Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 26 January 2004

Al-Turabi denounces US role in peace process


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By Muhammad al-Makki Ahmad, London-based newspaper Al-Hayat

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Hassan Al-Turabi

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 22, 2004 — Dr Hasan al-Turabi, secretary-general of the Popular National Congress Party in Sudan, has expressed the hope that Sudanese people would unite to exert pressure on the regime to move from the tempting power positions and return the country to the free people’s rule.

In an interview with Al-Hayat in Doha, he added that he prays to God that this would happen without a popular uprising as happened in October 1964 and April 1985 because Sudan is collapsing, and it is currently not ruled from Khartoum only.

He affirmed that movements are currently taking place in Sudan - west, south and east - and there can be no unity in the country between all the parties without agreement, freedom and democratic change.

He thought that a coup against a military rule is difficult.

Al-Turabi said that he had met Shaykh Abassi Madani, leader of the Algerian Salvation Front, and talked about the recent initiative to end the fighting in Algeria. Al-Turabi praised the initiative, but thought that there is little possibility the Algerian government would accept it, because the government is infatuated with absolute power.

Al-Turabi also met [Qatar-based Muslim scholar] Shaykh Yusuf al- Qardawi in Doha. He said the meeting dealt with the situation of the Islamic nation and the importance of injecting Islamic thought into the system of government, administration, and the economy. He said that the Muslims do not know how Islam governs and manages life. The text of the interview follows:

"Extraordinary legal measures" still in place in Sudan

[Reporter] This is the second time you have left Sudan for Doha after coming out of prison. Does this mean that the Sudanese government has ended its restrictions?

[Al-Turabi] No, the extraordinary legal measures still exist. The government has extended the validity of the emergency laws. The security laws still exist, and so is the press censorship. Some newspapers are still banned, including the newspaper of the Popular National Congress Party, although the president had lifted the ban on all newspapers and on this particular newspaper. I have not organized a popular meeting since I came out of prison, but I speak at limited symposiums in universities but not in popular rallies.

[Reporter] Have you tried and the government prevented you from holding a popular meeting?

[Al-Turabi] I know that even if I wanted to move to Darfur (in western Sudan) to check on events there, I will not be allowed to do so. A person is prohibited from moving at night. The authorities have detained 30 members of my group recently.

[Reporter] On what charges?

[Al-Turabi] Some of those arrested were from Darfur, but they lived in Khartoum. Others were not from Darfur, but were in charge of decentralization affairs in the party leadership.

Government seeking "new ploys"

[Reporter] However, they were accused of fanning the conflict in Darfur.

[Al-Turabi] Before that, we were accused of fanning the conflict in the south (laughing), and because of that, we were put in prison. Now, the government wants to sign an agreement with them (the Garang movement [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement]). It has discussed concrete issues and yielded to their demands. The government is now looking for new ploys and is accusing us of providing money to Darfur as if we are the rich people of Sudan.

They are accusing us in Darfur of advocating decentralization and federalism. This has been our position for a long time. We are advocates of spreading education and not centralizing it, distributing wealth and not monopolizing it, and decentralizing the authority and not holding on to it. We are advocates of justice in all Sudan.

Of course, the areas facing the worst injustice are the ones seeking to restore the balance of justice and establish decentralization.

US "imposing" peace timetable

[Reporter] Do you think that the Darfur events can hamper comprehensive peace in Sudan?

[Al-Turabi] They are hampering it because those in control are the Americans. I wish peace would genuinely be established between the Sudanese people in the south and north. All the papers report that the Americans are imposing the timetables on them (the Sudanese Government). Even they signed the first agreement under coercion, and they were only given two hours to do so.

[Reporter] Despite what is being said about American dictates, the signing of the comprehensive agreement was delayed. The United States reportedly had set a specific date for the two Sudanese parties to sign the agreement, but this has not happened until now.

[Al-Turabi] The Americans are still exerting pressure. The travel tickets for the signing ceremony have already been sent. We know that if they do not reach agreement, the Americans will present them with what they should sign. I am not concerned about the division of the resources in the south. Whatever share they receive will not rescue them from their miserable situation in the south. I am also not concerned about the powers they received. The agreements have been arranged to achieve secession. We do not know how, in a constitutional system, authority and resources are divided and how an independent central bank and army are established. The danger is that this is taking place under flagrant American pressure, and that the peace agreement will not be signed in an African country or in Sudan.

[Ahmad] Did you say that tickets have been sent to government officials to travel to Washington to sign the peace agreement?

[Al-Turabi] Yes, indeed, but they limited the number of visas. There were more than 80 applications, but the Americans cut the number of visas. Now, the government is trying to increase them.

[Ahmad] Will the other political forces stay away from the signing of the peace agreement?

[Al-Turabi] Not only the parties, but also the entire Sudanese people will not be involved, because they do not know the issues or the provisions of the agreement to enable them to embrace it and give their representatives authority to endorse it. The people are the guarantee and not international parties.

[Ahmad] I was in Sudan a month ago and sensed that the people wanted the war to end in any way.

[Al-Turabi] They want to know how we can end the war. If they read the documents after the war, what will they find? The danger in the agreement lies in the attempt to leave the south to John Garang to dominate it. Then, they will withdraw their army to the north to suppress the northerners.

[Ahmad] Will you accept that?

[Al-Turabi] How can we accept it? We wish all the other political forces would united with us not for our the sake of our freedom, but for the freedom of everyone; not for the sake of free elections for us or the constitutional principles we advocate, but for the sake of everyone. If all the political forces unite, they can exert pressure on the government to return power to the people of Sudan.

Relations with other opposition figures

[Ahmad] In a previous interview with Al-Hayah, you said that you were going to meet with Garang; Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Ummah Party; and Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghani, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and chairman of the opposition National Democratic Alliance, but the meeting was not held.

[Al-Turabi] I met with Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi in Sudan, and our party has met members of the Al-Ummah Party. John Garang was delayed in the United States deliberately so he would not arrive in France (where the meeting was to be held). However, I talk to him and others by telephone.

[Ahmad] What is the substance of these contacts?

[Al-Turabi] The contacts focused on the understanding in principle between us. We thought there was a possibility for a better agreement than the one reached by the government. However, the government has the authority and the public funds. The political forces, however, are the guarantee for any agreement. The general inclination in the south now is mostly toward the Popular National Congress, because the party leaders were imprisoned and the party was banned because of it (the south).

[Ahmad] Is there a chance that you will hold a meeting with John Garang soon?

[Al-Turabi] Whether a meeting takes place or not makes no difference. They know that the Popular National Congress Party was the most fervent advocate of decentralization and the keenest to extend the hand of the northerner to the southerner. For this reason, its leaders were imprisoned. They know that it is the most faithful to the promises among the political forces.

[Ahmad] Garang has now moved closer to the government and abandoned your party.

[Al-Turabi] The government is handling the matter, and I do not care about incidentals. I am more interested in what happens in the long-term.

[Ahmad] What is your opinion about the agreement Vice President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha had signed with Al-Mirghani?

[Al-Turabi] I have pity on the government that says that the press is free when it is not and when it is restricted by the security authorities. I have pity on it for saying something and doing something else. This casts doubt on the government’s ability to honour whatever it signs with Garang.

[Ahmad] Is this a warning to John Garang?

[Al-Turabi] This is life. He has with him today Riak Machar (the assistant to the former president who split from the government and returned to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement).

Relations with President Al-Bashir

[Ahmad] You met Al-Bashir at a Sudanese wedding party. Is there any development in your relationship with the president and the vice- president?

[Al-Turabi] It is still in a state of freeze and rupture. The Sudanese and all the people in the world must understand that social relations continue between the Sudanese even if their political relations are broken.

[Ahmad] The president’s adviser, Dr Ghazi Salah-al-Din, was dismissed after he met with you. Was he loyal to you?

[Al-Turabi] He was dismissed because he publicized the fact of the meeting. He was not the only state minister who met with me. The foreign and agriculture ministers, the governor of Khartoum, and others met with me. The relations between Ghazi and the first vice- president have always been strained. Ghazi did not think the first vice president was qualified to be in this high position. When the peace talks took place, the first vice president wanted to take the credit and not give it to Ghazi, and thus their relations became strained. Ghazi’s visit to Al-Turabi was not the straw but the load that broke the back of the donkey.

[Ahmad] In the light of all the developments in Sudan, how do you view the scenario of events in the coming period?

[Al-Turabi] Challenges can affect people. If the peace agreement was signed, then everything will depend on what the government will do next. Will it become a democratic government? The government is currently trying to reach out to Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghani and Al- Sadiq al-Mahdi even if this meant removing the other (meaning Mubarak al-Fadil, the assistant to the president) who is not acceptable to Al-Sadiq because he split from his Al-Ummah Party. It is trying to isolate the Popular National Congress in the opposition. This would be the best position in Sudan if there were freedom. The future of Sudan depends on the behaviour of the government toward the agreement. If the southerners find that they are being betrayed, they will be angry and will immediately secede without a referendum. The Sudanese people will have to decide whether the situation should remain like this. After peace is achieved, perhaps the basis of national unity in society will grow stronger, and if society becomes united, Sudan will become united.

The army

[Ahmad] The Sudanese army is the deciding factor in Sudanese events. How do you view its position now?

[Al-Turabi] The Sudanese army is not ruling now; others are ruling on its behalf. A few military officers whose number is no more than the fingers of a hand are ruling.

Everything now is shared. The presidency is not one (following the agreement with Garang). It has become a dual presidency. The new army is the successor of this army. I think that the armed forces in this case will accept what the citizen and society will accept.

[Ahmad] This means that you are not expecting a military coup like the one you participated in.

[Al-Turabi] A coup against a military rule is difficult. Second, all the political forces (participated in coups). The Ummah Party planned a coup; the communists planned a coup; the Islamists planned a coup. However, the military officers turned against them. The army has never initiated a coup in its history.

BBC Monitoring Middle East

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