Sunday 28 November 2010

Gosh, come on..

Salah Gosh
It seems el-Tayeb Mustafa’s relentless efforts to harass so called NCP doves into more stubborn negotiation positions is actually bearing fruit. Mustafa had for the past few weeks maintained a focus on in-house weaklings demanding from his nephew, the President, a change of course, and a reclaim of pre-Naivasha fantasies. Apart from Ali Osman, the main culprit, Mustafa was greatly angered by the ex-spy chief, Salah Gosh, who responded to Mustafa criticisms with statements like ‘they drum for war, but we have never seen them on the battlefield’.
In a bid to restore his tough credentials Gosh, who was addressing a rally in Karima, lashed out at the SPLM with extra venom. According to a report published by the NISS mouthpiece Akhir Lahza on 25 November Gosh claimed that the SPLM is refusing to agree on post-referendum arrangements under American pressure. He added that the US had demanded from the SPLM not to cede Abyei to the North. Going even further Gosh warned that Abyei would remain in the North, be it by referendum, by an alternative arrangement or by war.
Now, for all practical purposes America’s man in Sudan is none other than the speaker, Salah Gosh. But that is beside the point; who in the high echelons of power, in North and South, el-Tayeb Mustafa included, would not be thrilled by American recognition? From the point of view of the NCP, only American favours, lifting of sanctions, debt relief, and a possible Security Council suspension of the ICC arrest warrant against President Bashir, constitute a reasonable price for commitment to the referendum and its outcome, or in other words, a peaceful partition.
Gosh did not miss to toe Mustafa’s line by making the roaming salesman’s argument that secession would free the North from the burden of establishing infrastructure in the South, and is thus actually advantageous and desirable.
What does all this mean? My immediate guess is that the NCP is under extreme American pressure to cede Abyei to the South without a referendum in return for the favours named above; that after all is no secret. My second guess is that Gosh actually approves of the American proposal and is willing to follow through. My third guess is that the President is undecided but ready to consider such a decision depending on the tide in the ruling elite. It’s all in NCPese. 

Wednesday 24 November 2010

NCP to PCP and back

al-Haj Adam Yusif campaigning during the April 2010 elections
At the time of the split in the Islamic Movement that signalled the divorce between Hasan al-Turabi, the sheikh of the movement, and his deputy, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, many observers considered the showdown a tactical division of labour premeditated and not suffered. The parting of ‘brothers’ is today 11 years old. Over time Turabi’s Popular Congress Party (PCP) has continued to bleed its members back or rather forward to Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP). The names are many, Badreldin Taha, Haj Majid Siwar, Mohamed Hassan el-Amin, and many of lesser profile. The latest in the series is al-Haj Adam Yusif, PCP’s candidate for the governorship of South Darfur, and the man accused of plotting an alleged PCP coup in October 2003. Yusif escaped Khartoum’s wrath for an Eritrean exile that ended with a court acquittal in 2005. He remained largely in the shadows since to resurface with the announcement of his defection to the NCP this November. Back in 1999 at the time of the divide in the Islamic Movement Adam quit cabinet membership to join the sheikh. Before that he had tasted rule as governor of South Darfur and of the Northern state. Adam attempted a return to power by the vote in the April elections as candidate for the governor post in South Darfur; however he unsurprisingly lost the bid to the lesser talented NCP candidate, Abdel Hamid Musa Kasha. In an attempt to give his decision some content Adam argued in an interview that he had somehow ‘seen the light’. He flushed down unimpressive rhetoric about the need to save the country from the ills of partition and the dangers of foreign intervention.
Notably the PCP did not seem itched by Adam’s runaway. Turabi’s assistant and close company, Ibrahim el-Sanosi, told the press “if al-Haj Adam will serve Sudan’s cause, it is better than staying in the PCP”. El-Sanosi submissive comment raised suspicions of a clandestine NCP-PCP realignment plot, possible at the expense of vice president Taha.
Such a scenario, although not totally out of the question considering the thrashing Taha regularly receives on al-Intibaha’s pages, feeds from the belief in the extraordinary cunning of Sudan’s Islamists. Cunning well and good, the NCP barons and their fratricidal foes in the PCP enjoy hegemony by fatigue rather than design. al-Haj Adam’s defection is symptomatic of the recycling of rural elites in the centre of power, resembling rather the political rotation of Riek Machar, Lam Akol, and Minni Minawi. In that sense el-Sanosi may actually be saying the truth when he is evading it. Adam may well be a greater advantage inside the NCP than in the ranks of the observant PCP. In the impending rearrangement of political camps in Darfur the PCP is actually better served enjoying links to a figure expected to rise in any post-Doha division of spoils. If you can’t beat them join them Mr Adam!  

Monday 22 November 2010

In NCPese

Voter registration for the awaited referendum is underway in the South and in the North, as usual with the inexhaustible appetite of the SPLM and NCP for squabbles and accusations in the background. Significantly though, the NCP has largely shifted the weight of its public propaganda from unity to a profitable secession. To its local constituency the NCP maintains the high pitch of a hegemonic power intent on saving North Sudan from the predation of Southern belligerents and their foreign allies. Nafie Ali Nafie in his boring hollow aggressiveness brushed off lately any consideration of dual citizenship. Speaking to the inaugural rally of the referendum media campaign in Khartoum on 9 November the NCP vice-chairman stressed unambiguously “come secession, Southerners will have to go to the South and Northerners will have to come to the North”; in NCPese we still have the citizenship status of Southern Sudanese in the North to bargain with. Estimates of the number of Southern Sudanese in Khartoum vary greatly, implying how much political value is vested in them, between a conservative 500 000 in the last census and 1.5 – 2 millions in media reports. Returnees to the South from the North count currently in the tens of thousands, still a small fraction of the total. The future of the remaining majority hinges on NCP/SPLM politicking.
To its international audience the NCP drops the language of the tyrant and adopts the tone of a naughty schoolboy who has learnt his lesson. In his speech before the United Nations Security Council extraordinary meeting on Sudan 16 November the foreign minister, Ali Karti, declared the NCP’s agreement to grant the South self-determination as one of the most daring decisions ever made in the African continent! The foreign minister virtually begged the Council to suspend the ICC arrest warrant against President Bashir. In his own words “the leadership that takes such a decision should be commended and recognised instead of being pressured and unjustly accused”. In the NCP camp el-Tayeb Mustafa will probably thrash Karti for his meek performance.
Ibrahim Ghandoor, the teary eyed unity campaigner, apparently changed lanes from unity at any price to US approved peaceful secession, more or less jumping into the wagon of Taha and Co. I suppose in the hope of growing into a more formidable position than the mediocre posts he perennially occupies, chairman of the government sponsored federation of workers unions and policies secretary of the NCP. Speaking to the London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat he stated “peaceful secession is preferable to war”. Regarding the future of Southern Sudanese in the North Ghandoor fell short of both NCP camps. He neither echoed Nafie’s statist argument nor approved of Taha’s pledge to extend the four freedoms between North and South. However he made sure to distance himself from Kamal Obeid’s ‘not even an injection’ gaffe, from which the chap is yet to recover.  This ambiguity though will earn him too some of el-Tayeb Mustafa’s wrath.
Facing up to el-Tayeb Salah Gosh, the former spy-chief, loaded a public gun at al-Intibaha. Speaking at a NCP sponsored mass wedding of Northerners and Southerners in Omdurman a week or so ago the re-emerging figure cried out “they drum for war but we have never seen them in the battlefields”. I wonder if anybody has seen Salah Gosh in a battlefield. 

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Turabi the effendi

the young Hassan al-Turabi
Speaking on 16 November to the Voice of America Sudan’s veteran Islamist, Hassan al-Turabi, came very close to a mass blame of his fellow Sudanese for the ‘demise of the one Sudan. He said “This is not a country which has known dictatorship in history, but it is a little bit libertarian because it is in a continent where people are mostly rural and free”. Turabi’s statement echoes the hardcore prejudice of colonially reared Sudanese effendiya (singl. effendi), educated professionals and clerks, against the rural stock of the country, albeit in the twisted sense of an anthropological vice, namely libertarian tendencies and resistance to rule as such. Intending to grace democracy Turabi ‘cleverish’ ambiguity can easily count as a defence of central dictatorial rule as a safeguard against peripheral pulls.
Turabi added in scholarly tones that the Sudan’s failure to democratise is another reason for the country unravelling. He pointed out that the three military coups, 1958, 1969, 1989, have led to concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the central government which thus encouraged rebellions throughout Sudan, particularly in the South. For the sake of it, the same Turabi was a loyal bedfellow to the master of the second coup, Jaafar Numayri, and is the deposed sheikh of the third, Bashir’s 30th June 1989 coup.
To his credit Turabi, compared to many of his fellow effendiya, was able to see into the dialectics of Sudan’s colonial making. In a certain sense his Islamic Movement is inspired by the will for ‘de-colonisation’ and nourishes from its popular appeal. However his quest for a home-grown Sudan was a negation of the negation reverting back to a politically designed version of ‘Mohammedan Law’ extended to criminal offences and civil procedures, and to a fiasco decentralisation modelled after the British ‘indirect rule’ policy, whereby administrative borders reflect re-inscribed tribal spaces.
Sudan’s failure to democratise, in Turabi’s words, is but the name for the effendiya’s will to power, a colonially spoiled petit bourgeoisie that lived off the state. As the sole employer by and large of their professional services, and the guarantor of their wellbeing and privileges, Sudan’s effendiya class, military officers included, viewed themselves as the sole righteous heirs of the colonial master’s state. To them democratisation could only mean reversion to the ‘indigenous’ chaos of rural existence, to backwardness and stagnation.
In his supposed awakening to ‘democratic’ values Turabi cannot but preserve the patriarchal tones of the One who knows better. Already beyond his political peak he is trotting back to the effendiya old boys club that he had always feverishly discredited. Paradoxically, Bashir will probably count as ‘New Sudan’; he however is stubbornly ‘Old’. 

Monday 15 November 2010

Partition glows

Today voter registration for the decisive and long awaited self-determination plebiscite on the future of Southern Sudan started in North and South. Turnout in Khartoum was reportedly low compared to the joyous turnout in Southern Sudan. It is time to congratulate Sudan on reaching so far. Looking back at the bloody trail of Sudan’s civil war and the terrible tumults of NCP-SPLM relations it is an impossibility that the referendum actually takes off. Today is its initial concrete step, voters’ registration.
President Kiir was the first Southern Sudanese citizen to register. Instead of a celebratory statement Kiir asked the international community to keep a close eye on the situation, and point out the party who may seek to impede the process. The President’s statement discloses how much ‘existential’ worry surrounds the event despite the framework agreement on pending issues between NCP and SPLM announced yesterday by Thabo Mbeki in Khartoum. Abyei, ever postponed, is to be shifted to the Presidency to decide upon. Mbeki added that a meeting joining the Presidency (Bashir, Kiir and Taha) with the African Union Panel is to take place on the return of Bashir from the Hajj.
Shafie Khidir, SCP
A few days ago SPLM Luka Biong speaking in Vienna described Bashir as the most courageous Sudanese leader for agreeing to grant Southern Sudan the right of self-determination. On that note it is important yet again to point out where Bashir is coming from. Paradoxically it is Bashir, the jihadist, who somersaulted to bow down to South Sudan’s probable secession, snatching away the Sudanese Left’s dedicated pledge to its SPLM allies. History however has its strange ways. 
En route to the Asmara Declaration of 1995 the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) made strenuous efforts to convince the Northern parties in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to agree to the SPLM’s demand of self-determination for Southern Sudan. Through its representatives, Shafie Khidir and Tijani Tayeb, the SCP effectively glued together the NDA strangers, albeit temporarily. Today just a left-over trademark of Sudan’s political marketplace the NDA once joined the SPLM/A, Sudan’s sectarian parties, the Sudanese leftist spectrum, the rebellious Beja Congress and Free Lions Movement of Eastern Sudan, as well as the deposed army leadership and heads of the banned trade unions movement.
Tijani Tayeb, SCP
Probably the NDA is as close the SCP ever got to its vision of a ‘national democratic front’, although it was not its appreciated vanguard. In effect the demise of the NDA is partially due to the fact that it lacked a vanguard, and was by all means an arrangement of convenience. Each partner gnawed away at the added value that makes a whole greater than the sum of its components. One by one the co-travellers departed the train without even a mannered good bye. The SCP and many in the SPLM held high the prospect of unity on a new basis, a basis they failed to establish, neither by the gun nor by negotiation. The compromise of the CPA watered down to partition, democratic transformation hehehe. Today they are invited to see the virtues of a possibly peaceful partition despite its ill, and imagine the opportunity to come, not just in realpolitik but in the terrain of the impossible. Once upon a time, self-determination for the South was an effective ‘impossible’ wasn’t it?

Saturday 13 November 2010

Abyei referendum fudge

Now it’s official. The US State Department spokesperson Crowley last Tuesday speaking fully in CPAese, the if and whether language of the Sudanese ruling partners, made the following statement: “while it is theoretically possible that the referendum could still go on schedule regarding Abyei, we recognize that that is increasingly problematic. Given that there is no agreement between North and South on the details of that referendum, if they are able to arrive at a different course of action; that is up to them. But it has to be a mutually agreeable alternative.” As far as public statements go the two sides have not yet arrived at a workable alternative for the Abyei referendum. The probability is that each side is waiting to tire the other out into concessions under the deadline pressure of the 9th January vote. In essence the same approach that led the two to accept in blind Danforth’s Abyei package in the first place during the negotiations marathon of CPA-I.
This is the second time that Abyei has been promised a referendum and eventually denied it for the greater good of making peace. The Abel Aler-Joseph Lago Addis Ababa accord of 1972 that ended Sudan’s first civil war (1962-1972) likewise featured an Abyei referendum that was eventually killed by neglect. Addis Ababa granted the South semi-autonomous rule and a regional government, and Abyei remained an exception that proved the rule of Juba’s vulnerability governed by extraordinary presidential dictate. In the geometric logic of the CPA the most likely fate for Abyei now is partition into a Northern and a Southern zone. Abyei’s inhabitants, Misseriya and Dinka Ngok, will both find fault with a border negotiated on their behalf, or rather with the concept of a state border superimposed on their livelihood space wherever its exact location.
The Abyei exception this time is evidence of the reactionary sin at the heart of the CPA’s progressive self-determination pledge, namely its citizenship deficit. The new Sudans’ refashioned inhabitants in North and South qualify as citizens by virtue of their race, something the evil old Sudan did not admittedly embrace in law. Across the history of this geography Sudanization involved continuous population flows along the South-North and the West-East axes generating a plethora of ethnic labels as markers of hybridity. To be a North Sudanese or a South Sudanese fails the ‘Sudan’ in the equation. Abyei’s dilemma is that it remains stubbornly Sudanese yet to succumb to the geometry of partition. 

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Bashir, are you ok?

Judging by the gravity of issues facing his presidency the man on the top has steered further up keeping a grandeur distance from the hustle and bustle of foreign visitors and SPLM/NCP irks. I wonder what is cooking on his cloud. Even the calls of his uncle, al-Tayeb Mustafa, to stamp down on his party’s toying with the Americans have passed, at least till now, without avail.
The President has satisfied himself with the popularised pursuit of ‘unity’ from a supposedly ‘national’ pulpit that now features old allies and failed adversaries, Siwar al-Dahab, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani and Bona Malwal.  It is hard to imagine that a council of elders distant from decision making processes and submerged in reminiscence can pull plugs anymore. I am sure though that the ‘old boys’ are cracking good jokes.
On his return from Doha a few days ago Turabi denied that he had met the President, who by fair chance was on a two day trip to the Qatari capital himself. According to al-Jazeera the Qatari head of state had a plan to bring the former bedfellows together. If security behaviour in Khartoum is anything to judge by a far-fetched guess that the two actually met is permissible. Security forces released Popular Congress Party detainees in the same period of time. Turabi suggested to reporters in Khartoum that anything short of a Naivasha-style deal will not bring peace to Darfur. He added a flash statement about the impending demise of the current parliamentary arrangement by popular uprising. In the twisted logic of Mr Turabi the above could mean anything between a palace coup and a military attack on Khartoum.
Fantasies aside the President’s low profile justifies at least a question mark. Apart from the Qatar trip Bashir was virtually absent from the political radar over the past few weeks. He met with the mining minister on 03.11, received a verbal invitation from Qadafi to visit Libya on 04.11 and addressed a conference on mother and child health on 08.11. Without a sincere effort it would be difficult even for a committed newspaper reader to spot his name on a first page. As befit a head of state the President is decidedly aloof. He is keeping a safe distance from the peri-referendum turbulence lest it smear his more and more patriarchal figure. Bashir I suppose is intent on surviving the looming transition to the post-Naivasha Sudans by virtue of his absence.
In the mean time Taha and his clique are left to clear their Naivasha mess in a fashion that satisfies his Excellency. Otherwise I suppose a Ramadan replay is in the skies. For NCP observers the Shura Council is scheduled to convene on 2 December.    

Saturday 6 November 2010

NCP rumblings

Over its period of post-Turabi rule the NCP has gone to great ends to present the image of a unified bulwark, monolithic and disciplined. At certain junctures nevertheless the party’s inner rumblings were loud enough to hear, notably in the immediate post-Naivasha period, when high profile figures like Ghazi Salah Eldin, the NCP man who’s signature marks the Machakos protocol, was effectively sidelined to return later at the less ambitious helm of the NCP parliamentary caucus, and again in the aftermath of the ICC ruling against Bashir, when many lost their nerve.
Today while the NCP oversees Sudan’s partition it is tested to survive its own legacy. Commentary has largely focused on the capacity of the South to rule itself independently, a matter it has effectively been exercising over the interim period, while little attention has been paid to the political consequences of partition in the North, foremost within the NCP. The opposition, incapacitated into virtual silence has largely been satisfied with an investment in blame, particularly that the SPLM’s New Sudan unity seems today like another lost political bargain to the fury of SPLM-North cadre, some of which are playing with the idea of forming an alternative political platform under the name of the ‘party of the marginalised’.
Ali Osman Taha, Sudan's vice president
In an editorial published last Thursday al-Intibaha chief launched a Soviet style frontal attack against a leading figure he preferred not to name but fervently disqualified as the ‘dove’ of the NCP who has virtually conspired with the Americans to isolate the President in the President’s own abode. Apparently angered by the unnamed leader’s subservience to American demands and conditions Mustafa went on to blame the same figure for the Naivasha “predicament”. Notably, Mustafa identified the anti-Turabi split in the NCP as the “beginning of the catastrophe that currently devours al-Ingaz (NIF/NCP regime)”, a split he said that pitted the Islamists against each other and was orchestrated by the same figure now in charge and his clique. Concluding Mustafa addressed the President to correct the course of affairs and suggested expulsion of the American envoy, Scott Gration, in response to the US decision to renew sanctions.
Any beginner in Sudanese current affairs would easily identify Mustafa’s target. The Naivasha man was never a welcome face on al-Intibaha’s pages. Now it seems his authority is being directly challenged in-house. In Mustafa’s depiction the NCP is to no surprise split between doves and hawks, the line of differentiation apparently being the position towards the US and its Sudan machinations. In his fantasy of a re-invigorated Ingaz Mustafa is flirting with the pre-1999 Turabi to save the day. I reckon though in telecommunication jargon the number he wants to calls is out of service. One number still in service however is SAF! In plain language, Mustafa is signing in to a repeat Ingaz coup. 

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Outreach Mr Dousa

Mohamed Bushara Dousa, Sudanese justice minister

Over the past three weeks the ‘new’ justice minister, Mohamed Bushara Dousa, has initiated an overhaul of judicial structures that is yet to find registry in public opinion. The minister started with the entry points to the justice system and decided to cancel all prosecution fees, a matter of great significance to those who prefer a micro-approach to human affairs. His second major move was towards Darfur, probably in the context of the government’s announced and much celebrated new Darfur policy, more in the line of stabilisation post-pacification. At a stroke the minister sent the unimpressive Darfur crimes prosecutor, Mr Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed, home and appointed a team led by his undersecretary, Abdel Dayem Zumrawi, to lead the ever-delayed investigations into the Darfur terror. Crossing back to his ministry he then appointed a new prosecutor general and advocate general in a bid to shake up the two departments. The minister then announced commencement of investigations into the Tabra and Taweela cases and visited Darfur on the heels of the interior and defence ministers to oversee the re-establishment of courts committed to the investigation of Darfur crimes in the three capitals of the region.
Of gravity though are the minister’s parliamentary statements against impunity, and his declared intention to review the blanket immunities state officials down to local popular committees currently enjoy. Taking such a line the minister is positioning himself not only against the military and intelligence establishments, protected from prosecution by even wider immunities, but also against the state bureaucracy and its servants. If we take the minister by his word he is on a quixotic course no doubt. Cognisant probably of the threats ahead he pleaded his case by quoting Bashir’s media commitment to justice to Darfur.
Judging by the government’s flurry to declare Darfur settled and done with it is not far fetched to assume that the wheels of the minister’s justice are speeding to keep up with Ghazi Salah Eldin’s fast car heading for a peace agreement by the end of the year. Be that true the minister will need at least one high profile case to demonstrate achievement within the coming two months or so, probably Tabra, less politically charged than a crashing and scary judicial engagement with the reign of terror 2003-2009. The ICC mute but alive the government is hard pressed to follow through with the general recommendations of AU High Panel report on Darfur, at least to secure the good faith of an organisation that allows them breathing space, not to speak of the US Damocles sward asking for Darfur deliveries.
Now, external pressures are identifiable but what seriously threatens the minister’s promising words are the smaller streams of power in the region itself, the bizarre fiefdoms of state governors, security chiefs, military intelligence officers, police chiefs and tribal lords in the hubs of Darfur. In the words of a Chinese vice-minister for education deploring the virtual independence of such conglomerations “the central government’s control does not extend beyond the walls of Zhongnanhai (the central leadership compound in Beijing); people below just don’t listen”. May the minister test how far he can reach.  
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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.