Abyei. The questions then follows: What shall we do now with this conflicting identity of Abyei between South Sudan and Sudan since our political leadership of the two countries fails to reach amicable solution over Abyei? Whom shall we believe as true owners of Abyei in this scenario? What is the fate of innocent lives lost every year in Abyei as a result of boarder conflicts and politically motivated contract killings? The list of questions goes on, but no proper answers ever met them. God knows!

In fact, where is Abyei Area and what is the bond of contention so far? Although the geographical area of Abyei is clearly known to be a territory within the Republic of South Sudan, yet the international community was allowed to fork in their nose and confused the true identity of Abyei which they do not know. The political leadership of the two countries also followed the suit and complicated the matter by describing Abyei in many controversial identities. Some self claimed analysts describe Abyei as Kashmir of Sudan and South Sudan which is not true. This gave Arabs Misseriya and the Khartoum based administration some sense of ownership. However, the issue of Abyei has been wrangling on since 1965 when hostilities first broke out between the Dinka Ngok and Missiriya with massacre of 72 Dinka Ngok in the Misseriya town of Babanusa. The Ngok Dinka then decided to join the Anyanya revolutionary movement to liberate themselves from such brutal killings when the war intensified in the South, against monolithic Arabs in the Sudan including Messiriya.

Unfortunately, during the Addis Ababa peace agreement in 1972, the position of Abyei was disputed, with the Southern rebels asserting that Abyei was part of the South, while the government in Khartoum claimed it to be part of the north just like similar game during CPA 2005 negotiations between SPLM and NCP-led government which is not implemented to date.

The Addis Ababa peace agreement provided self-determination referendum under Article 3 (iii) of the Agreement for the Dinka Ngok to choose whether to remain in the north or to join the south. In the civil service jobs, most intellectuals of Dinka Ngok of Abyei decided to work with the then regional government of Higher Executive Council as a signal of their full attachment to Southern region and to ensure the implementation of Article 3 (iii) of the peace agreement. The same thing is happening today with Dinka Ngok who are occupying key constitutional and civil service jobs in South Sudan at all levels of government in an attempt to alert Khartoum that South Sudan is their ancestral land. But the question is whether all Dinka Ngok are united under common intention as part of South Sudan or does exist different voices who supported being part of Sudan.

Plainly speaking, research show that the Dinka Ngok positions over the status of Abyei ever since remain divided. The Dinka Ngok currently residing in Sudan and even some on the ground in Abyei are seen supporting being part of Sudan. A clear example is an unfortunate killing of Paramount Chief Kuol Deng Kuol popularly known as Kuol Adol dated 4 May, 2013 at around 6:00 PM by Messiriya armed groups. The circumstances surrounding his assassination surely left us speechless whether it is calculated by fifth columnist or not. How can the Misseriya armed groups know the presence of Chief Kuol Adol in the UNISFA vehicles if there is no indoor act of Judas Iscariot, perhaps the contrary shall only be proved by thorough investigation if it is done well.

In a continuation for system attack on community leaders in Abyei, it was awful evening on 17 September, 1970, when a similar attack happened. Paramount Chief Moyak Deng, two of his brothers and three uncles were shot dead by a military squad led personally by the then commanding officer 1st Lt. Mohmed El Basha according to a report published by Abyei Information Centre. In other words, the killing of Chief Kuol Adol is a systematic extermination of key leaders in Abyei to spoil the agenda.

May their Soul rest in peace!

Again at second crucial point in history, the SPLM and NCP-led government voluntarily fails to reach an agreement on Abyei during CPA negotiations in 2005. The Abyei conflict was handled in a historical repetition just like in 1972 when the self-determination referendum was agreed and dishonored by Khartoum government at broad day light. At the weakest point in our history liberations struggle, the parties allowed the Abyei Protocol to be drafted by foreign nationals which was wholly adopted in the negotiation as the basis for the resolution of Abyei conflict presented by the US Special Envoy to Sudan Senator John Danforth on the 19th March, 2004.

With these principles of Agreement on Abyei, Senator Danforth wrongly defines Abyei as a bridge between the north and the south, linking the people of Sudan under Article 1.1.1 of the Abyei Protocol. How can it be a bridge when the land falls deeply within the Republic of South Sudan? Worst enough; it is crystal clear now that with the presence and intervention of international community as a follow up mechanism of the self-determination referendum for the Dinka Ngok, the situation deteriorates. Finally, it is evident that foreign solution will never solve Abyei issue anymore and the government and people of South Sudan must think otherwise.

In conclusion, I am call upon the government of South Sudan and that of Sudan to expedite the process of implementation of Abyei referendum as scheduled by AU High level implementation panel if it may hold water. Second, let the Dinka Ngok community and intellectuals all over the world come back to Abyei Area for community meeting in order to come out with clear agenda on the status of Abyei conflict. This is when the Government and people of South Sudan will support Ngok Dinka after they are united for purpose. Do not allow Dr. Francis Mading said his different version of the resolution of Abyei conflcit in New York, while some claimed elderly Dinka Ngok members in Sudan have another version as well as Dinka Ngok elites in the SPLM-led government in Juba have different version on Abyei conflict resolution. We will never reach an intended destination. Indeed, Abyei problem needs Abyei solution and not foreign attempts under stalemate.

Last but not least, the failure of the government and people of South Sudan without retaining full control of Abyei Area as constitutional obligation will be a litmus test for territorial integrity of South Sudan. Such terrorist related act of extermination of community leaders and groundless claimed by Sudan over Abyei Area are sign of temptation on South Sudan muscle of territorial defense. Otherwise let us stand behind President Salva Kiir, that he will not leave and inch of the Abyei are to Sudan.

Beny Gideon Mabor is an independent commentator on governance and human rights. The author is currently in Nairobi, Kenya and can be reached at

Mr. Nafie Goes to Washington

By Eric Reeves

There has been a good deal of understandable outrage at the decision by the Obama administration to invite to Washington Nafie Ali Nafie, senior advisor to President Omar al-Bashir of the Khartoum regime. Al-Bashir himself could not be invited, of course, because he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, crimes in which Nafie is deeply complicit and for which he bears major responsibility. But al-Bashir’s voice and that of others in the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime will be well represented by Nafie. Indeed, like other members of the regime already indicted by the ICC—including Defense Minister and former Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein—Nafie’s own future lies in The Hague if justice is done. His central role in orchestrating the Darfur genocide is well known, indeed is acknowledged by Nafie himself.

There are other reasons for incomprehension at the Obama administration’s decision to invite Nafie. Such a meeting in Washington is an extraordinary reward to a regime that is guilty of serial genocide: in the Nuba Mountains in the 1990s, in the oil regions along the North/South border from 1998 to 2002, and in Darfur, where vast ethnically-targeted violence broke out in 2003 and continues to this day. We must wonder with Congressman Frank Wolf:

"In a letter to President Barack Obama, Wolf said that he was not opposed to diplomacy but that talks could take place at other locations such as the US embassy in Khartoum. ’With Darfur worsening and continued indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Nuba mountains displacing thousands, why would your administration reward Khartoum with an invitation to Washington?’ Wolf wrote." (Agence France-Presse [Washington], May 1, 2013).

Indeed, the invitation of Nafie is perhaps the most dismaying decision U.S. officials could have made. Among other things, it gives him a leg up in his competition with First Vice President Ali Osman Taha to succeed al-Bashir, who is very ill with throat cancer. Africa Confidential (26 April 2013, Vol. 54 - No. 9) has very recently provided a superb overview of the dynamics of this competition, something that certainly should have figured in the Obama administration’s choice of interlocutors. Moreover, while Nafie may well have the ear of al-Bashir, his own actions and attitudes must make us wonder further about what guided the process of invitation.

Nafie was head of Khartoum’s ruthless security services, for example, when Khartoum orchestrated an assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa (1995); various investigations made clear Nafie’s role, and the Egyptians insisted that he be removed from his position, which he was, though this was only a minor speed-bump in gaining ascendancy within the regime. As head of security he presided over countless arrests, extra-judicial executions…and torture. Some have described his presence during torture sessions as surreally calm—the Los Angeles Times reported on an interview conducted with Nafie in Khartoum (October 2008), in the course of which a torture incident was discussed:

"’[Nafie] was my interrogator,’ said Farouk Mohammed Ibrahim, a former University of Khartoum science professor and government critic who was arrested in 1989 and held in one of Sudan’s notorious, secret ’ghost houses’ for 12 days. ’I was tortured, beaten, flogged in his presence,’ Ibrahim said. ’[Nafie] was administering the whole thing. He did it all in such a cool manner, as if he were sipping a coffee.’ In his characteristic style, Nafie expressed no regrets, saying opposition activists at the time were planning counter-coups and civil war. ’We were there to protect ourselves,’ he said with a shrug. ’Definitely we were not there to play cards with them.’" (Los Angeles Times [Khartoum], October 26, 2008).

More consequentially, if just as brutally, Nafie—more than any other senior NIF/NCP official—has charted the ongoing course of the Darfur genocide following the death of Majzoub al-Khalifa in June 2007. Khalifa had represented Khartoum all too effectively in the Abuja talks that yielded the exceedingly misguided and destructive "Darfur Peace Agreement" (2006). (At the same time it should be noted that over the past two years senior military and security officials within the regime have achieved increasing power, especially in decisions about war and peace.) All this comes against the backdrop of the deep division within the regime between Nafie and Taha.

In short, the Obama administration has provided an extraordinary reward to a regime that craves nothing so much as legitimacy, and to a man who is utterly ruthless and savagely cruel—and who may well trade on this visit in asserting himself as al-Bashir’s successor. For Khartoum’s chief foreign policy goal, certainly in its bilateral relations with Washington, is removal from the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorism-sponsoring nations. And perhaps an additional gift awaits Nafie. But let’s be clear about who will be the bearer of this gift, about the man who is already celebrating having been selected to make such a high-profile trip to Washington. Larry Adre, "the top State Department official on Sudan," is simply being disingenuous in claiming that "we do not view this visit as a reward, but as a continuation of a dialogue on issues of concern to the U.S. government" (Agence France-Presse [Washington, DC], May 1, 2013). And the "dialogue" must "continue" in Washington precisely why, Mr. Adre? And how is not a "reward" when it is so desperately desired by the Khartoum regime?.

Part of the quid pro quo, which we will see only partially, no doubt included the demand that Khartoum negotiate with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N), the rebel movement that is fighting Khartoum’s tyranny in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. And a few days ago talks did begin, only to collapse almost immediately because of Khartoum’s bad faith; but Nafie’s visit remains on track.

Abyei also remains an unresolved flashpoint of renewed conflict, an issue on which we might have expected more cooperation from the regime (accepting the fully endorsed African Union proposal would be a good start); and yet as things stand, major fighting between South Sudan and Khartoum could easily be re-ignited. Notably, it was Nafie who declared for the regime that the Abyei self-determination referendum would not take place as scheduled (January 9, 2911) by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005). Subsequent tensions and Arab militia violence led to Khartoum’s military seizure of Abyei in May 2011, and subsequently to the regime’s assaults on South Kordofan (June 5, 2011) and Blue Nile (September 1, 2011). Fighting continues, and displacement is massive. Hundreds of thousands of people face starvation in the two regions, and yet Nafie and his colleagues have remained adamant for almost two years in obstructing all international humanitarian relief aid to civilians in rebel-controlled areas.

But during Nafie’s time in Washington we may also wish to focus on his record of anti-Semitism, which typically takes the form of anti-Zionism and a railing against the "Jewish lobby" in the United States. This is certainly well known to the Obama administration; indeed, former U.S. charge d’affaires in Khartoum, Alberto Fernandez, spoke bluntly about Nafie in a "wiki-leaked" cable of March 3, 2009:

"Senior Presidential Advisor Nafie Ali Nafie, the hardline NCP Secretary for Political Affairs who holds the Darfur portfolio within the Sudanese Government, accused [SLA leader Abdel Wahid] Al Nur of planting Sudanese in Israel to convert them to Judaism and to effect a normalization of relations between Khartoum and Jerusalem. ’Opening an office in Israel is material proof that the Darfur crisis is manipulated by foreign hands and the Jewish lobby,’ said Nafie." (US embassy cable - 08KHARTOUM340, at

Of course Nafie has much company within the regime; an earlier cable provides a revealing account of the views of Defense Minister Hussein:

"On July 26 the Arabic pro-government Al-Rai’ Al-Aam reprinted an interview with Sudanese Minister of Defense Abdelrahim Hussein in which he claims that 24 Jewish organizations are provoking the conflict in Darfur. In the article, reprinted from an earlier interview from the influential Saudi newspaper Al-Ukaz, Hussein claims ’holocaust groups’ have penetrated tribes in Darfur, carried out a propaganda campaign, and used their political and financial power to influence decision makers." (July 29, 2007, "wikileaked" cable from U.S. embassy in Khartoum, UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001174, at

But it is when he speaks for himself and the regime that Nafie is most revealing:

"’[We have] been monitoring the movements of the forces of evil and aggression represented by American imperialism, world Zionism, and neo-colonialism that are trying to eradicate the cultures of people, plunder their wealth and conquer their will.’" (Sudan Tribune, March 3, 2012).

"Nafie further accused Israel of transporting Darfurian refugees to South Sudan’s military camps for training before to send them to wage war in Darfur against the government troops. ’Jewish and Western circles want to make Darfur a dagger in the heart of the country to hinder its march towards renaissance and progress,’ he said." (Sudan Tribune, May 20, 2012).

"’Zionist institutions inside the United States and elsewhere . . . are exploiting the latest economic decisions to destabilize the security and political situation,’ the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre quoted presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie as saying. Nafie said the government had evidence of collusion between rebel groups in Darfur, politicians in arch-foe South Sudan and Zionist institutions in the United States to sabotage Sudan. He did not present the evidence." (Reuters [Khartoum], July 1, 2012).

"Presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie ruled out the conclusion of a peace agreement with JEM and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid Al-Nur. ’They want that Darfur issue remains unresolved to use it as a means of public action by the opposition coalition or the Zionist lobbies to change the regime,’ Nafie said." (Sudan Tribune, June 4, 2011).

"The Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie on Saturday said that his country is in possession of evidence proving the involvement of external players including Jewish groups and neighbouring South Sudan in attempts to exploit the country’s recent austerity decisions to create domestic instability." (Sudan Tribune, June 30, 2012).

"Nafie also lashed out at the French government and dismissed its proposal to resolve the International Criminal Court row. The French role in supporting the charges against Al-Bashir is a result of the growing Zionist influence in France. ’I see no taste or smell or use from the so-called French initiative,’ [Nafie] said." (Sudan Tribune [Paris], August 17, 2008)

"Dr. Nafie pointed out that the government exerted all efforts to make the secession peaceful, but the SPLM and the Zionist lobby work together to hinder that." (Sudan News Agency [SUNA], August 20, 2011).

And of course there are a great many other examples of similar tenor.

There is no satisfactory answer to the question of why Nafie was invited by the Obama administration, and why now. At the very least the Obama administration should have secured beforehand from Khartoum explicit and detailed commitment to allow the creation of humanitarian corridors into the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, with clear and painful consequences for any reneging on such agreement. Certainly massive displacement and vast suffering will continue until such corridors are secured. Instead, without securing any visible concessions of consequence, the U.S. has invited for discussions a virulently anti-Semitic génocidaire with ties to terrorism (not only did he play a central role in the Mubarak assassination attempt—an act of terrorism—but he cozied up to Osama bin Laden during his years in Khartoum, formative for al-Qaeda).

Those who have held out hope that the U.S. might move beyond the misguided policies of appeasement so consistently promoted by former Obama special envoys Scott Gration and Princeton Lyman must be sorely disappointed.

Eric Reeves is a Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, US. For the last thirteen years working full-time as a Sudan researcher and analyst.

Wad Ibrahim: the mopes of retirement

By Magdi El Gizouli

May 1, 2013 - Two weeks have passed since the release of Brigadier-general Mohamed Ibrahim Abd al-Jalil, better known as Wad Ibrahim, and his associates from detention thanks to a presidential pardon. Around ten days before their release, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) officers were convicted by a military court for attempting to overthrow the regime in November 2012 and sentenced to up to five years imprisonment and expulsion from the SAF. The order issued by President Bashir, apparently the result of a mediation effort led by seniors of the Islamic Movement and relatives of the officers, set the men free and replaced the punishment of expulsion from service with the wholesome retirement package of the SAF officer corps. Wad Ibrahim was received by a crowd of exalted supporters, mostly veterans of the war against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) in the 1990s, when he walked out of prison. The same crowd held a brief protest a day before close to Khartoum University to demand freedom for the coup plot detainees, one that the police incidentally did not notice. The Secretary General of the Islamic Movement, al-Zubeir Ahmed al-Hassan, arrived at the site of the protest to deliver exactly the message the protestors wanted to hear, and next day Wad Ibrahim had his Mandela moment. The media was there to receive him and hundreds of supporters gathered at his house in Jabra, south of Khartoum, freshly painted for the occasion, to rejoice. The order to release the SAF officers was followed this week by a second amnesty for the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) operatives accused of involvement in the coup plot, again after a court handed out prison sentences against the group. Only Salah Gosh, the former NISS chief, remains in jail. The justice ministry formed a special committee of investigation into his case, and unconfirmed reports said he was being questioned on charges regarding illegal accumulation of wealth.

Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani, the crown-dissident of the National Congress Party (NCP), hurried to welcome Wad Ibrahim and his fellows into freedom as did the Popular Congress Party (PCP) war veterans, chief among them al-Naji Abdalla. Wad Ibrahim himself had little to say to the press. The putsch-celebre announced that he will dedicate his future efforts to ‘dawa’, a term that strictly denotes proselytizing Islam but in the wider context of Islamist politics could involve almost any activity that directly or tangentially serves the cause, from starting a neighbourhood supermarket to launching a rebel movement. ‘Reform’, said Wad Ibrahim, is what motivated him and his fellow officers and reform he will continue to pursue. The man answered with the silence of wisdom when asked whether he did actually petition President Bashir for clemency as reported by the SAF spokesman.

Writing in al-Intibaha, al-Tayeb Mustafa asked his nephew President Bashir to demonstrate even greater tolerance and return Wad Ibrahim and his accomplices to active service in the army. “Wad Ibrahim and Fath al-Raheem and the others…are not only military officers but mujahideen who have great influence among the mujahideen of the Popular Defence Forces,” he argued. Mustafa can claim to have a stronger case today considering the embarrassment of the hit and run attack launched by the rebel allies of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) against Um Rwaba in North Kordofan, a humiliating surprise comparable only to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attack on Omdurman and Khartoum on 10 May 2008. Wad Ibrahim and his associates, on the other hand, can claim justification with an added whiff of Schadenfreude considering that their fury was mostly directed at the Minister of Defence Abd al-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, President Bashir’s trusted companion, the man blamed today for the SAF’s mishaps. Islamist urban myth has it that Wad Ibrahim heard of the SPLA takeover of Heglig in April 2012 while recovering from illness in his Jabra home, immediately sprang out of bed in response to the pressing jihad urge, put on his military fatigues, parted with his family in the grace of a warrior, and raced to the SAF headquarters and from there to the field of battle. Wad Ibrahim, officially the deputy commander of the operation, is credited by his sympathizers with the success of the campaign to regain control over the Heglig oil field. Whether true or not, the narrative fits well with the greater accomplishment of his career in the SAF, the lengthy and bloody operations to clear the Western Upper Nile oil fields of their human occupants in the late 1990s sub-contracted largely to Paulino Matip’s militias. Wad Ibrahim was decorated in 2001 for four years distinguished service in the region.

Wad Ibrahim was pictured a few days ago paying his condolences to the bereaved family of a teenager who died in clashes with the police during demonstrations in Um Dom, east of Khartoum North, against the seizure of agricultural land for the benefit of a Saudi investor. I wonder if the souls who perished in Western Upper Nile under his watch crossed his mind as he spoke to his hosts about police accountability. Now a retired army officer, Wad Ibrahim joins a category that features strongly in the annals of primitive accumulation in Sudan’s peripheries. With the lump sum retirement payments in their accounts, the credit forwards of friendly lenders like the SAF-affiliated Omdurman Islamic Bank and their convenient contacts in state institutions, many of the former officers are pushed by boredom and pulled by the promise of easy profit to the adventurous enterprise of land grabbing in Sudan’s conflict zones. Obviously, they also need to make a living and a significant number end up becoming absentee landlords of swathes of rich agricultural land acquired at discount prices paid to a state keen to sell what it only nominally owns in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile, and the southern stretches of Sennar and the White Nile states. The human occupants of these lands, the natives, enter the transaction as squatters to be coerced into surrendering to the will of the proud title holders. Of this art Wad Ibrahim of course is already an accredited master, and I almost forgot, with the self-anointed mandate of a preacher.

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