Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 9 September 2006

Sudanese beheaded journalist - Caught in the devils of power


By Mahgoub El-Tigani

September 8, 2006 — The murdering of the Islamist journalist, member of the NIF/Congress Party, Mohamed Taha aroused key questions about the state of affairs and the fate of the Islamist Movement’s party and ruling regime in Sudan.

Asking the authorities to take up judicial measures to apprehend the murderers and put them to trial according to law, the human rights and democracy groups whose concerns are clearly defined for the full enjoyment of human rights and public freedoms for all members of the society have strongly condemned the murder.

In essence, the Brotherhood new recruits or full members are systematically trained to proselytize the “Muslim Brotherhood oneness and sisterly relations” by ideological pedagogy in the service of the Brotherhood’s socio-religious, economic, and political aims. The Islamist ruling party and its supportive international and regional Brotherhoods, however, have not condemned the murder or uttered a word how embarrassing the savage killing and beheading of a peaceful journalist made of their slogans.

The murdering of Taha revealed another major fact about the Brotherhood’s code of behavior: one that is unforgiving and is dangerously retaliatory in the case of a member’s non-submissiveness to the Brotherhood’s teachings or directives, let alone a member antagonizing the “cult” by challenging its intellectual authenticity or practicality.

It should be recalled, here, that the murdered journalist Mohamed Taha was a lifetime member of the Islamist movement since early schooldays. His journalist writings, interviews, and other works never antagonized, in principle, the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine. A faithful supporter of the Bashir/Turabi National Salvation Revolution several years after the NIF military coup (June 1989) seized power, Taha managed to maintain contacts with the NIF/Congress ruling junta despite recurring differences in opinions and stands in the aftermath.

When his own journal Al-Wifaq was accused, a few months ago, of publishing views by another writer derogating the name of the Prophet of Islam, however, almost all readers and commentators were certain that Taha’s deep apologies for the publication of that material, besides his strong denouncement of the insulting context of the article, were sufficient to prove his innocence from “religious guilt” or any shaken faith in the Islamist ideology.

It was assumed further that a few moderate leaders of the ruling party and their allies might perhaps forgive Taha for the guilt of publishing the open attack on the Prophet of Islam in his widely-circulated paper. Most likely, however, the Brotherhood international political leadership in control of the Sudanese ruling regime was firmly opposed to Taha’s published criticisms of the NIF/Congress policies, its financial corruption and administrative abuses that “flatly contradicted the Islamic teachings and goal-achievements” in recurring articles published or directly written by the murdered journalist.

This conflict reached its peak by the late 1990s when Hassan al-Turabi was still a sole mentor of the ruling junta, secretary general of the ruling party, spokesperson of the National Council, and chair of the all-extremist international gathering, the Popular Arab Islamic Conference. No wonder, a very close relative of the regime’s mentor threatened to “take the journalist’s life for his assaulting criticisms of the ruling elite.”

From that time on, the Islamist journalist gained the appreciation of many opposition groups, in addition to those opposed to the politics of the NIF/Congress party within the Brotherhood groups themselves. In the meantime, Al-Wifaq Journal became a strong voice of opposition, despite many unresolved differences between democratic opposition parties and the pro-NIF Islamists.

Until recently, before the seizure of political power by the NIF coup, the Sudanese society maintained a considerable level of tolerance in religious and social terms. It was the NIF governance that replaced by a violent abuse of the high-jacked armed forces and the regular police this tolerant milieu with the retaliatory climates that victimized Taha, regardless of his party connections or Brotherhood obligations.

Largely attended by members of the Journalists’ Union, several leaders of the democratic opposition and a few members of the NIF/Congress party, the grief was tense; the concerns high; and the public tensions aroused at the house of the journalist’s mourning family.

Awad Ahmed Khalifa, a prominent leader of the Journalists’ Union demanded “State protection of journalists with tanks and security forces.” A member of the GONU National Assembly interviewed by the Jazeera Channel envisioned “a dangerous slope of Taha’s assassination unto a great level of chaos, unless firmly ended by State effective intervention.”

These alarming remarks were evidently relayed to the public in correspondence with the street-authority conflicts that erupted all this week in the National Capital Khartoum, protesting commodities’ price rises, the confrontational practices of the interior, and the isolationist foreign policies of the government, and calling furthermore on a principled implementation of the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreements by a newly-established governing regime to end the Sudan’s Crisis.

“This should be based on the active participation of the opposition and the civil society groups to establish the system of rule that would competently resolve the escalated crisis of the land,” speakers at the Umma House in Omdurman affirmed repeatedly right after the opposition’s demonstrations these past days.

Apparently, President Omer al-Bashir has chosen to escape the “rising confrontations” between his government and the opposition by a sudden visit to Kassala (September 7, 2006). Addressing a receiving crowd, the beleaguered leader reiterated his regime’s isolation from the International Community: “We will never surrender to international intervention!”

Besides the widening disagreements between the NIF/Congress and its partner the SPLM on peace and foreign affairs, al-Bashir pledge “to fight the UN” has been additionally worsened by the decision of the African Union peace committee to stay with the UN Security Council’s resolution, besides an unresolved division in the Arab League Committee on Sudan (September 6, 2006), which failed to agree on the extent of “compliance” the Security Council resolution required the Government of Sudan to show.

The performance of the Sudanese Government has changed dramatically between the meeting al-Bashir had with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Banjul (July 2nd, 2006) and the ongoing hysterical rejection by al-Bashir and his senior officials of the international resolution on the Darfur Crisis.

In his message to the SG, the Sudanese President emphasized that “the restoration of stability and the protection of civilians are central to the responsibilities of the Government of the Sudan, as affirmed by the resolutions of the United Nations and of the African Union.”

The government, however, failed to comply with the UN resolutions conferred on the Sudan to bring about tangible results regarding the safe return of the displaced citizens of Darfur to their dispossessed areas with satisfactory compensations, sustainable development, and political stability.

Based on the Darfur peace accord (signed on May the 5th, 2006), the reported Darfur Plan of the Government to the UN Secretary General lacked necessary conditions of executive and political competencies chief of which include the signing of peace accords by all rebel groups. The Bashir government lacks the vital support of political parties in the region of which major opposition groups, such as the Umma Party, have been unwisely excluded by the government from the peace talks, despite previous agreements between the NIF and the Umma on one hand and the NIF/Congress and the National Democratic Alliance as well.

Many observers noted that the President’s letter to Mr. Annan unmasked the real intentions of the government, which in turn indicated the continuous failure to control the chaotic situation: “Our priorities for returning life to normal in Darfur … are the aspects that address control over the security situation…” said the president.

The civil society and democracy groups, however, believe that the government did not make any effort to democratize the State’s security procedures, in accordance with the GONU Interim Constitution.

The eruption of armed confrontations with heavy casualties in human life and property during the last few months since the signing of the Abuja Agreement testified to the invalidity of the government plan, beyond any reasonable doubt.

“The government wants to restore peace among the warring parties by its own troops and militias in a region whose population hates, above all, these same troops; has taken arms to fight them, and has no confidence in the ruling regime,” said the Umma leader Sadiq al-Mahdi.

In his letter to the SG, President al-Bashir conveyed “great appreciation of the important humanitarian role that continues to be played by the United Nations and its specialized agencies and other organizations in Darfur and of the valuable assistance provided by the United Nations to the African mission in the Sudan which has enabled it to perform its tasks as required.”

Unfortunately, the record of the government’s relations with the “highly appreciated UN and other organizations” is seriously non-cooperative. Senior UN officials were denied entry visa or permits to visit Darfur; those who obtained the permits were harassed by security restrictions that inhibited free movement in the targeted areas; and many humanitarian organizations already abandoned the region as a result of tight security surveillance.

Moreover, the government warring troops or militias and the rebel groups exercised kidnappings and grievous hurt on civilians. Both inflicted huge losses of life on relief workers and other innocent people.

A few “wise states” of the Arab League, especially Qatar, advised the Sudanese government to show “the deserved diplomacy” in dealing with the Security Council resolutions on Darfur that recognized the government’s sovereignty – a stand lately shared by the Arab League Secretary General Dr. Umro Musa following discussions of the AL Committee on the Sudan these past days.

Of particular importance, the Sudan’s close sister, the Arab Republic of Egypt, which has historically supported the ruling regimes of Sudan in both regional and international conflicts, irrespective of the border disputes or trade imbalances between the two nations, has shown an unusual cautious position on the Sudanese-International conflict on Darfur.

Instead of issuing routine supportive statements “in furtherance of the sisterly relations of the twin states of the Nile Valley, and the eternal commitment to stay by the side of each other,” low-profiled diplomatic advisements were quietly stressed by the Egyptian minister of foreign affairs in a few media interviews: “The Sudan needs to maintain its sovereignty and stability with due respect to the international concerns for Darfur.”

A remarkable development in the Sudanese-Egyptian relations, however, was reported in the Arab-speaking media by the Egyptian Brotherhood - the long-standing foe of the Egyptian ruling regime, and a historical mentor of the Sudanese Islamist movement.

Emphasizing “the undisputable right of the Sudanese government to defend the country against all foreign intrusions,” the Egyptian Brotherhood rejected in strong terms the “Western planning on the Sudan’s unity, wealth, and national integrity.”

In the light of the Sudanese domestic politics, the pronounced position of the Egyptian Brotherhood indicated: 1) firm support to the NIF/Congress rulers with whom the Egyptian Brotherhood continue to enjoy a most favorable status in the Sudan’s business and entrepreneurial activities since the Nimeiri’s time to the present; 2) full rejection of the Sudanese democratic opposition; and 3) increasing abhorrence of the political and/or economic pressures by the International Community (especially the United Nations, the USA, and the Western powers in general) on the Government of Sudan to comply with the Security Council resolutions.

Seen in the light of Egyptian politics, these same objectives have been highlighted in the Arab-speaking media to motivate the Egyptian Government to distant itself from the Sudanese Democratic Opposition, namely the pro-Egypt al-Merghani-led National Democratic Alliance, which resembled a long-life anti-Brotherhood leadership, as well as a pro-UN Sudanese opposition entity.

The Egyptian Brotherhood aimed to weaken the pro-UN role Egypt had been consistently playing versus the Islamist extremists, including stringent security measures to curb the political and ideological influence of the Brotherhood, which has been pursuing ambitious Islamist agenda in and outside Egypt. The Brotherhood equally aimed to embarrass the diplomatic potentialities and competencies of Egypt as a determining player in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Motivated by the Brotherhood International, the NIF/Congress seems determined to challenge the United Nations resolutions. Earlier, Ali Osman Taha announced in a speech before his party members in the midst of the July war between Israel and Hizb-Allah: “We are ready for foreign intruders in Darfur with the Hizb-Allah missiles.”

Vice President Osman, who worked closely with American-Western think-tanks to finalize the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreements, as well as the Abuja Agreement, is an Islamist caught in the devils of power between allegiance to the Jihadist Brotherhood and the national agenda of Sudan.

The Sudanese agenda require a national long-term principled commitment in full cooperation with the UN resolutions to enhance the peace making and peace keeping of the country via a broad-based government of national reconciliation, as advised by the UN Secretary general in several occasions – a government whose commitment to the land and people of Sudan stands way above the interests of external and/or demagogic groups.

The complexities of the NIF/Congress state of affairs are mainly a product of the dilemma of the party’s political contradictions vis-à-vis ideological and business obligations towards the Brotherhood ambitious plans to dominate the region and the whole Muslim space on earth, the extremism that “behead” its own supporters for non-compliance, and the non-resolving concerns of the International Community for which the ruling demagogues thought in the 17 years they “would challenge and defeat, maneuver, or simply ignore.”

The decisive goals of the UN resolutions and the intensity of their letter, however, will not come true in the troubled regions of Sudan, unless the NIF/Congress ruling junta and its supportive Brotherhood in Egypt or elsewhere come to real good terms with the demonstrating masses of Khartoum and the other cities and their pro-UN organizing parties and civil society groups all together.

These latter have always comprised the Sudanese popular movement that toppled twice in the last century the al-Bashir precedents, i.e., the military regimes of Abboud and Nimeiri.

* The author is a member of the Sudanese Writers’ Union. He can be reached at emehawari@hotmail.com.

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