Sudan: On Confusion
A senior member of a Sudanese opposition party, was present at the meeting of the leaders of the Juba Alliance in which the issue of boycotting the elections was discussed at length. From the meeting he knew precisely where each of the parties stood: which were for contesting the elections, which were for comprehensive boycott, and which were for partial boycott or were undecided. In the circumstances, his information was as precise, accurate, and up to date as any.
On leaving the meeting he saw the BBC news which was reporting a comprehensive boycott. This threw him into confusion. Assuming that the BBC had better information than he did, he also reported the BBC’s report as fact. The BBC report was actually inaccurate.
The last 72 hours have been characterized by confusion, conflicting information and shifting positions. It has not been helped by the fact that some political leaders express different opinions to different audiences, changing their language and emphasis, sometimes by the hour. Few of the political parties have sufficient internal discipline for all their spokesmen to give the same message, so that depending on who is speaking, a different story emerges. There is a vast amount of rumour and inference.
A general rule for the current situation is that those who know most, speak least, and those who are appearing most frequently in the media, usually know less.
In these circumstances, news reports and the publications by international groups often carry unwarranted weight. The position of the U.S. has been very clear: it wants the election to proceed. But some political leaders, particularly at the second level, take reports of non-governmental organizations which are taking a principled stand against the elections, as indicative of what the international community will do.
Finding the truth is always hard in the Sudanese political scene. At the moment it is simply impossible.
The performance of the Juba Alliance parties over the last week has reminded us of why the 1989 coup was met with absolutely no popular resistance across Sudan to speak of. The manifest inability of these parties to achieve something so elementary as forging a common front to participate in negotiations over the elections, and their persistence in putting narrow sectarian and tactical interest over any form of national vision or programme, is dispiriting to say the least.
Dear Abd al-Wahab Abdalla,
Amidst this too much confusion, posturing, one-up-manship, it is still too early to pass value judgements on any or all parties.
But to what negotiations are you referring and negotiate with whom?
What narrow interests are you talking about?
I hope you would clarify and give more details, and let us keep our judgements until this confusion clears up a bit, if it will ever clear.
What can one read in the US position regarding this elections, after all the reports that we read,from different NGOs, last of which was that of the ICG?
As far as the National Justice Party is concerned, there is no confusion. We are well focused on the process, to take place. We are not part of any of the two or three camps. I am unable to release information I know, at this time.
Sometimes I tend to feel like ‘throw-up’ when observing the difference between statements made by some ‘parties’ as compared to their actions. The cost of indicision, at the right moment, by the parties is usuall costly. Sadek al-Mahdi is a leader whose ‘word’ can never be taken seriously. it keeps changing course, just like “rain in the desert”.
I will reflect on the whole process when final decision has been reached by the NEC, in the coming few days.
I recall strikes, imprisonment, 18 army officers summarily executed for a supposed coup plot, torture, “ghost houses”, riots in El Obeid and elsewhere during the tumultuous year of 1989-1990 after the coup, in the context of a “popular resistance” led by SPLA that embraced 1/3 of the population, and an attempt in 1991 to take that war to Darfur …
One way to say what you have said was the popular resistance was successfully resisted (rather than non-existent). Failure by the resistance is, I agree, partly a function of the leadership and members of the resistance, but let us not neglect their powerful adversary.
According to the international standards of free and fair elections, the elections in Sudan are fatally deficient and are not democratic at all. The main event (the choice of president) has been blatantly rigged and as the ICG says can never be considered legitimate by the international community.
In a democratic system, each political party is free to make its own choice according to its procedures. The different parties are doing that and naturally there are different views among party members which means that some are leaning towards immediate and complete boycott across the board while others will tolerate a certain amount of rigging in order to advance the cause of democracy. The Umma Party is having the biggest internal debate but it has given the NCP an ultimatum of four days to accept basic preconditions for a free and fair election otherwise it will pull out. If it boycotts then the elections can not be legitimate and will only reveal the NCP for what it is before the eyes of the world.
The Sudanese people have experience of getting rid of dictators before even when those dictators were supported by the international community! World history shows that no dictatorship can last forever and for sure the people will refuse to accept any more swindling and oppression.
The experience of Sudan over the last fifty years confirms the analysis, based on objective structural factors, that the sectarian leaderships are incapable of acting strategically in the national interest. On each occasion they have taken power, it has been handed to them, rather than won through the mobilization of a broad-based constituency around strategic goals. Ana Majnun notes correctly that the Salvation Regime was single-minded in its repression of the progressive political forces in Sudan during the early years of its so-called “revolution”, but it is notable that the forces it targeted, and those that managed some primary resistance, were not the sectarian parties but the trade unions, students, farmers and workers. They were motivated, not by the prospect of bringing back the failed sectarian factions, but by the hope that a progressive revolutionary force could emerge from the rubble of the Islamicist project.
The 2005 CPA provided what is probably the last historic opening for the sectarian parties. This gain was not won by the parties themselves, which left to themselves would have circulated in and out of the grace and favour of the NCP, but by the SPLM and the international community pressure. They had numerous opportunities to influence the elections act, the national election commission, and to build their party infrastructure. They missed every opportunity and began serious negotiation with the ruling apparatus only at the eleventh hour, when the weakness of their infrastructure and leverage are evident to all, not least the NCP. The Sudanese masses will judge them harshly for sure.
the position of the international community, in the form of the U.S.-U.K.-Norway troika at least, has been made clear by their statement yesterday, which emphasizes the implementation of the CPA. The international position on the elections is that they are a bulwark to the CPA, which is intended to achieve peace, stability, self-determination for southern Sudan, and a process of democratization. The ICG report has a different emphasis and reflects the views of the ICG.
I can find excuses for the BBC and other media outlets’ misreporting. Basically, what happened is that the alliance’s spokesman Faruq Abu Issa gave an inaccurate account of the outcomes of the meeting at the NUP’s headquarters.
I was there myself when he addressed audience and announced that the alliance had â€œcollectively reached an agreement to boycott the elections.” Then people there started cheering and chanting anti-NCP slogans. Later I heard Mubarak al-Fadil telling foreign reporters that the boycott is inclusive.
Then the person who spoke after Abu Issa said that three parties had decided to boycott, some parties had asked for more time to â€œconsult with their ranksâ€ and other parties had â€œagreed to a total boycott.â€
It is clear to me now that no party has agreed to a total boycott. All parties either confirmed participation or asked for more time. The opposition deliberately released conflicting and vague reports to appease supporters and hide the fact that they could not reach consensus on boycott.
Now the worst case scenario, a partial boycott, is unfortunately materializing.
Thank you very much, indeed, the international community, “in the form of the U.S.-U.K.-Norway at least”, has now come out clear and plain. Their overriding priority in Sudan is the self-determination for Southern Sudan, and of course they need the same President whom these same “international community” in the form of “the U.S., U.K., Norway at least” keep calling for his appearance before the ICC, how convenient it would seem then, for them to turn a blind eye to all the tricks and manipulations that the NCP has done and is still doing to secure the Presidency.
Despite my principled position against the ICC’s arrest warrant, on legal grounds, I can still admit that it has greatly curbed the ability of the current Head of State of Sudan,and will no doubt continue haunting him and the country after his re-election. The only benefit of this re-election will be a President who will be forced, to make whatever concessions necessary to avoid the ICC.
The issues get more confused when one hears that even France,which few weeks ago was offering the current President of Sudan, a reprieve from the ICC, if he stands down as a candidate to the Presidency, and which would never countenance his participation in the Francophonie Summit,i s now calling for the elections to be held on time, in order to keep the timelines of the CPA, though the timelines of the CPA, for the elections at least passed one year ago.
You are right, the CPA,was meant to achieve peace, but that (PEACE), meant peace for the whole country. It was meant to set in motion a process of democratization, but democratization for the whole Sudan, and partial elections in April, will not achieve that.
Elections cannot be held in Dar Fur, they have already been delayed for South Kordofan. The Candidate who, at least carried the banner on behalf of the marginalized in Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan,has withdrawn or forced to withdraw from the race.
The problem of Dar Fur, the main mission of the US Special Envoy to Sudan, is not settled and may not, in any form, be settled before the dates set for the elections.
But the referendum will be held on time, because on paper it is so set, and because the International Community is so concerned for the people of the Sudan that it sees the form more important than the substance.
Woe to them who worship the text and ignore the context.
1st of all, I want to make clear that I am not taking any side in this political bickering, but I think that when what is supposed to be the major national opposition in the country fail to decide in such important matter gives a sense of mistrust on their capacity to rule this already-troubled vast country. What is really making me upset is that the people of Sudan are totally isolated from this elections and that our future will be decided by a punch of racist, ideological and extremists. I don’t know how far this ” Minbr eSalam Al Adil” would go for the sake of his uncle. Islam is way far honest from what you are promoting.
A short and very precise analysis Alex . Another proof that you know what you write about.
There is, however another point about the International Community. It has two faces. One in line with Sudanese National Interests (stability, peace,political settlement in Darfur, democratic transformation, modernisation). The CPA and the Darfur PA are proof of that. Insistence on the elections to go ahead is another proof; coupled with Gration’s sincere efforts in several continents.
The other “puzzling” face is the way the International Crisis Group is quoted , financed and held in high esteem despite its calculated mobilisation AGAINST the CPA , ELECTIONS and stability in our country. Its statement said that the elections were “rigged” before they actually took place!!
If we add the policy of sanctions to that and the absence of a US ambassador from Khartoum;the Western – influenced moderates like me are bound to become confused. The ICC on going campaign is a symptom of this contradiction at the heart of Western policy towards Sudan.
I have just returned from Khartoum. Bashir will win because he is seen as a symbol of patriotism against foreign bullying.T he way he tours conflict areas standing on a high podium speaks volumes to a world in which leaders sneak in and out of visits under the cover of darkness.
I agree, there is confusion ; but it has got many shades, Alex.
Dear Khalid Almubarak
Having read what you wrote in Rayaam,Thursday, 1 April 2010 about all the Presidential Candidates in the Sudan, four of whom have withdrawn, I am not surprised by reading this entry here.
While I understand that, ex-officio, you cannot but campaign for the Government or the (regime), that you represent, I nevertheless hoped that you could see the problems that are facing the country.
This is not about one individual ,Khalid, this about a country.
I have said it and repeat,that like many in this blog, questioned the wisdom of the ICC warrant and indictment, but no one can deny that it limited the movements of the Head of State,and has cost the country a lot, from the Lome Convention facility to the cancellation of debts. Will the election of Bashir change that?
Where is the Dar Fur Peace Agreement you refer to, and isn’t JEM asking for postponement of the elections? General Gration’s proposal is for complementary elections after this elections, he is thus admitting that the problem is not solved for now, but will be dealt with after the elections. By insisting on this elections, he seems to be more concerned about the referendum for the South .
The CPA talks about peace for the whole Sudan, it talks about the Nuba Mountains, the Blue Nile, Eastern Sudan.
It is ironic that you refer to foreign bullying and at the same time embrace it when it suits the designs of the NCP.
The confusion to-day is not just conflicting reports from the political parties,it is from what will this elections lead to?
And if some have apprehensions,it is because they are concerned for a country, not a post or a party.
Those who call for the delay of this elections,are not trying to sweep the NCP out of power, nor are they questioning its legitimacy, for it remains the de facto government of the day.
All there is that,the Sudanese,all the Sudanese,should seek to settle all the pending issues,including the ICC. I was very impressed by what Zechariah Manyok Bioe wrote in the Sudan Tribune , 3 April 2010, that SPLM/A may need to postpone the referendum till 2012, if needs be.
This is the type of positive thinking that we need, Do we have problems that demand national consensus or not?
Haranguing, attacking others, directly or indirectly, does not help us . Our concern is the Sudan.
This may be the one shade of confusion that I hope you will address.
I do not write ONLY in my official capacity . I write as one of the most active opposition advocates abroad for more than twelve years .I called for pluralism, campaigned for multiculturalism, democracy and human rights. I supported the CPA as someone who yearned for it and worked for it. I and my family paid a price for that. That is why I take the CPA seriously. Dr John Garang took it seriously ;but after his death some of his SPLM successors began to look upon the CPA as a trojan horse ;or a mere trick to topple the regime from inside. That led them to an alliance with parties which rejected the CPA in 05 .They thought that the SPLM and Garang betrayed them in 05 and tried to bring the movement back to the fold. When they found a sympathetic ear , a situation was created in which the SPLM became both part of government and opposition .This is the cause of chaos and confusion..To its credit the WEST still takes the CPA seriously.
As far as Darfur is concerned ;the rebels should not have a de facto veto over the political process. SPLM never had a veto when elections were held in Sudan during the civil war.Elections were held in Iraq and Afghanistan during conflict.Besides , even the most vociferous opponents of Sudan in the USA( those who swallowed predergastisms without reservations in the past )have had the probity to acknowledge that the situation in Darfur had changed.
You are right about the Nuba mountains and other areas;but ther is room in the CPA for that too.
Postponement of the referendum is, theoretically ,an idea to be discussed;but in the real world of practical politics ,it is a non starter because of the atmosphere of mistrust and the huge emotional capital injected in the cause of self determination over many years.
The USA was right about the ICC . It feared politicisation and did not like the unlimited powers of an unaccountable Prosecuter. Both factors are clear in the performance of the court and its prosecuter (who -incidentally- opposes elections in Sudan!). I was impressed by what the Austrian philosopher Hans Kochler said in London last week about the impossibility of separating power politics from attempts of international justice .Only weak states can be targeted. The big fishes will get away with murder and enjoy impunity. Dr Kochler noted that by opposing elections L.M.Ocampo has strayed away from his main duty. He should have submitted his case and kept silent except in the court . Instead ,he has become a celebrity , and a an activist who holds press conferences and mobilises the media.His credibility has plummeted.
once again the American government has proved that human rights and democracy are only tools utilized in fashionable ways to cover up bigger plans not related by any means to democracy, the negative response of the US government to the legitimate concerns of the opposition parties has shocked many observers including me, the tension that followed the Iranian Election is not comparable to what we are all seeing in our case, especially the media, this makes me more confident that the priorities have changed and the free will of people is not the base for democracy, in our case the long awaited referendum of South Sudan has much to do with the stand.
Dear Khalid Almubarak
This is not about you, I do respect your views and of course you are free to write in any capacity. This is about a country, known so far as the Sudan. It is about the double standards of the West, which is turning a blind eye to all the real issue afflicting the Sudan,and rushing the country to this elections as they lead to the referendum in the South.
Sami Tamim has got it right.
The NCP did not get it or got something of it ,something we don’t know.
We however know that this is the same West that still maintains support to the ICC. It is the same France that moved the Francphonie Summit from Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to avoid the presence in the Summit of the President of the Sudan, who is very likely, if not certain, to win this elections.
But Dear Khalid, you go too far in quoting Afghanistan and Iraq, as examples, for they are both de facto occupied territories.
It is now for the Sudanese to decide what to do to save their country, and if the West offers to help, let us always remember Confucius, who said “He who seeks the interest of others, has already secured his own.”
I have to agree with Sami Temim. It seems the US government is interested in the referendum not being delayed, at any cost. This supports suspicions that they are eager to capitalize on the longterm objective: carve out Sudan. No surprise there.
The Bashir government is also interested in the referendum not being delayed. And so is the SPLM, and so on and so forth.
So in effect, what do these elections mean? What was the point of it all? Will there be any power shifts? Will Sudan’s landscape shift towards more authoritarian control or more pseudo-democratic bickering (since those seem to be the only two alternatives). Will the sectarian parties continue to pretend like they have a platform, a solid support base, and the will to govern?
There is a strong thread of separatism that both the NCP and SPLM are agreeing to. I frankly don’t see why many people in this blog have suggested that these elections are exciting. Exciting for whom? For analysts? NGOs? The Sudanese? The State Department?
Alex, you are right to characterize Sudan as a turbulent state. It seems, when you boil it down, Sudanese are suffering from an affliction. Otherwise this nonsense would not stand in any other society or culture.
Dear David Barsoum
Which West are you referring to?There are two Wests. The West of career diplomats and liberals and the West which takes its cue from the ICG, Enough and Save Darfur Coalition. There is the Wet of the anti-colonial movement, abolition of slavery and -recently- fair trade and the West which supported apartheid and still supports the redindianisation of the Palestinians .We should be encouraged by the fact that the most obnoxious currents have invariably been discredited and defeated internally in Europe and the USA. MacCarthy triumphed for a very short period in the USA.There is now a black American President .The fascist movement stood no chance in England in the 1930s and 1940s .The shizophrenic West is bound to create confusion; but in Sudan even the outgoing Bush administration got it right when it helped to broker the CPA and the DPA.
Elections are not a National Congress cause . They are a Sudanese National cause in the first place. Those who ask for a level playing field(financially speaking) should look at Western democracies and quote us a level field . There is a strong case for State financing of political parties and for control of electoral expenses ;but to call ,ten days before the polls as the Umma party does, for a new Electoral Commission structre is not realistic.
Ultimately ;our future should not be determined by the negative forces in the West(with ill-advised front organisations like the ICG or the ICC).Our own internal political dynamics should prevail.These are not perfect.;but remember that it took the West centuries to hone theirs.Ours should not and cannot be a carbon copy of theirs .
There is no insoluble contradiction between us and the West. On the contrary, we can have mutually beneficial partnerships.The West ,however, should be more modest. Its moral high ground and claims of stewardship of the world have been shaken by many factors including Guantanamo, Iraq, Abu ghraib and the financial crisis.
Dear Khalid Almubarak
I do not want to turn this blog into an exchange between us on the west, its policies and traditions ,or go into liberal/conservative. Yet it is in order to clarify few points.
I have no problem with the West,nor deny what we benefitted from the West.
In fact, Dear Khalid, you would remember, that we too had a democracy, we had career diplomats,and we had our liberals and conservatives.We also had-an initiative-called, the Sudanese Peace Initiative-signed in Addis Ababa, November,1988, which was the beginning of a Peace Process, that could have saved the Sudan and Africa, a lot of pain of misery.
It may not have been a perfect democracy,but as you say(it took the west centuries). How many times did we conduct elections,though partial,but we never had this confusion,suspicion and skepticism.
We had, Dear Khlaid, hopes,after the days of Nimeiri’s May regime.
The country was preparing for the meetings to implement that Initiative,as the meeting was scheduled in Addis,in July.
But then,we woke up in June 30,1989,to the trumpets and military marches of the Regime you now represent.
And all was gone,the Peace we dreamt of,the Career Diplomats that we spent a lot of money training in Sudan and abroad,mostly in the West,the nascent democracy,not quite though,for we also had Mature Politician,from the right and the left.
The war intesified,new wars started,career diplomats were replaced by political appointees,selected on basis of party allegiance.
We learnt a lot about torture and the Ghost Houses,long before Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo,(at least the latter two were exposed),ours are yet to be investigated.
The ICG ,Human Rights Watch,and ICC came in.
I,dear Khalid,like many in this blog,have at no point supported the ICC,i wish to refer you to an entry in this very blog,dated;February 3rd,2010.
Nor have I ever said the ICG was right.
I have always and still wish that we postpone both the elections and referandum,not for financial benefits to the parties but for the Sudanese to talk to each other and many are the issues that we need to resolve,before going into the elections and the referandum.
It is this supreceliousness,the idae that we are good and they are rebels,that led us to this state of turbulence,in the first place..Had we looked at the tragic events of Torit in a rational manner,exercised restraint and engaged those who led or masterminded those events,we could have reached the same conclusions we reached in the year 2005:discontent of the marginalized.But wishes are not horses.
WE repeated the same misjudgement in Dar Fur,in 2003,and we conveninetly labeled it(armed robbery,if you remember,and rebels as you call them),and here we are now,UNMIS,UNAMID,and Initiatives pouring from all over the world.
And we talk of partial elections,which simply means that part of our population will be deprived of their right to vote and others will decide on thair behalf.This no deomcracy by any definition.
In this,my humble personal view,was that we need to talk,and the NCP and the SPLM/A,though they are the Government of National Unity,do not reperesent the whole Sudan,and transition,into a viable democracy,that could maintain the country united,demands that the Sudanese meet in hatever shape and form and address issues of war and peace in Dar Fur,issues of unity or secession in the South,issues of pwer sharing and wealth sharing,issues of even development,in short we need the national consensus.
It is a positive step that the NCP and the SPLM or the Government of National Unity took to call for the elections,but it seems to me ,and I hope I am wrong,that the rush for the elections,is more to fulfil the timelines of the referandum,than to put the country on a solid path to democracy,and both the elections and the referandum have prerequistes and we better secure these prerequiste now,this without prejudice,to the referandum and it’s result.Postponing or delaying the referandum,does by no means,mean changing the options of unity or secession,and there is no harm,if candid and frank talking,if the recognition of past mistakes,and agreeing on future policies that will ensure that they will not be repeated help us maintain the unity of our country.What is cause of concern to me,is why is Special Envoy Gration,who by the way,avoids to meet the President,because of the ICC indictment,is now an advocate of elections that are certain to be won by the same President,whom he avoids?Why France,why the UK?In this I am not alone.The West has it’s interests and we have ours,they converge and diverge,but it is for the Sudanese first and foremost to decide what they want.
In this I dont think I am supporting the ICG or the opposition parties,nor am I supporting the ICC,in fact we can deal with this issue in a better and more effective manner.
“The Last Temptation
Is the greatest treason
To do the right deed
For the wrong reason.”
I hope this is not the case with those who are pushing for this elections.
I want to thank David Barsoum for his insightful views which I agree with most of them especially when it comes to the postponement of elections and referendum, a delay I am seeking not for the benefit of any party or candidate those I believe did not do any good for Sudan by any mean, but I am poignant and fretted for what will happen if this elections continue in this circumstances while Martial Laws (Emergency Act) are valid in Darfur and the peace agreement with the rebels is not yet signed or even close to reach a deal as the JEM is insisting on delaying the elections so people of Darfur who live in refugees camps can practice their constitutional rights. It is sun-clear and no secret that we will whitenessâ€™ the birth of the newest state in Africa, an idea I hate to think about as I feel failure as I contributed to destroy what once was a united country, an evident to our failure to accept each other despite color, race or religion.