Sudan’s “New” Government Lacks Strategy to Confront Mounting Crises

Article Summary
Omar al-Bashir has recently orchestrated a reshuffling of his government which is intended to conceal the regime’s continued reliance on the same tired policies, writes Asmaa al-Husseini. In the face of an economic crisis and open warfare in part of its territory, the current Sudanese government has little to offer its people by way of concrete and effective solutions. Meanwhile, the people of Sudan are growing increasingly restless, warns the author.

The recent formation of a new government in Northern Sudan did more than just shock and disappoint the hopes of a people who had long awaited it, after the South seceded and declared itself an independent state on July 9, 2011. [The formation of this new government] also ignored the political, economic and security measures necessitated by this difficult period in Sudan. [The new government’s composition] is contrary to the promises made long ago by the leaders of the ruling National Congress - headed by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - that it would be an inclusive, dynamic government with a national agenda. [This promise] had surprised [observers], as it was alleged that it would include 66 ministers, a minister of state, and advisers - representing a heavy burden on the treasury of Sudan. [Sudan’s economy] has faced a grinding crisis which has resulted in inflation due to the loss of three quarters of the country’s oil revenues - its primary source of income. Now that the country has split, [this oil] belongs to [South Sudan].
 Everyone was surprised that the new government includes several of the old faces that have ruled since the Rescue Authority - which came to be known as the National Congress - rose to power after a military coup in 1989. Despite talk that fourteen political parties are represented in the government, most of these political parties are small and have no real influence. [Some allege that] the high number of ministerial positions [were distributed] as consolation prizes [for those who had been in opposition to the government]. The participation [of these various other political parties in government] will largely remain nominal because the National Congress dominates most, if not all, facets of power. [The National Congress] retains control over the Interior, Foreign, Defense, Treasury and Oil Ministries. [These ministries] are still under the leadership of the same old faces, such as Dr. Awad al-Jaz, Lieutenant General Abdel Rahim Husain, Ali Kirti and others. The Sudanese people considered [the formation of a ‘new government’] as a mere exchange of roles within the National Congress. [The National Congress], unable to bring in new blood, has proven unable to alter its policies, which have caused Sudan grave problems throughout its twenty three year rule. It was the continuation of these same old policies that led to the secession of the South, among other crises. [The National Congress] has demonstrated its failure to preserve the unity of what remains of its lands or the solidarity of its remaining citizens.

Cosmetic Changes

The ruling party has attempted to make cosmetic changes to the ministerial makeup by including the opposition parties [in the government]. It entered into fruitless negotiations [with the opposition] which led to the inclusion of the Democratic Unionist Party [in government]. [Its participation in government with the National Congress] created numerous problems for the Unionist Party, and lead to protests [in the street] and dissent within its ranks. Many of its leaders and supporters - much like the leaders and supporters of the Umma (Nation) Party who refused to participate in the government - held the reigns of the National Congress responsible for the South’s secession, as well as for all of the [other] problems that Sudan has faced.

The ruling party’s attempts at appeasement by appointing the sons of the Umma and Unionist parties’ leaders, Abd al-Rahman al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and Jaafar Mohammed Uthman al-Mirghani, as advisers to the Sudanese President only served to increase the people’s ire against the ruling party, the two advisers and their respective parties. Simultaneously, [these appointments] have raised many question marks. Many Sudanese felt they were an attempt to make cosmetic changes to the regime and to involve the two parties in such a way that [their roles would be] meaningless and have no real effect. [It is important to realize] that Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi came to power representing nobody but himself - because both his party and his own father refused to take part in the government.

The popular Islamic base that supports the National Congress was probably [the group] shocked the most by the turn of events, and many of its members expressed their displeasure. This government now faces many dangerous and difficult problem, whose solutions will determine the future security, stability and unity of the country. [Failing to resolve them] could cause further division, trouble and war. Cheif among these grave issues is the suffocating economic crisis. [A solution to this problem] requires controlling and normalizing expenditures as well as real measures aimed at combatting corruption. [Similarly, measures must be taken to] achieve true reconciliation between the different factions, [ideologies] and regional affiliations of the Sudanese people. The economic imbalance engendered by the primary reliance on the oil sector at the expense of all other sectors must also be rectified.

Most Sudanese now loudly complain not only about the agonies and impoverishment they suffer, but also about the horrendous disparities in income and spending between the obscenely wealthy and the overwhelming majority, who [live in poverty and] suffer unbearably. These inequalities were not as omnipresent or easily visible in Sudan a decade ago. Complaints and confrontations [over this issue] have lately pitted some [young people] against National Congress officials. This comes in addition to other protests, and is but an expression of the [youths’] suffering and a manifestation of the growing feeling that they are being wronged. [The youth condemn] the lack of opportunities [they face], and want to see changes in their country that would allow it to escape from foreign pressure and threats [as well as] internal division and strife. [They want to move] towards a new state that better represents the true hopes and desires of the people to live in peace, under honest governance, in accordance with democratic principles, and having friendly relations with the South.

Open Warfare

Adding to and exacerbating the economic crisis in Sudan is the [existence] of open warfare on more than one front. The problems in Darfur have not been solved by the latest Doha Accord. Armed conflict with the government erupted last June in the Southern region of Kardavan following disputed elections. This was followed by conflict in the Blue Nile state. Armed groups in these areas have formed an alliance called the Sudanese Rebel Front, or Kawda Alliance. The goal [of the Sudanese Rebel Front] is to expand armed resistance against the government and pressure it politically. It demands that a no fly zone be imposed on the Sudanese air force, and has accused authorities in Khartoum of preventing aid from reaching the areas [experiencing conflict].

Most dangerous of all are the skirmishes that are taking place between [North] Sudan and South Sudan. These threaten to escalate into open war once again unless the disputes between the two countries are resolved, and each side refrains from undertaking military action against the other. Disputes with the South have also led to problems over oil, which is mostly produced in the South and exported through the North. It represents the main source of income for both countries.

Denying the presence of problems, or trying to solve them through superficial or piecemeal measures, will not help the situation in Sudan. Such measures have been tried before, and have convinced many Sudanese that the [numerous] crises are all one. A multitude of demonstrations all require one unified and real solution, to shield Sudan from the evils of wild storms and wicked winds which are gathering just beyond the horizon.

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