The general in his labyrinth or should I say denial?
By Azaz Elshami*
First of all, I should congratulate Kevin Sieff not only for having the opportunity to meet with our bloodthirsty President , but also for escaping the fate hovering over most journalists in Sudan i.e. detention and intimidation. I hope he makes it safe after all; you cannot trust the Sudanese government, that I know for certain.
It was one of those days when you run a quick search for Sudan in English news. And there in the middle of photos of camps’ refugees suffering malnutrition, there was the President’s interview. The interview had no titled other than the self-explanatory one that says is it an interview. It is online edition welcomes the reader with a photo of the Sudanese President, Omer Al-Bashir, smiling sheepishly with wandering eyes that are not directed at the camera. I went back to photo after reading the interview and I reckon that his evasive look suits the fallacy he had told in the interview.
What is intriguing about this interview is that the President bluntly told sated lies and artlessly twisted facts. He was deeply indulged in self-victimization and blamed all his victims for their own misery. It was the Southerners Sudanese who did not fulfil their end of the CPA agreement, the Darfurian refugees who like the easy life in camps and do not want return to their intact homes, Rapid Support Forces existence is a military necessity and a product of asymmetric conflict with fluid rebels, and finally Sep 2013 demonstrators were terrorists and the government was forced to react.
The President’s words were translated by a translator, to whom we are thankful for sugarcoating any jingoistic sentiments the president would had surely blared in answering questions about conflicts and the Sudan-South Sudan relations. I must admit that I admired how much the President tried not to use his usual slur he generously offers in Sudanese media. But I wished if he had shared his genius conclusion he recently claimed that Sudan Call is orchestrated by the CIA and Mossad, who are instigating Sudanese political oppositions’ dissention form the government-sponsored national dialogue. Although the President assured the interviewer of the oppositions’ soon return to the government national dialogue, he failed to mentioned that his security forces detained two significant signatories of Sudan Call, Chairman of the opposition National Consensus Forces Faruq Abu Issa Abu Issa and Amin Makki Madani .
So, let’s take a look at the black comedy play our president staged on Washington Post pages:
Nonsense # 1: UNAMID Is Not Needed, Darfur is Safe Now
My nonsense tally is not in order of the questions the President had answered but rather based on relevance to current affairs. Therefore, I will start with the answers he gave in the third question about demanding the depart of United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Sudan has taken a habit in disrespecting the international community every time it feels cornered. It was first UNAMID Human Rights Office in Khartoum, and then expelled two senior U.N. officials on Dec 24, one day after the Washington Post interview was published.
As for the claims that UNAMID is incapable of providing protection, Mr. President seems to act as if he is not an integral part of the conflict that necessitated the presence of UNAMID. Albeit our criticism of UNAMID performance, we cannot turn a blind eye to the governance lack of respect of the UNAMID’s mandate or its rule. The government decision to evict UNAMID is part of its ongoing attitude towards conflicts. Prolonging them.
Mr. President yet gave a false statement about the peace process in the region and claimed that the peaceful areas in Darfur are expanding. The President, who expressed his concerns about the Internally Displaced People IDPs, did not know that they are not only hundreds of thousands. As of December 2013, and according to the UN, there are 2.9 million IDPs in Sudan. Mr. President, please check your facts.
And Mr. President cannot actually understand that IDPs are not migrating birds and their transition from IDP camps to their villages is not a picnic or enjoyable road trip. Those IDPs, whom the President accused of loving ‘easy life in camps’ and aid dependent, actually have no place to return to, and their villages are burnt down with no sign of any public services. Many refugees in Chad, had taken then step voluntarily to return, as they did in 2012, only to lose once again what they had hoped for: peace, and they went back to Chad in influx that the international community still dealing with its ramifications. Let’s assume that today all IDPs repatriated to their homes, and for the sake of the argument we will hypothetically assume that their houses are still standing. How easy it is for war survivals to return to normal life? what about the trauma? what about the economic well-being and rebuilding? What guaranties that catalysts for the past conflicts are now resolved? For one, the governance style has not change.
The President lightheartedly said “they went back and it was safe and they farmed their lands.” I wish life was that simple Mr. President. IDPs returnees, if we were to shake a magical wand and return them to their homes, won’t find the ability to farm or the sense of security to do so. And farming takes more than a man and fertile soil.
Nonsense #2: September 2013: We Only Killed 80 People, Not 200
As for September 2013, the President blamed the victims, as usual. First, he dehumanized the victims and shortened them to numbers, by referring to them as “number of people who died.” “Who died”? They were killed. Using “died” suggests that they died of natural causes not police intentional “shoot to kill” conduct. He was so fixated on the correcting the number more than answering the way in which those number were counted as causalities. When finally he decided to answer the question of their dead circumstance, he claimed that the 80 people who ‘died’, died of their clashes with the police. This what the president is promoting in his self-victimization campaign: Unarmed people lost their mind and clashed with heavily armed police. They attacked the police therefore they deserves to meet their demise for trying. I am relieved he did not say they were high or stoned to justify his allegations. The interesting thing is that he pictured the demonstration as a scene in a si-fi movie. Demonstrators attack police stations and courts. All courts mind you in Khartoum. But only 80 died? how many courts and police stations do you have in your capital Mr. President? The President went on claiming that the “people who died” killed people and destroyed property with no mention of number of victims as he was very meticulous about the number of demonstrators “who died.”
Another fascinating analogy the President made is comparing Sudan with the U.S. The funnier analogy was describing the demonstrators as terrorists, who are Qaeda ally, which is quite interesting if we reflect on the reasons that put Sudan on U.S. sanctions list in the first place.
Nonsense # 3: Sudan-South Sudan Conflict is Patrimonial
Answering a question about the impact of the American sanctions on Sudan, the president answered another question he heard in his head. The question specifically asked about the impact of U.S. sanctions on Sudanese people and Sudan’s economy. The answer had no mentioned of Sudan people or their economic well-being for the matter.
Al-Bashir claimed that lifting sanctions was contingent to ending war with the South, which he thinks had been delivered. Nevertheless, the president got touched by a historical fairy and said that the conflict actually, which he just claimed ending it with diligence and willing to compromise, tracks back to the mists of time for which he blamed the British Colonization. First of all Mr. President, Sudan-South Sudan conflict might had been inherited from colonization, but all consecutive governments reproduce the same tactics of exclusions. The two decades wars during your reign were international and ideological. The South war and the ramifications of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and its ramifications in form of the South Sudan independence in 2011, fulfilled the Sudanese government’s quest for “purging” the country from all aspects of diversity, in race or religion. Evidently, you, Mr. President, wanted the secession to happen. Demanding lifting sanctions in return for what in fact serves your ideological goals, is dishonest and distortion of truth.
Nonsense # 4: We delivered peace, therefore, we should be rewarded
Answering the same question about the sanction, the president went on in lamentation about how the U.S. had tricked them into signing many agreements to end conflicts with the promise of lifting the sanctions. I am not sure if the president has a PR person or someone sensible to advise him on how to portray himself. All I know is that argument made him sound like a toddler mad at his teacher for denying him his perks for not cleaning his desk. It is your desk. You made it dirty. Take reasonability. Hello?! Mr. President, you shouldn’t need an incentive to end conflicts you have started and fueled for years. Period. Get over yourself. Conflict in Darfur had been, and still is, a pressuring card for the Sudanese regime. It is money-generating conflict in which the governments keep reselling to different stakeholders for different prices. So, Mr. President, please!
Nonsense # 5: When Revenge Is Actually not a Revenge at All
Ironically, the question got answered in the most unexpected way Do we remember the question about the sanctions’ impact on Sudan’s people and the country’s economy that the president turned it into tears bond on unfulfilled promises? Here what I would call the masterpiece:
“And, of course, we need to see very clearly the loss incurred on the United States by the economic influence of china. It is a loss. That’s why we say the sanctions hurt us. But they also hurt the United States.”
Amazing! Right? How does the president think that he made the U.S. tastes it is own poison and inflicted any economic losses on the American by establishing partnership with the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt i.e. China, which owns more about $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt.
There is much more to this interview than what an op-ed could handle. But I hope the facts are checked and people get to hear the many sides to the story.
*Azaz Elshami is a Sudanese blogger and activist. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @3ozaz