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Sudan: What will happen to the North after secession? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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“Bye Bye to the North”…This is how the southerners expressed their joy as they voted in the referendum on self-determination, concluding that secession will take place even before the end of the voting process. The result of this referendum has been known and determined even before the southerners went to the poling stations, because indicators have shown that this secession has been coming for years. Any rational person, who read the events and understood the significance of the policies that were applied on the ground, could tell that the North and South were heading towards separation.

Yet it is remarkable that the southerners’ joy, regarding the forthcoming secession of South Sudan has been matched by the joy seen in some circles affiliated with the Khartoum regime. Editor-in-chief of the al-Intibaha newspaper Al-Tayeb Mustafa, who also happens to be Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s uncle, wrote an article calling on the people of northern Sudan to sacrifice animals in celebration [of the south’s secession] and to offer prayers in thanks, as the referendum represents a day of release for the North. He even went on to say that “God has removed what has harmed us and released us, and [Yassir] Arman, [Malik] Aqqar, and [Abd Al Aziz] al-Halo, and their followers (of northern leaders and elements of the SPLM) and those atheists who resemble them will not be able to stop us, we will begin our battle with them from today, God willing.”

These extreme words do not come from someone on the fringes, but rather from someone who is close to government circles, writing in a newspaper that is published with official consent, therefore this article reflects the trend found amongst the ruling National Congress Party [NCP], and amongst the National Islamic Front, which hides behind the NCP, and which has held power since it orchestrated a coup in 1989. The attitude of this radical trend within the government is an alarming indication that there will be a period of repression and strict rule in the future, as well as the possibility of escalation and confrontation in the North. It is [also] true that there are parties within the regime that support the idea of expanding the government, and allowing opposition forces to participate within it, before the new Southern State is officially declared in July. This would mean that all parties would then become involved in the issue of secession, and the government would not bear the sole responsibility [for this]. However, such parties seem to be in the minority so far, because the regime believes it was appointed to control the North, and the recent elections have extended al-Bashir and the NCP’s time in power. The regime will not accept power-sharing with an opposition it feels is weak and fragmented, unless this opposition’s superficial presence in government serves its objectives, or if there is change in the course of events that threatens the government’s survival. What is strange is that some state officials have begun to issue statements to the effect that the government, and the ruling NCP, are not responsible for the secession of the South. Instead, they argue that responsibility lies with the West, and Israel, because they encouraged the southerners to secede. This is of course a well known accusation, and a “broken record” in the Arab world, and we have heard this many times before. Responsibility cannot be avoided in this case. The regime, any regime, is responsible for the consequences of its policies and the agreements that it signs. The unity of the state is the responsibility of the government, and the failure to ensure and protect this ultimately represents the failure of the regime, because the survival of the nation is more important than the survival of the regime.

There can be no doubt that the Sudanese regime has adopted a strategy to deal with the post-secession phase, and so far what has been revealed of this is the imposition of a new political agenda, in line with the ideology and agenda of the National Islamic Front. The plan is for the Sudanese streets to be occupied by matters away from the subject of the South. President al-Bashir has talked about amending the constitution, and moving towards an Islamic state. Al-Bashir is supported in this by his Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who has been a prominent leader within the National Islamic Front since the military coup was carried out 21 years ago, and who some say is the man holding the strings in the regime and the ruling NCP. To return to talking about the subject of an Islamic state, the objective of this is to repel attacks on the government as a result of secession. This would see any attack or opposition branded as opposition to the Islamization of the state. It was interesting that when the call to Islamize the Sudanese state first emerged, a foreign Islamist group issued a statement in support of Sudan, in its confrontation with “foreign conspiracies”, calling on the state to prohibit the referendum on southern secession. Much can be said about this statement which was issued by a group of “Muslim scholars” and about the fact that it came too late to have any effect. However, the most important observation is that many of the signatories of this statement were also signatories to previous statements, in support of the National Islamic Front in Sudan, whilst others were members of movements led by Dr Hassan al-Turabi after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

It is not likely that many Sudanese have forgotten that when the current regime first came to power it raised Islamic slogans; however this was something which was accompanied by severe repressive measures. As a result, many people today are fearful that matters are moving once again towards severe repression, particularly as the regime is anxious about the possible escalation of the Darfur crisis, as well as the country’s economic problems, as it will have lost a high percentage of its oil resources with the secession of the south.

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani

Osman Mirghani is Asharq Al-Awsat's former deputy editor and senior editor-at-large.

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