Thursday, 17 March 2011

Pagan, don’t panic

Pagan Amum

Apparently the secession talks between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) arrived at a stage that necessitated realignment beyond the negotiation table, what does not equate to a dead end but rather signifies a bottleneck.
In quite a dramatic twist, the SPLM’s Secretary General, Pagan Amum, declared in Khartoum on 12 March the suspension of talks with the NCP on the grounds that Khartoum was plotting to overthrow the SPLM government through its presumed proxies, Athor, Oliny, the rebels of Jonglei and Upper Nile, and Lam Akol the master conniver. Back in Juba on 14 March Amum produced documents to back his claim that the intelligence branch of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) was busy providing the Southern militias with arms and training. President Bashir, whom Amum accused of overseeing the whole episode, caricatured the allegation during his address to an NCP function marking the disengagement of the ruling party’s Southern Sector with the phrase “if somebody just coughs in Juba they [the SPLM] point fingers at the NCP”. In his polemic against Khartoum Amum employed the terms ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ to tag the supposed SAF masterplan in the North-South border zone, reference being to the recent waves of violence in Abyei.  
Now, the same Amum stated in his Juba press conference that the SPLM and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) were ready and willing to offer the Khartoum government a generous grant to ease the pain of the loss of oil revenues upon the declaration of partition on 9 July. The day before, 13 March, President Bashir announced the formation of a committee headed by the minister of oil, Lual Deng, from the SPLM, and joining the auditor general of the Khartoum government, and the auditor of the GoSS, mandated with the selection of a foreign firm to review the oil production figures of the last 5 years, a measure that Bashir declared was necessary to refute the accusations of foul play in the oil revenue sharing arrangements between the North and the South. A weak earlier a Khartoum newspaper quoting Pagan Amum reported that the NCP had demanded the extension of the CPA oil sharing formula between Khartoum and Juba for another 7 years, a request to which the SPLM responded with a resonant no.
It would be naive to assume that the military intelligence, acting with or without a political cover, would shy away from leaking arms to old or new acquaintances in the South, if not by recent design at least as a matter of habit. However, from that level of involvement to a plot targeting power in Juba there is a wide terrain, one which the military intelligence even if it wanted would find difficult to cross. Otherwise, how did it lose the war in the South in the first place? In a sense, Pagan Amum, similar to Bashir, caricatured a situation he knows better. Both were not funny.
What is being played out is the screaming stage of a hard bargain. Amum, I presume, was crying out to the Prendergastian gaze, particularly that the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army has lately landed in front of the humanitarian muzzle for bullying the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) acting under the Chapter VII element of its mandate, the protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, in case it dares trespass into the combat zones of Jonglei. 
Adding an evil twist, what could be the future of Pagan Amum in the new South, with the likes of Lam Akol equally anxious to capitalize on the Shilluk constituency, Amum's prospective power base now that the liberation phase has passed, and seek a return to the Juba scene through constitutional means, Lam Akol the democrat this time. 

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