London, Asharq Al-Awsat- In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, Malik Agar, The head of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front [SRF] and the SPLM in North Sudan [SPLMN], said that the Addis Ababa Agreement his movement signed with the Sudanese Government last June has become out-dated. “We did not leave the negotiating table. It is the other side that left it,” he said. “But the realities have changed and the framework agreement has become out-dated.” He said that the formation of the SRF alliance has imposed a new reality, and that Sudan’s future rests on creating clear mechanisms for power-sharing and resources and for the relationship between the center and the periphery.
The text of the interview follows:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where is the conflict between you and the Sudanese Government heading?
[Agar] There have been military stages in the war in the Provinces of South Kurdufan and the Blue Nile. The first stage was the attack by the [Khartoum ruling] National Congress Party [NCP] on the positions of the SPLM in the areas of South Kurdufan, the Nuba Mountains, and the Blue Nile. Because the Government had the preparations in place for this, it accomplished some military achievements in evicting the SPLM from the capitals of the two Provinces, Kadugli and Al-Damazin. We call this stage the first military phase which ended with the beginning of the present year. At the start of the current year the SPLM regained its breath, took the initiative and retaliated twice as hard. We have made an advance in South Kurdufan and are now heading toward the city of Kadugli. The areas of Al-Uhaymar and Al-Buram are now under our control.
In the Blue Nile there are areas the SPLM seized in the region of Baqis, about 21 kilometers from Al-Damazin. Thus the military initiative is now in the hands of the SPLM while the Sudanese Army is in a state of collapse. It is no longer as it used to be at the start of the war, even though we are fighting a Government that possesses capabilities that cannot be compared to our capabilities in the guerrilla warfare we are fighting. We are waging two kinds of war, a guerrilla war and another, traditional war. We are advancing in some areas and defending some other areas. As for the political situation, it is complicated but under control. The SPLM operates on three different political fronts. It has a presence in the areas the Government controls, where our members face great risks and complicated political and security conditions. Operations in the liberated areas are different from those in the areas under Government control. We also have the activities by the SPLM in foreign States. We have unified the SPLM efforts on all these axes and are making good progress by reformulating the SPLM organizational structures. A leadership bureau comprising 19 members is being formed. Twelve of the members have been nominated and we shall complete this process. We also formed the SPLM’s General Secretariat as well as work committees in various locations.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How are the humanitarian conditions in the areas of conflict?
[Agar] The humanitarian situation is extremely critical because the war has created two kinds of humanitarian conditions. There are the citizens who fled the war and the continuous bombardment by the governmental Antonov aircraft and sought refuge in the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and South Sudan. International organizations are providing relief for them. There are also those who decided to stay in their areas. Their numbers rise and fall in accordance with the security conditions because the bombardment has not stopped. They need relief. We have appealed to a number of regional and international organizations to help. Efforts produced fruit in the form of a statement by the UN Security Council stressing the need for intervention to deliver relief to these areas. There are the efforts of the African Union and the Arab League through the dispatch of observers, with the UN to implement the relief program in the areas controlled by the Government and in the SPLM areas.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Khartoum says it has succeeded in laying siege to you in small pockets in South Kurdufan and the Blue Nile and that only small pockets exist in Darfur. Al-Bashir has also vowed to pray in Kauda, as he prayed before in Al-Karmak. What is your response?
[Agar] This is not true. The SPLMN is about 15 kilometres from Kadugli, the capital of South Kurdufan; in Diling on the road to Al-Ubayyid city in North Kurdufan; in Al-Abbasiyyah on the road to the city of Kosti in central Sudan, and in the Blue Nile on the road to the provincial capital of Al-Damazin. The Government has lost control over many areas in this war which it is waging in the traditional way. This is why there is no siege on us. What Khartoum says is merely for propaganda consumption for those who follow the governmental media and might believe its lies. Khartoum is used to this. In Kadugli, the Government said the SPLM was eradicated, but the citizens hear shooting from inside Kadugli. The regime said the same thing about the Blue Nile; that the SPLM was finished and “we prayed in Al-Karmak”. Yet the citizens hear firing inside Al-Damazin city. Thus what the regime says in the media and what is happening in reality are two different things. As for what Al-Bashir has kept saying about his wish to pray in Kauda (considered the SPLM stronghold in South Kurdufan), he is free to pray anywhere. We are not present in Kauda alone. Al-Bashir’s praying in Kuada or any other place does not solve the Sudanese problem because this needs more than somebody performing prayers at a certain place. Praying in Kauda or elsewhere is not the issue. The issue in Sudan is about rights and duties. There is a small group that monopolizes power and imposes its visualization on the others while the overwhelming majority is deprived of this. The problem is about how to bring about a system of government that satisfies everybody through reasonable mechanisms for sharing power and resources on which all the Sudanese concur, and through drafting a Constitution all the Sudanese agree to in order to live in a State of citizenship, not a State of ethnic and religious distinctions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that the newly independent South Sudan State is behind this war, supports it militarily and politically, and provides haven to the SRF leaders?
[Agar] Firstly, the problem of Sudan is bigger and older than the South Sudan State which emerged from the Sudan State and became an independent, sovereign State because of Sudan’s problems. The new State is six months old, but the war in the Blue Nile and South Kurdufan has been going on for the past 21 to 24 years. It is not possible for a six-month-old State to influence a State that has remained in a state of war for 21 years. Yes, there was a truce in the transitional period (2005 to 2011) as a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but the causes of the war were not remedied. This is why we believe that accusations against the Southern State are invalid because it is a new State. It is true that at one time we were a single movement and fought for the same causes. But the situation has changed because the Southern people chose to have an independent State. It has nothing to do with the war or the SPLM in Northern Sudan. We only share common history and the fact that we hatched from the same egg. [Asharq Al-Awsat] Khartoum also says that the United States offers you support, especially since it insists on opening safe corridors for humanitarian relief. What is your reply?
[Agar] The United States has its interests but it has no interest in supporting the SPLM. It has principles and values related to human rights and crimes against humanity. They are against all those who commit such crimes and this is why they take a stand against the perpetrators. It has become clear to them that Al-Bashir commits war crimes such as bombing citizens by aircraft and displacing them internally. The Sudanese Army is also in the habit of burning villages and killing innocent people. No one who has a human conscience can remain silent on such crimes. The United States has spoken about humanitarian considerations and said that this war has caused humanitarian problems. The United States has not spoken about supporting the SPLM but about opening safe corridors to deliver humanitarian relief to the citizens. This is the duty of governments. Even the Sudan Government itself must deliver this relief regardless of whether or not there are battles. But the regime makes no distinction between humanitarian considerations and war. If a big power like the United States was supporting us, Khartoum would not have been able to stand in our face until now.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where then do you get weapons and support if there are no regional elements supporting you?
[Agar] Firstly, the equipment in the two provinces was that of the SPLA, specifically the Ninth Division in South Kurdufan and the Tenth Division in the Blue Nile. The two divisions have participated in the war for 21 years. They accumulated much military experience as well as weapons during this period. We have 6,000 combatants in these forces that were redeployed in various areas under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in addition to the forces remaining from the SPLM. As for getting weapons, the SPLA says for instance in every battle that it had seized vehicles and weapons, most recently in the Jawa Battle in which the SPLA seized 132 canon-equipped vehicles, 13 tanks, and 13 heavy artillery pieces. The question which arises upon seizing these weapons is whether to put them in warehouses or use them? If they are used, this means our supplies of weapons come from the Sudanese Army.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Besides toppling the regime, what is your long-term program?
[Agar] Yes, but the question is: What after toppling the regime? After forming ourselves we started with the military aspects. Now the SRF has been organized as a national resistance front, or it can be said that it has become an open club for all the Sudanese political forces and all those who believe that their ideas are close to the SRF program. It is proposing itself as a substitute for the ruling regime in Sudan in order to establish a State of citizenship. The SRF is now in continuous meetings to develop its political and economic program for dealing with the situation after toppling the regime. This is a comprehensive program that is intended to replace the program of the present regime in Sudan.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The SRF alliance includes only the movements from Darfur in addition to the SPLM. Is what is going on a conflict between forces of what is known as the margin against the north and the center, or is it against the central government alone?
[Agar] Firstly, the opposite is true. The SRF is formed of four movements, namely the Justice Equality Movement, the two Sudan Liberation Movements led by Mani Arkoi Minawi and Abdul-Wahid Muhammad Nur, and the SPLM. These movements are combatant and it goes without saying that they unify their efforts. But as I said, the SRF door is open for all the political forces, civil society organizations, and all who believe that the change of the regime is a necessity to save what remains of the Sudan.
Then, even though the SRF started with four movements, it has now been joined by some prominent figures from Al-Umma Party led by Nasrudding Al-Hadi al-Mahdi, as well as Al-Tum Hago from the Democratic Unionist Party. They are now part of the SRF and believe in its approach for toppling the regime. The Beja Conference has also joined the Front. The circle is continuously expanding and will expand until it forms a broad Sudanese front. We believe that the leaders who signed with the SRF did so as parties and not as groups or individuals. The proof is that we have not heard any statements against their joining or against some members joining. We consider them to have joined, not to be divided among themselves.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The NCP says that the Darfur movements in the SRF have no bases or presence in the province. What is the truth of reports about differences between you?
[Agar] Of course this is talk for media consumption. If these movements held no weight, then why did the regime negotiate with them in Doha? We know that these movements hold political and military weight and have the ability to offer solutions to the problems that prompted them to fight. This is something necessary for the security stability in the Sudan. You can shake the security of the State by three persons but need all the Sudanese to preserve the security of the country. Therefore those who make such statements are war proponents and not peace advocates. This is because if there remains a single person who carries arms, his problem should be solved to guarantee peace. These movements and political organizations have programs. They emerged in different geographic locations. Therefore it is very natural that there should be differences. But what unites them is the problem of Sudan. Therefore I see no differences in reality. There could be differences in points of view, which is something healthy. When alliances are formed among sides, there must be concessions from all the parties for agreement on a program with a least common denominator. We have agreed on how Sudan should be ruled and on the program for toppling the regime, therefore there are no differences between us.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have supporters on the inside, in the north, the center and the east? Do you seek to start a war in East Sudan?
[Agar] Firstly, we are diverse movements and we have supporters from among the youths, the students, women and various segments. Therefore we can say that the majority of the Sudanese support the SRF. Igniting war in eastern Sudan goes without saying because it has not ended in the first place. Of course, there are those who see the opposite, but the reasons for the war are still there, and there will be problems as well in the north and center of Sudan. If the problem of how to rule Sudan is not solved, then war can flare up in any place in Sudan including Khartoum.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Since the SPLM in North Sudan signed the framework accord with the ruling NCP in Addis Ababa–which President Omar al-Bashir subsequently annulled–we have not heard of negotiations between you? What is the reason?
[Agar] The reason is mentioned in the question. It is that Omar al-Bashir annulled the framework accord and disrupted the negotiating forum. That forum tried several times to revive the negotiations. We used to tell them we are there at the table and have not left it. The question should be directed to those who left the negotiations and who should be asked to return to it. However the framework accord has been superseded by the current events on numerous points.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see the future of the Sudan?
[Agar] Sudan’s future lies in one thing, namely that its problems should be solved and that the wars should be brought to an end. For this to happen, we need serious and convincing efforts by all the belligerent parties to solve Sudan’s problem. This is because if the paradox of how Sudan should be ruled is not solved, there will be no stability. Clear mechanisms must be found for sharing power and resources and the relationship between the center and the fringes. There must also be new security arrangements for all of Sudan. Then there should be a Constitution upon which all the Sudanese agree. If this does not happen, then Sudan’s future will be bleak and this will reproduce the separation of South Sudan in numerous parts of North Sudan.