Today sees the end of the two days round of discussions/negotiations between the CPA partners, SPLM and NCP, on post-referendum issues, dubbed by observers as the ‘secession talks’. This round held in Cairo in the premises of the Egyptian spy agency and mediated by Egypt’s spy chief, Omer Suleiman, follows on the trail of talks that started in the Ethiopian town Mekele end of June. The partners signed a memorandum of understanding in Mekele delineating modalities and structures of future talks. GoSS has the Vice President, Riek Machar, on top of the issue; he heads the GoSS Referendum Task Force. It is not immediately clear what NCP structure is concerned with the referendum? I lately learnt from Khartoum papers that Awad al-Jaz, constant cabinet member, heads an NCP commission dedicated to Southern Sudan. While Nafie Ali Nafie and Pagan Amum were talking in Cairo the intensity of their discussions was reflected, if not camouflaged, by a series of statements from leading NCP figures, not necessarily of the same clay.
Speaking to an NCP Youth function in Khartoum last Saturday the Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha launched a rather ‘intellectualised’ attack on the notion of secession, describing what he called secessionist ideology as introverted and narrow. His fellows, Awad al-Jaz and Salah Gosh, were not particularly discrete. The first stated that the secession of Southern Sudan will not be allowed whatever the costs are, and the second that the Abyei ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration was neither just nor satisfactory. Judging by their current ‘seats’ and the audience they were talking to both men, al-Jaz and Gosh, can afford fiery language. Apparently the NCP is also adamant about completion of border demarcation before conduction of the referendum, a condition that may imply delay of the referendum, anathema to GoSS and the SPLM.
According to press sources the SPLM delegation in Cairo re-surfaced the idea of demanding abolition of Shari’a as a prerequisite for a united Sudan, more or less a pre-Machakos state of affairs, with the pivotal difference that SAF and SPLA are at rest. What does this demand mean today though? The role of Shari’a in the state-project of the Islamic Movement today is more a fetish than an all enveloping dogma, a factor that makes a publically announced departure from commitment to Shari’a ever more problematic. On the other hand, it is questionable if abolition of Shari’a, from which South Sudan is excluded anyway, would swing Southern opinion, or SPLM/A opinion, to unity. I guess, Shari’a here is either a smokescreen or the feature of a price hike.
In explaining the daily rants of SPLM and NCP officials two considerations are relevant, first the audience addressed, and second the state of affairs in issues were statements are scarce. What is on first glance ‘doublespeak’ is probably the language of the ‘political marketplace’ à la Alex de Waal.