Name: Yasir/Yassir Saeed Arman
Position: Secretary General of the Sudan People Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N)
Born: October 5, 1961, Tabat City, Al-Jazira State, Sudan
Tribe: Ja’alin (an Arab tribe in Sudan)
As the highest profile Northern Sudanese Muslim in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement before 2011, Yasir Arman consistently sought to confront the perception that conflict in Sudan was the product of racial and religious divides between the ‘Arab’ and Islamic North and the non-Muslim and ‘African’ south. He advocated that strategies for conflict resolution in Sudan must address the all-important ‘northern question’ as opposed to the supposed ‘southern question’. This lead him to become one of the most ardent supporters of John Garang’s vision for an united ‘New Sudan’ in which both racial and religious prejudice and economic marginalization would be brought to an end.
Arman was born in 1961 in al-Jazira State, the son of a primary school teacher. In spite of hailing from a relatively apolitical family, he became an active member of the Sudanese Communist Party’s student movement during both his secondary school and university years, at a time in which the regime of Jafa’ar Nimeiri (1969-1985) was launching a particularly violent crackdown on campus Communists.
Joining the SPLM
Arman’s decision to leave the SCP for the SPLM in 1987 has been the subject of much speculation. Some point to the fact that shortly before his move Arman had been accused of involvement in the killing of two pro-Islamist students at the Khartoum Branch of Cairo University (now Nilein), and claim that – although he was found not guilty in court – this was what prompted his move away from the Khartoum political scene.
Members of his family reject this story. They maintain that he had been at the forefront of young Communists’ efforts to reform and democratize their party, but that his frustration at the obstinacy of the older generation led him to join Garang’s movement, which he believed to be far more capable of supporting the cause of the marginalized peoples of Sudan.
Arman was also strongly influenced by the ideals of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and befriended many southerners during his time at university.
Relationship with Garang
Upon reaching the SPLA controlled areas, Arman quickly received military training and entered the combat zone in Blue Nile under the command of Salva Kiir Mayardit. As he advanced through the ranks of the SPLM, he grew increasingly closer to its influential leader. Arman became identified with the group known as the ‘Garang boys’, that believed the objective of the movement should be to liberate Sudan as a whole in line with Garang’s ‘New Sudan’ vision and advocated abandoning the narrower goal of achieving the secession of the south.
This group, which incorporated other high profile northerners in the movement such as Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu and Malik Aggar, had a major role in negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in between 2003 and 2005.
However, after Garang’s death in 2005 the pro-secessionist Salva Kiir took over the leadership of the movement and Arman became a somewhat more marginal figure, even leaving Sudan for several months in 2007 to study English at the same university at which Garang obtained his PhD in economics.
Although he stood as the SPLM candidate in the 2010 presidential elections, northern critics believed that he was presented as a ‘sacrificial offering’ by a movement far more concerned with engineering the secession of the south. Arman eventually choose to boycott the polls along with a number of other major opposition figures after casting doubt on the likelihood of the process being free and fair. He still received 21.69% of the vote.
SPLM-N and the SRF
Yasir Arman now acts as the secretary general of the SPLM-North, which separated itself from its parent movement after the creation of Southern Sudan in July 2011. This party and its armed wing soon entered into conflict with Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) government in the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, forming alliances with other northern rebel groups under the umbrella of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).
Since the outbreak of war in these regions, Arman has spent time travelling around Western countries to step up his campaign against the ruling NCP regime. In April 2012, he declared that ‘the policy of appeasement to Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, is the same policy of appeasement in a different context and environment that long ago created Adolf Hitler’.
When wide scale urban protests broke out in July 2012, he called upon the SPLM North to join the demonstrations, visiting Paris along with Malik Aggar in an effort to obtain support for them. Arman and the SPLA-North have recently entered into – as yet unproductive – negotiations with the regime, following which he has expressed an interest in co-ordinating with the other rebel groups in the Sudanese Revolutionary Front to establish a ‘broad political movement’ similar to the ANC.
Mading Ngor, ‘Yasir Arman: the Altruistic Freedom Fighter, Friday 15 January 2012 The New Sudan Vision http://www.newsudanvision.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1987:profile-yasir-said-arman-the-altruistic-freedom-fighter-&catid=8:profiles&Itemid=20
Yasir Arman, ‘General Bashir’s Racism and Religious Hatred are Behind Burning down of the Church in the Heart of Khartoum’, posted April 24 2012,
‘Sudan: NCP Regime is Destroying the North says Yasir Arman, Secretary General, SPLM-North’, African Arguments October 4 2011
‘Malik Aggar wa Yasir Arman yatlabuun min Faransa da’am li’l-intifada sha’abiyya’, Radio Dabanga 6 July 2012
‘Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement: Beyond the Crisis’, International Crisis Group 13 March 2008.
‘Al-Sira al-Dhatiyya- Yasir Arman’, Madaninet, 2 June 2010,
Sudan Tribune Links
Yassir Arman Links
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