By Mohamed Elshabik
October 4, 2013 - A memorandum submitted to President Omer Al-Bashir urging him to reinstate fuel subsidies and stop killing of protesters who took to the streets has captured the attention of the media; creating political tension on one side, cautious optimism on the other. Either way it certainly inflamed the already volatile political environment in Sudan.
Ghazi Salah Eldin Elattabani, former head of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) caucus in parliament, is a former presidential adviser and Islamic thinker. Well-known as a reformist figure within the NCP, he is said to be sponsoring and leading 30 fellow NCP signatories to the memorandum.
This new, divisive memorandum sent to President Bashir called for an end to the recent economic measures, advising instead that economists consult jointly with other political parties. The memo further called for investigation into the shooting of civilians, compensation for those wounded and killed, an end to press censorship, and adherence within Sudan of constitutional freedoms, including the right to peaceful protests.
The memorandum is commendable and came at a time when the streets of Khartoum were filled with outraged demonstrators; as such it was received with grudging respect. In effect, the memorandum represents exactly what the majority of recent demonstrators are demanding. Nonetheless, people remain sceptical about the real intentions behind it. Many regard it as a way for NCP dissenters to distance themselves from the faltering regime. This perception is based on two rationales.
Firstly, to the Sudanese, Ghazi remains an NCP member who has repeatedly affirmed his loyalty and allegiance to the ruling party. No matter how the staunchest NCP opponents disagree with Ghazi, they cannot help but admire his recent political battles and his fierce criticism of the NCP. His present understanding of the disastrous way his political party is handling the country’s complex, multi-faceted problems, is faultless. However, the man who has adopted a policy of memorandums is also known as the man who has never walked his talk.
Ghazi played a significant role in founding the NCP through his role in the famous (memorandum of ten) in 1999, so called because it was submitted by ten Islamist members. It was actually alleged that he was the mastermind behind it. The memorandum of ten has caused the famous feud that led to the ousting of veteran Islamic leader Hassan Al-Turabi.
Unfortunately, this devotee of memorandums has never actually gone the extra mile to make a strong position for his dissent. People in Sudan still remember the recent battle he lost when he chose to withdraw at the critical moment from campaigning for the position of Islamic Movement secretary-general in 2012, to the benefit of the preferred NCP candidate. After his withdrawal he mourned his defeat by writing articles for newspapers, justifying his position by saying that he did not want to split the party. The consistent discrepancy between Ghazi’s deeds and words have lost him much of his moral credibility, so much so that many would prefer him to resign rather than wait for the party to dismiss him.
Secondly, in addition to Ghazi only three recognizable names in the list of signatories strike a chord. These are:
Wad Ibrahim, a discharged Brigadier General who was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly leading the November 2012 coup plot against the regime. Wad Ibrahim was released earlier this year after a presidential decree of amnesty.
Hassan Rizig, a former cabinet minister and one of the NCP reform leaders, who was also distanced in the last Islamic Movement election when the other NCP member was preferred for the Khartoum state election campaign.
Salah Karar, widely known as ‘Salah Dollar’, a retired military officer, member of parliament, and former cabinet minister was a key figure in the 1989 coup which brought Bashir to power.
The common factor that could bring these four people together is that they have no executive, decision-making power either within the party or the state.
Despite their massive contributions since 1989, they are currently being marginalised, and not by choice. Hence their removal from power comes with a bitter taste.
The motive behind their memorandum is thus questionable as long as they fail to follow it with strong and decisive action. The memorandum itself represents a glimmer of hope for the turmoil in the streets of Sudan as it comes at a critical time in Sudan’s history, and can help to boost current efforts to topple the regime.
Sudan’s hope is that prolonged street demonstrations may cause more cracks and splinters to appear between those who seem to side with the regime, but who remaining a dissonant element within the present ruling alliance.
A resignation from the NCP could prove his reformist intentions and support ongoing efforts to bring about change. Presently, Democratic Unionist Party (DOP) constituents are waiting for the party head endorsement on the party leaders’ recommendations to withdraw from the government. The recommendation came in response to the government’s bloody reaction to the recent protests. Furthermore, Turabi the leader of Popular Congress Party (PCP), has called on his supporters to join the protests with the aim of bringing down the regime. As I write this, the news coming from Sudan suggest a second wave of demonstrations has just been kicked off today. For the reformists in the NCP, the clock is ticking.
Mohamed Elshabik is a Sudanese international social worker. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org