Saturday, February 19, 2011

SPLM/A Must Change its Official Name to duly Reflect the Name of the New Country

SPLM/A Must Change its Official Name to duly Reflect the Name of the New Country

By PaanLuel Wël, Washington DC, USA

February 19, 2011 (SSNA) -- As reported by Sudan Tribune, February 13th, 2011, Pagan Amum, the SPLM SG and GoSS minister for Peace and CPA Implementation, announced that “the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the south has officially adopted South Sudan as a name for the New State” which would be declared on July 9th, 2011. This proposal and adoption, awaiting formal approval by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA), was arrived at “from the meeting of the SPLM’s Politburo headed by the SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir.”

Technically speaking, this tentative espousal of the new official name, The Republic of South Sudan, for the new country to-be has created new realities on the ground. These latest developments, the realization of liberation and the official acceptance of the new name, have indisputably rendered the name “SPLM/A” inappropriate and irrelevant in and for the new geopolitical environment. Consequently, SPLM/A must change its official name in line with the new realities on the ground.

I base my argument on two main premises. One, we are in a new country whose official name, unlike the old one in which the name SPLM/A was based on, is South Sudan. Yet, the existing ruling party in this new country continues to be formally known as the Sudan People Liberation Movement. There is no logical rationale in retaining the old country name in SPLM/A—the ruling party in the new country. Therefore, SPLM/A must discard of its current name and assume new one that would be pertinent to and duly reflect the new country that it is presently governing.

The second explanation why I think SPLM/A ought to alter its official name has everything to do with the second part of its name: Sudan People Liberation Movement. With the pronouncement of independence in July, 2011, it is palpable that the liberation struggle, the prominent goal of the movement, has been objectified. Therefore, the SPLM/A, as the present ruling party in the Republic of South Sudan (RSS), must have to reevaluate itself and take up not only new different official name but it must also endeavor to seek new different objectives for running the new nation. These new objectives will have nothing to do with liberation movement but everything to do with the acceleration of development and institutionalization of democracy in the new country.

To start with, it is important to point out that parties, all over the world, are named according to the ideologies (objectives) with which to bring about new developmental transformations in the countries in which they are based. Hence, in the United Kingdom, for instance, you have such names as Labor Party (mainly catering for the working class' interest); Liberal Democratic Party (advocating for social liberties and civil rights); and Conservative Party (a guardian of core traditional values and norms).

The same nature of party formation and naming according to the policies and objective they pursue is replicated in the USA (Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party etc); Japan (Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Japan etc); China (The Communist Party—the only cock in town); South Africa (African National Congress, United Democratic Movement, Pan African Congress etc) to mention but just a few.

Thus, it would be highly impertinent for the SPLM/A, whose current purpose should be about economic development, to persistently calling itself a liberation movement when there is no more armed struggle to be waged. Therefore, SPLM/A must pick a new name which have got to delete the word Sudan and replaces it with South Sudan. Secondly, SPLM/A must have to drop the words Liberation Movement from its official and take on a name that would have something to do with either development or democracy or both: two urgent areas where its future energies ought to be spent on.

SPLM/A is not longer a liberation movement nor is it still a party in the old country call Sudan. Consequently, there is an urgent necessity to rename, too, the army—the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) as it is currently known. Dissimilarly to the SPLM which is a political party, the SPLA can obviously hang on to the words Liberation Army. Therefore, something like South Sudan People Liberation Army (SSPLA), South Sudan National Army (SSNA) or Simply South Sudan Army (SSA) would be befitting and relevant.

But if new realities on the ground will have to compel and necessitate the SPLM to change its official name, what then will its new name be? Secondly, what should we then do with the name “SPLM” considering that it was the SPLM/A that bravely, and single handedly, fought for and delivered unto us this New Shining Country and unprecedented freedom we achieved? Should we just dumped and flushed this historic and sacrosanct name down the dustbin of history and forget it forever?

As I have already stated above, the new official name(s) that SPLM will have to adopt and use in the New State will have to be country-ly applicable and policy-objectively sound. Thus, adopting South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) will still not work, at least in my opinion, because it will be ideologically misplaced and flawed. Having a new name such as South Sudan Democratic Party (SSDP), however, would perfectly fit and satisfy the two criteria laid down above. It could also be called Democratic Party of South Sudan (DPSS) just to avoid the pain of confusing it, from the voters’ perspective, with South Sudan United Democratic Party, a currently registered opposition party in the Republic of South Sudan. Still, it is up to the SPLM as a party to adopt and use those names it see fit so long as the name (s) chosen is relevant to the new country.

What to do with the name 'SPLM?' Well, a lot, depending on your positive or negative view of the party and its historic link to our noble struggle. Evidently, with the recent announced official separation of SPLM/A into Northern and Southern parties that would be virtually separate and exclusively independent of each other, it would be possible and plausible to argue that, as the Southern sector search for and adopt a new name for itself in line with the name of the New country, the name SPLM/A should remain with the Northern sector as its official name. After all, those brothers and sisters in arms are still in a country called Sudan and are, by all accounts, still fighting for liberation—the New Sudan Vision.

However, it would be hard to foretell how South Sudanese, who formed, and still does, the backbone of and spearheaded the Liberation Movement, would react to such suggestion. The SPLM, to most South Sudanese is more than a political party. It is the embodiment of the liberation struggle, the symbol of the blood shed for freedom, the crystallization of their freedom and independence, and the hope for the brighter tomorrow. Thus, it would be a heresy to many veterans of the Movement to leave the SPLM in the old Sudan, the very country that typifies their oppression and enslavement.

If it would be unthinkable for the SPLM in the South to relinquish and bequeath the name to the SPLM/A in the North, then we have to find a second appropriate alternative. That alternative would be found in a noble cause or a place to name after SPLM/A. Among the suggestions would be a busy high way, a learning institutions, a landmark building, a new capital city in the making, a national park, a name of a new state to be created, or the State/presidential house (our white House or Downing Street No. 10.).

But most importantly, we can greatly honor the SPLM by naming the official name of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly as SPLM. Having a distinct and clear name for the law-making body is a prevalent tradition around the world. It is called Congress in the USA, Parliament in the UK, Duma in Russia, Diet in Japan, Knesset in Israel, Bundestag in Germany, National Congress in Argentina, or National People Congress in China. Of course, owing to colonization by the European powers, most people in Africa know the national assembly only as parliament, an adoption of the UK's one.Thus, having a distinct and unique name for our national assembly would be both an appropriate honor for the SPLM name as well as a noted mark of socio-political maturation for our war veteran politicians. It would be a true mark of real independence not only from the Arabs but also from the long arm and crushing yoke of neo-colonialism. What a great way it would be to kill three birds with one stone! We would canonize and preserve the SPLM's name forever in the living memory of our dead and wounded heroes/heroines. We would rebuff both Arabism and Islamism, and moreover, still-borne the encroachments of neo-colonization on to the door step of our inchoate nation.

In calling for the SPLM to change its official names, I have all along presupposed that there would be no much qualm about it, and for good reasons. Surely, this won't be the first time that unanticipated circumstances will be forcing the veteran liberation party hands against its will and purposes. The 1991 Nasir Rebellion shook SPLM/A to its core. Confronted with a combined forces of a resurgent Jihadistic party of NCP and the Nasir Group, SPLM/A, in the 1994 Chukudum Convention had to change its core strategy of the war and added Southerners Self-determination besides its traditional stand of New Sudan Vision which “advocates pluralism and respect for diversity in all of Sudan.”

Forward those scenarios to the CPA era and the referendum period, you would have noticed that the SPLM/A gracefully and humbly settled for the (unintended) moon instead of the (targeted) star. Certainly, ideological flexibility, contextual interpretation and timely respond to the rapidly unfolding events ensure survivability in the rough waters of unforgiving political scene. Rigidity, on the other hand, spells dooms. As the splintering of the Movement in the 1990s, the untimely death of Dr. John Garang in 2005, and thus, the apparent unattainability of the New Sudan had compelled SPLM/A in the past to change its course and actions, I also expect the current new developments, as illustrated above, to help convince the SPLM/A to study and respond, appropriately, to the calling of history as it currently unfold.

That calling as elucidated above is for the SPLM/A to adopt a new different name for itself in the wake of the new geopolitical realities it has find itself in today. That new name must be relevant to the country in which we are in and must be connected to either development or democracy or both. Secondly, the best way to dispose of the name SPLM/A, after the current party has adopted a new different names, would be to rename our national assembly after it. That would, ever-long-lastingly, enshrine the names and memory of our Liberation Movement, and of the sons/daughters of South Sudan who gave up their precious lives for our freedom, into our past, present and future collective national consciousness.

Mr PaanLuel Wël can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or through his blog:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sudan, Terrorism, and the Obama Administration

Sudan, Terrorism, and the Obama Administration 

By Eric Reeves 

February 9, 2011 (SSNA) -- Amidst the celebration of a successful referendum for South Sudan, we should not forget the deals the Obama administration was obliged to cut so that voting could take place as scheduled—and what further deals will be required going forward to ensure the secession vote is respected by the Khartoum regime. The most significant concession was suggested last September, when President Obama declared that Khartoum’s National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) might escape its listing of many years as a state sponsor of terrorism—the greatest burden the regime feels internationally—if they facilitated the referendum. On Monday (February 7) Obama made good on that offer:

"For those who meet all of their obligations, there is a path to greater prosperity and normal relations with the United States, including examining Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Secretary of State Clinton was more explicit and detailed:

"Removal of the state sponsor of terrorism designation will take place if and when Sudan meets all criteria spelled out in U.S. law, including not supporting international terrorism for the preceding six months and providing assurance it will not support such acts in the future, and fully implements the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including reaching a political solution on Abyei and key post-referendum arrangements."

So just how justified is this enormous carrot the U.S. is offering Khartoum? What’s strikingly omitted from Clinton’s list of criteria is a demand that the regime work in good faith to end what the U.S. still officially describes as “genocide” in Darfur. This is not, however, so surprising: last November senior U.S. officials declared in a State Department “backgrounder” that when it came to assessing Khartoum and its history of supporting terrorism, the “Darfur issue” had been “de-coupled.” This culminated an Obama administration process of “de-emphasizing” Darfur that began last August. Perversely, this so despite the fact that there are few places in the world today in which “terror” is more a fact of life than in the displaced persons camps in Darfur, and in rural areas that remain vulnerable to Arab militia attacks and Khartoum’s continuing aerial bombardment. 

The Real Issue

But leaving aside the obvious expediency of the Obama administration’s “de-coupling” decision—ultimately a reflection of ineptitude and diplomatic failure on Darfur—is a decision to remove Sudan from the list of terrorism-sponsoring countries really warranted? And by “Sudan” here, I mean of course the Khartoum regime, which will retain its stranglehold on national wealth and power after Southern secession in July—indeed, will face even less opposition and scrutiny than it does now with a Southern presence in the factitious “Government of National Unity.”

In July 2009 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Scott Gration—Obama’s special envoy for Sudan—declared:

“‘There's no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism. It's a political decision,’ Gration said.”

This is not what he would tell Darfuris in September 2009. Rather, when pressed about his Senate testimony, Gration declared in an interview with Radio Dabanga (an increasingly important news clearinghouse for Darfur): “I never said [that] we should remove Sudan from the terrorist list.” This seems rather thoroughly disingenuous, given his that claim that Sudan remains on the list only because of a purely “political decision”—one that Gration insists is not supported by evidence from “our intelligence community.”
But is this true? More consequential than what Gration did say is what he did not say in his Senate testimony—and this gets to the heart of the deal that the Obama administration has struck with Khartoum. Notably, the most recent State Department assessment of international terrorism (August 2010) finds that “al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorist elements as well as elements of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and HAMAS, remained in Sudan in 2009.” So what to make of Gration’s claim of July 2009 that there is “no evidence in our intelligence community” that Khartoum supports terrorism? The presence of these terrorist organizations certainly would have required acquiescence from the NIF/NCP regime. Moreover, U.S. intelligence knows that as recently as March 2009 Sudan had a role in supplying Iranian arms for Hamas in Gaza. The Guardian (UK) reported late last year on “Wikileaked” State Department cables from both January and March 2009:

“State department cables released by WikiLeaks show that Sudan was warned by the U.S. in January 2009 not to allow the delivery of unspecified Iranian arms that were expected to be passed to Hamas in the Gaza Strip around the time of Israel’s Cast Lead offensive, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.” (December 6, 2010)

US diplomats were instructed to express "exceptional concern" to Khartoum officials, but those warnings evidently went unheeded. The Guardian goes on to report:

“In March 2009, Jordan and Egypt were informed by the U.S. of new Iranian plans to ship a cargo of ‘lethal military equipment’ to Syria with onward transfer to Sudan and then to Hamas.”

The cables don’t specify what the disposition of this “lethal military equipment” was. But Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union, Japan—and the US. Khartoum’s role in the supply operation to Hamas in March 2009 is explicitly identified by U.S. intelligence. So, was Gration’s testimony an exercise in deception or ignorance? Both are dismaying possibilities for an administration that came to office having excoriated the Bush team for expediency in its own negotiations with Khartoum. In April 2008 candidate Obama expressed “deep concern” that the Bush administration was making an unseemly deal with the Khartoum regime as a means to bolster the fledgling but already failing UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID):

"This reckless and cynical initiative would reward a regime in Khartoum that has a record of failing to live up to its commitments. First, no country should be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism for any reason other than the existence of verifiable proof that the government in question does not support terrorist organizations.”

Indeed! But what, then, about the disconnect between what candidate Obama said in April 2008 and what his special envoy to Sudan was saying a little over a year later to the U.S. Senate? What about those State Department cables that speak of Khartoum’s planned involvement in supporting a terrorist group—Hamas—in March 2009? (And let’s not forget that this is the same Khartoum regime gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden from 1991 – 1996, the years during which al-Qaeda came to fruition.) What about the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (DPAA), which Obama administration officials now say they will simply ignore (“waive”)? As a presidential candidate Obama celebrated his “creation” of the DPAA while he was in the Senate; but the Act requires Khartoum to end genocide in Darfur before the regime can be removed from the terrorism list. Is ignoring the DPAA more hypocrisy from the Obama administration in speaking about Khartoum and terrorism? 

Why Did They Do It?

Having allowed Khartoum to cruise through so much of the electoral calendar for South Sudan’s self-determination referendum, the Obama team lurched into ungainly diplomatic action last September in an effort to put this essential vote back on track. But in doing so, Darfur was explicitly “de-coupled,” and many of the key issues that had been obvious six years ago at the time of the CPA signing were never resolved: the status of the explosive Abyei region; other disputes about the 1,200-mile border; oil revenue-sharing (75 – 80 percent of oil reserves are in the seceding South); citizenship for Southerners who remain in the North; division of the massive external debt Khartoum had accrued over many years of profligate spending; and a military stand-down, or at least the creation of a UN-enforced buffer zone (predictably opposed by Khartoum). Key issues all, but now the regime is to be handsomely rewarded simply for doing some of what it had previously agreed to do.

Moreover, the peace that is rightly being celebrated by the international community is extraordinarily fragile. We should recall that shortly before the referendum, Khartoum repeatedly bombed civilian and military targets in the South; Khartoum-inspired violence in Abyei during the referendum very nearly brought about a major military confrontation; and military violence subsequent to the vote has left scores dead in Malakal and other locations in Upper Nile State. We must hope that the standards laid out for Khartoum by Secretary Clinton will be the source of more rigorous assessment than we have seen from U.S. special envoy Gration over the past two years, and that she will keep in mind all U.S. laws in evaluating regime behavior.

Certainly we must ask about the wisdom of “de-coupling” Darfur at a time when humanitarian reach is contracting yet further, violence and civilian displacement are escalating, and the UNAMID peacekeeping operation is essentially paralyzed—all forces putting millions of innocent civilians at risk. Terror in the west of Sudan is far from concluded. 

Eric Reeves has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Promise and Peril of an Independent Republic of South Sudan

The Promise and Peril of an Independent Republic of South Sudan

By Eric Reeves

February 3, 2011 (SSNA) -- Over the past year, many commentators on the January 2011 self-determination referendum for South Sudan have presumed to ask, “Will an independent South Sudan become a failed state?” As often as not, their answers have been in the affirmative, providing a brief summary of the obvious problems the South faces and an inevitable invocation of Somalia. But as recent events and developments make clear, the real question is whether North Sudan can remain a viable state once the South officially secedes. We should hardly be surprised that the National Congress Party/National Islamic Front (NCP/NIF) regime in Khartoum has begun to float the idea of delaying the date for implementing referendum results, which were over 98 percent in favor of independence. Nor should we be surprised that Khartoum has not committed to a military stand-down in South Kordofan State on the North/South border, and refuses to allow the UN force in the South to create a buffer zone between the northern Sudan Armed Forces (and its allied militias) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Khartoum has also refused to entertain the request of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations for an additional 2,000 peacekeepers.

All these attempts to undermine or threaten southern independence highlight the fact that it will be enormously difficult for Khartoum to survive economically once it surrenders the oil revenues it receives from southern reserves (75 to 80 percent of Sudan’s oil reserves are in the South). Such a loss of revenue comes just as northern Sudan and Khartoum are facing a number of serious economic problems, which may create the “perfect storm” for popular revolt. Sudan is certainly a candidate for the kind of rebellions seen in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world. In fact, there has been significant, ifunderreported, popular unrest in Khartoum and other urban centers. Northern opposition political parties may finally be awakening, after two decades of somnolence, representing a threat that is likely to increase an already severe crackdown on news publications and human rights work.

The NCP/NIF will have little patience with any genuine political threat, and the regime still controls the potent National Intelligence and Security Services, Military Intelligence, and the army. But the underlying causes of unrest are beyond the control of this narrowly based cabal. One cause, the rising prices of sugar and petroleum, is a function of both the regime’s mismanagement of the crucial agricultural economy and its fiscal irresponsibility, which has resulted in an inability to provide subsidies for food and fuel purchases. Despite oil revenue and massive foreign commercial and capital investments in the North, the economy seems headed toward disaster. Inflation is rapidly rising; the Sudanese pound has experienced an unplanned but damaging devaluation; foreign currency reserves are extremely low; the national budget remains well under water; and Khartoum has no way to deal with or service its staggering $38 billion in external debt.

It’s no accident that this external debt remains one of the outstanding issues in North/South negotiations. The South rightly believes that it should incur none of Sudan’s debt obligations: the money owed is mainly from arrears and penalties, reflecting the NCP/NIF’s mismanagement of the economy. Oil revenues and investment funds have gone to the pockets of party members and their cronies, and to the profligate acquisition of weapons for use against people in the South and other marginalized regions. The South has seen none of the benefits of this borrowed money, only the destructiveness of the military power it has purchased. Compounding Khartoum’s problems are a range of factors that make it a poor candidate for debt relief under the international program for “Highly-Indebted Poor Nations.” Not only is a disproportionate amount of debt held by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who do not have good track records in debt relief, but the Khartoum-based economy can’t begin to meet either the fiscal or monetary criteria for relief— especially while it continues to sustain, at great cost, a grim “genocide by attrition” in Darfur.

EXTERNAL DEBT isn’t the end of North/South issues that remain to be negotiated. Issues of citizenship and rights for Southerners in the North are far from settled; some regime officials have threatened to strip Southerners of citizenship and national benefits. President al-Bashir’s language promising a return to strict shari’a law is rightly a source of fear for southerners in the North: “If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution, and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity ... shari’a and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language.” There is other strong evidence that southerners will face increased discrimination, hostility, and abuse in the North; this has certainly been the fate of many southerners seeking to make the difficult trek home.

Final boundaries have yet to be settled in five key areas of the North/South border—disputes involving some 20 percent of its 2,000 kilometers. These areas contain substantial oil reserves, large tracts of arable land, and vying ethnic interests. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the hotly contested Abyei region, which remains the most likely flashpoint for renewed war. In addition to bombing Southern military and civilian sites to the west in North Bahr el-Ghazal prior to and during the referendum, Khartoum has helped orchestrate an assault in Abyei by a large militia force of Misseriya Arabs, numbering in the hundreds. (Khartoum has long stoked unfounded fears among Misseriya leaders that the African Ngok Dinka of Abyei plan to deny them pasturage during their annual migration southward toward the Bahr el-Ghazal River.) Just how dangerous this attack was became clear only a number of days later, when seasoned reporter Alan Boswell reported from the region:

“The apparent target of the Arab militia was a joint north-south military base that lies between the village [of Maker Abyior] and the administrative center [for the Abyei region]. The attack seemed designed to turn the two military camps against each other—as occurred during 2008 clashes that left more than 100 dead—and then proceed to Abyei town, according to a UN official who wasn't authorized to speak on the record and thus asked not to be identified. The result probably would have been explosive. ‘Then the SPLA would have been forced to come in,’ the UN official said...Full military clashes between the old wartime foes very likely would have ensued, possibly even disrupting the southern referendum. ‘That was probably the plan,’ the official said.”

Another assessment comports fully with the UN account: “‘We were very close to complete catastrophe,’ said one senior Western diplomat in Sudan, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

One must ask how serious the NCP/NIF regime is about the southern referendum if it is willing to take such extraordinary risks in the most contested and militarily tense region along the North/South border. While the Misseriya militia attack was beaten back, there are no signs that Khartoum has any intention of decreasing tensions: in the regime’s view, continued volatility in Abyei gives it diplomatic leverage in attempting to force further compromise upon the leadership in Juba.

Khartoum’s broadest intentions are far from clear. The South must learn to live with this, although official international recognition of the Republic of South Sudan (the likely name of the new nation) on July 9, 2011 will make it easier for the South to appeal to the UN, specifically for peacekeeping assistance along the border.

THE CHALLENGES in building a new nation in southern Sudan are staggering; and southerners must confront these challenges without the great advantage that derived from having a common strategic political goal, one that has increasingly unified the South over many years. For in pursuing the nearly universal objective of a self-determination referendum and the chance to secede from the North, many southerners have put simmering political and ethnic disputes on hold. But now that the larger political goal has been met—secession has been overwhelmingly approved—the various and often competing interests among southern constituencies are likely to become more divisive. At the same time, it is important for the international community to recognize the challenges Juba faces in dealing with the Khartoum regime.

The NCP/NIF has never been a dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir, but rather a security cabal. Immensely powerful men, such as Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, Salah Gosh, Ali Osman Taha, Quitbi al-Mahdi, Mustafa Ismail, Ghazi Saleh el-Din, Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, and the heads of the security services and the army, have actively wielded control over domestic and foreign policy, as well as making decisions about supporting international terrorism. But though it is foolish to personify the regime by means of al-Bashir alone, it is even more foolish— especially after what we’ve recently seen in Abyei—to give al-Bashir credit for praiseworthy statesmanship, as the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall does: “It would be refreshing, too, to recognise Bashir’s role in holding things together even as his country falls apart.” As protests mount in Khartoum, as the northern economy nosedives, as Darfur descends further into a humanitarian disaster, as military tensions mount in Abyei, and as the regime remains intransigent on outstanding North/South issues, such a characterization of al-Bashir is simply preposterous.

But it does suggest what the SPLM leadership is up against in attempting to make its way as an independent country. Tisdall’s views are not his alone. The SPLM has always struggled to convince international actors just who they are dealing with in Khartoum, and why they feel obliged to spend a fiscally debilitating 40 percent of their national budget on military hardware and salaries. No one can argue that the money is spent with sufficient efficiency; but military strength is the South’s only guarantor against aggression by Khartoum, which if it comes, will hardly be broadcast in advance, or even discerned clearly by fatuous observers like Tisdall.

Rather, the South well knows that it must be prepared to defend itself, and quickly, if the Sudan Armed Forces move toward the oil fields in Unity State and Upper Nile (sites of the two largest oil consortia, both dominated by China National Petroleum Corporation). The South will have no effective international military assistance. Perhaps Uganda and Kenya will assist logistically, the United States with military equipment—but the front-line fighting will all be done by the SPLA. Though this force is much more potent than the guerilla force that compelled Khartoum to sign a “cessation of hostilities agreement” in October 2002, it has been dramatically outspent on advanced military hardware by Khartoum, which has increased its aerial military capabilities in particular. If there is another war, the SAF will attempt to seize and hold the oil pipeline and infrastructure, and the SPLA will seek to destroy as much of that infrastructure as possible in a bid to stop the flow of oil. Without oil revenues to sustain its war effort, Khartoum would be forced to negotiate. Indeed, the regime may even calculate that whatever the international condemnation, a renegotiation of the North/South borders (and hence oil reserves) would be conducted on more favorable terms if Khartoum has military control of key territories.

IF WAR is avoided, the new Republic of South Sudan will still face difficulties meeting its economic and political needs. Developing capacity, in its broadest sense, is the most urgent requirement—or rather the rubric for a range of needs: governance capacity, administrative capacity, humanitarian organizational capacity, business leadership capacity, watchdog capacity, security capacity, and educational capacity. South Sudan has lost many of its best and brightest to the diaspora; many Southerners received their educations abroad and have lived comfortably away from their homeland for years. By contrast, many who have remained to fight for the freedom and independence of the South are poorly educated and without the skills needed to build a new country, essentially from scratch. They can hardly be abandoned now, however, and integrating them into a peaceful society and rapidly changing economy will be an enormous undertaking. We must hope that educated Sudanese in the diaspora return to the South at this moment of great need to assist in the training that will allow for the economic integration of those “lost” men and boys who never left Sudan.

Without a massive increase in capacity—in government as well as nongovernmental organizations and private businesses—South Sudan will remain a country defined by its needs, not its potential. There is a clear danger that international humanitarian aid—which remains urgently necessary—will come to substitute true national development. It’s for this reason that education should be given the highest non-defense priority in developing a new nation: South Sudan must create and sustain its own capacity, and build an educational system that is self-sustaining and self-renewing. Most Sudanese I’ve spoken with agree that this is the priority in developing the country.

South Sudan’s churches also represent a tremendous source of existing capacity, much of which has served the region courageously for decades, especially in reconciliation and mediation efforts. The churches no doubt have their own visions for a new South Sudan, but they are an extraordinarily important resource and may be of particular value in arbitrating disputes that arise among South Sudan’s highly diverse communities.

Capacity-building must include transportation infrastructure as well. The nearly completed road from Kampala (Uganda) to Nimule (Central Equatoria) and on to Juba is an admirable gateway project. Western Equatoria, which typically has a food surplus, must be connected to food insecure regions of the South. Given the enormous challenges posed by the long rainy season, the investment in elevated, all-weather roads will be huge, but the only basis for developing a truly national economy.

Communications capacity is also critical. Sudan is an ideal market for cell phones, given the size of the country-in-the-making and the near total absence of land lines, but it lacks a cellular infrastructure, and satellite phones are (at least presently) too expensive. The new government should work to secure contracts that make network construction self-funding, and should partially subsidize phone purchases. The ownership of solar- and crank-powered radios should be strongly encouraged, and non-government-controlled radio broadcasting fostered. Only with the gradual but continual growth of political freedom and democratic institutions will South Sudan outgrow the autocracy that was the necessary condition of political rule during the many long years of war.

Banks, typically a lucrative part of any economy, must be able and committed to providing small business loans, and must be guided by strict transparency requirements to safeguard against corruption. There has already been a dangerous proliferation of corruption among Southern leaders, though President Salva Kiir has made efforts to limit the scale. His vigilance must be relentless. A decision about the Southern currency must also be made quickly.

Police training is also essential if South Sudan is going to become a secure and orderly country, and this training must include attention to the rule of law, international human rights law, and particularly a focused concern for gender bias issues. The police must not be seen as a tool of repression.

Environmental issues must be confronted as rapidly as possible, with a coherent and well-enforced set of guidelines. Given the possibilities represented by eco-tourism, South Sudan is in a position to make environmental regulations a self- funding source of employment, as well as a means of preserving the pristine beauties and attractions of the wilderness areas in the South.

The list is long, but time is short, given the unrealistically high expectations of Southerners. And the threats—internal and external—are all too real. International actors need to think carefully and creatively about increasing South Sudan’s capacity to build itself into a nation.

But above all, the world must ensure that war does not resume between the Khartoum-dominated North and the fledgling Republic of South Sudan. This will entail exerting sustained and robust diplomatic pressure on the Khartoum regime, which is notorious for violating agreements with any and all Sudanese parties. The evidence of Khartoum’s intentions in the immediate wake of the referendum is ambiguous. Abyei very nearly exploded during the voting, as the regime continues to stir the animosities and fears of the Misseriya Arabs of the region. Khartoum’s weapons acquisitions since the signing of the CPA in 2005 have been enormous. Given the outstanding issues, if the regime is looking for a pretext to resume war, it won’t be hard to contrive one. Peace is far from guaranteed.

January 28, 2011

Eric Reeves has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Compromising with Khartoum: Abyei and the Perils of Accommodation

Compromising with Khartoum: Abyei and the Perils of Accommodation .

By Eric Reeves

November 26, 2010 (SSNA) -- The carefully planned military coup that brought the National Islamic Front to power in June of 1989 was timed to forestall the most promising chance for a north/south peace agreement since Sudan’s independence in 1956. The two major northern sectarian parties—the Umma Party and Democratic Unionist Party—were on the verge of agreeing to terms with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, an agreement that would have ended the terrible bloodshed that had begun with the resumption of civil war in 1983. Then-president Sadiq al-Mahdi was prepared to accept the arduously negotiated terms of a settlement.

It would take a very long time for international actors in the West and elsewhere to recognize that the National Islamic Front (now expediently and innocuously renamed the National Congress Party) was very different from the northern Arab regimes that had preceded—none of them benign, including Sadiq’s, in their treatment of southerners. In particular, the world failed to see just how dangerous were the consequences of the regime’s radical agenda for Islamizing and Arabizing all of Sudan. Even the jihad declared against the African peoples of the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan (1992), with explicit genocidal ambitions, prompted no broad understanding of what the regime was capable of, or how it regarded the international community. After seeing the world’s obtuse response to its barbarous, seven-year embargo on all humanitarian aid to the Nuba, as well as its attendant military destruction and displacement of Nuban civilians, the regime was emboldened. In 1998 the regime intensified its scorched-earth campaign against civilians in the oil regions that straddle the north/south border. Hundreds of thousands of Nuer, Dinka, Shilluk, and members of other African tribal groups were killed or displaced from their lands over the next five years. Khartoum’s ambition was to create a vast military cordon sanitaire around the oil fields and infrastructure, and it largely succeeded.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that finally ended the civil war was signed in January 2005; but it is important to recall that all its substantive protocols had been agreed to by Khartoum and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement as of May 2004. Khartoum delayed the formal signing for eight months in a futile but immensely destructive effort to complete its genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur. The countries involved in negotiating the peace agreement—including the United States, Britain, Norway and various nations of an East African consortium known as IGAD, led by Kenya—were so eager to complete the agreement that Darfur was largely ignored during a period of extreme violence and large-scale ethnically-targeted civilian destruction. The human catastrophe in Darfur was at its worst during these crucial months.

The point of this thumbnail sketch of Sudanese history over the past twenty-one years is to highlight the extraordinary survival skills that have been honed by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. Despite a domestic security policy of serial genocide and ongoing crimes against humanity, the regime has never felt seriously threatened by domestic political opposition or international actions. This is because these brutal men are intelligent, canny, and in a number of cases highly educated; they are also utterly ruthless and have been insidiously effective in securing control of the Sudanese economy—the banking system, the agricultural sector, oil revenues—and of course the army and security services.

Although led by Field Marshal Omar Hassan al-Bashir, president of the Republic of Sudan, he rules only as the most powerful man within a substantial security cabal. Portfolios regularly change hands; there are political ups and downs (and even expulsions, as was the case with chief Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Turabi); different internal calculations are made about the diplomatic actions necessary to preserve the regime’s monopoly on national power and wealth. But the cast is largely unchanged since 1989. Those figures who exert most power today are all veterans of the coup or early followers of the Islamist regime. Nafi’e Ali Nafi’e, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, Salah Abdullah Gosh, Mustafa Osman Ismail, Gutbi el-Mahdi, Ghazi Salah el-Din el-Atabani, Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, General Bakri Hassan Saleh. Many of these names appear on a confidential 2006 Annex prepared by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, implicating them in atrocity crimes during the counter-insurgency effort in the region. Other names should have appeared, certainly if we take the research of Human Rights Watch seriously.

HOW, THEN to speak to such a regime? What are the terms of appropriate engagement? Humanitarians, diplomats, international political powers—including the UN—have offered different answers. But in the run-up to the deeply imperiled January self-determination referenda for southern Sudan and the border region of Abyei, it is clear that disingenuousness, silence, and equivocation are the preferred terms of engagement. Reaching conclusions that are belied by everything we have seen for the past twenty-one years, various interlocutors engaging with the regime have displayed a willingness to accommodate the most savage tyranny and abuse in an effort to secure “agreement” on what is perceived as the most exigent crisis of the moment.

This engagement is with men who have never abided by any agreement with another Sudanese party—not one, not ever. Far from responding to international accommodation in a positive fashion, the regime sees such accommodation as a sign of weakness and the occasion for demanding yet more. This response has been replicated over and over again, in all spheres of engagement. But nowhere is such accommodation more dangerous than in the present crisis in Abyei. By failing to hold Khartoum to its clear obligations under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, by allowing the regime to play games with the Abyei ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and by letting the regime dictate the terms of negotiations, the Obama administration—which in the diplomatic division of labor has taken the lead on Abyei—has allowed the issue to bring Sudan to the brink of unfathomably destructive renewed civil war.


It has become clear to all that the Abyei self-determination referendum is so belated that only a political agreement between Khartoum and the Government of South Sudan can diffuse the growing crisis in the region; such a crisis left unresolved will likely lead to war. Khartoum has refused to allow the Abyei Referendum Commission to be established, which in turn prevents any forward movement on the issues of residency, voter registration, border demarcation (as opposed to delineation), wealth sharing, citizenship, and security.

With less than seven weeks until the January 9, 2011 date for both referenda, the Obama administration has finally begun to register appropriate concern about Abyei, indeed one might say a highly belated alarm. But the form of that alarm is dismayingly counterproductive, particularly in its insistence that the south must pay the price for Khartoum’s intransigence. U.S. special envoy for Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gation, declared in October—just days before an aborted meeting in Addis Ababa scheduled to discuss Abyei—that

“There's no more time to waste… The parties must be prepared to come to Addis with an attitude of compromise. The entire world is watching and will make judgments based on how the parties approach these talks, on how they act in the next couple of months.”

And then, very recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that “Most urgently, the parties [Khartoum and the southern leadership] must make the tough compromises necessary to settle the status of Abyei.”

“Compromises”? The compromises were already embodied in the Abyei Protocol of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which guaranteed both that Abyei would have a self-determination referendum on January 9, 2011, and that the delineation of Abyei itself would be undertaken by an international panel of experts, the Abyei Boundary Commission. In a scrupulously well-researched report, the Commission carefully delineated Abyei on the basis of all extant historical records and maps, forwarding their findings to President al-Bashir in July 2005. But al-Bashir and his regime were unhappy with the outcome, and so refused to accept these findings—and refused also to allow for the formation of an Abyei administrative body or preparation for the referendum.

The southern leadership protested against this flagrant violation of the CPA, but with little international support and to no avail. Foreseeing the consequences of continued stalemate, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) agreed to allow a final decision on the findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) to be made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. A decision was rendered by the Court in July 2009, finding that the ABC had exceeded its mandate; the Court then redrew the boundaries of Abyei in a way highly favorable to Khartoum, including moving to northern Sudan areas in the east and north within Abyei that have very significant oil reserves. The historical reasoning and expertise of the Court were not nearly as compelling as that of the ABC, but despite this the SPLM accepted the decision as the only way to move forward on the Abyei referendum.

A year later, in the July 2010, a senior Khartoum official, former director of national security Salah Abdullah Gosh, suggested that the Abyei issue had still not been settled: “The [PCA ruling] ruling did not resolve the dispute.” Although he would later retract this assertion, he had tipped Khartoum’s hand: over the past four months the regime has reneged on terms of both the Abyei Protocol and the PCA ruling. The regime is now obstructing the referendum primarily by insisting that migratory Misseriya Arabs from northern Sudan are “residents” of Abyei who must be allowed to vote in the referendum. It has moved some 70,000 to 80,000 Misseriya into the region, people who have traditionally migrated to Abyei for only several months of the year. But now Khartoum insists that they are “residents” and that they be registered to vote in the referendum. Since the Abyei referendum is to determine whether the region joins with the north or the south, these northern Arab votes may well tip the balance. For without them—if only the traditional residents of the region, the Ngok Dinka, were to vote—the results would be overwhelmingly for union with the south.

There is, in fact, no mention of Misseriya Arabs as residents of Abyei in the Abyei Protocol of the CPA, nor was it the focus of side discussions during negotiations. The language of the CPA is spare and clear: “The residents of the Abyei Area shall be: The Members of Ngok Dinka community and other Sudanese residing in the area.” Nor was there any discussion of the Misseriya by Khartoum in the months leading up to the PCA decision of July 2009. Only now—having run out of other stratagems—has Khartoum decided to make Misseriya “residency” an issue.

And still the Obama administration—trapped by its own belatedness and incompetence—urges the SPLM to “compromise” yet further. But even in the face of such transparently obstructionist behavior by Khartoum, the southern leadership has in fact continued to “compromise.” I am told by an extremely reliable source in the region that:

“…the SPLM has bent over backwards to compromise. They've offered that anybody who can trace residency [in Abyei] to pre-1905 can vote; rejected by the NCP. Then anyone tracing residency to 1956; rejected. Then anyone who was resident in 2005; rejected. Then residency at the time of the PCA ruling; rejected. Finally, anyone resident just one year ago when the Abyei Referendum Act was passed; rejected. The NCP are insisting that the 70-80,000 Missiriya who moved in just recently must vote.” (email received November 20, 2010)

Why does Khartoum feel emboldened to reject all offers of compromise? For the same reason it has prevented formation of the Abyei Referendum Commission; for the same reason that it feels it can block a proposed buffer zone between northern and southern military forces, including those near Abyei; for the same reason that it obstructs movement of the UN peacekeeping mission north of Abyei town; for the same reasons that Khartoum’s infamous 31st Brigade was able to burn Abyei town to the ground in May 2008, killing dozens and displacing as many as 90,000 people—all while the UN watched helplessly from a distance; for the same reason that Khartoum’s military forces and proxies are beating, arresting, and “taxing” southerners attempting to return to their home in Abyei; for the same reason that the regime allows a senior member to declare very recently that Abyei has always been historically part of the north:

“Professor Ibrahim Ghandour, secretary for political affairs of the National Congress Party, said his party has documentary evidence that proves that the oil-rich but disputed Abyei region is part of the north.”

Why does Khartoum feel that it can continue to negotiate the boundaries of Abyei in such preposterous fashion (we have heretofore unconsidered documentary evidence!), despite the findings of both the Abyei Boundary Commission and the Permanent Court of Arbitration? Because the international community has repeatedly proved itself willing to deal expediently and disingenuously with a regime that has an unbroken diplomatic record of deceit, arrogance, and reneging. It still enjoys enormous success making the same threat it has long made: Push us too hard on this or that issue, and we will collapse the entire CPA.

This was disgracefully true for Darfur in 2004. It remains just as disgracefully true in Darfur six years later, as UN humanitarian leaders remain silent about conditions in Darfur, acquiesce in the suppression of critical malnutrition data, and allow press releases to be vetted by Khartoum. The UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) is continually denied access to sites where Khartoum has bombed civilian targets (even as all military flights are banned by UN Security Council Resolution 1591), and faces relentless harassment and obstruction by various elements of the regime. Khartoum’s warplanes, including those designed for air-to-ground attacks, sit openly on tarmacs, even during a recent UN Security Council mission to the region. Arms and ammunition, especially from China, continue to pour into Darfur—also in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591—as reported yet again by the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur. Indeed, Khartoum is not in compliance with a single UN Security Council resolution, and there have been dozens. Nor has it made good on any of its promises in the failed Darfur Peace Agreement (May 2006).

And the Obama administration response to all this? It has recently “decoupled” Darfur from the criteria that will be used to determine whether Khartoum will be removed from the U.S. State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations. What is arguably the biggest prize the United States has to offer the regime will no longer be used as leverage to end the holocaust in Darfur, but exclusively to secure compliance with the already negotiated terms of the CPA. This occurs at a time when the regime has begun a massive new military campaign in Darfur—Operation "Misk al-Khitam," or “the perfect ending.” And we may be sure that the implications of a U.S. “decoupling” of Darfur are not lost on a regime that is always assessing its diplomatic adversaries—their strengths, weaknesses, and degree of commitment.

This “decoupling” decision is the price of belatedness and the very essence of expediency—and it will serve to extend the life of the Khartoum regime. Whether it will produce a successful referendum for southern Sudan is an open question: Khartoum’s survivalists are busy now assessing the consequences of aborting or refusing to recognize the vote, militarily preempting the results, as well as considering just how to use Abyei as a means of extracting yet more concessions from the SPLM leadership and Washington. The United States and the rest of the international community—by signaling just how accommodating they can be—have encouraged the most ruthless calculations by Khartoum, and these external actors are now hostage to their own expediency. The clouds darkening over Sudan will not lift soon.

Eric Reeves is a professor of English at Smith College. He has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. His book on Darfur—A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide—was published in 2007.