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George Bush's African Tour and the Sudanese-American Crisis - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Days ahead of the African tour by President Bush which will unfortunately not include Sudan–unless the President who is given to tours in his last year in office decides to stop over at Juba Airport to irk somebody–one stops at the exaggerated manifestations of self-confidence among the people in rule in Northern Sudan on the issue of relationship with the US Administration.

This is not limited to the security knot related to the embassy building in Khartoum, which is still pending without a radical solution, but also involves objections to American diplomacy remarks on “the Salvation behavior”. This has gone to the extent where the Charge d’Affaires in “Northern Sudan” has made statements similar in their glossary, premises, and spirit to the statements with which American Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman drowned the political society throughout his work in Beirut, particularly his last year in which he appeared to be another partisan pole in the map of struggling political parties and forces wrestling on the Lebanese arena.

We must first explain what we have termed “Northern Sudan”. We aim by that term to indicate that after the peace agreement between the “Salvation Government” and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] it became abundantly clear that “Southern Sudan” is part of the American strategy. It is no mere coincidence that there is insistence that the Sudanese Ambassador to the United States should be a Southerner, and that the “Office of South Sudan” in Washington be favored with care and concern by the American Administration. It was a choice the “Salvation” people had no option but to accept. The Southern Partner, from the top in the person of Salva Kiir to the Sultans of most of the tribes of the South, is practically “the American lobby”. That partner often comes out with political stances that are not only in conflict with the official Sudanese stand but are also farther to the right of the American position, leaving the “Salvation” people out into the political open.

Thus the Sudanese-American crisis in relations appeared generally like blood pressure, rising sometimes to levels of extreme danger then falling to equally dangerous low levels with no radical cures available. This should betaken into consideration when speaking of a deterioration in Sudanese American relations which is in fact a deterioration in relations to a part of Sudan, that of the “Salvation Government”. That part is led militarily by President Omar al-Bashir and has quotas given in its political rule to the “dinosaurs” of Salvation who cannot be sincere with each other because each is waiting for a chance to jump to the top. Add to this the fact that Salvation has not advanced a more youthful generation on the bazaar of political and partisan action.

Thus the situation remains confined to one generation with two wings. One of them is the seasoned al-Turabi wing which has been clipped so it cannot fly, and the other is the Bashir Wing which has clipped the wings of Sheikh Hassan [al-Turabi], Salvation’s Michel Aflaq [after the late ideologue of Iraq’s Baath Party]. Yet the “Salvation Sheikh” has not accepted a form of truce like that adopted at times by the historic group of Al-Ansar sect, headed by Imam Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi whose family house is again beset by disputes after the quasi settlement reached on the case of Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi. We would not be unfair if we consider that the crisis is between the American Administration and part of Sudan, or if we notice a very obvious phenomenon, namely that the Bush struggle is continuing with Bashir’s Sudan while the Southern partner looks on as if the matter is none of its concern. One of the new manifestations of this struggle is that the American Charge d’Affaires who is supposed to be representing the United States in all of Sudan, Alberto Fernandez, crossed what is considered a red line by the Bashir Government (although it is regarded as a green line by the Bush Administration).

He told Reuters a few days ago that the world has lost confidence in the Sudanese Government because it does not enjoy credibility. This remark was prompted by President Bashir’s insistence on keeping Musa Hilal [Hilal: Arabic for crescent], the Janjawid commander in Darfur, and appointing him counselor at the Federal Government Department, in order to provide him with immunity and save him from being hounded and perhaps put to an international tribunal. Naturally, the words of the American Charge d’Affaires Fernandez made Salvation’s blood boil even more. This was clear in the summoning of the man to the Foreign Ministry and pouring on him a protest that did not go to the extent of considering him persona non grata. This was not due to adherence of diplomatic norms on the part of the Salvation people but because any protest or step taken by “Bashir’s Sudan” will be met in “Salva Kiir’s Sudan” by reservations, protests, or even dissociation.

This makes American diplomacy in Khartoum behaves in the same way it is accustomed to behave in Beirut with the blessings of the “majority”. It is what makes Charge d’Affaires Fernandez respond to the carefully-worded Sudanese protest by insinuating that there was a “road map” on American demands and requirements that will be conveyed to the Sudanese Government by an envoy from the Bush Administration. It enables Fernandez to express surprise at some of what was mentioned in the protest, about his having intervened. He asked “how is the United States not entitled to intervene when it was the party that played a considerable role in working out the peace agreement, and when it is providing support to the deployment of the hybrid force …”The American Charge d’Affaires is entitled to intervene, for the attainment of the agreement would not have been possible without the American role. The party that made that achievement intervenes, sometimes with more than just statements. In the case of Sudan in particular, the Bush view of the Salvation people or of Bashir Hilal falls within this perspective. That is, if things do not go on the more volatile track, in which case the mission of Fernandez or anybody else in Sudan becomes like Feltman’s mission in Beirut. This is how the situation will remain until the ship docks at a safe haven–to avoid sinking in the tempests of intervention.

Fouad Matar

Fouad Matar

Fouad Matar is a well-known Lebanese journalist, political commentator and author of various books on Middle East current affairs.

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