Summer of Change in the Sudans

Article Summary
The Sudans are in for a hot and decisive summer, forecasts Mohammad al-Makki Ahmad.The dire humanitarian and economic crisis in the north is exacerbated by internal conflicts and disputes with South Sudan over oil-rich Heglig. Thus far, the Khartoum government’s archaic policies have failed to help. 

It seems that over the next three months, Sudan’s scorching summer temperatures will be matched by important events in the political arena. Many indications suggest that the situation in Sudan is escalating. Three factors are likely to play a significant role in shaping developments in Sudan (northern Sudan), whose importance has been amplified by the secession of its southern neighbor.

First and foremost, is the dire situation of Sudanese citizens who are struggling to earn a living. The prices of basic commodities, such as sugar and meat, are soaring in a country that exports livestock and is rich in many resources. These resources are being wasted due to poor government policies and rampant financial and administrative corruption.

The prospect of removing fuel subsidies leaves many question marks hanging over the future of the country, and the government has in fact recently proposed to do just that. The government continues to evade its duties, and has failed to address the problems of the country. It tries to justify the deterioration of economic and social conditions with futile solutions that do not reflect the gravity of the situation.

The present desperate situation plaguing Sudan came as the result of the National Salvation Revolution led by General Omar al-Bashir, which took over a democratic government by way of military coup. Most surprising was that the National Islamic Front that carried out the military coup was part of the elected parliament at the time. The Front enjoyed the right of political participation, unlike the oppressed “Islamists” of other Arab countries.

Today, the same old story is playing out once again — many speak of “foreign plots” against the “government of Salvation and Glory.” Sudanese officials never tire of diminishing people’s minds, and they continue to say that the economic crisis in Sudan is simply rooted in the loss of over 75% of the oil income after the south’s secession. They forget that they had the upper hand in the secession process; they forget how the rule of President Bashir, which has dragged on for 23 years, has led the country to the abyss. The secession came on top of all of this to further destroy the lives of Sudanese people at all levels.

Second, the two Sudans have been unable to settle their pre-secession disputes, particularly the demarcation of the border. Both parties did not take long to yield to international and regional pressures, and participated in the Addis Ababa negotiations two days before the Heglig war.

The international community rejected the South Sudanese occupation of Heglig. Bashir, on the other hand, lost the international support that he enjoyed when he described the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Sudan as “the popular insect.” Many found it to be a clear insult which displayed his contempt for the southerners. Bashir had in the past always spoken of the importance of the “stick” in dealing with the south.

The third important factor to take into account is the tension that is flaring in the north, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and the southern Blue Nile region. The Khartoum government has only focused on the South Sudanese government’s  support of the “rebels” in the three northern regions. It has failed to make any mention of the clashes between the “Sudanese Revolutionary Front,” which includes the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Sudan (in the North), the Justice and Equality Movement led by Jibril Ibrahim and the two wings of the Sudan Liberation Movement that are led by Minni Arko Minawi, former senior assistant to President Bashir, and Abdel Wahed Nour.

The truth of the matter is that northerners were likely to wage more wars against the Khartoum government before the outbreak of the dispute over Heglig. This means that the attempts to blame the South for any potential war will not serve to fool anyone but the plotters themselves.

The continued use of evasive tactics on the part of the north’s government is further evidence that Sudan will experience a hot and decisive summer. It would be useless for the government to present marginal solutions to the economic crisis, such as canceling fuel subsidies, attempting to reduce the number of ministers or their cars by giving only one car for each minister, reducing their salaries and privileges or canceling the “free” Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) trips for the over 800 so-called Constitutionalists (senior officials and ministers, and others).

It is useless for it to launch verbal attacks on the government of South Sudan without first analyzing and identifying the reasons for the failure to preserve the unity of Sudan. One of these reasons is the 2005 Naivasha Agreement that was signed between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the North and the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the South. Additionally, there was the poor management of the transitional period by the North’s rulers before the referendum on self-determination was held. All of this helped push the South toward secession.

The Khartoum government uses the same methods to deal with the internal war in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. It continues to avoid addressing the roots of problems. This could only be achieved if a conviction was reached on the fact that the totalitarian dictatorial system has failed tremendously in all fields. It must be understood that it is time to shift to a pluralistic democratic system that respects diversity and the rights of citizenship. This would open the paths of solutions for countless crises.

There are indications that the summer in Sudan will be hot. This summer will shape the developments and future of both parts, especially the North. The regime in Khartoum has two options. It can either swiftly respond to a national call that seeks to transition to a peaceful democratic system, or it can continue to stand idly by in anticipation of the winds of change. The direction of these winds are unknown; is it coming from inside Sudan, from the gates of international pressure via the UN Security Council, or from both?

Regardless of the direction, the winds of change are inevitably coming to Sudan, whether today or tomorrow. The modern history of Sudan has witnessed two popular revolutions that toppled two dictatorships, one in October 1964 and the other in April 1985. Back then, the Arabs - the initiators of the inspiring and triumphant “Arab Spring” revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria — had never witnessed a dictatorship be toppled through popular revolutions and peaceful demonstrations.

Found in: south sudan, secession, omar al-bashir, omar, north sudan, national islamic front, heiglig war

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