Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 7 January 2018

Sudan’s president is fooling and insulting internationals

By Trayo A. Ali

In less than a year of so-called and supposed “engagement” with his former enemies, Sudan’s President General Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Basheer—an ICC indictee and international fugitive) is fooling and insulting internationals. The chameleonic character is turning the table on the face of his opponents, showing his true skin and telling them what they did not expect to hear.

But this time around, his victims are the international heavyweights—the Americans, the Saudis, the Europeans, and the Egyptians.

In Sudan’s traditional political culture, such circumstances are described as “Halima goes back to her old habits.”

As to how much he could pay for this rocky navigation, he is charting is anybody’s guess. Nonetheless, one is inclined to agree with this Sudanese blogger who insists that:
"No matter how he thought was smart, General Al-Basheer can hardly run away, this time around, with this foxy tricks. The bush is so thick and full of mines, ambushes and potentially explosive. His habitual tricks could end up here. He would definitely pay for what he is risking in.”

FOR HIM IT IS ALL ABOUT THE ICC PARANOIA

While one cannot assume (in any way or by any means), that these internationals are naïve, it is very reasonable to assume that their approach is based on the principle of the benefit of doubt. However, General Al-Basheer (a man pathologically known for his habitual unpredictability, evasion, and dishonour), is proving by these developments that he does not respect whomever he deals with, whether they are international or local subjects.

What is important to note down here is that the dramatic upward increase in the instability and unpredictability in al-Bashir’s behaviour is propelled by the paranoia caused by the ICC. He never considers any international engagement if he does not think it might address his personal principal concern: the ICC. Ever since his indictment, Sudan’s diplomacy has only been anchored around it.

Gen. Al-Basheer always expected from these engagements (with Americans and Saudis in particular) to lead to a deal on the issue of the ICC. In fact, does not have any real concerns about the lifting of sanctions or any other issue related to political reform in Sudan. In his consideration, any engagement should be designed to address his overriding troubled case with the ICC.

Experts on this issue have a definitive opinion which irritates the president and that he intransigently refuses to accept. One such expert stated:
"The General should know that this is a tightened screw. No force on this earth can loosen it. Obviously, because of his political heritage, patriarchic culture and upbringing, the General mixes up between what is legal and what is political. These are two different and separate issues. He is unable to comprehend. He needs to separate." Mr B.B.S, a senior researcher in the European Institute for Peace (EIP) has lamented in no uncertain terms.

However, irrespective of experts’ views and opinions, Gen. Al-Basheer never changes his scheme of thinking. As he believes in blackmailing his opponents, he made this latest surprise in a way that he thought was more effective and humiliating.

ON THE AMERICANS
President Al-Basheer did initially allow the engagement process with Americans to proceed, one step of which led to the lifting of the US sanctions on Sudan. But soon after he realized it would not address his own predicament with the ICC, he took two steps backward. He even surprised his own government officials when he took his case to the Russians, calling on them to come to his rescue and save him from the Americans. He even offered for the Russians a military base in the Red see to counter the American presence. He made this provocative, insulting, and calculated move to deliberately embarrass those within his government who happily believed the engagement could take its natural course. Though his message was directed to American and those within his cabinet, much of his move was directed to the American who elevated the engagement to the level of the Deputy Secretary of State. Remember, Mr John Sullivan personally flow to Khartoum to grace the talks. It was reported that General Al-Basheer privately revealed to some of his close cronies that what he needed was for the Americans to kill and bury this troublesome issue of the ICC once and for all, and not dilly dally around meaningless talks about lifting the sanctions.

ON THE SAUDIS AND THE GULF
Sudan’s Islamist regime’s relations with the Gulf in general, and that with the Saudis, in particular, is characterized by a kind of jealousy, envy, and sometimes even hate.
After years of pouring insults upon insults, provocations and sheer disrespect against the Saudis kings and their establishment (including hosting Saudis famous dissidents Osama Bin Laden), General Omar Al-Basheer ultimately determined to be friend with the Saudis, thereafter joining the Arab alliance in Yemen. Gen. Al-Basheer even hailed the eruption of Yemeni crisis as a God-given opportunity, and to the surprise of everybody, he stated that his government gives more importance and priority to the security of The Holy Mecca more than that of Sudan itself.

He accordingly broke relations with Iran and joined the Arab alliance to the effect that he contributed with military contingency to participate in the Yemeni war. In a show of commitment, he paid several homage visits within a very short time to Saudi Arabia. The move was obviously appreciated by the Saudis who felt obliged to mediate and did convince their Americans allies to lift decades-old sanctions against Sudan. While nobody can confirm anything on what exactly transpired, it was reported that Gen. Al-Basheer brought the issue of the ICC before Saudis during those frequent visits.

But something, somehow, somewhere cropped in to make Gen. Al-Basheer abruptly change his mind and unceremonially declare his new direction. He put all that short-lived cordiality into jeopardy which started scrambling.

To add more insult to the injury Gen. Al-Basheer has started flirting Iranian Mullahs (Saudi’s arch enemies). He also decided to bring the Turks and offering them military base in the Red Sea Port of Sawakin to irritate and provoke both the Saudis and Egyptians as they have no illusion of the fact that the Turkish government is a mere symbolic representation of International Muslim Brotherhood and it’s both strategic threat to Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well.

ON EGYPTIANS
For some time now, the Sudan government has been using two effective cards in blackmailing and twisting Egypt’s arm: The Nile Water and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood dissidents.

Although the Egyptians had the upper hand in ascending General Al-Basheer into power by way of giving him initial political support, they remained at the receiving end of the biggest blow from Sudan’s NCP government. The Sudanese have never stopped giving unwavering support to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood members. They also attempted to kill Egyptian president and assisted bringing Mr Mursi to power.

But the biggest game the NCP regime is playing against Egypt is over the strategic issue of the Nile Water politics. Observers have noted that the level of extremism of Sudan’s political irrationality exhibited towards Egypt is clear from the unreasonable concessions made by Sudan to Ethiopians. Such concessions (as observers note) have even undermined Sudan’s own interests in the water-sharing arrangements.

It is clear that Gen. al-Bashir’s regime is aware of the fact that Egypt is the gift of the Nile and as such its politicking around this sensitive fact.

ON THE EUROPEANS
The obvious fact is that Sudan government has never believed (at any point in time) that the EU has a unified and harmonized political approach over any issue regarding Sudan. When the EU decided to commission Sudan to fight the migration through Khartoum Declaration agreement, the GoS interpreted that move was an act of desperation from the EU side. The regime then thought it was an opportune windfall to blackmail the EU.

Today, the EU finds itself (perhaps inadvertently) sponsoring (especially in logistical terms) the notorious militia, (Janjaweed turned Rapid Support Force - RSF).

After it felt that the EU was implicated, both the Sudanese media and the government officials are now openly challenging the moral authority of the EU on the issue of the ICC. Today, and in contrast to the original objectives perceived by the EU, the whole exercise turned out to be a hoax and sham, to the point that Sudanese media is now boasting and hailing on the government’s smart move and its ability in dragging the EU into political mud. On the other hand, Sudan is using the opportunity to pump more migrants, as the government officials involved in human trafficking. Ironically, this situation has encouraged President Al-Basheer to go on record in telling his cronies that: If the Europeans only like my services but do not like me and they think I am a fool, I will then show them who is a real fool.

HAJIA HALIMA NEVER CHANGE HER OLD HABIT
The idiom has it that " Once a teacher always teacher," and so Hajia Halima never changes her old habits.

To determine whether Gen. Al-Basheer would change his unpredictable and irremissible attitudes towards the internationals, it might interest you to read the story of this Sudanese Woman.

The story is that there was this lady (named Halima) was engaged in the Oldest Profession, and she decided to go to the pilgrimage to Mecca to perform the Haj. She went and performed her Haj.

Upon her return, one of her old clients visited her to congratulate her.

When he reached lady’s house and knocked on the gate, the lady came out majestically and shook the client’s hand. She was dressed in a tight and tiny skirt that was short enough to arouse the interest.

The old client, who got confused asked her: "Hi Halima, haven’t you gone to Mecca for the pilgrimage? The lady answered: “Yes, of course, I did by the grace of God.” She then asked the client: “What is wrong that you see?” The client said, “But how can this your custom reconcile with your status as Hajia?”
He further asked: “Have you gone back to the same profession?” The lady replied: “Yes of course, what is wrong with that?” And she asked the client: “Do you think that a carpenter or plumber or medical doctor or a pilot would change his or her profession where she/he gets the daily bread because of Haj?”

Then the old client sad: Subahanallahi !!!

In the context of the above story, the politics of containing the spoiler (as pursued by the international community) would be a mere fruitless and impotent game and a mission impossible.

So, under the dictate of this politico-religious cultural background, he too is staying the same.

Indeed Halima will never change her old habits.

The author of this article is the chief negotiator of the Sudan Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM). He can be reached at saharaclub2015@gmail.com