Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 3 November 2010

The Future of Sudan without Andrew Natsios


By El-tahir Adam El-faki

November 2, 2010 — At the end of Andrew Natsios speech at Georgetown University on October 19.2010, he was questioned by a Sudanese journalist. It all began like this:
Andrew Natsios:
This gentleman here.
My name is Fatah Arman. I’m a Sudanese journalist. Do you think there’s any…
Are you taking notes on what I’m saying?
Yes, indeed.
You are making me nervous.

And Mr. Natsios was indeed extraordinarily nervous. All was about lack and accuracy of information in his speech which I took time to read its script in depth twice. Each time I was left wondering how a distinguished diplomat will rely on emotions and inspiration in delivering such an important speech without relying on facts. Serious questions arose. Was he speaking in his capacity as an expert on Sudanese affairs, as an advocate or a member of the NCP (the National Congress Party of Bashir)! Did he know the facts and he deliberately skewed them in favour of the NCP or he didn’t really know! In both cases he has a lot to answer. Let us now go through his presentation and discuss in details some of his arguments.

Firstly Mr. Natsios stated that the North have just pulled almost all of its troops out of Darfur, rearmed them heavily and have already redeployed them along the length of the North South border particularly concentrated near the oil fields. He summed up the reasons for such redeployments that the North is facing eminent threats from the south, as part of its tactical negotiating policy and pandering to domestic constituencies. Contradicting himself and confusing his audience he went along to say: ‘This is normal – this is not unusual. I believe they’ve deployed those troops so that that army is not focusing their guns against the regime. They are focusing against the South and they are whipping up this hysteria to make sure there isn’t a coup.’ He went even further to explain on behalf of the NCP: ‘It’s not an irrational sort of strategy which I understand why they are doing it – they are seriously at risk of losing overall power’.
The fact of the matter is that so far there has been no proof that both sides are building up troops along the border. The partners SPLM/NCP have both agreed to set up a fact-finding and surveillance team to verify the claim. The borders have not been demarcated yet and its length extends over a thousand miles. And yet he insists that there is redeployment along its entire length! Neither side has enough troops to man the borders even if they were compelled to do so.
There are no troops so far that have been redeployed from Darfur into the South/North borders. On the contrary the North has amassed more troops to Darfur to execute its new strategy of domesticating the Darfur problem to flush all rebel forces from the region. It is not imagination. The arrival of Defense and Interior ministers last week in Al-Fasher, the capital of north Darfur aimed at boosting the morale of the SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) remains visible evidence. Troops are gathered in North, South and West Darfur and are ready to move and encircle JEM fighters supposed to be entrenched in Wadi Hower. The assaults on Jebel Mara which Abdel Wahid’s forces occupy have already been attacked. SAF spokesperson confirmed the attacks as legitimate targets and verified by NGOs. More than twenty thousand new IDPs fled the area. It is not unreasonable to assume that Mr. Natsios aims at drawing attention away from what is happening in Darfur to concentrate on the south as he always says.

Secondly there is urgent need for Mr. Natsios to re-read the history of the war in the South once more. While we are not here to defend one side against the other the fact of the matter is that both parties (SPLM/NCP) have admitted time and again that the war in the South was at a stalemate. No one won it and none was expected to win it in the long term. By saying that the North agreed to the peace process due to the heavy losses and that they were dying and getting wiped out by Garang’s army in the South lacks evidence. Neither the SPLA nor the SAF declared officially that the peace process was because the North was losing the war or the SPLA was winning it. The main reason is that both sides came to the conclusion that peace is the only means for sustainable stability, prosperity for all under a united Sudan. For Mr. Natsios to insist to state repeatedly that one side was winning remains illusionary.

Thirdly Mr. Natsios sketched a grim scenario of what will happen if Bashir and the NCP’s regime were to go. He started to immediately build up scare mongering strategy by indicating who the likely successors are. And of course he named Dr. Turabi and his followers who are much worse for everybody, north and south included. We are not here to defend Turabi or his followers. The argument that he is the successor would not add up.
Bashir and his NCP will fall if there is generalized uprising, if he is deposed in coup, by resignation or defeated in fair elections. Mr. Natsios already informed us that Turabi’s overall share of votes in the country and at its best is around 16-17% of the national vote. The traditional sectarian parties like the Umma, the Democratic Unionist and the Communist parties still enjoy majority among the Sudanese people. We do not understand, therefore how with such minority will Turabi or his associates assume power if Bashir is to lose in fair elections? Mr. Natsisos has already ruled out that Turabi’s followers will never dare to stage a coup because the army will have to take the strong National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) which are loyal to Bashir. For Mr. Natsios to analyze and come to conclusion that the composition of the SAF is mainly of Turabi’s followers or allies needs rethinking.
The Islamist leader has been out of power for over ten years most of his supporters have been incarcerated in prison. During this time thousands of army officers have graduated from military colleges who are certainly not handpicked by him. They must have been vetted and found staunchly loyal to Bashir before they were conscripted. If we take at face value Natsios’s theory that Turabi personally handpicked his followers and incorporated them into the army we have to equally accept that those followers have now been exposed, dismissed and replaced with Bashir’s loyalists whom he must have handpicked as well. If a coup took place then it would not be Turabi’s allies.
In case a spontaneous or direct uprising takes place and challenges Bashir and succeeds to overthrow him and assumes power, leaders of such an uprising will not be allied to Turabi or his allies.

Finally if Bashir decides to step down voluntarily or forced out of office by the NCP neither Turabi nor his allies will have chance to take over. It is therefore erroneous for Mr. Natsios to state that Turabi will be the sole successor to power if Bashir is to go.

Bashir and the NCP need not look for PR Companies in the West to improve their image. A company is already there and for free! It is hard to understand how far and more than this will Mr. Natsios go to advocate and defend a despicable regime such as the NCP? Why is he so keen to defend the one person responsible for the proven atrocities committed in Darfur? The same person who publicly said he did not want wounded or POWs? Why is he failing to see Bashir as the main obstacle to comprehensive solutions to Sudan’s ills and a stable and a viable South is unlikely while he presides in power?

Andrew Natsios views on sanctions and the ICC are shared with Alex De Waal of the Social Science and Research Council (SSRC). Those views became attractive to US special envoy to Sudan Mr. Scott Gration who has taken them as his official policy. They all believe that sanctions compounded by advocacy have actually resulted in the elimination of Western influence and deterred oil companies from working in Sudan and the results have been bad for the South.
It is not clear how Darfurians would not get justice and peace together? What is Natsios’s interest to deny both for the victims?

Fourthly, the most dangerous view is to instigate the South to consider the North as real or imaginary future enemy based on Nancy Birdsall’s theory. To specify that Turabi is the real enemy of the South and that he will abrogate the CPA lays down ground for build up of fear needed for war. Promoting discord and creating persistent suspicion between the North and the South in order to prevent the South from getting corrupted by present or future wealth seems uncanny. Presumptuous that the ongoing fear of the North will actually oblige wealth to be invested into development is subject to scrutiny and intensive debate.

Let us go through the script and read; ‘If Bashir stays in power and he still dominates the NCP, I do not believe there is going to be a war between the North and the South… If the regime is deposed and Omar Bashir is no longer the President, I think the risks of a war increase dramatically because it’s likely that Hassan Turabi or his allies will take power and if they take power, the first thing they are going to do is abrogate the CPA. The reality is the most dangerous man in Sudan for the South, in fact for the Sudan, is Hassan al Turabi – not Omar Bashir.
The main objective for accepting Birdsall’s theory is undoubtedly to scare the South and encourage it to support Bashir to stay in power long enough for its own sake.

Fifthly, his consideration of JEM as a tribal movement and an ally of Turabi based on the biography of its leader Dr. Khalil Ibrahim and questioning its operation to invade Khartoum eyeing it with suspicion.
It must be with great honor and pride that to remember and celebrate the courage, the valour and the bravery of JEM fighters during their audacious invasion of Sudan’s Capital in May 2008. It is time to reveal some facts to correct misunderstandings. The decision to take the centre was collectively made by JEM leadership on the 27th of October 2007 during the plenary session of its General Conference held in Wadi Howar in North Darfur that was attended by 700 people.
We have to reveal now that the Government of Sudan was in full knowledge of the operation from day one. Days and nights of consecutive air raids preceded the actual operation. Power of air strikes aimed at breaking JEM’s morale was intensified right at the beginning of the advance near the Sudanese Chadian borders. MIG 29 and Antanov jet fighters hovered high and continued a bombing campaign that began on the 5/6th of May 08. Indiscriminate bombs fell in Dar Meidoub where score of JEM fighters resting under a tree were killed in Jebel Issa four days before the troops arrived at the gates of Omdurman. Among those killed in the air strikes were tough Arab fighters from Kordofan. Uncountable sorties in search of JEM forces taking refuge under the shrubs and the scattered trees in the desert did not deter against the rapid advance to the capital. The Antonov jet fighters nicknamed ‘Haj Waham’ which literally means ‘the deluded Hajji’ failed to scare JEM fighters and their morale did not implode. They managed to confuse the bombers by enforcing a ’blackout’. Car headlights, indicators and their windscreens had to be covered and tainted with mud or deliberately made out of order. All fighters had to change their colorful military turbans or berets into dark material. No cooking was allowed during the days or nights. Driving was done skillfully at nights without head lights on for hundreds of miles. Using torches was forbidden and was out of question.

The Sudanese ground forces met with some of JEM fighters in Jebal Markhiat west of Omdurman in fierce battle where the SAF were discomfited, dispersed and uncountable casualties were left dead or seriously wounded on the field before their feet took to the flight.
For Mr. Natsios to imply that the route taken by JEM fighters was inhabited by Turabi or Sadiq Al-Mahdi’s supporters is not correct. The invading force avoided populated areas all through right to the gates of Omdurman.
22% of the invading force was from the wider ranges of tribes in Kordofan. Others came from rest of the regions including different of tribes from the North and Southern Sudan. From Drafur came the Fur, Massaleit, Gimmir, Erenga, Marareet, Meidoup, Zaghawa, Misseryia, Berti, Gimir and much more of the diverse tribes that specifically felt they suffered a lot at the hand of the government. It is therefore insulting to say that the force was made of 2000 Zaghawa fighters.

For security reasons, the GoS kept news of the advancing JEM until Thursday the 8th of May when the US Foreign Office made a call to JEM in London requesting to know why it had troops near to the Capital. The response was that JEM were everywhere on Sudanese soil free to redeploy forces as part of routine practice. Being of military background Mr. Natsios understands that during military campaign events weren’t always brought in news reports. The national TV and the media were also guilty of playing down the eminent threat until it was too late and JEM was inside Omdurman and Khartoum. Some were shocked when they saw the scale of the invasion reported by the media. The NISS who were brought to defend the regime went into disbelief and accused certain Western countries beside Chad and Libya of orchestrating and helping JEM. The SAF were not entrusted of counteracting JEM lest they stage a coup. The job was left for the NISS. Only 19 of JEM fighters were actually killed in the operation. Most of those captured or taken as POWs were killed in cold blood including Jamali Hassan Jallal Eldin who held the office of Presidential Affairs of the movement.

When the military campaign failed to force its way into Khartoum and the Palace the troops were ordered to re-gather and withdraw. Bashir’s position was left deeply wounded as he failed to crush the rebellion or break its spirits into oblivion. He was shocked by their resilience when he realized that they managed to safely disappear and return back to their bases. Although the military action had not suceeded to change the government, it nevertheless exposed the weakness of the regime and the rift between the army and the NISS. Vowing never to negotiate with JEM Bashir finally turned his attentions to the negotiating table.

There is a tendency to ignore JEM’s unique political identity and portray it as followers or allies of Turabi and his Congress Party (PC). The movement has no association whatsoever with any ideological group. Its objectives are clearly defined in its manifesto which can be checked in its official ‘sudanjem; website. The movement aims at creating a civic government where religion is taken out of politics. That puts it in contradiction with Turabi and his vision of theological rule.

We therefore challenge Mr. Natsios to bring evidence that JEM is associated with the PCP and its policies. JEM is fully supporting the South in its quest for self-determination earned through its long struggle for freedom and cemented in the CPA.

Finally, for Andrew Natsios to glamorize Bashir and the NCP to his audience that emerged consistently throughout his speech puts him under a lot of questions! That is why he was nervous to see someone taking notes of his views in Georgetown university hall.

The author is the Speaker of JEM/Legislative Assembly. He can be reached at tahirelfaki@yahoo.co.uk


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  • 3 November 2010 07:26, by Oduck Bol

    I do not know why there has been no any commend from Darfurians peopl wether from rebles or poiticians about shaira law that has killed millinos of southerns? There is something here unclear.

    repondre message

  • 3 November 2010 10:27, by AAMA

    I agree with MR. Natios that any coup in the near future within the military will resemble Turabi elements for one simple reason, both NCP and PCP share the exact same ideology and the cause of their rift is simply a power struggle between the true leaders of the movement (PCP) and the power greedy individuals at the helm (NCP).

    So, any movement inside the military against NCP will come from the islamists who today form the majority of the army due to the highly selective policy for the military and the daily brainwashing they endure. These carefully selected elements can easily shift allegiances from NCP to PCP as they both share the same principles at least.

    repondre message

  • 4 November 2010 01:04, by Deng Thiak Adut

    Dear El-tahir Adam El-faki;
    Marvelous writing skill! I congratulated you my distance friend.
    But, South (SPLA) was winning for your record. It is shame to dismiss the fact that we had 80% or more control of the South prior to CPA. It is so absurd to call the war in the South as “stalemate”?
    We are still in war….we are only gathering our momentum toward Kosti….
    What you also need to know and accept is that Darfur must accept the fact that they directly opposed lawful movement in the South. So how can we be friend, my distance friend?
    Even if borders are demarcated and CPA is due, we will make those borders.

    repondre message

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