Bashir Protects Sudan’s Capital with Water Trenches against JEM
The political shape in Sudan is tense. The humanitarian conditions are deteriorating and so is the security condition of the whole country. But there is no limit to Al-Bashir’s predicaments; the shadow of the ICC prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo is not only looming but closing on him.
Realizing the complexity of the impending arrest warrant against him, Al-Bashir is doing all he can to circumvent the proceedings by legal challenges behind closed corridors. At the same time, he is publicly denouncing the ICC and branding Ocampo as a western stooge and an infidel. Much more recently, Al-Bashir has turned to use the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) for the purpose. Using the CPA mandatory election, Al-Bashir hopes to gain legitimacy but more important immunity against the possible ICC prosecution. By holding “elections”, Al-Bashir hopes to secure legitimacy, continues as President and claim immunity for as long as he could. He already stated that the coming elections in 2009, and which he will win by all means, will vindicate him and proves his innocence. Staying as President of Sudan, the international community will throw itself into protracted period of political and legal wrangling and scenarios.
Four scenarios await Al-Bashir now. The first is that he will be indicted but remains on the run. The second is that he indictment gets issued secretly with him being captured either by UNAMID forces or in a visit abroad. The third scenario is that Al-Bashir will be overthrown by the Sudanese army or national Security. The final scenario for Al-Bashir is to go free, following rejection of Ocampo’s case.
Each scenario has grave repercussions at the political, humanitarian and security situations in Darfur and the whole of Sudan. The international community is at the moment bracing itself for the arrest warrant and would not be deterred by Al-Bashir’s wailings. In all, if UN Security Council invoked article 16 and deferred the indictment, Al-Bashir will rejoice, together with tyrants and corrupt leaders around the globe and will certainly open new gates for inconceivable carnage and revenge against Darfurinas with the immunity he is handed over. Such scenario will be catastrophic for the free and democratic world that strives to set new standards of accountability and impunity against tyrants and dictators whom they want to see held accountable for their atrocities.
With Omdurman and the Capital particularly vulnerable during the dry season to further invasions by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and cross-desert raiding, Al-Bashir is in the process of erecting precautionary fortification measures of several kinds. Rumours that JEM forces are ready to advance once again and repeat its Operation Long Arm (OLA) has triggered spasms of erratic moves by National Security defensive mechanisms to protect the capital Khartoum. Some of the measures it planned to undertake include building of 180km skirting trench encircling the capital. The trench which will be flooded with water uplifted from the Nile will have 12 to 14 military observation and military posts.
Al-Bashir’s thoughts are lost but with the military defence remaining his only option. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) proved to be too weak and lack motivations to face the highly mobile rebel forces which managed to evade and overcome its fortifications and reached into the heart of Omdurman on the 10th of May 2008. Al-Bashir now relies on a limited circle of loyal friends and somewhat suspicious that current chaotic environment may encourage a coup against him. Now the (SAF) together with the National Intelligence Sudanese Security (NISS) forces believes that the threats from the ICC together with a possible strike from JEM have changed from general to specific and accordingly urgent measures are needed to deal with the imminent prospect of an arrest warrant and the invasion. At the same time JEM is conscious of all decisions taken by Al-Bashir in his quest to defend the vulnerable areas on the routes through the desert to Omdurman. It is also aware that both national and the international community will be sympathetic if JEM conducts operations to arrest and hand him over to the ICC.
SAF already erected several new army observation posts which were comprehensively identified by JEM intelligence especially in Jebel Issa, Natron Oasis, Malha, Wadi Mugadam, Wadi Malik, Fatacha, Jibal Markhiat and the outskirts of Omdurman. Previous adventures of erecting army posts in northern Darfur went disastrously wrong and confirmed lack of insight by both NISS and the SAF. The National Redemption Front (NRF) that was formed of JEM together with Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) in 2006 -7 managed to defeat and destroy all such posts and brigades in Northern Darfur mainly in Kulkul, Siah, Um Sidir and Kariary with huge embarrassment to SAF. Mr Jan Pronk; the then UN envoy to Sudan in 2006 was prompted to disclose what happened to the SAF and brought the issue to the open and as a result lost his job when the GOS declared him “˜persona non grata’ and expelled him. From thereon the SAF lost every battle it fought against JEM, the last of which was in Haskaneeta in September 2007 when a well trained special elite forces aimed at assassinating JEM Chairman Dr. Khalil Ibrahim was totally annihilated in a fierce battle that lasted for over three hours long. A week later SAF together with its Janjaweed militias lost another battle near Kuma in Norhtern Darfur.
Al-Bashir’s response to the new threats by JEM is analogous to the Chadian’s when the rebels, who were fully supported and equipped by the Government of Sudan (GOS), cornered President Idris Deby Itno in N’Djamena in February 2008. The Chadians were widely ridiculed by Sudan for digging trenches and ditches around the capital N’Djamena as part of their fortifications to protect areas susceptible to rebel incursions. When the Chadian rebels were defeated once again in Um Zoer on their way back to the capital in mid-June 2008, inflatable mobile bridges were found among what they left behind. Investigations confirmed that Sudanese NISS supplied their proxy Chadian rebels with the bridges in a calculated plan to overcome the fortifications and reach into N’djamena. The finding demonstrates that such fortifications are not immune to counter-procedures.
The Sudanese intelligence and its military apparatus seem to live in the past when they thought to rely on medieval techniques that are not impervious. Trenches, moats and sand wall barricades around Omdurman will not deter the rebels from taking the risk and come up with new tactics and techniques to surmount their defences. It is layman’s knowledge that physical barriers are considered useful only as early warnings and will not hamper the advancing forces if they managed to defeat or evade the established primary military fortifications along the route to the capital. SAF and the NISS may also aim at buying time to re-organise and apply other measures if they found themselves overwhelmed by the enemy.
Building high barricades made primarily of sand should remind the SAF that the highly expensive great Bar-Lev Line which was constructed of immense earthworks and supported by barbed wires and fences along the eastern side of Sinai coast did not stop the Egyptians from overwhelming it in their war against Israel in 1973. It is therefore pointless for Al-Bashir to rely on costly mechanisms that will not provide protection and safeguard against new attacks.
Al-Bashir should have known very well that real fortifications are not physical. They are based on the hearts and minds of the Sudanese people where freedom, democracy, respect of rule of law, equality and justice prevail for all. Only then can he find support and protection for himself and his regime against Ocampo or others.
The possible storming of Omdurman will have far reaching implications for the Sudanese and the International Community at large. During the last attack, JEM forces managed to advance for 1500 kilometres from Darfur to arrive at gates of Omdurman after securing striking successes against the enemy especially in Markhiat areas, Wadi Saidna, Engineering Corpse and in the vicinity of Omdurman Bridge leading to Khartoum. The NISS and SAF stationed in those areas scattered in the hilly region and JEM lost no time to advance into the heart of Omdurman along the paved roads. Al-Bashir understands that Operation Long Arm was only part of an ongoing war which has included many battles since the start of the trouble in 2003. During the year 2006, the NRF captured most of SAF garrisons and brigades in North Darfur and along the way up to the borders with Chad. With Al-Bashir vulnerable and under extreme distress as a result of his case with the ICC, the pressure is even mounting that JEM may succeed to oust him in its new adventure. Rumours are circulating that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) may opt to stage a theatrical coup and replace him with either Salah Gosh or Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie because of the embarrassment Al-Bashir causes to the party.
JEM has become a headache that the NCP and Al-Bashir could neither defeat nor find cure for. The movement operates independently with striking power to locate, identify enemy positions and bases, collect information and gather intelligence. It conducts cross desert raids and ambushes with efficiency in confusing and overtaking the enemy without air support or sufficient resupply if it went into trouble. Its fighters were made to understand that they might not make it back alive or even dead but the movement always has contingency plans to get them out of trouble if things went wrong.
At the political level JEM has been scoring points and has become a political magnitude that none would be able to ignore. It managed to escalate the current phase of its low intensity operations into a full-scale revolution and all Sudanese people’s war’ and develop long term plans with defined military and political objectives. It is only a matter of time before its objectives are realized.
Al-Bashir is confronting legal, political and military problems. In all of these fronts, Al-Bashir seems to be losing. His battle against the ICC cannot be won. His failure to reach a political and peaceful settlement to Darfur problem poses direct threat to his authority. On the military front, the possible invasion of Khartoum by JEM fighters remains a real nightmare for him.
Dr. El-tahir El-faki is the Speaker for JEM Legislative Assembly. He can be reached on [email protected]