|Nafie (L) and Gosh (R)|
The two strongmen of the Khartoum regime, Nafie Ali Nafie and Salah Gosh, provided political spectators in Khartoum this past week with quite amusing material for the generation of conspiracy scenarios. Speaking on state radio on 22 April Nafie, the deputy chairman of the National Congress Party (NCP), belittled the Strategic National Dialogue (SND) championed by the presidential security advisory headed by Salah Gosh, the former chief of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Nafie stated that the political parties had rightfully refrained from participation in the SND since they recognized that it did not entail direct talks with the NCP proper, presumably where real power lies. Identifying what is at stake, he declared, whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the opposition, be it under the helm of the SND or the tracks led by himself with the Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the NCP will not become “a mere partner among others in a broad-based , lean, or national government”. In the same gusto Nafie announced, contrary to earlier proclamations by harmless NCP figures like Rabie Abdel Ati, and more toothed ones like Mandoor al-Mahdi, that President Bashir may well run for another term in office at the discretion of the NCP. In response, Gosh held a conference on 23 April where he more or less swore that the SND had the support of both President Bashir and Vice President Taha, the latter namely had lately refrained from making any public comments regarding the course of negotiations with the opposition, particularly the ‘promising’ talks with the Umma Party. In Taha’s case, a sign that he is not particularly pleased or even sidelined.
Nafie’s message is possibly directed to both Vice President Taha and President Bashir, but the content is the same, the party will not be easily sidelined. To Taha, believed to be Salah Gosh’s patron and the actual driving force behind the SND, the detail is that the organizational machine that ‘secured’ the elections will not be sacrificed in any post-Naivasha re-division of the spoils. To Bashir, on the other hand, the warning is implicit but nevertheless audible, namely the party can break you if you decide to play ‘national’ figurehead and invite the rabble of the opposition to a government where the dominance of the NCP is compromised. Nafie’s preference I guess is to see the Umma Party jump in bed with the NCP at the expense of Taha, and as a replacement for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) if you like. If a heavy weight like the Umma Party chief, Sadiq al-Mahdi, does join the government his natural place according to the NCP’s cohabitation tradition would possibly be formally second to President Bashir. To Taha such a prospect must have an element of déjà-vu to it. In the CPA world, coming to an end now, he had to vacate his post to accommodate the Chairman of the SPLM. To Taha’s misfortune, Chairman Garang did not survive into the CPA and Taha's vision of a SPLM-NCP partnership where he, the peace maker with international acclaim, would play the prominent role was smashed to smithereens by a Bashir counter-coup as it were. The President allowed virtually none of the Taha negotiation team into the cabinet. Instead they were more or less sentenced to argue their political survival in the commissions of the CPA, and attempt to salvage some of what they had surrendered in Naivasha from equally determined SPLM negotiators. During the course of the interim period all including Taha were implicitly ridiculed by al-Intibaha as faint-hearted ‘boys’ if not traitors of the Ingaz project. Nafie on the other hand was consistently celebrated as Richard the Lionheart of the NCP.
Notably, even Hassan el-Turabi, the undead ghost of the Islamic Movement, was reintroduced into the calculations of the current feud. While Nafie openly approved of his continued incarceration, stating that the decision on whether and when to release him is in the hands of the responsible security organs, the Gosh sympathizers, possibly protégés of Vice President Taha, cautiously expressed their unease with the treatment afforded to the 79 years old sheikh of the Islamic Movement. More openly, the NCP organization in Khartoum state reportedly submitted a memorandum to the NCP’s Leadership Council on 20 April demanding the release of the aging chief of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) or otherwise his trial in a court of law, a memorandum that Nafie denied altogether. The move was left to Abdalla Sheikh Idris, a former member of the PCP who switched to the NCP some time ago and survives in an embarrassingly junior post as head of an NCP neighbourhood branch in Omdurman. The rediscovered sympathy for Turabi builds on a local initiative in River Nile state to reunite the two wings of the Movement. Probably, the calculus is to disturb the possibility of a Bashir-Sadiq rapprochement with the counterweight of the historic Islamic Movement, Turabi included.