Yasir Arman is Secretary-General of SPLM-North, and consequently one of the leading opposition politicians in Sudan. Since South Sudan gained independence in July, the SPLM-North has been banned by the Sudanese government, and deadly fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states has led to many of Arman’s party colleagues going into hiding.
Yasir Arman spoke at Chatham House on Monday 3rd October on the prospects for a broad opposition alliance in Sudan, and for finding a resolution to Sudan’s current challenges.
He began his presentation focusing what he termed ‘the Northern question.’ The question he highlighted is one that exists within the North, and is not simply an aspect of the antagonism between North and South.
Yasir Arman highlighted the great diversity of population in the North, and how whilst South Sudan has seceded, a new geographical and political South has developed in the North. This ‘new South’ includes both Arabs and non-Arabs, and is close to Khartoum. It is as a result of these conditions of political and economic inequality that Yasir Arman warned a new civil war could develop in the North.
He also commented that the relationship between Sudan North and South Sudan was ‘unfinished,’ and that only transformation in Khartoum could facilitate a real transformation in the relationship between these two countries.
Yasir Arman next highlighted the current conditions in Sudan North. He described an existing economic crisis that was accentuating the marginalisation of groups such as the Beja and Nuba (as well as the mixed population of Darfur.) He predicted a ‘full-scale war from Khartoum to Blue Nile’ and a crisis of government which could only be averted by a restructuring of the centre.
Revolutions in Egypt and Libya have resulted in the de-legitimisation of Sudan’s government. Strong international pressure must now be placed on it to reform, and war crimes should not be ignored in the pursuit of political pragmatism. A holistic approach is now required in Sudan with the government of the ruling National Congress Party being identified as the essence of the problem. The NCP regime is, according to Arman, destroying the North.
Arman’s party – the SPLM-North – is seeking alliance of Northern oppositional forces in order to bring a about a paradigm shift in Sudanese politics. The SPLM-North continues to seek the unity of Sudan – the model being that of the EU, in which a Sudanese federation would allow ease of passage and trade for Sudanese citizens between the two countries.
According to Arman, as a leader of Sudan North, Omar el-Beshir is worse than deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The Darfur-focussed Doha peace talks are not a credible process, and all such actions carried out by the NCP government should be seen as such.
Yasir Arman’s speech was followed by a question and answer session in which he responded to questions from Sudanese, and British-based Sudan analysts, academics and journalists. Representatives from the Sudan Embassy in the UK were also in attendance.
By Magnus Taylor, Managing Editor, African Arguments