Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Transitional threats

Speaking to al-Arabiya TV on Monday Yasir Arman, the SPLM deputy secretary general for the Northern sector, more or less threatened to go to war in case the NCP prevents the SPLM’s Northern branch from political activity in the North following secession. Arman made it clear that ex-combatants from the SPLA in the North are greater in number than all the Darfur rebels combined. In a press conference on 22 December in Khartoum the leaders of the Northern sector, Arman, Malik Agar from Southern Blue Nile, and Abdelaziz al-Hilu from the Nuba Mountains, lashed out against Bashir’s Gedaref pledge to institute an Islamic constitution in the North following secession. The three made it clear that the SPLM’s Northern sector would not go away, a reconfirmation of Arman’s announcement earlier in the month that the sector would re-organise as an independent organisation in the North. The NCP however was not particularly thrilled. Under pressure from its right flank, namely the Intibaha bloc and further extreme Islamic groups, to effectively purge the SPLM, the party’s political communication commissar, Ibrahim Ghandoor, argued a day before Arman’s war threat that whatever applied to the Southern SPLA would also apply to Northern SPLA forces, i.e. forces under the command of Abdelaziz al-Hilu in the Nuba Mountains, and Malik Agar in the Southern Blue Nile, namely withdrawal south of the 1956 border.
The Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile, together with Abyei, go by the name of ‘the transitional areas’ in CPAese. Abyei was supposed to decide its destiny, North or South, via a referendum, a hasty arrangement that has now been replaced by the prospect of a last minute political deal yet to be achieved.
The two other areas were granted the compromise solution of ‘popular consultation’ as a means to decide on their relationship with the central government. In the press conference on 22 December Malik Agar surfaced the idea that the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile may demand to join the South. He said it was unlikely but stressed it might be an option for Christians in the future. The three leaders of the SPLM Northern sector explicitly stated that they perceive the two areas as an extension of the ‘Southern Question’ which in the current context translates into candidates for partition. Although such an outcome is possible the new rules of the game post-secession imply that the aspiring politicians of the Northern sector will have to dodge their way into viability through the meshwork of Khartoum-Juba arrangements. A Juba just turned independent is unlikely to embrace secessionist anger in the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile and risk a showdown with injured Khartoum. In terms of calculations Khartoum may be more inclined to accommodate the two areas and rob the Northern sector of its political capital. In the Nuba Mountains I suppose it has already done so. In that regards Arman’s promise of a new war may actually prove to be counter-productive.

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