By Ngor Arol Garang
July 22, 2008 — The Sudanese government headed by President Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir formed a government of national unity as part of a deal to end Africa’s longest-running civil war following the signing of an agreement between the two warring parties on 9th of January 2005 in Kenyan capital of Nairobi after two solid years of bargaining.
The power-sharing administration of the accord’s protocol on power sharing has included former rebels from the south, scene of a 21-year war which ended with what is now known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
However, the main party representing the south, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), did temporarily suspend its participation in the coalition government in October 2007, presenting the biggest challenge to the fragile peace agreement.
The SPLM complained that key elements of the peace deal were being ignored and demanded that pending issues be resolved by January 2008. However, January came with no signs of commitment to resolve pending issues than signs of war as seen in Abyei on 14th of May. The peace deal awarded a degree of autonomy to the south.
Omar al-Bashir, a guy causing all these inherent tensions, took power in the June 1989 military coup against the elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and the Sudanese government of national unity was formed in August 2005, just seven months after the inked of the agreement at Nyayo stadium in Nairobi Kenya, and after the untimely and a tragic death of the man who negotiated the peace deal, late Dr. John Garang De Mabior on July 30th at Sudan –Uganda border on his way to his resident at new site in Eastern Equatoria State, Southern Sudan.
This government though it is a coalition government, had never enjoyed mutual relations since the ruling National Congress party of Mr. Bashir, has always been the source of all setbacks. And so, both President Bashir and First vice General Salva Kiir Mayardit who is also a President of the semi autonomous government of Southern Sudan have in many times traded accusations of instigations and insincerity in the implementation of the peace deal.
Although the parties are now seems to have embarked on peaceful means to implement the agreement as Abyei road map has been reached and that dispute over ABC has been referred to arbitration committee in Hague, the Netherlands, results expected to favor no side are not yet out.
Despite such a promising start, the coalition government still faces some very significant challenges.
First, inherent tensions within the governing coalition are unlikely to remain far from the surface. The two main parties, NCP and the SPLM, have long been bitter enemies. It may prove hard for Bashir, who has been in power for 19 years since 1989, to submit to the leadership of the lower-profile SPLM, particularly in views of the behind-the-scenes influence of the NCP party leader, Ali Osman Mohamed, who seeks to become the next Sudanese president, should the south separate and Bashir retired is no exception.
Secondly, the government’s relationship with international community remains in question. Bashir’s future as head of state is uncertain, and his role greatly reduced if he steps down if ICC allegations to indict him prove real.
Sudan suffers allegations that the country has been too close to the china and Russia, hence Mr. Bashir with military supports from these business interested countries in oil products which comes from the South, become wild and behave as if he is the only human being under this planet, the Sun, with final say on everything in Sudanese affairs without taking time to assess his government from loosing the popular support that he received when he ousted Sadiq al Mahdi, in the 1989 military coup.
Meanwhile, there is a question mark over the control of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency which, although constitutionally under the control of the state government, has rarely if ever submitted to civilian authority.
Thirdly, weaknesses in the economy are adding to the tensions within the country. The seemingly healthy 4% average growth of GDP over the last few years disguises a growing disparity between rich and poor, which can only be alleviated by introducing and enforcing tax regimes, but this seems a distant prospect.
The finance minister, who is a diehard supporter of the NCP besides being one of the dangerous circles of Mr. Bashir’s government, will also have to tackle the consequences of recent increases in the cost of local food prices fluctuations and oil products, and chronic issues surrounding water and energy shortages and distribution.
GROWING MILITANT VIOLENCE
The greatest and most immediate challenge facing Sudanese government is how to reduce the rising level of militancy and violence, including the ethnic cleansing in Darfur which has reportedly risen to a grave concern beginning in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and the first few months of 2008.
In May 2008, such militancy came to the heart of Sudan after radical Darfur rebel violently raided previous Sudan’s Capital Omdurman in which more than 100 civilians were killed when Sudanese armed forces in full armed and equipped finally engaged in a real fight with the rebels. These threats have grown in complexity.
Over the past few years the Sudanese government with a population of an approximated 38 million plus has been accused by many for hosting number of extremist groups who shares a broadly Islamist, anti-Western agenda and are prepared to collaborate tactically to varying degrees. These include: al-Qaeda; the Islamic jihad and other Central Asian extremists.
These accounts particularly those connected to war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity currently being committed by Sudanese armed forces in Darfur under Bashir’s command as chief of the Sudanese armed forces prompted International Criminal Court to accused Bashir of war crimes, Genocide and crimes against humanity which are gross violation of human rights and that the court’s chief Luis Ocampo seeks arrest warrant for Bashir’s indictment as he submitted charges against him to judges on Monday 14th . This move generated a lot of concerns as Bashir is under fire for possible indictment. It is him who caused all the inherent tension, he deserve arrest warrant and possible indictment.
But since it is part of Khartoum politics of let’s buy time by fooling anybody involves in wanting to call spade a spade, the government is attempting to negotiate with the Darfur rebel factions, who are not ready to negotiate unless talks would involve the release of prisoners, compensation for people affected by violence involving government forces, and guarantees of free movement of civilians from Darfur in areas under government and rebel controlled areas.
However, negotiations are stalled on the question of why are Sudanese armed forces still attack positions of Darfur rebels when talks are being sought.
While ICC is still deciding on when to issue arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir, Western governments particularly Americans government have expressed reservations about Darfur Rebel factions negotiating with the Sudanese government of Mr. Bashir, fearing that this will dilute ICC decision.
ICC is believed by many Sudanese people particularly the marginalized groups to be the best option to bring peace and stability in the country.
Charles Taylor of Liberia’s case is an example being referred to by majority wanting peace to prevail in the country.
Chad’s President Iddris Deby has frequently complained about the flow of militants across the Sudan –Chad border Line which, although not recognized as such by Sudanese Government of Mr. Bashir, serves as a border between the two countries.
He therefore supports the ICC decision to indict Bashir for crimes committed by his armed forces in Darfur.
The growing anarchy and criminality in Darfur, coupled with foreign concerns remains a sole responsibility of Mr. Bashir.
The traditional influence of tribal leaders in both Darfur and Southern Sudan, has in many cases been supplanted by clerics, criminals, warlords and other centers of influence, such as the Khartoum’s militia groups found everywhere in Sudan and power hungry individuals supported by Bashir.
Therefore, customs and the traditional justice system, which encompasses honor, refuge and revenge, remain immensely unhopeful.
As a result it will prove exceptionally difficult to secure any agreement on reforms intended to bring the Darfur and Abyei issues closer into the rest of Sudan’s political system since there are profound differences of views within the government and its advisers about the objectives, pace and feasibility of any change.
The most fundamental issue concerns the special autonomous status of the tribal areas, enshrined in agreements, the Naivasha agreement for Southern Sudan and the Abuja agreement for Darfur.
However, despite the existence of these relations between the NCP and the SPLM, the SPLM pledged to push for abolition of authoritative government and calls for a democratically elected government comes 2009 General elections.
If SPLM wins, Sudanese citizens will enjoy the long awaited peace and all kind of freedoms as being experienced in the south will be granted to all the Sudanese people and the new government would surely prefer to introduce another inclusive law to govern the country made up of so many different tribes rather than submit to current Sudan’s central justice system which is full of sharia law and that it has brought a poor reputation and reflects none of the customs of the regions.
The extension of the electoral Act to the tribal areas, which would allow all the willing national political parties like USAP, UDF and other northern political parties like UMMA party of former Prime Minister Sadig el Mahdi to campaign under their own names, might be the least difficult of the reforms currently envisaged.
In spite of the difficulties of making changes, it seems that only far-reaching reforms, economic and social development, and the creation of job opportunities could bring about longer-term stability in this turbulent country.
Pulling these threads together will require a comprehensive strategy.
While relations with Sudan should have now improved as US pressure on Khartoum becomes less subject to personal relations between Washington and Juba as the SPLM heads the foreign affairs ministry in the coalition government in Khartoum, Khartoum’s attitude remains the same.
The challenge for the SPLM will, therefore, be how to explore ways to renew relations between Khartoum and the US while respecting US pressure on Sudan to recognize and deal with the threats which violent militancy poses to the country as a whole.
To this end, it may be necessary for Washington to place less public emphasis on short- to medium-term military measures on Khartoum and give more assistance to Southern Sudan in resolving its chronic longer-term developmental needs such as education; health and job creation instead of wasting time with Khartoum by putting more sanctions which in turn extend to the South.
However, since security issues in Darfur region are of profound international communities concerns, foreign governments’ needs to inevitably take a close interest in developments in Sudan.
The author is Southern Sudanese journalist currently in Bor, Jonglei State. He can be reached at [email protected]