Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Sudan: Moving towards a “Zenga Zenga” phase | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

There are three different scenes; one in Abu Dhabi, the second in Khartoum, and the third in London, that perhaps sum up the state of affairs in Sudan today, and the direction that the country may move towards in the coming days.

The first scene features the Sudanese Minister of Finance, Ali Mahmoud, who seized the opportunity presented to him by the Exceptional Meeting for the Council of Arab Ministers of Finance – held in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago – to announce that Sudan will require at least 1 billion dollars of foreign aid – and this figure may rise to 1.5 billion dollars – per year in order to deal with the country’s economic problems following the secession of South Sudan. The Finance Minister acknowledged that Sudan is facing difficult times ahead, stressing that the Sudanese government has only prescribed one remedy over the past months, namely to cut spending in order to meet the budget deficit. Indeed, the powerless Sudanese citizens have experienced several doses of this remedy over the past few months.

The second scene features a campaign launched recently by the Sudanese people to boycott purchasing meat due to soaring prices, as a result of rising inflation, which is something that has now become the Sudanese people’s chief complaint and cause for concern. According to official reports, the price of meat in Sudan has seen a 40 percent increase, whilst the price of cooking oil has increased by 48 percent since last year. Who can believe that the people of Sudan – a state known for exporting meat and whose president often gifts livestock to other countries – are boycotting meat today after its price has increased past the point that they are able to afford it on a daily basis? The problem is that those who considered alternative foodstuffs to meat, such as lentils, found themselves jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. This is because the inflation wave has affected everything, and all signs indicate that the worst is yet to come and that Sudan’s economic crisis will deepen because of the country’s internal problems, particularly the loss of state income. This is after Sudan lost 75 percent of its oil revenues following the secession of South Sudan.

The third scene took place in London this summer. Senior Sudanese presidential aide, Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, one of the hawks in the ruling Sudanese National Congress Party [NCP], met with some members of the Sudanese expatriate community at the Sudanese embassy in London in order to discuss the conditions in the country. This meeting soon turned into a heated debate which became the talk of the town for weeks afterwards, with a video clip even being uploaded onto YouTube. The debate heated up when the subject of detention and human rights in Sudan was raised, and Nafie Ali Nafie found himself at the centre of the discussions, particularly as his name has long been associated with the worst practices of the Sudanese regime’s security apparatus, particularly what are known as “ghost houses.” These are secret locations that the security apparatus use to hide and indeed torture political detainees in the most brutal manner; something goes against all morality of the Sudanese people, as well as conventional and divine law. During the meeting, Dr. Nafie provoked part of the audience when speaking of the coup that brought Omar al-Bashir and the National Islamic Front to power, claiming that the National Salvation revolution was staged by youths with good morals and strong religious convictions, and was unlike the previous bloody coups and revolutions in Sudan. This resulted in some of the audience reminding him of the 28 Sudanese army officers that were executed by the regime during the holy month of Ramadan, not to mention the many others who have been killed by the Sudanese regime’s security apparatus, as well as the “ghost houses” and political detentions. Nafie Ali Nafie reacted to this by publicly challenging; “let the strongest of you attempt to seize power by coup, the door is open, just try” meaning that anybody wanting to seize power in Sudan by force should try to do so. Following this, one of the audience members picked up a chair and threw it at Dr. Nafie, which resulted in a great commotion breaking out in the meeting hall, and that is the lasting memory of this stormy meeting.

What is odd is that Nafie Ali Nafie used the same language in a recent public rally in Sudan, announcing “anybody who wants to take power by force must have a stronger hand [than the government].” This however indicated that the regime feels that it is facing a genuine crisis, and therefore must resort to the language of threats and intimidation, and stress that the regime and its militia are stronger than others, and that nobody can dislodge them from power. Dr. Nafie may perhaps want to re-read Sudanese history which has witnessed similar coups as well as popular revolutions. He must also recall the eternal wisdom that says that tyranny – however long it lasts – comes to an end, that governments – however long they last – are mortal, and that only the people are enduring.

The three outlined scenes sum up the congested situation that may result in a huge explosion in a uniquely Sudanese manner. Anyone who knows the Sudanese people knows that they possess a great amount of patience and endurance, but at the same time they are aware that a Sudanese person can suddenly lose his temper, particularly if he is provoked or feels that his dignity is being undermined. There are a number of signs today that indicate that the Sudanese people are beginning to run out of patience, not just with the Sudanese government, but also with the Sudanese opposition leaders, believing they are either hesitant and fragmented, or unable to lead change. Therefore it was not surprising that some voices in Sudan have recently called on the opposition leaders to take action and lead the Sudanese street that wants change, or step aside and open the way for a younger leadership that better reflects and indeed expresses the pulse of the Sudanese street.

The fact of the manner is that the numerous rounds of dialogue between the government and the opposition have failed to achieve any improvement in the conditions of the Sudanese people. This regime offers official posts to opposition figures merely as window dressing, without accepting any essential or genuine changes that can transform the country from a single party state. Indeed the Sudanese circles of power are speaking of possible scenarios for the transition of power after Omar al-Bashir’s current presidential term comes to an end (if he completes his current presidential term he will have spent 26 years in power), or agreeing a mechanism for the transfer of power – before the end of this current presidential term – to the true mastermind behind the National Salvation revolution, Sudanese First Vice President, Ali Osman Taha. The US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks quoted US diplomats – following a meeting with Ali Osman Taha and senior presidential adviser Salah Gosh – saying that these senior Sudanese officials had intimated that there is a probability that they may “sacrifice” the President [Omar al-Bashir] to rescue the regime and ensure that the ruling NCP remains in power.

However all of these political calculations have been turned upside down following the secession of South Sudan, the ongoing tension between the south and the north, and two new wars erupting in the [north] Sudanese states of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, not to mention the ongoing war in Darfur. In addition to this, there is the economic crisis that has begun to affect people’s daily lives, and put pressure on the regime which has resorted to asking for foreign aid, after much of the country’s oil revenues have been squandered due to widespread corruption. The Sudanese regime also returned to its old alliance with Tehran, in anticipation of a rise of Islamist powers and forces in the Arab countries that have witnessed, and are witnessing, uprisings and revolutions.

There can be no doubt that Sudan has begun to enter the “Zenga Zenga” phase [reference to the Gaddafi speech that signalled the Libyan authorities declaring all-out war against the Libyan protesters] which may place it at the heart of events [in the Middle East], and not far from the uprisings and revolutions in the Arab world.