January 14, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has nominated Yasir Arman to run for the presidency of the country in the first free and fair election since the coup d’état that brought General Al Bashir to power on June 30, 1989.
The nominee is a senior figure in the party, serving as Deputy Secretary General for Northern Sudan and the head of the SPLM bloc in the National Assembly. He will face Al Bashir, who on Monday stepped down from his role as army commander-in-chief to vie for the votes that would legitimize his 20-year rule through the National Islamic Front, now called the National Congress Party.
"The Hero Yasir Saeed Arman has been nominated by SPLM Leadership to run against President Bashir," the head of the Southern Sudan Mission in Washington, D.C., Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth told Sudan Tribune.
SPLM, a party with some strongly separatist elements, had waited until a week prior to the final deadline for nominating a candidate. The party’s leader Salva Kiir Mayardit refused at a meeting of the SPLM Political Bureau several months ago to run for the presidency, preferring to focus on heading the Southern Sudan government.
Another potential candidate, the chairman’s first deputy Riek Machar, had declined to run unless he were also appointed head of the party, a demand to which Salva Kiir found difficult to accede.
This designation stops rumors about SPLM agreeing to endorse the candidacy of President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. Also, it had been circulated that the chairman of the Umma Party Sadiq Al-Mahdi would be the candidate of the collective Juba opposition forces.
Arman articulated his party’s national ambitions in an interview with Sudan Tribune one year ago. "In many occasions the SPLM in the north has demonstrated that it is growing, it is a force to reckon with. In fact it is one of the biggest forces, and it is to be noted that the SPLM—the movement that started in South Sudan, it is the first movement in the history of Sudan that started in a marginalized area and then it engulfed the whole of Sudan."
The candidate’s history of opposition and exile eventually brought him into an alliance with the rebel Southerners. Prior to joining the SPLM, which had some Marxist orientation itself, at the university Arman had been a member of the National Democratic Front, a student coalition between the communists and the democrats.
While he was a student in the faculty of law at the University of Cairo in Khartoum, Arman had to flee the country in February 1986, accused unjustly of murdering a member of the National Islamic Front which turned into the National Congress Party.
However, Arman become widely known because he presented the news bulletin for SPLM Radio and afterward in 1995 he read the news bulletin of the opposition National Democratic Alliance from Asmara, Yemen.
The northern politician is married to a Dinka woman from Abyei belonging to one of the biggest families of the area.
His relations with the Sudanese Islamists remain tense and combative. In 2007, following the return of the SPLM ministers to the government, First Vice President Salva Kiir proposed Arman’s appointment as adviser at the presidency but for the first and last time President Bashir vetoed it.
With regard to his relations within the party, the Deputy Secretary General for Northern Sudan is reported to have had strangely conflictual relations with the Secretary General, Pa’gan Amum.
Nonetheless, in the capital Arman is seen as a very active figure participating in all the political events there. This dynamic could draw him the support of the small political formations in the country.