Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Sudan’s ticking time-bomb detonates | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It seems that Sudan, under al-Bashir’s reign, can never be at peace. Before the ink has even dried on the signing of the secession of the South, which the regime justified as the price to pay to end the war and achieve peace, new wars have broken out and Sudan has returned to the arena of death. You did not need to be an analytical genius to anticipate such wars, the situation was as clear as day. Many have warned of this, having seen the incompetent policies pursued by the government with regards to its handling of the peace issue, and the many holes in what is known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

The question that comes to mind is: Did the government, its negotiators, and its many advisors not realize that there are many outstanding issues that have not been resolved in the six years from the signing of the CPA in 2005, until the date of the self-determination referendum in the south earlier this year, and that these issues would be ticking time bombs exploding one after the other, in light of the tension between Khartoum and Juba, and the problems in the border states?

If the regime in Khartoum did not realize this, this is a major disaster, because the negotiations lasted several years and the highest levels of government were involved, including a number of senior leaders, officials and strategists, supervised by Vice President Ali Osman, and with the final agreement signed by President al-Bashir. Can we honestly believe that all those who participated in the lengthy negotiations and multiple meetings held to discuss the peace issue did not realize the danger of leaving sensitive issues unresolved, or not resolved before the referendum? On the other hand, if the regime was aware of this, and went down the road which would clearly lead to secession with the south, then this is an even greater disaster, because this will renew many doubts about the motives of some parties in the regime, especially as some of them used to promote and publicly call for the secession of the south, believing that this would pave the way for their age-old project to declare an Islamic republic. These doubts were also reinforced by al-Bashir’s recent comments about the Salvation Regime’s determination to announce an Islamic republic, and apply Shariaa law. These comments are seen as an attempt to escape responsibility for the consequences of secession, and hide behind the slogans used by the regime in the past, for political or tactical goals, which have not been applied seriously throughout its 22 year grip on power. But even if the Salvation Regime, born from the womb and mind of the National Islamic Front (NIF), was sincere in what some of its members say, is it possible to accept the partition of the country in order to implement a party program? It is worth noting that the people of Sudan, who are religious in their nature, never gave the NIF, in all its guises, any form of parliamentary majority during both the democratic periods that Sudan has known. This is why the students of [Hassan] al-Turabi turned against democracy, before ultimately turning against him as well in their struggle for power.

Al-Bashir’s government has tried to respond to its critics by saying it has achieved peace, without answering the question: What peace? Is it the peace that led to the division of Sudan and the separation of the south, or is it the peace that today leads to wars in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile and Abyei, after the war in Darfur?

The reality now facing the people indicates that the government has failed to achieve peace, and has nothing to offer the Sudanese to justify the separation of the South, and neglecting the nation’s unity. Perhaps for this reason the government has resorted once again to its old policies; escaping to war in order to cover its failure to achieve peace. War can be a scapegoat for the regime to draw upon when it comes to future crises, especially on the economic level, where the impact of separation and the loss of a large part of oil revenue are beginning to appear. Prices of essential consumer goods are on the rise, especially with the taxes and new measures imposed by the government, including subsidies partially lifted for some commodities such as sugar and petroleum products, the cessation of imports of certain goods, reduced public spending, and reductions in the state budget. There has been a significant reduction in the country’s revenue from oil exports, which has become a mainstay of the economy after the government ignored the agricultural sector for years. Corruption accusations also imply that part of the North’s share of oil revenues has been squandered, whilst what remains cannot absorb the shock of separation.

Today Sudan faces three wars stretching from Darfur and South Kordofan to the Blue Nile state, all of which are prone to further escalation. Indeed, officials in Khartoum are now talking about the possibility of a renewed war between Sudan and South Sudan, and if this were to take place it would be deadlier than all previous rounds of war between the two states. It could expand, dragging in regional parties, as the South has now become an independent state. There are already international fears about the renewed outbreak of this war, especially with increasing signs of this in the South, after it accused Khartoum of supporting militias to destabilize the situation in the new state. After the outbreak of war in South Kordofan, both sides began to undertake their own mobilizations, as proxy wars rage between the two states. It was interesting that Washington, which Khartoum has repeatedly criticized with regards to the fighting in South Kordofan, expressed concerns recently about reports of support from Juba for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in South Kordofan. Nevertheless, this support was to be expected given the many of the northern elements who fought with the SPLA in the south were from South Kordofan, the Nuba Mountains, and the Blue Nile.

Today in Khartoum there are those calling for war and a military resolution to the problems, whether in Darfur, South Kordofan or the Blue Nile, but such people have not asked themselves what Sudan has gained from its policy of war, which the al-Bashir regime has excelled in as much as it has failed in its policy of dialogue. The war in the South consumed everything and everybody, killed and displaced millions, and ended with a peace agreement leading to separation. The continuing war in Darfur has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced nearly two million, and is still ongoing and prone to further escalation. Has the regime not learned that it can escalate matters and fight [in the short term], but in the end it will go to the negotiation table?

There are those who believe that the regime in Khartoum is not fluent in the language of dialogue, and only knows the language of escalation, war and terrorizing opponents, in order to cling onto power. Yet there are also those who think that some parties in the regime are gambling on the war to distract the people from future crises, and distract them from the Arab Spring. In either case the situation in Sudan is likely to endure difficult times and heated conflict, perhaps placing it at the heart of current events…and revolutions.