Friday, 1 October 2010

Drop the bluff

Mustafa Osman Ismail, the presidential advisor and former foreign minister, called on Sudan’s youth and students to prepare for a coming war in the case South Sudan does secede early next year. He also lashed out at the ‘West’ accusing it of injustice and aggression. The normally dovish NCP foreign affairs official was quoted by Akhir Lahza, an NISS associated Khartoum paper, but his fiery remarks found considerable attention on the radars of Sudan observers. 
Well, with the failure of NCP’s counter-insurgency jihad in mind, a drama well described in al-Mahboub Abd al-Salam’s book on the first 10 years of the Islamic Movement’s rule, I suppose Mr Ismail is stretching his words way beyond what his government and its sympathisers can afford, in military terms, as well as in internal political and international terms. 
Mr Ismail I guess is simply freaking out, and understandably so. The Sudanese pound – US dollar exchange rate reached 3.10 last week in Khartoum’s black market. The government, caught off guard, swiftly announced a range of increases in taxes and duties to curb imports and thus save foreign currency. Travellers leaving Sudan are currently allowed a maximum of 2000 Euros, and only on presentation of supporting documents. Internally the NCP is certainly not in immediate danger, but it is surely challenged. Come secession Khartoum’s sharp tongued politicians and activists will surely rub the event in to exhaustion. True or false, the NCP will shoulder the blame of the North-South divorce unassisted. 
To the disappointment of the NCP public opinion in North Sudan has not swallowed the ‘virtues’ of secession as the price for a homogenous Northern state left unmolested. Incapable of curbing the secession drift of the SPLM/A in favour of a hasty re-division of spoils, and equally incapable of effectively manoeuvring beyond the SPLM/A or within it, the NCP is hard pressed to push the blame on the Western table, and claim the ‘nationalist’ highlands. Now, this may have sold well 20 years ago, but at a time when the same NCP is bargaining investment arrangements with UK firms, and demanding cancellation of Sudan’s debts as the price for a smooth secession, apart from openly admitting intelligence cooperation with the ‘satanic’ CIA, I wonder if it is not just too cynical to catch on. 
That said, the scare scenario NCP officials are now nourishing, considering the series of controversial war-mongering statements made by Haj Majid Siwar, the sports minister, Kamal Obeid, the information minister, Ali Karti, the foreign affairs minister, and now Mustafa Osman Ismail, the presidential advisor, is the announcement of a price hike in NCP cooperation precipitated by the not so promising outcome of Ali Osman Mohamed Taha’s New York engagements. The NCP is not out to get the SPLM/A and prevent secession, it cannot afford that. It’s out to get the price it deems appropriate for facilitating secession, before it is too late.

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.