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Opinion: The Sudanese Autumn | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir speaks to a crowd of people in north Khartoum, on June 8, 2013. Bashir ordered a halt to the flow of oil from South Sudan, less than two months after southern crude began moving again, official radio said. AFP PHOTO/EBRAHIM HAMID

The Sudanese government’s stance on its relations with South Sudan is both confused and confusing. Three months after signing the cooperation agreement between the two states, feelings of animosity and threats between the two parts of Sudan have resurfaced. Previously, Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir announced that he was intent on reuniting the two states, claiming that he was confident that the day would come when the two parts of Sudan reunite. Then he made a U-turn and threatened to break the cooperation agreement and prevent South Sudan’s oil from passing through Sudanese pipelines to export ports, mockingly saying: “[Let them] drink their oil.”

The Sudanese government shut down its pipelines this week on Bashir’s instructions. In a televised speech he attacked South Sudan, accusing it of biting the hand that feeds it.

Bashir’s tone suggests that the National Islamic Front views Sudan like its own private property, freely dividing it and giving parts of it away to whomever it likes, whether inside or outside the country. Hence, many fear for the fate of Sudan under these Islamists, who seized power in a treacherous military coup and have imposed an authoritarian rule whose 24th anniversary will be celebrated at the end of this month. Following this coup, Sudan was ravaged by wars spreading from Darfur to South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.

After all these years, the regime has failed to bring about peace even after sacrificing a fifth of the country and over three quarters of its oil revenues. In fact, the regime has returned to the same aggressive tone it used when it first came to power, calling on the nation’s youth to do jihad.

Bashir’s speech brings to mind the speeches he and his affiliates from the National Islamic Front used to deliver in the past. In his speech, Bashir threatened to cut “the hands and tongues” and “pluck the eyes” of those who encroach upon Sudan. The regime has always adopted such an aggressive and threatening tone after incurring losses to the country’s limited revenues and resources, and jeopardizing Sudan’s chances of stability and development.

The war in the South, which the regime in its early years fought under the name of religious jihad, ruining the lives of young enthusiasts who took them at their word in the process, has failed to maintain the unity of the country. To the contrary, it led to the division of Sudan and the secession of the South, with Bashir joining the ceremonies of its independence.

As for the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which the regime claimed would maintain stability, it proved to be the worst agreement ever and those who signed it are either ignorant or careless of the fate of the country and its people.

Attempting to monopolize power in the North and establish an Islamic government, the National Islamic Front not only welcomed the secession of the South but also encouraged it. The National Islamic Front rushed into signing an agreement that does not tackle the major issues, such as the demarcation of borders and the division of the country’s natural resources. With this, hopes for Sudan’s promised stability vanished, provoking disputes and tensions between the North and the South. In fact, frequent clashes erupted between the two sides, threatening a full-scale war. On top of that, Southern oil exports were halted again earlier this week, after a brief resumption last month following a 16-month break.

This time, the confrontation appears more dangerous than before. This has been echoed by the regime’s tumultuous policies. With the armed opposition factions standing together and escalating their military operations against the regime, Bashir now fears that fighting will spread to Khartoum. At the same time, the bad economic situation has seen people protest against high prices, corruption and the policies of the regime. Moreover, intra-party disputes have arisen amid rumors of plots to topple the regime. The opposition alliance in the North has created the so-called 100-day-plan to topple the regime, which appears increasingly feeble.

In the light of these developments, Sudan appears on the verge of collapse, and might be the next victim of the Arab Spring—or perhaps, more accurately, the Arab Autumn.