The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in the person of its former chief and current security affairs advisor to President Bashir, Salah Gosh, acting in the capacity of the recently conjured up security advisory of the Presidency, disclosed on 16 February a ‘national dialogue’ proposal to address the constitutional and political arrangements in the rump North post-secession. Gosh made the proposal public in a meeting with senior media figures in Khartoum. The secretary general of the presidential security advisory, Hassaballa Omer, added that a secretariat composed of two members each from the Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and one member each from a plethora of smaller political parties, will be charged with steering the process. Omer expected the participation of 1500 delegates in the proposed forum including representatives of academia, civil society, and prominent national figures.
While Turabi’s Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the Communist Party immediately rejected the proposal as another NCP bluff with no substance the Umma Party preserved its right to silence. The rift between the PCP and the Umma in the umbrella opposition alliance, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), thus widened further. On 17 February the PCP’s Kamal Omer told the press that the Umma’s ‘national agenda’ does not reflect the position of the NCF which remains committed to the demand of a ‘transitional government’ that replaces the ruling NCP regime.
The conflation of state security and politics in itself I suppose is very telling. Out of all the structures and figures associated with the office of the President it is the security advisory headed by Salah Gosh that shoulders the responsibility of pursuing Bashir’s politics. The President himself toughened his stance towards the opposition after a fortnight of relatively appeasing statements. On 16 February he ruled out the possibility of a ‘transitional government’ insisting that participation in his promised broad-based cabinet is open only to those who accept the declared NCP programme, i.e. those who neither challenge his authority nor question the state of affairs in the armed forces, his exclusive domain of influence. In that period the NISS sifted with the tool of torture through the minds of the 30 January detainees in order to submit to his Excellency a qualified estimate of what the opposition might and might not be able to do. The outcome of that exercise is the proposal forwarded by Gosh, a ‘national dialogue’ within the limits of safety and its complement, Bashir’s 16 February challenge to the opposition to take to the streets if it had any support. Through Bashir’s looking glass politics equate with threats and the measures needed to address them. In that sense, the choice between brute force and talks does not signal a change of perspective as much as a change in instrument in the administration of power.