Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 12 June 2007

JEM/NRF commends new SPLM stance on Darfur


By Abdullahi Osman El-Tom

June 11, 2007 — On May 30, we watched with horror the sinking of Sudanese diplomacy to its lowest. But the horror was not only felt by Sudanese citizens, the international community too and which has been tirelessly working for overcoming Darfur problem was far from being amused by the recent washout of Sudan’s Ambassador to the USA, Mr John Ukec.

The Ukec’s fiasco was hotly debated by JEM/NRF and a tough stand was about to be announced. Thanks to a positive contact made by Dr. Luka Deng, the Minister for Presidential Affairs, GSS, response was delayed, awaiting SPLM leadership statement. To be honest, Ukec’s fiasco nearly destroyed the recent engagement between JEM/NRF and the SPLM on Darfur. That engagement is now back on track following the statement made by the Chairperson of the SPLM Task Force for Darfur, Rev. Clement Janda, simply known among Abuja Darfur negotiators as Abuna (Father).

As a matter of fact, membership of all political movements and the SPLM is no exception includes the wise and the foolish, the doves and hawks. Sadly speaking, the latter is often more vocal than the former; and it is here that the case of our Ambassador to the USA lies. We must however separate what the movement stands for from callous idiosyncratic statement of individuals. As for Ambassador Ukec, he has now become the al-Sahaf of the SPLM, a clown figure of humour and ridicule brilliantly acted by the former Iraqi Minister of Information during the second gulf war. Milbank of the Washington Post gave Mr. Ukec the name Karl, to stand alongside Bob of Baghdad (al-Sahaf), Hannah of Hanoi and Rose of Tokyo. All of those figures achieved notoriety in burying their heads in the sand, and tooting out lies that they themselves did not believe.

In his revelation, Ambassador Ukec chose to describe members of Darfur Movement as terrorists, a label that he, by implication, had prior to his accession to power in Khartoum. For the Ambassador to willfully label himself as an ex-terrorist is simply bizarre. Embarrassing as it may be, dismissing Darfur fighters as terrorist displays an unenviable ignorance of Dr. Garang’s philosophy and equally betrays the work of SPLM in bringing marginalisation to an end. As Abuna has clearly set the records right, “the SPLM regarded the issue of Darfur as an issue of marginalisation”.

In a bewildering play with logic, the Ambassador denied the existence of genocide, relegating it to no more than an insidious US “concoction”, to borrow his own words. That, power corrupts is well known to all. The fact it also stupefies and dampens sensibility of people is a different matter altogether. According to an article by Steve Paterno, Sudan Tribune, Ambassador Ukec himself affirmed existence of Darfur genocide at the University of Iowa, September 2004. That, the Ambassador did in an article under the title “Genocide in Sudan, from one who’s been there”; and that word “one” refers to nobody other than Mr Ukec.

In his attempt to earn his living, Mr. Ukec surpassed his President in the denial of fatalities in Darfur. While President Albashir confessed to a massacre of 9,000, Ukec was able to reduce that number to a mere “none”.

As far the causes of Darfur problem is concerned, Ukec needed to go no further than Lam Akol, the other notorious weakest link in the SPLM. In a nutshell, the problem of Darfur in Akol’s vision is simply a fight between farmers and nomads over land and exactly a mirror image of what the American cowboys did in the past in the western plains of the USA. So flawed is this argument that it does merit any more comments from my side.

But the worse was yet to come and there was no end to the brutality of the Ambassador to his Sudanese subjects. Amid their extreme embarrassment, these Sudanese nationals were to discover that they had and till they have a tremendous power over the USA which went unnoticed before. By withholding its export of gum Arabic, Sudan can change the American way of life and destroy the very symbol of the USA: Coca-Cola. Surprisingly, if you visit a house in Khartoum slum areas, a child slips out and comes back with a bottle of coke or Pepsi from the nearest shop. These “demonic drinks” also hold key to Sudanese hospitality but that is beyond the point for our Ambassador. Mr. Ukec’s Coca-Cola prophecy creates a situation where we Sudanese people never know whether to laugh or to cry at our Ambassador’s sanity.

Furthermore, the Ambassador talked about the US sanctions and how these are likely to deprive the Darfuriand of sugar, a product that they have grown accustomed to. The Ambassador failed to note that what sugar is there in Darfur is procured by international aid in which the American people as well as the American government are major donors.

And then comes that old story of Sudan as breadbasket of the world and I feel like going to puke. One wonders where the Ambassador was in the seventies and the eighties when that myth revealed itself with vengeance to the Sudanese people. It was not simply a case of the basket turning empty although that was true. Rather, the name of Sudan became synonymous with starvation and that famine stricken people across the country only survived due to international aid. It is sickening to hear a rerun of that breadbasket myth from someone whose people have known nothing but famine all along.

Ambassador Ukec may be tempted to object to the tone of this article and claim that he has added few to what has already been said before and that he is only discharging his duty as a representative of the government of National Unity. True but analytically flawed; the government of Khartoum has contested the genocide claim; reduced Darfur problem to an internal strife or elsewhere treated it a problem instigated by US, Jewish and European crusaders; and looked at Darfur freedom fighter as no more than international terrorists. As such, Mr. Ukec has brought nothing new.

Ambassador Ukec can equally claim that he is not the only SPLM who has gone that way. Indeed his revelation provided a good summary of what Sudan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lam Akol, has articulated in numerous speeches. Much more potent, Ukec can subscribe to the occasional double standard strategy of SPLM regarding Darfur and which was clearly exposed during the Abuja Talks. During those Talks, it was argued by some SPLM delegates that Darfur suffered no marginalisation and that “it was/is either fairly or over represented in the national civil service”. Moreover, the same delegation argued that no statistics, quotas or affirmative action should be employed in order to address the imbalance of Darfur representation in the management Sudan. Ironically these principles are globally employed in overcoming marginalisation, were signed into the Darfur Declaration of Principles and were similarly used in both Naivasha and the CPA documents.

I must admit that Mr Ukec has the right to claim that Abuna’s statement deplores him for utterances that other SPLM leaders have gotten away with without any criticism. That if Ukec’s conference words relegate him to a position of a stooge for the Jallaba Institution, an institution that fosters the hegemony of the North over Sudan, then that is precisely the same role that Minister Lam Akol has consistently and diligently played ever since his was appointed and with little outcry in the SPLM leadership. Well, I must concede that, we the Darfurians are willing to grant Mr. Ukec that alibi and it is up to the SPLM leadership to argue otherwise.

During the Abuja Peace Talks, I was assigned the rather difficult portfolio of connecting JEM with the SPLM. It was a bitter experience but nonetheless, we have learnt one important lesson: that revolutionary rhetoric can be a camouflage for disconcerted realities. The hitherto theories of New Sudan and its gamut of marginalisation thesis and which Darfur inculcated ever since the disastrous set back of Boulad uprising simply dissipated at the Abuja Talks. But the vanguards of that disappointing turn of events were the SPLM delegates, not the members of the Alhashir’s NCP party. At last, that wedge between the SPLM and other marginalized Sudanese including the Darfurians has finally started to crumble. Abuna’s statement is certainly a case in point that ushers the start of the demise of Lam Akol, Ukec and many others that I better not name for the time being at least. The SPLM must regain its lead in Sudan and assert its position as a champion of the marginalized across the nation. However one reads the immediate and long-term political prospects of the Sudan, no other party has a better opportunity to positively transform Sudan like the SPLM. That is a fact that JEM comprehends very well and is willing to fully and maturely take note of. Let us not beat around the bush. If the SPLM is willing to reactivate its broader ethos of its New Sudan, then it must act as a national institution and a guardian of the whole nation. As far as Darfur is concerned, here are the landmarks:

1- The First Vice President Salva Kiir must realize that he is a Vice President for the whole of Sudan. Identification of Darfur with the Garang’s New Sudan did not start with Naivasha or even the CPA. Instead, it goes as far back as Boulad’s Movement in the early 1990s. To date Darfur people have not been accorded the honour of seeing Mr. Kiir the champion of their dream; a dream of a democratic Sudan in which all could live on equal footing irrespective of ethnic, religious, colour or regional background. Mr Kiir must realize that he represents Darfur people as much as he does the southerners or any other people in the nation. He must equally accept that nobody in Darfur can understand why kamala appears nearer to their First Vice President than Alfashir or for that matter Geneina or Nyala; that their First Vice President is able to tour the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the USA but has so far no time to visit Darfur. But it is more than few hours that Mr. Kiir requires. Oh no! To overcome this hurdle, the SPLM must undergo a rigorous reshuffle of its entire priorities. Darfur has so far been far down in the SPLM agenda. It is time to change that.

2- We salute Mr. Kiir’s mediation between Uganda and the LRA. The apocalyptic suffering of the Ugandan people at the hands of the notorious LRA - 20,000 abducted children, 1.7m displaced persons and hundred of thousands of casualties- must be brought to an end. The LRA is also a cause of colossal instability in the south of Sudan. As such, it is honourable and equally commendable that our First Vice President should intervene and embark on a peaceful/ or otherwise solution of the conflict. While Darfur people do not resent the attention given to the Ugandan tragedy, they are certainly justified in begrudging the lack of similar care being given to their own problem. Kiir has already made several attempts at tackling Darfur problem. Arguably, he has never accorded it the seriousness that it merits. With the establishment of a Darfur Task Force, we look forward to see some rigour and vitality in this front.

3- For any mediation to succeed, engagement has to reflect a clear and unified vision. In other sense, the mediator, and in this regard the SPLM, has to speak with a single voice. That is what we still find most wanting from the part of the SPLM. It is not good enough for the SPLM to distance itself from statements made by Lam Akol and John Ukec. SPLM senior members who do not share fundamentals of the New Sudan should be made to vacate their offices and join the NCP or any other party. While we do not expect harmony among all rank and file members of the SPLM regarding Darfur, we should be justified to see clear commitment among SPLM top leaders.

4- It is not unreasonable to say that the marginalized people of Darfur have accepted the SPLM as a champion against marginalisation and as a guardian of New Sudan. But that honour comes with a price. The SPLM must be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in this regard. It must not appease its partner, the NCP at the expense of the marginalized people including Darfur. Much more. The SPLM must stop treating the CPA as an untouchable sacred cow. The threat of going back to the bush if the CPA is touched, a statement familiar to those who attended the defunct Abuja talks, is farcical. The Darfurians have no interest in depriving their southern brothers and sisters of any legitimate gains that came with the CPA. However, an agreement that is acceptable to the Darfurians will undoubtedly impinge on the CPA and requires ratification by the SPLM as well as the NCP. The SPLM must look imaginatively at the CPA. The CPA is a catalyst for peace and must be transformed into an obstacle against it. I hope the SPLM will take note of this basic fact.

*cDr. Abdullahi Osman El-Tom is in charge of the Bureau for Training and Strategic Planning, JEM. He can be contacted at: Abdullahi.eltom@nuim.ie

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  • 12 June 2007 20:29, by Isaiah C. Kuch

    First and foremost, I must agree with Dr. Osman that there are some elements within GONU and particular within the NCP party that are making political process difficult for both Darfur and Southern Sudan. But that should not taint the goodwill ambassadors from Southern and Nothern Sudan that are advocates for Darfurians; I for one have given many talks to American audiences advocating for Darfur and denouncing Sudan’s government actions in Darfur.

    As a person who have followed the Darfur conflict closely and how such conflict will affect the South and the newly forged agreement between SPLM and NCP, I have come to the conclusion that there are number of things that must be well heeded by both Darfurians and Southern Sudanese in order to prevent misunderstanding as these two regions compete for the attention from the International Community. First, all Southerners must recognize that the pressure posed by the Darfur issue on NCP is good politically for Southern Sudan as it expose to the whole world how inhumanely the government of Sudan treat its citizens.

    On the other part of the coin, our brothers in Darfur must also realize that their issue has become an economic burden on Southern Sudan. It has become an economic burden in many ways: first, as the part of pressure on the governmemnt of Sudan, sanctions have been imposed, which have economic consequences for the already struggling Southern economy. Second, donors who had committed to rebuilding the South during Oslo, Netherlands meeting are holding back due to the Darfur issue.
    With the highlights given above, it is clear that Southern Sudan is already sacrisficing for Darfur, we just demand the Darfurians recognize the sacrifice and the burden we are bearing for them.

    Darfurians rebels are freedom fighters and we in the South feel and realize their cause. however, the timing of the Darfur conflict couldn’t be more worst for the people of Southern Sudan. The average person in the South feels like the rebels in Darfur are boycotting and sabotaging the peace process between the NCP and the SPLM. The conventional argument being: marginalization in the Darfur region and many other parts of Sudan including Abyei, Nuba Mountains, and the Eastern Sudan dates all the way back to the time of Sudan’s independence; it is not something that started recently as 2003 when the rebels in Darfur officially took up arms against the government backed militias (Janjeweed) and when the SPLM and NCP had already committed to Machakos protocol in 2002 which ultimately resulted to the birth of CPA in 2005.

    The Darfurian rebels motives, though not intended may be looked at in the South as a jealousy for the peace signed by the South and the government of Sudan. So, for an average joe in the South, it is not a matter of asking what the South could do for Darfur, but rather, what did the Darfurians do for the South during 21 years of struggle? as a Darfurian, if you could answer this question with conviction, then you are in a process to explain to the average joe in Southern Sudan why he or she must sacrifice even more for Darfur.

    Without a better explaination or official apology from Darfur for not helping the Southerners during 21 years of struggle, most Southerners will always feel like the Jews during the Holacaust whom were cornered by Hitler’s vicious regime and the communists, the Unionists, and whoever was supposed to help them looked the other way. Soon after the Jews, the plight against the communists, the Unionists and any other unwanted groups by Hitler followed.

    As I write this comment, I’m an active Darfur advocate and urge many Southerners to be, as the Darfurian issue has become a humantarian crisis of our time. We just demand that the Darfurians realize when one Southerner get ticked off by the whole issue of Darfur conflict, the Darfurians understand what is behind such frustrations.

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  • 18 June 2007 19:29, by John Mabior Malekdit

    The South Sudanese support for Darfurians shall never be at their disadvantage Mr.Abdullahi

    I’m writing in response to Mr.Adullahi Osman El-Tom’s article in which he fairly assessed the relationship between the various faction of the rebel groups fighting for the rights of the Darfuri People who have suffered marginalisation and neglect from the Arab dominated powerful centre in the Sudanese socio-economic and political reelations,just like other regions of the country.Much as your criticism of some top members of SPLM party,such as the like of John Ukec and Lam Akol;are genuine and earn the support of all patriotic sons and daughters of South Sudan,Mr.Abdullahi,I do not very much agree with your suggestion that the SPLM should ’stop treating the CPA as a sacred cow.’The main reason behind such argument on your side is to widen the political space to accommodate the Darfurians in the GONU by maybe SPLM cutting some of their portfolios and previleges accorded by the CPA in order to give you guys room.To borrow your term,that argument is flawed and cowardice in nature.We in the South reached that agreement through hard road and struggle that dates as far back as 1955,a year before the present Republic of Sudan got Independence.As a matter of fact,the comprehensive peace agreement addresses the historical imballances between the North and the South and has managed to put the territorial integrity of the Country into test by incorporating the clause on self-determination after six years interim period.What you should understand is that when you took up arms you did so against the Arab hegemony over the rest of Sudan and in particular over Darfur and consequently their control over power and resources.This control over resources and power by minority Riverain Arab tribes is what gives you and other marginalised regions cause to fight and demand some share in the national cake.That’s what bind the people of Darfur and South Sudanese people in struggle and these are well exposed in the blackbook writtten by your organisation prior to going to the bush to fight for the same.you should then be reminded that you didn’t go to the bush to protest against the South taking too much in what has be come the Northerners complain that the government has conceded too much.Your approach to the Arab regime in Khartoum should be directed towards getting a fair share from what is being controlled in Khartoum but not what has been given to the South,because if you do continue demanding what is given to the Southerners,definately you know the kind of consequences that shall arise as this will lead to divission between the West and the South and weaken their position in the fight for justice,equality and above all, their common vision of a New Sudan ,to the advantage of the centre.There is still a lot of things being controlled by the centre,continue to demand a share from there and the whole South will stand by your side.

    The SPLM has no reason to sabotage the legetimate demand by the Darfurians and the SPLM top leadership has made that eloquently clear to the chagrin of the jellaba rullers who mistakenly thought that the joint forces of SPLA and SAF shall jointly deal with what they called ’Darfur terrorists,’after the CPA and integration of join forces.The late leader John Garang made it clear to the world that his forces shall not ’raise a gun against the Darfuri people as they are fighting for the same purpose for which he fought over the last 22 years’,that was victory for the Darfuri people,I take that president Salva still maintain the same position.
    After pointing out the above facts,it is clear that the SPLM problem with the Darfur rebel movements are largely brought about by two main problems.one is the unpatriotic actions and ommissions by some SPLM representative in the national government led by Lam Akol and of late ambassador John Ukec.These individuals have treacherous records among South Sudanese people in our common struggle and donot represent any SPLM interest in their various positions though it is wrongly publicized that they represent SPLM.Their continued existence in their posts despite public outcry against their performances is clearly due to some weakneses in the SPLM,it shoud not be looked at as endorsement of their treacherous acts by all those who control the SPLM and the Darfur rebel groups should treat it as such.
    The next problem comes from the Darfur rebel groups themsselves.Fragmentism and internal strife are a real threat to success and victory in the face of a unified enemy.Southerners at large and their president in particular,H.E.Salva Kiir Mayardit,urged you to unify your ranks and present a common front in order to have a direct and damaging impact on the enemy.This advice is borne out of experience given our long struggle and how it delayed our goals from being achieved.This call by the SPLM ON all of you to present one common position should not be looked at as a weakness or a ploy from the enemy but it is a source of strength.Prolonging human suffering in Darfur in the name of liberation is not in the interest of any one.The government has accepted to talk and we urge you to take advantage of that.
    John Mabior Malekdit

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