Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 12 February 2017

Sudanese oppositions’ unity and Sadiq al-Mahdi’s soft landing


By Dr. El-tahir El-faki

In the year 2011, the swift events in the Arab world ‘called the Arab Spring’ took the international community by surprise. The incidents drew urgent security arrangements to safeguard against possible or unforeseen political turns in Sudan. Distinction between organized civil disobedience or spontaneous demonstrations as processes and mechanisms of political change must be differentiated from their consequences as legitimate dynamics of violent uprising, chaos, insurgency and collapse of the state. For a particular political force to claim monopoly of the process is more likely to end up alone bearing the consequences of overthrowing the National Congress Party (NCP). Accordingly a united forum is necessary to harmonize the process, control and minimize the consequences.

The principle at the bottom of any political opposition is to endorse clear political objectives. The success or failure is evaluated in terms of the opportunities and methods available or created to achieve harmony and leadership. The objectives - obvious principles for the Sudanese opposition groups - remain outstanding. The Sudan Call forces over the last year expressed a desire to observe that principle, alas without success. The two main reasons for the disappointment are the lack of political understanding and the ideological mistrusts between the groups. The political understanding is the failure to differentiate between opposing the NCP as a corrupt political body or against the Islamic ideology shielding it.

The oppositions have yet to realise that their incapability to unite, select a leader or adopt a coherent policy is a strong factor for the NCP to survive. The continuous failure to achieve despite the pace set by the urgency of the political stratum frustrated the national and the international communities. This situation allowed the NCP to endorse its National Dialogue and brandish non-contributories to lack national sentiments and demoralise the Sudanese people.

So far, reaching agreement among Sudanese opposition factions remains unlikely, even though a prerequisite to national and international support for positive action in the country. Bellicose declarations by some members of the oppositions suggest that they prioritize strategic counter political rivalries than focussing on comprehensible policies against the NCP.

The most apparent example was the rift of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) in October 2015 when the SPLA/N at the end of its term refused to hand over the leadership to the successor Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The incident was blatant abrogation and arrogant retraction of its commitment to democratic transference of power between the members of the group. Despite intervention by leading national and international figures to save the alliance the SPLM/N insisted to cling to power and dashed all hopes of unity. The dispute sent the coalition into disrepute and seriously damaged its image. The split exposed a fragile hope of creating an intelligible political caretaker for peaceful or military transformation in a country struggling to build new political order. The unexpected schism disappointed the wider Sudanese people and frustrated the international community that had put much hopes on the group to venerate democratic values against narrow ideological or political differences. Splintered opportunist political and rebel groups have been encouraged by the hiatus to join the NCP banner for financial or political proceeds. The NCP snatched the chance to validate that the SRF is no better an alternative and electrified its propaganda machinery to downgrade the as-yet limited but rising threat it signified.

While it is morally inexplicable to disagree with the fairness of the Sudanese opposition’s stance on regime change; the methods that have been pursued so far failed to bring the NCP down. And to continue with the same methodology is more likely to extend the lifespan of the regime. The opposition forces need a strong will to unite on major collective political compromise under one leadership. All sides must accept the fact that if there are no compromises there will be no change. The compromise has two sides. Firstly acknowledgement of genuine threats to own political or military survival and time is not on one’s side and assurances are within a united front. Secondly every member of the front insures attainment of its objectives through the democratic process preserved within the unity.

The NCP regime at the moment is particularly weak, unstable and facing significant domestic and international difficulties. At the same time and without any doubt is potentially brutal if endangered. A successful creation of nominated leadership will undoubtedly threat Bashir’s authority and credit peaceful transition to democracy for the country. A united front brushes away fears of the most negative and dreadful consequences that overshadow the ousting of Bashir and safeguard state institutions without which the country would descend into chaos. Bashir has already orchestrated that the nation will shrink into tribal, sectarian loyalties and allegiances if he is overthrown. His reliance on the tribal Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for protection is the example. In a workshop in Khartoum in August 2016, the chief of military staff warned that the Sudanese army has become a nexus for tribal influence. In this sense and in the absence of a coherent opposition and no matter how appealing supplication for political change may be the country will descend into an abyss that’s very hard for successors to salvage. And from past experience Bashir is not concerned with preservation of Sudan’s integrity.

Here, we have to credit Imam Sadiq Al-mahdi for resisting calls to resort to arms or take to the streets in direct confrontation with the NCP. His approach for continuing to seek peaceful resolution despite personal pains, insults and sufferings inflicted at the hands of the Bashir reflects his outstanding character as a patriotic leader.

Bashir has already been in power for 27 years and would not depart peacefully as his grip is too herculean and burly. A peaceful democratic transfer of power is a dream of all freedom loving Sudanese. It is likewise for the opposition parties to realize the danger for the future of Sudan is not the NCP alone. A weaker and incoherent opposition in waiting or successor is disastrous. Collateral scuffles for power among the groups are recipes for internal instability and probable civil war. This issue dreads those with national vision and the international community about an unstable future Sudan. The message for the NCP is clear. Because the opposition parties lack the stomach to unite under a leader that situation will not be for long.

While we utterly believe that the ultimate remedy for Sudan’s ills is regime change and the NCP’s institutions entirely dismantled we acknowledge what Imam Sadig Al-mahdi has been calling for ‘Soft Landing’. This is not implausible. The regime is already weak and nationally unpopular. And will be even more unpopular as the corruption and the economic collapse gets worse. In the meantime, the Sudanese opposition parties must ensure that the NCP shouldn’t be allowed to portray itself as the only credible factor for a stable Sudan. The adoption of the Soft Landing policy pulls the rug off the NCP’s feet and demonstrates that the opposition forces care for the stability of the country.

More expected, the NCP supporters will conclude that their Islamic rule have survived for 27 years on irreconcilable and defying policies to internal and external pressures and will blatantly continue to do so without any need for compromise.

The proposals of uniting the opposition must aim at addressing the many contradictions of the past experiences. These contradictions are the products of failed political and ideological rivalries plaguing the country for nearly three decades of corrupt Islamists political hegemony. The response to these contradictions has been security-led. The spiraling spending on security invited corruption and skewed society around military patronage to maintain supremacy in the face of economic, political pressures and protracted revolts.

Bashir recently faced real insecurity when the youths used social media in their bids for mobilizing civil disobediences against hiking commodity prices. Nervous and habituated to coercion, NCP stretched its security muscles by closing daily newspapers and arresting members of the oppositions. At his heights Bashir called upon opponents to come out and face him in the streets if they were to overthrow his regime.

Now calls to unite all the Sudanese opposition groups is paramount and welcome process if sincerely espoused. Alliance or unity inspires widespread optimism where the factions set examples of compromises and accept democratic majesty before calling others to do so.

The Sudanese people are longing for unity of the political and military forces against Bashir but it is extremely difficult to trust those whose courses of actions led to the split of the opposition.

The author is the Chairman of JEM Legislative Assembly. He is reachable at tahirelfaki54@gmail.com. This is his personal opinion and it does not officially represent the voice of JEM

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