Friday, 6 May 2011

Turabi: politics to the grave


True to Sudanese custom and elite camaraderie the Secretary of the Communist Party, Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, was amongst those who paid Hassan el-Turabi (79) a visit following his release from imprisonment on 2 May. Reportedly, Nugud asked Turabi with an outstretched hand “Why did they release you early this time”? Nugud I suppose was voicing the public suspicion that behind Turabi’s release lurks the (im)probable rapprochement between his Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the two fratricidal wings of the Sudanese Islamic Movement. Local initiatives to that end recently surfaced in River Nile state, where hundreds of party members from both camps reportedly met on more than one occasion and even drafted a joint statement calling upon the leaderships of the two parties to overcome their differences and join forces once again, a necessity they claimed considering the challenges facing the country post-secession. The initiative moved to Khartoum where it was picked up by relatively junior NCP politicians of PCP extraction. At the ‘social level’ as described by Khartoum’s press, Ghazi Salah Eldin, the NCP figurehead responsible for the Darfur portfolio and the speaker of the party’s bloc in the national assembly, flanked by Sabir Mohamed el-Hassan, the ex-governor of the Central Bank of Sudan, and Ibrahim Ghandoor, the secretary for political affairs, paid Turabi a visit upon his release. Ghandoor at least was very vocal in demanding Turabi’s release shortly before it took place, probably on the knowledge that a decision to free the aging sheikh had already been reached.
Naturally, the Khartoum press flocked to Turabi to probe the intentions of the Islamist master. In all of his interviews Turabi simply let his temper out. He seemed frustrated and angry, not the cunning strategist he once was. In one interview he even drifted into colloquial Sudanese Arabic surrendering the modern standard Arabic that he usually insists on, and helped to popularize. Turabi invoked the Quran once and again to blame the Sudanese for not doing away with President Bashir’s regime arguing in the line of ‘the government they deserve’. He blasted his brother in law, Sadiq al-Mahdi, for zigzagging between opposition and appeasement with the NCP. Of course, the Umma chief also paid a courtesy visit to Turabi, and notably to Salah Gosh, the recently dismissed security advisor to President Bashir. Towards Gosh, Turabi had only Schadenfreude to show. He claimed in the fashion of an all knowing headmaster that the former security chief had too high aspirations, way beyond his means.
On the eve of the 30 June 1989 coup Turabi reportedly asked Omer el-Bashir to go the palace as President while he, the designer of the plot, goes to prison an inmate. Turabi’s brief imprisonment together with Khartoum’s politicians was intended then to hide the political identity of the coup. The trick worked briefly, the Egyptian government announced its support for the military takeover, and thereby ensured regional recognition for the new government. Even the Americans expressed their cautious welcome; an analyst from the Heritage Foundation demanded from President Bush the resumption of assistance to Sudan. Michael Johns concluded his analysis with the statement “The Bush administration can best serve US interest in the Horn of Africa by offering the new Sudanese government support, while also giving it the hard advice it will need to bring democracy and economic relief to a country that sorely needs it”. During the events of 1998-1999, when Turabi was forced into opposition, this episode was quoted repeatedly to support the claim that the split in the Islamic Movement was yet another bluff engineered by the conniver of old. The myth surrounding the man continues to survive, and today many believe that he, singlehandedly, is in a position to plot himself back into power between the quarrelsome camps of the NCP.
One journalist asked him whether he intends to retire from politics anytime soon considering his age and his legacy. Turabi, surprised and annoyed, replied “not till I die”. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

Turabi out of jail

Hassan al-Turabi, the veteran leader of the Sudanese Islamic Movement and the chief of the opposition Popular Congress Party, has been released this evening after three months of imprisonment.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Darfur’s mini-CPA

el-Tijani el-Sissi

Today, the Khartoum newspaper al-Sahafa published the text of the draft peace agreement tabled by the Doha mediation team on 27 April to the negotiation delegations of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and the Government of Sudan (GoS) for final approval by 7 May. Tajeldin Bashir Niam, the LJM’s lead negotiator, spoke approvingly of the draft agreement stating that it “reflected the spirit of the talks”. He pointed out to the arrangement of appointing a Darfur vice president as the major achievement of the proposed deal. Signalling the ‘good will’ of the GoS, Amin Hassan Omer, the government’s chief negotiator in Doha declared that Khartoum is ready to consider delaying the proposed referendum on the administrative status of Darfur until a permanent constitution for the country is agreed upon, a pledge that corresponds to earlier statements by Ghazi Salah Eldin, who declared on 4 April that only an agreement in Doha could suspend the government’s decision to proceed with the Darfur referendum as stipulated in the Abuja Darfur Peace Agreement of 2006.  
Under the title power sharing Darfur shall be represented at the national level according to its population density, with due consideration to the principle of positive discrimination. According to these terms the region shall be granted representation in the Presidency with a Vice President, who comes third in the formal hierarchy of power after the First Vice President and the President, in addition to a Senior Assistant to the President and a number of presidential advisers. The Darfur Vice President shall by virtue of his office be a member of the Council of Ministers and the National Security Council, and shall assume the responsibilities of the head of state in the absence of the President and his first deputy. Contrary to the Naivasha power sharing arrangements between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) no mention is made of decision making mechanisms in the Presidency. It is also not stated who will nominate the Darfur Vice President, the Darfur movements or the President, I presume the latter, since Khartoum had previously refused the claim to a vice president post that it did not control. Rumours are loud in Khartoum that President Bashir intends to name al-Haj Adam Yusif, the leading Popular Congress Party (PCP) figure who lately shifted from the Turabi camp to the NCP, as his Darfur deputy. Yusif hails from the Arab Beni Halba in South Darfur.
At the ministerial level the draft agreement stated that the five federal ministers and the four ministers of state from Darfur who are currently in the cabinet shall continue to exercise their duties while the Darfur movements shall nominate an additional two federal ministers and four ministers of state with the commitment to maintain this ratio of representation for Darfur in any coming cabinet reshuffle. In the national legislature, Darfur shall retain its current share, 96 seats from a total of 354, until the coming national elections. In the mean time, the Darfur movements shall occupy the vacant seats in the national legislature according to Darfur’s population share in the post-secession constellation of North Sudan.
The draft agreement also provides for a Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), a structure that shall coordinate the implementation of the proposed peace agreement and the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the post-conflict phase. An executive chairman from the Darfur movements shall preside over the regional authority with the governors of the three Darfur states as his deputies.  The executive body of the DRA shall be composed of 21 members, the chairman, his deputy, the governors of the three Darfur states, the presidential assistant for regional affairs, 10 local ministers, and the five chairmen of the associated commissions. The local ministers of the DRA shall all enjoy the status of ministers of state. In addition to this executive body the DRA shall have a 66 member council with the authority of legislation and monitoring without prejudice to the authorities of the governments and legislative assemblies of the three Darfur states.
The draft agreement provides for a 300 million USD compensation fund for the internally displaced and refugees of the conflict to be managed by the DRA. A sum of 250 USD is tagged to each affected family in a wider ‘return’ package.
While a detailed account of the draft agreement is beyond the scope of this note it is important at least to point to one major loser in North Sudan in case the bid does actually materialize, Sadiq al-Mahdi and his Umma Party. In his negotiations with the NCP al-Mahdi had attempted to play the Darfur card championing the cause of the one Darfur region. The LJM’s chairman el-Tijani el-Sissi, was once Sadiq’s man in Darfur, and his probably rise to power in the region will possibly devaluate the price of a deal with the Umma Party or even make such a deal totally redundant in the calculations of the NCP. The proposed Darfur agreement, albeit embarrassingly inferior to the CPA, may possibly allow the NCP once again to bypass its Khartoum contenders, the political parties of old, for the ‘real thing’ of the ‘peripheries’.  
Creative Commons Licence
This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.