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Asharq Al-Awsat interview: Ibrahim al-Ghandur | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Ibrahim al-Ghandur, head of the foreign relations committee of the ruling Party in Sudan, has expressed cautious optimism regarding the possibility of resolving all disputed issues in relation to South Sudan.

“We wish to establish strategic relations with the nascent state, but we advise a change in the mentality of Juba’s rulers who are insisting on the agenda of the New Sudan despite the separation and who are continuing to support problem-stirring and stifling of the economy in Sudan so as to undermine the present regime” Al-Ghandur told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Regarding the “Arab Spring,” Al-Ghandur said that the spring of Sudan has been on-going for years and that the political and economic reforms are proceeding in line with the needs of the Sudanese people, which staged an uprising against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM]. This movement is keen on the emergence of a New Sudan which is void of Arabism and Islam.

The full content of the interview is as follows:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why do you accuse Juba of seeking to topple the regime in Khartoum? What good does this bring to South Sudan?

[Al-Ghandur] The present SPLM leadership which rules South Sudan has an agenda which it announced prior to 1983, when it spoke of the New Sudan. We take this to mean a Sudan that is void of Arabism and Islam. They tried to implement an agenda for the New Sudan through guerrilla warfare since the eruption of the rebellion in the same year [1983] until we arrived at the comprehensive peace agreement in 2005. The agenda of the New Sudan continued even after signing the agreement, and the SPLM was under the belief that weakening the regime could achieve that agenda, even through elections. When we reached the 2010 elections and the SPLM discovered that a Sudan that is void of Arabism and Islam is difficult to attain, it focused southward and opted for separation. But as President Salva Kiir said in his speech, he will not forget the agenda of the New Sudan. Consequently the SPLM kept two things. The first is that it left its name as is, which is the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement even though it is a ruling Party in another country. Its Army also remains under the name of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. It even chose for its State the name of the State of South Sudan. It is known that Sudan is a State and that it has a south. It did not choose the name of the Southern Sudan State. It thus tries to imply that there is one Sudan which has a south and has a north and that this agenda must be implemented by weakening the regime in Sudan and changing it by all means. The SPLM chose two fields for this change: The first by creating economic shocks and bottlenecks, this is why it refused to agree on the prices of oil and its transit, and then halted the oil flow despite this suffocating the South and its economy.

After that scenario failed, it ventured to enter the Abyei region, in which Sudan’s oil is produced, and moved to destroy its infrastructure in order to stop the pumping of oil. This scheme also failed. The SPLM then began to support the rebel movements in Darfur even after the Peace Agreement in Doha. Over and above all this, it left two divisions of its armed forces in South Kurdufan and the Blue Nile and has not disarmed them as stipulated in the Peace Agreement. Those two divisions led an armed rebellion against the Government with the aim of bleeding Sudan economically and preoccupying it security-wise so that the street revolts and what is called the “Arab Spring” starts, at which point these racist movements would attack and seize the rule in Khartoum and ally once again with the SPLM to establish the New Sudan that is void of Arabism and Islam. All these scenarios have failed.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are there alternatives to end these confrontations and ensure stability in Sudan?

[Al-Ghandur] We are counting on the Sudanese people and unification of the domestic front. This is our first option in the resistance and in pulling the carpet from under this conspiracy. This wager on the citizen has succeeded despite the pressing economic circumstances and the adoption of economic decisions which had a hard impact on the citizens. The calls for going out on the street did not meet with much response from the general political street and even from the citizens in general. The second matter is exposing the dimensions of these conspiracies so that the people would rally to defend their Armed Forces. This matter succeeded through the rush of the youth to participate in the defense of Sudan and expel the aggressors from the Hijlij region. After it was regained, all the people in Sudan turned out, men and women, to celebrate that. The third matter was to count on the brethren and the friends in the Arab and Islamic countries headed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and also to count on all the African brethren who stood with us in the face of all the external conspiracies through the known stands of the African Union. Further, we count on friends, especially Russia and China to oppose any anti-Sudan resolutions at the Security Council.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] President Al-Bashir stated that the atmosphere of negotiations with the South in Addis Ababa is positive. Do you agree and do you see a possible breakthrough concerning the oil dossier?

[Al-Ghandur] First, the security file has been discussed except for the issue of the regions which the SPLM claims are part of the South. These are four border regions. This was before the separation, as well as after it. During the Addis Ababa negotiations, the SPLM added a fifth region, and thus the disputed regions became five. But the SPLM came some time afterwards and claimed that some other regions belong to it and added another five regions. It is known that the first five regions are the region of Jebel al-Maganis, Kaka al-Tujariya, Kafiyet Kanji, 14 Mile and Judah. Now the SPLM claims ownership of other regions led by the Hijlij region from which Sudan produces, refines, and transports most of its oil, along with other small regions here and there. Moreover, they claim that the Abyei region belongs to them even though it is known that there is a special protocol governing it which demands that its inhabitants settle [through a referendum] affiliation to Sudan or to the South. Therefore this is the principal point of difference at present between the two delegations.

On the oil file, in the past they used to offer less than a dollar, and today the offer is more than $16 even though this price does not reach what we asked for, which is $22 in accordance with the estimates of experts even from the International Monetary Fund. This was approved by President Salva Kiir and was signed by the two Presidents, Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir. But the Southern Government reneged on the agreement and refused to implement it in the presence of the heads of state of the IGAD group. Despite that, we still say that the gap is not wide. They have now realized that their past stands were wrong because instead of strangling Sudan it was the economy of the South that was strangled. Further, according to the estimates of international economic observers, the Southern economy has reached the verge of collapse. Therefore they are trying to speed up the agreement. We have no objection to this since our strategic perspective springs from our understanding of the importance of strategic relations with the South and with all neighbors. But we want to settle important files led by the files of the borders and security so that it becomes possible to cooperate in the economic, political and other files.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there a deadline for signing an agreement?

[Al-Ghandur] The Security Council has set a deadline of August 2, but we are not much preoccupied with that and we are trying to reach agreement in a manner that does not lead us to reopen the file again or even to differ about it. Therefore we are not preoccupied with the deadline in as much as we wish to achieve a solid agreement that holds in the face of all challenges.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you contemplate any Arab mediation to help end the conflict with the State of the South?

[Al-Ghandur] Our first option is that the negotiations take place through a high-ranking African Union mechanism led by Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa, because scattering the efforts by going to several capitals for the dialogue could perhaps prove negative.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] I am referring to bilateral meetings between the two Presidents in Juba and Khartoum. Do you not see as beneficial?

[Al-Ghandur] China and Russia have named envoys and they have undertaken shuttles between Juba and Khartoum and attended some meetings. Egypt also announced its readiness to mediate and its Foreign Minister went to Juba and Khartoum. Qatar also tried. Therefore bringing about a rapprochement in views in this manner and easing tensions to prevent a repetition of what happened in the occupation of Hijlij, for instance, is a role that some capitals can play. But the basic domain for the negotiations is the high-ranking African Union mechanism.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect an exchange of visits between Juba and Khartoum to bring about a rapprochement of views on the disputed issues?

[Al-Ghandur] We have not despaired of our relationship with the South and we only hope for a change of the mentality that now governs Juba. We recall that before the attempt to occupy Hijlij last May, President Al-Bashir was supposed to visit Juba. Five days before this visit, the SPLA entered Hijlij even though we were considering agreements approving the four freedoms for the citizens of the two States.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In the long-term, do you expect the unification of Sudan once again?

[Al-Ghandur] Everything is possible, but I am not optimistic about that in light of the currently prevailing mentality in the South and under the international agenda that seeks more splits in the region.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the role that China is playing in prospecting for gold to compensate the State of Sudan for the oil revenues it lost?

[Al-Ghandur] The Chinese companies operate in the field of prospecting for gold and iron, and they also try to raise the levels of oil production. By the end of this year, China will enter into new oil fields. There are Sudanese companies operating in this field, but we are counting more on the field of agricultural production.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has the President taken measures to organize the internal conditions with the political and partisan forces?

[Al-Ghandur] We have an initiative that has been proposed, namely the initiative of drafting the permanent Constitution for Sudan. The President is adopting an initiative through the Presidency to invite all the political forces to a dialogue over a comprehensive Constitution which enjoys a consensus. The political forces have begun preparing for this meeting and we hope that this will be a good beginning between the government and the opposition.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you see that the developments in the “Arab Spring” in Egypt and Libya could affect the stability in Sudan?

[Al-Ghandur] We view them as a positive impact rather than a negative one. We believe that Sudan already lived the “Arab Spring” for many years.