Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 29 July 2005

Goodbye Sudan


By Saad S. Khan, The Middle East Times

July 27, 2005 — Final Agreement has at last been signed between the Sudanese junta led by General Omar Hassan Al Bashir and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) chief John Garang, after a long and protracted civil war lasting over two decades and costing as many million lives. Far from being a harbinger for a better tomorrow, the agreement has all but sealed the fate of Sudan, its stability and territorial integrity, assuming that there was any, and that of quite a few of the neighboring states. This article seeks to delve how.

The new constitution signed in July is a sequel to the January peace treaty, ending bloodshed. The deal makes Bashir the president, Garang the first vice-president, which is nothing but a euphemism for two independent presidents for the Muslim north and the animist south of the country.

The share in cabinet posts is 52 percent for Bashir’s nominees, 28 percent for Garang’s men and the remaining 20 percent for smaller groups.

This is a six-year transition arrangement following which a referendum on independence shall be held in the south. Three central regions of the Nuba mountains, Blue Nile and oil-rich Obiye have been given special status since both north and south believe them to be their part.

Literally all the contentious issues remain unresolved and this is likely to trigger acrimonious disputes sooner than later, as would the simmering discontent among the various disgruntled segments all over the country who are uncomfortable with the concessions given to Garang and his allied warlords.

Sudan derives its name from the Arabic phrase Bilaad-us-Soudan (the regions inhabited by the blacks), as it was known by the Arabs inhabiting in the lower Nile, presently Egypt.

This unique country had the double distinction of being area-wise the largest country in the Muslim world as well as that in the continental Africa. A short time hence, this fact would be history, and debatable it is whether even the areas around Khartoum would like to remain being known as Sudan.

While celebrating what the peace agreement says the myopic leaders of the African Union (AU) and world leaders elsewhere are turning a blind eye to what the agreement does not say.

What the agreement says between the lines is also the writing on the wall. With their failures galore in state-building all across Africa and the Middle East, one shudders at the fact that the world leadership has yet to understand that fair and democratically elected leadership, subjected to the checks of independent judiciary, sovereign parliament, a vigilant press and a vibrant civil society is the only path to national integration. And that a pact between tyrants, war criminals and liars is not worth the paper it is written on.

Sudan is a chronic case of state failure, only that it was not suggested so in writing, which has been mercifully done now. Rich in oil and gold deposits, fertile in land and alluvial assets around the Blue Nile, booming in cotton and food harvest and a teeming enterprising nation, it missed in just two elements; democracy and the rule of law.

And this duo is the very thing that determines the fate of the state. Dictators disintegrate their countries: Said Barre broke Somalia, Yahya Khan broke Pakistan, Suharto broke Indonesia and the list awaits the inclusion of Bashir for being the last ruler of the Sudan with its present boundaries.

Sudan is a chronic case in many respects, but not an exception, as decency and democracy, not tyranny, is the exception in the developing world. From Morocco to Angola and Indonesia to Uzbekistan, autocracy is the norm, albeit in democratic façade.

One could wish that the G-8 leaders understand that the annual $50 billion aid projected to Africa will exacerbate the poverty and disparity in Africa to astronomical proportions, unless and until the era of ’sham democracy’, ’manipulated parliaments and judiciary’ and ’crony capitalism’ is shown the door.

On paper Sudan is a democracy, where generals rule by ’getting elected’ by killing, incarcerating and maiming all the prospective competitors. The SPLA and SPLM are putatively ’people’s movements’ where their only "relation" to people is that they have been killing their own people. The world tries to paint Bashir as an Islamist theocrat, although, to be fair to the devil, this is one thing he is not. He somersaults his ideological identity triennially on the average.

He rebelled against the constitution and law by overthrowing a democratic civil government through a military coup in 1989. Ever since, he is in search of legitimacy. First, he thought he was a revolutionary leader but then dissolved his handpicked Revolutionary Command Council, eliminating a few powerful generals in the process and became a self-proclaimed Third World hero, a la Qadhafi-style. When the US bombed him in 1998 he became an Islamist and adopted Sharia law.

And when this did not work as the anticipated Arab petrodollars did not flow in to prop his regime in the name of Islam, he started jailing and torturing his religious allies including his spiritual ideologue Hassan Turabi. He chose to become a democrat by holding farcical polls and trying to pose as elected president, as this sells easily with the donor agencies, but when parliament asserted its powers, he dissolved it on treason charges and these days the general is "busy" fighting the politically-correct war on terror. Under his rule one of the greatest genocide against Muslims is being religiously carried out in Darfur.

John Garang is as much a devout Christian as Bashir is a mullah. Garang, a PhD in agro-economics from the United States, is a graduate from Grinnell College, Iowa, and later Fort Benning Military Institute.

Much as he would now pose as champion of Christianity, he was born in 1945 in sky-worshipping Dinka community in the south. An officer in the Sudanese army, while on a mission to quell a mutiny in 1983, he himself mutinied against the lawful authority in 1983 and became an outlaw.

His ideological convictions, mercifully, he does not know. He was nationalist, then became a Marxist and these days is a Christian fundamentalist, exploiting his links with such groups during his sojourns in the United States, in channeling money for his militant activities.

And this aid from Christian extremist groups worldwide explains the swelling of SPLA/SPLM ranks to 50,000 plus, from the peak of 12 poorly equipped and loosely commanded units consisting of 12,000 men in all, in the mid-1980’s and the financing of his ’Voice of Hope’ clandestine radio station, operated by Christian extremists from neighboring Uganda.

The commonalities between the two great sons of Sudan, Bashir and Garang are their cunningness, opportunism and vindictiveness. Both have eliminated dissent in their ranks with ruthless murders, both survived many life attempts and both have killed countless of their own peoples.

The agreement between them has converted the de facto bifurcation of Sudan into de jure one. The south was practically independent and the dusty town of Rumbek, a combo of hundreds of destroyed hamlets with no electricity, water or sewerage, was off-bounds for Khartoum rulers from as far back as in early twentieth century.

Neither Bashir nor Garang was sincere in embracing the other. Bashir wants a breather to spare his troops for throttling political dissent in the north while Garang wants to cement his iron grip in the south. The arrangement has envisaged raising the 320,000 barrels per day (bpd) oil output to nearly half a million bpd by the next year, to be shared equally between the north and south.

With the oil prices soaring at sky-high around $60 a barrel, the accruing petro-revenues will make the two tyrants fight like hell.

Egypt’s unease at another upper riparian state on the Nile with Israel’s obduracy to finance Garang on his Islamophobic antics, means that Sudan’s problems would have wider regional ramifications. Garang, with commitments of $4.5 billion from Christian groups already in his pocket, is prompting Islamic organizations worldwide to be sympathetic to Bashir.

Sudan is a big potential volcano and the civilized world needs to act now to preempt destabilizing and debilitating effects that loom large for Africa. The United Nations should launch a special non-military operation in Sudan, to assist the country in moving toward multiparty democracy, rule of law and free market economy. Otherwise, the signs on horizon are foretelling doom!

Saad S. Khan is an Oxford-published author and an analyst on politics, law and governance in the Muslim world

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