Sudan (North), Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan in the Short-Term Landscape of Sudan – By Tag Elkhazin
“Capsules” is an ad-hoc series of short notes focusing on three issues relating to Sudan:
2- South Sudan,
3- Nile Waters.
The notes shall focus on facts and on realistic analysis and possible scenarios. The notes are meant to be unbiased and representing only the views of Subsahara Centre-Ottawa. They are self-funded by Subsahara Centre. No comments or dialogue over the Capsules is expected.
The outbreak of hostilities in Blue Nile, though limited and not exclusively through the main Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), may now change the landscape for both Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The operations by both the Popular Defence Force (PDF) and then SAF may be an arm-twister for General Agar and/or may be tactical to create leverage. If it were meant by the SPLMN to take the heat off General Hilo in South Kordofan that seems to have failed as fresh SAF and PDF forces were sent to Blue Nile. Who started the fighting may not be very important now. The Nubas in the SPLMN were worried that General Malik Agar might cave-in and “sell them out”. The South Kordofan insurgency made SAF/GOS weary of Gen Agar and consequently readied themselves for action.
If the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLMN) wants to operate as a political party within the bounds of the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement (FWA) of June 28th, 2011, there must be “Political Space” for them to operate. They signed an agreement that called for their total and full integration into Sudan-North. How can that happen when the political space is not “institutional” and under “normal conditions”; but needs to be “granted” by the ruling government-of-the-day? And how can that happen when SPLMN has put itself at war with the Government of Sudan (GOS)? The result: Declaration of a state of emergency in Blue Nile State by GOS and President Beshir firing General Malik Agar as Governor of Blue Nile State on September 2,2011 and chasing SPLMN out of Dammazine and proximity of the vital national infrastructures in the region. The offices of the SPLMN have been closed in all 15 states of the Sudan and many of the leaders arrested.
No government, good or bad, will allow a party or an entity to bake their cake and eat it by having a clear insurgency in Southern Kordofan (SK) and at the same time having business as usual as a political party? General Abdel Aziz Aliho and Mr. Yasir Arman miscalculated grossly.
While the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue may have harmed President Beshir and his government internationally, it has buttressed him internally and rallied support for him that previously he would not have dreamed of. This green adventure in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile may result in the same backlash for opposition forces in Sudan.
There was no “Process” in Addis Ababa when the Framework Agreement was discussed and signed between SPLMN and GOS. There was no “re-entry”. The term and “envelope” of “Framework Agreement” is very misleading and has ALWAYS led to dispute.
Addis Ababa FWA is not a bad document. One does not understand why the National Congress Party (NCP) and the GOS have created such a big fuss about its security arrangements component. The Security Arrangements do give the SPLMN-Military wing more than their relative weight (please read articles 8, 9,10,11,12 and 13). We guess that is the issue of contention in Khartoum. Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, the assistant to President Beshir did not refer back to his boss before he signed the agreement – that was a “process” and procedural mistake and the reference back to the powerbase is called “re-entry”. That also burned Mr. Minnie Minnawi in the Abuja Agreement on Darfur.
It may be prudent, upon de-escalation of hostilities, that both NCP and SPLMN revisit the document instead of being dogmatic about it.
From a “process” point of view, SPLMN should not have dismissed, outright, direct negotiations without any regional/international intermediary as President Beshir has insisted. 4 months back the Subsahara Centre did 5 executive interviews with 5 top leaders from NCP in Khartoum and the decision to diminish foreign intervention was already taken then. Read our Capsule # D 16 in our website. President Beshir will not budge now.
GOS is already snubbing “Envoys” and having them “stood” for days. That the US appoints a very senior diplomat (Mary Yates) as head of mission in Khartoum needs to be noted. She was special assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for African Affairs on the White House National Security Staff; not a joke. While it is an “Interim Appointment” we read that as a message of recognition that ambassadors Princeton Lyman and Dane Smith may not be fully functional and effective with or in Khartoum. With the number of envoys and the arrogant way they behave (d), one gets the impression that Sudan has turned into an “International Protectorate”. Regrettably, every group carrying arms has as first call “intervention by the International Community; meaning the “West”. The sovereignty of “Sudan” must be differentiated from the Sovereignty of President Beshir and his party. One must give credit to Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud of the Sudanese Communist Party for declining “foreign intervention” to change the regime. This demonstrates a credible and regrettably uncommon example of civic sense.
There are ways, with proper and scientific “Process Design” to have direct negotiations with no foreign intermediary, but possibly with a “National Facilitator”. What did the “international input” do to the Abuja Agreement or Doha Agreement?
We are hopeful that the issue of the “venue” can be ironed out if a professional facilitator, capable of generating options is involved and SPLMN and NCP agree to direct negotiations. GOS insists that the venue must be inside Sudan and SPLMN insists that that it must be in a neutral country.
When John Garang asked us to look into the issue of “Security Arrangements” in 1992, we had a conference at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and we debated the issue for 2 days with experts. When he accepted the options, he gave us a message to GOS that if President Beshir was willing to leave Security in South Sudan in the hands of the SPLA during the transitional period, then a deal could be struck. Beshir’s Government surprised us by accepting. THAT was the grease that made the gears work. There is, now, need for an “entry point” as well.
SPLMN needs to do scientific assessment, free-of-emotions and dreams and assess if they have “true” critical mass of political powerbase at the voters’ level. They need to get out of the approach to “clone” the original SPLM/A of South Sudan. The demography, conditions and mindset in the regional and world politics will not support that. Besides, we do not believe that many of the SPLMN leaders have the charisma and intellectual abilities to inspire people Sudan-wide and emulate John Garang. If they try to walk into the shoes of late Dr. Garang they are likely to have blisters.
To have political space to operate as a political party, they need to stop calling for regime change unless they opt to fight the regime on; which means they fight SAF and without the Ethiopians as happened in Kurmuk and Giesan during Mengistu’s regime. We are told by a credible source that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told General Malik Agar that “You will put us in a difficult situation by pursuing the military option”. Indeed, PM Zenawi accompanying Malik to Khartoum was, in principle, to avert the military option.
The only backbone left in Sudan to keep its spine is the army (SAF). SPLMN are fighting SAF at a time when there is no other cohesive force holding what is left of Sudan together. It seems that all opposition parties-SPLMN included- now see President Beshir and his regime as the “Crocodile beside the canoe”. They see nothing else, not even the apparent negative impacts on Sudan
The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) total about 200,000 well equipped and trained. There are also between 20,000 to 30,000 armed militias that do fight or can fight with SAF. During the invasion of Abyei by SAF in May 2011, the Misieriya Militias did the front fighting and advanced ahead of SAF. That is one regular SAF solider for every 150 inhabitants of Sudan (North)
The Armed Forces of South Sudan are 140,000. That is one regular South Sudan Army (SSA) for every 57 inhabitants. It is estimated that the SPLMN has between 3,500 to 5,000 fighters total in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Neither the Army of South Sudan nor the small force of the SPLMN are a match to SAF in conventional wars.
One cannot advocate throwing the regime in the sea and at the same time partner with them. The big question will be: Does the SPLMN have the military power, the community support and all the criteria qualifying their entity as an “Armed Movement”?
If the SPLMN wants to survive as a political party, they must disarm, demobilize and reintegrate (DDR). That is in the Addis Ababa FWA. If they do not have the “critical mass” of constituency, they need to be patient and build that constituency without resorting to subversion. Edward Heath said, after he left 10 Downing Street, that he was advocating for the UK to help create and join the EU 20 years before it happened. Change cannot happen overnight and cannot happen over the internet.
There are more people “standing at the fence” in Sudan than aligned with current political parties. To convince them to join SPLMN, the Party must have funding, doable and workable strategy and a robust well-phased out plan-of-action. That cannot be brewed in a tone of hostility.
We do not see any like-minded political forces in Sudan that can team up with the SPLMN except for the Communist Party which is an aging party and cannot do more than add “Salt and Pepper” to Sudanese politics. The bottom line is: If SPLMN wants to stay in the political arena in Sudan; they need to reverse strategies and coexist. The Umma party came to that conclusion when they felt they were losing constituency to the NCP. The one-man-show, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Mohammed Osman El Mirghani, came to the same conclusion.
Darfur is now, by-and-large, under GOS control. The agreement signed between the UNHCR, Chad and GOS is a clear indication that fortunes are turning to the benefit of GOS. More meetings are underway for advanced steps to return refugees to Darfur. Doha document, as miserable as it is, is a big win for the NCP. Read our capsule D16 to see that GOS got what they wanted. JEM has lost in both size and power when Dr. Khalil was hit by President Deby. GOS is resisting UNSC 2003 enforcing chapter 7 and we do not believe that the so-called “International Community” has the will or power or pressing reason to undertake military intervention in Darfur or South Kordofan. The scale of atrocities in both South Kordofan and Blue Nile are still very low intensity.
The leaders of SPLMN must read the International Landscape well. They must stop calling on the “International Community” and inviting intervention; that will be construed as sign of weakness and despair. They do not seem to have a clue what it takes to reinvent Operation Lifeline Sudan for which they have recently called.
Even those Western governments that are concerned about South Kordofan and Blue Nile are concerned about the “humanitarian situation” and do not, and will not, support a new struggle in South Kordofan. If the SPLMN fights “to purposely create” a humanitarian situation, they will be condemned by the people in Kordofan and Blue Nile. The morality of their struggle will be in question as well.
They must also read the regional landscape well. NCP can give the new Republic of South Sudan (ROSS) hell for the next 2-3 years, if they wish or if they have to, as they have far more leverage cards over ROSS than the ROSS has over the North. 358 people died of hunger in Warrap State and food prices sky-rocketed as Khartoum blocked food supplies.
In the early days of the SPLM/A struggle, Ethiopia was the sanctuary for the fighters. Kurmuk and Giesan were captured by 5000 Ethiopian troops and the key to the towns handed over to the SPLA. We met the general who lead the forces. Gambella Airport was upgraded from a small landing strip to an international runway for the SPLM/A. Will Ethiopia be a fallback country for Blue Nile’s or S Kodrofan’s SPLMN today?
As internationally unpopular as NCP may be, President Beshir and co have no current match in political and military power in Sudan. If SPLMN wants to start a popular liberation struggle, they will have to wait 20 years as the South did to achieve goals by force. That is if they do not meet the fate of late Boulad in Darfur or end up in exile like Mr. Abdulwahid of Darfur who now has a few soldiers under Commander Tarrada.
Non-core-NIF (National Islamic Front) in NCP/Beshir and the military feel that they made a mistake by listening to NIF and letting South Sudan go in the IGAD process ending in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The story is far more complex than what meets the eye. Turabi entertained the option of letting the South go as far back as 1988. Nimeiry was convinced by the Americans to pull out of South Sudan in 1984. We were firsthand witness to both. The SAF including their minister General Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussien, have always felt that Vice President Ali Osman/NIF sold out.
The Nuba Mountains are only 78,000 SQ KM and there are as many Arab tribes as there are Nubas. An example will be the Hawazma tribe cutting through the Nuba Mountains. Misieriya dominate the south of South Kordofan.
SPLMN may better focus on “creating conducive political conditions” for the SPLMN to “function”, rather than fighting a senseless war. Right now, we cannot see how SPLMN can operate as a party while leading subversive action against the state and it may be difficult for them to survive as an insurgency group either.
 From a reliable source
 Visit of PM Zenawi and Agar to Khartoum August 2011
 International news agencies
 His meeting with the American Charge in Khartoum August 2011
 Source is Subsahara’s lead consultant
 1993 delivered to the Office of the President in Friendship Hall
 From a credible source
 Personal sources
 Sudanese daily papers
 Capsule Notes Series published by Subsahara Centre
 It is reported that the leadership of UNAMID were against changing the mandate.
 From a Canadian expert currently living in Alexandria-Egypt
 The lead consultant of Subsahara Centre
 The man seems to be outside the loop of decisions these days.