Category Archives: North Africa

Germany to help mediate between opposition and governmewnt in Sudan

Sudan Tribune

October 2, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Germany will work with the Sudanese parties to facilitate a process aiming to bring peace in the east African country and achieve democratic transformation, said a statement released in Berlin on Thursday after a meeting with the Sudanese rebels.

A German institution for mediation, Berghof Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Think Tank of the German Government, Stiftung Wissenschaftund Politik, (SWP) organised a workshop with the rebel alliance of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) to assess the state of the national dialogue process and explore ways to support it.

The two-day meeting was attended by the different SRF groups, except the Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid (SLM-AW), which demands to implement security measures aiming to protect civilians in the war zones before to engage in peace negotiations with the government.

The workshop, which included officials from the German foreign ministry, took place after a series of meetings German officials recently conducted with the Sudanese government and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

While the SRF leaders reaffirmed their commitment towards a process leading to achieve just peace and genuine democratic change in Sudan, The German tandem agreed to with them to work on ways to end the fighting and prepare the national constitutional conference.

“Berghof Foundation/ SWP committed to work with the SRF and other Sudanese parties as well as international partners towards helping create a credible national dialogue/constitutional process in Sudan,” said a statement extended by the German mediation body to Sudan Tribune at the end of the workshop.

The Berghof Foundation further said they will support efforts aiming to “find a mechanism for stopping the wars in Sudan and assisting the Sudanese parties in closing the gaps towards a comprehensive national dialogue”.

Further, the German facilitators agreed with the SRF alliance to consult on these ideas with “a variety of Sudanese stakeholders and key international partners, notably the African Union and United Nation”.

The German foreign ministry expressed its readiness to support these objectives through its backing of the Berghof Foundation/SWP initiative.

On Monday 30 September, the German embassy in Khartoum said the Sudanese authorities are aware of the meeting with the rebel groups.

Last August; Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour told Sudan Tribune they had asked Berlin to support their efforts to end war in Sudan and hold the national dialogue process inside the country with the participation of all the rebel groups.

He further expressed hopes that Germany play a role supporting Sudan’s efforts to improve its relations with the European Union countries.

The organisers of the workshop said the SRF expressed “its conviction that democratic, credible elections can occur only following a national dialogue/constitutional process”.

In early September, the SRF signed with AUHIP an agreement on the national dialogue and constitutional process providing that a comprehensive political agreement is the ideal option to end war and achieve democratic reforms.

The government and rebel delegations will meet in Addis Ababa on 12 and 15 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan, Blue Nile states and Darfur region.

However, the SLM-AW did not participate in the meeting with the German facilitators.

Sudan Tribune failed to reach its leader Abdel Wahid al-Nur. However sources close to the rebel group said the workshop is perceived by the SLM-AW leadership as “pre-negotiation process”.

In an interview conducted with him in September after the SRF meeting with the AUHIP in Addis Ababa, al-Nur said they would not participate in the national dialogue process before improving the security conditions of civilians in the conflict areas.

“We reiterated our demand to protect civilians on the ground before any dialogue with the regime. Peace must begin with security and ends with a genuine democratic change,” al-Nur told Sudan Tribune on 7 September.

The rebel leader who considers that the cessation of hostilities is not enough says security measures should be unilaterally implemented by the government, adding they do not require any discussion or agreement.


Sudan – Bashir says Sadiq can only return if he gives up Paris delcration with SRF rebels

Sudan Tribune

September 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir strongly attacked the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) for signing a political agreement with rebel groups and said that Sadiq al-Mahdi can return back to Sudan only if he cancels the Paris Declaration.

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Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir delivers a speech on 27 January 2014 in the capital, Khartoum (Photo: AFP/Ebrahim Hamid)

Since the signing of Paris Declaration on 8 August with the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), al-Mahdi is based in the Egyptian capital Cairo. His daughter and DUP deputy leader was jailed for a month before her release.

On 4 September, the Paris Declaration group signed an agreement on the national dialogue and constitutional process with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Further, the African mediation called the warring parties in the Two Areas and Darfur to separately negotiate a cessation of hostilities respectively on 12 and 15 October.

In line with these developments, and after Khartoum commitment to create a conducive environment inside the country, it was expected that the Sudanese authorities would allow Mahdi’s return to the country. The release of his daughter Merriam and the leader of the opposition Congress Party were considered as positive steps.

However, in a speech at the convention of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum state on Saturday, Bashir surprised the public by announcing that Mahdi can only come back to Sudan after having renounced the Paris Declaration, emphasising that Paris Declartion makes him complicit in the rebel project to bring down the regime by the force of arms.

“Sadiq al-Mahdi is welcome at any time, but he should first disowns what he signed in Paris,” Bashir said, adding that Mahdi agreed with SRF to change the regime while the programme of the rebels “is based on the armed action to overthrow the regime”.

The Paris declaration was welcomed inside the country and abroad as it provides that the “end of the war is the right approach to any credible national dialogue and serious constitutional” process and call to ensure freedoms in the country.

The African Union Peace and Security Council in a meeting held on 12 September tasked the AUHIP with cessation of hostilities talks between the warring parties, and exhorted Khartoum to implement the confidence-building measures agreed in the agreement of 4 September which is also signed by the national dialogue committee.

The regional body further urged the Sudanese stakeholders to “refrain from hate speech and from conducting negative media campaigns against each other”.

The Sudanese president went further to say that some want to use the national dialogue to dismantle the regime, adding that his government will not allow rebel groups to exercise any political action or to establish alliance with the opposition forces in Sudan.

He said the SRF rebels have to lay down their arms before to come to Khartoum and engage in political activities.

Bashir called on the rebel groups to participate in the national dialogue and renewed his government commitment of to provide the needed guarantees for the SRF delegates to participate freely in the national process after the end of talks on security arrangements in Addis Ababa.

But he clearly underscored that the separate talks with rebels will be based on the 2005 peace agreement (CPA) for the SPLM-N and the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) for Darfur rebel groups.

The talks on the South Kordofan and Blue Nile “will only consider a single item which is the reintegration and demobilisation of the (rebel) combatants in the Two Areas, as the rest of issues are included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” he said.

He also reiterated his refusal for the postponement of 2015 elections and expressed his readiness to undertake a Cabinet reshuffle in a way to represent all the political forces participating in the dialogue process.


Hours after Bashir’s statements against the return of Mahdi to Sudan before the cancellation of Paris Declaration, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) announced its intention to sue the leader of the opposition NUP Sadiq al-Mahdi for his participation in “activities against the country”.

“Our decision to file a suit against al-Mahdi is taken after extensive legal assessment and based on information and documents relating to his activities since the signing of the Paris Declaration and what followed in encounters,” said the director of the NISS information department is a statement released on Saturday evening.

The security official further described Mahdi’s activities as illegal actions publishable by law and confirmed that that the legal proceedings against him will begin in the coming days.

Since his arrival in Cairo last August, the DUP leader held a series of meetings with the Egyptian officials and foreign diplomats there to explain the Paris Declaration. He travelled to the United Arab Emirates and Addis Ababa where he met with the AUHIP chief.

Al-Mahdi, who was a fervent supporter of the national dialogue, had been arrested for one month from May to June for criticising atrocities and war crimes committed by the government militias in Darfur.

Following his release, he distanced himself from the internal process and called to include rebels in the national dialogue. He further demanded to issue a law protecting political freedoms before to launch the political operation.


Sudan – SRF to hold conference of all opposition parties

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – The rebel alliance of Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) has revealed plans to hold an all-parties conference for the opposition forces in order to combine visions on Sudan’s future and adopt a unified political program prior to the convening of national dialogue.

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The speaker of the South African national assembly, Baleka Mbete (C), pictured with Malik Agar (R) and Yasir Arman (L) after a meeting on 22 September 2014 (Photo courtesy of the SPLM-N)

The SRF’s secretary of external affairs, Yasir Arman, told Sudan Tribune from South Africa on Tuesday that they are conducting extensive contacts to hold an all-parties conference for opposition forces, similar to that one which took place in the Eritrean capital of Asmara in June 1995.

“The conference seeks to reach a common vision and program and a national project which accommodates lessons from the experience of the cessation of South Sudan and provides a vision for building the country on new bases,” Arman said.

He stressed the move was dictated by the recent developments particularly after the signing of the “Agreement on National Dialogue and Constitutional Process” in Addis Ababa on 4 September and calls from the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) for a meeting of all Sudanese forces to agree on the agenda and timeframe of talks.

However, Arman did not elaborate on where and when the meeting will be held, but stressed that it will take place soon.

In a conference held in Asmara from 15 to 23 June 1995, Sudanese opposition forces gathered under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance for “the conference on fundamental issues” where it agreed on the right of self-determination for South Sudan, a programme for a transitional period, and general principles for a democratic, decentralised and secular rule in the country.

Arman praised the decisions of the AUPSC endorsed on 12 September on the national dialogue and the need for a comprehensive process to end war in South Kordofan, Blue Nile states and the Darfur region, as well as establish a democratic regime.

“The intervention of the African Union (AU) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) as facilitators and guarantors of the national constitutional process have transformed the role of the AU from a fire truck which seeks to achieve partial solutions to a sponsor for the comprehensive solution which links ending the war to democratic transformation,” he said.

In a release issued at the end of its 456th meeting on 12 September, the AUPSC provides to hold separate talks on a cessation of hostilities and security arrangements followed by a meeting in the AU headquarters gathering all the Sudanese political forces on agree on the agenda and principles of the dialogue process which will be organised inside the country.

The SRF official described this step as a great political development, which will maintain unity of the Sudan through a comprehensive solution, reiterating readiness to participate in a national dialogue conducted on an equal footing.


Arman, who is also the secretary-general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), welcomed efforts of the AU mediation on Sudan’s peace process, saying the SPLM-N is ready to engage in the next round of talks with the Sudanese government in Addis Ababa on 12 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities agreement in the Two Areas.

He underscored that this round of talks comes within the framework of the comprehensive peace process in accordance with the AU’s decisions at its 456th meeting, stressing they wouldn’t accept partial solutions for Sudan’s problems,

Earlier this month, the chairman of the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, announced that Sudanese government delegations will hold parallel meetings with the SPLM-N on 12 October and another one with Darfur rebel groups on 15 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities agreement.

Mbeki added that the signing of a truce will pave the way for the rebels’ participation in the national dialogue.

The SRF initially demanded negotiations for a comprehensive humanitarian cessation of hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states, stressing the need to unify the two peace processes.

However, Khartoum insists on the importance to maintain the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) as basis for negotiations with the holdout rebels saying it already committed with two former rebel groups that inked the framework agreement.


Arman pointed to recent statements by presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour rejecting the postponement of 2015 general elections and the formation of a transitional government, saying this would push opposition forces to work towards the prevention of elections through wider public action.

“No opposition party will participate in the coming election and these assertions were made in the Paris Declaration signed last August with leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, and also in the meeting held in London [ last August] between the SRF and the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, Mohamed Osman al-Merghani,” he said.

He further described the relationship between the SRF and the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) as “strategic”, saying they will not allow any party to manipulate it.

The SRF official mentioned previous meetings with the NCF chairman, Farouq Abu Issa, pointing to his recent phone conversation with the leader of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP), Ibrahim al-Sheikh, as well as a meeting with the NCF delegation in Addis Ababa recently.

The NCF refuses to take part in the national dialogue process, demanding greater public freedoms, the postponement of elections and a transitional period to implement the outcome of the dialogue process by a national cabinet.


Arman said their current visit to Johannesburg aims to learn from the South African experience of transition from the apartheid regime to the democratic system of governance besides urging the government in Pretoria to support recent decisions of the AU on Sudan’s national dialogue.

A delegation of the SPLM-N headed by its chairman, Malik Agar, is currently visiting South Africa to hold meetings with officials from the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC), as well as South African government and parliament.

The SPLM-N delegation on Monday met with the speaker of the South African parliament and the national chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete, with Agar is expected to meet more officials in the Pretoria government and ruling party.

In a separate statement, SPLM-N negotiating team spokesperson Mubarak Ardul described the visit as a “qualitative shift” in relations of Sudan’s forces of change in general and particularly the SPLM-N with countries such as South Africa, which plays a significant and influential role in the course of events on the continent.


AU calls for synchronised security talks on Sudanese conflicts

Sudan Tribune

September 15, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC) has finally opted for separate, but synchronised discussions on security measures between the warring Sudanese parties before they can engage in the internal dialogue process.

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A general view of a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (Photo courtesy of the African Union)

The Sudanese government and Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) agreed on the need for a comprehensive and inclusive process to reach peace and restore democracy in the country.

The government and rebel groups, however, diverged on how to proceed and where this political process was to be conducted.

While the government says the rebels should come and directly discuss ceasefire and security arrangements before joining the negotiating table with other stakeholders, the latter has demanded a humanitarian cessation of hostilities followed by separate negotiations abroad on the security arrangements and matters related to the war areas after which discussions on the new constitution can begin.

The AUPSC, in a resolution released on 15 September, following its 456 meeting acknowledged that the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and its chairman Thabo Mbeki will play the midwifery role of the national dialogue by brokering the security talks as well as an all parties conference in Addis Ababa to agree on a framework agreement for the political process.

“The negotiations on cessation of hostilities, immediately leading to a comprehensive security arrangements agreement, should resume at the earliest opportunity, under the auspices of the AUHIP and in collaboration and coordination with the JSR/JCM ‘Mohamed Ibn Chambas),” partly reads the AUPSC resolution.

“The negotiations on the cessation of hostilities for the Two Areas and for Darfur should be conducted in a synchronized manner,” it further added.

A rebel group, Sudan Liberation Movement – Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) warned last week that they would not accept a humanitarian cessation of hostilities, but requested that security measures be implemented to protect civilians in the war affected zones.

The Council, however, took in consideration a demand by the rebel and opposition parties on the need for a preparatory meeting to fix the rules of the national dialogue and agree on how to implement its outcome.

“A meeting of the Sudanese parties to discuss relevant process issues, in order to pave the way for the National Dialogue should be held at the AU Headquarters under the facilitation of the AUHIP,” decided the AUPSC.

The regional peace and security body emphasised the need to establish a conducive environment for the national dialogue and urged the Khartoum government to implement confidence-building measures.

Among these measures, the 15-member council mentions the release of all political detainees and prisoners, enacting the necessary legislations to ensure political freedoms and the freedom of expression and publication, and ensuring that the judiciary will be the only institution to adjudicate such matters.

But before any engagement in the internal process and in line with the AUPSC decision, the government has been requested to provide the “necessary guarantees for the armed groups freely to participate in the national dialogue, once the comprehensive ceasefire and security arrangements agreements have been concluded”.

Khartoum also has to facilitate humanitarian assistance to all populations in war-affected areas.


The African body called on the international community to provide “economic support package to Sudan, including expediting debt relief and extending concessionary loans”.

It also appealed to the United States and the European Union to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Sudan “ in order to contribute positively towards the creation of enabling conditions for the success of the national dialogue”.

Some EU countries consider the lift of economic sanctions imposed on Sudan and debt relief as they follow closely the ongoing efforts to hold the political process and to ensure effective implementation of its outcome.

On 9 August, the American acting chargé d’affaires David Kaeupur met with Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour to hand over a message from US special envoy Donald Booth on the national dialogue.

Booth, in his message, expressed his government’s support to the internal process and encouraged Khartoum to create the necessary conditions for a genuine, holistic and inclusive dialogue.


South Sudanese general warns of fragmentation

Sudan Tribune

September 14, 2014 (JUBA) – A senior South Sudanese opposition politician has hinted on possibilities of the young nation disintegrating along ethnic lines, should its current leadership ignore the strength and capabilities of those opposed to the Juba establishment.

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General Dau Aturjong (ST)

Gen. Dau Aturjong told Sudan Tribune he was optimistic some parts of South Sudan could rejoin neigbouring Sudan, from which it seceded in 2011 or become part of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“We urge our people to see the differences between Dr. Riek Machar, who has accepted to take the challenge to champion the cause of the movement and the propaganda of the government,” Gen. Aturjong said Sunday.

“They have to make clear distinction and join the movement earnestly so that we all rescue the country from disintegrating into ethnic enclaves, South Sudanese rebel commander”, he added.

David de Chan, a renowned South Sudanese academic recently criticised the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) protocol of agreed principles, instead recommending the breaking up of the country into smaller administrative units.

“I highly recommend that South Sudan should be disintegrated because it has already been disintegrated compared to the island nation state of Cyprus that has divided itself into two (2) vs. the Greco-Cypriots on the west side of the tiny island of Cyprus and the Turkish-Cypriots on the eastside of the island nation of Cyprus and the case of the former Yugoslavia federation that disintegrated into seven (7) nation states in the Balkans,” de Chan wrote on 29 August.

“The greater Upper Nile region would not return to Juba, but it would govern itself as an autonomous region like Kurdistan-Iraq in northern Iraq and would eventually seek political divorce from South Sudan,” he stressed.


But Gen. Aturjong, a former South Sudan army division commander who joined the opposition in May, warned of growing sentiments in the country should the current conflict drag on for another year.

“I do not deny such possibilities and this is why the movement [SPLM in Opposition] appeals for mass defection of our officers in this ailing government to live up to the cause of liberation struggle. Our people did not sacrifice their lives in order for them to come and install the regime with similar tendencies to perpetuate the suffering”, he said.

According to the senior rebel commander, there is already a feeling in other parts of the country, apart from Upper Nile state, allegedly to break away from the country, if president Salva Kiir does not willingly accept democratic reforms and inclusivity in national affairs.

“There are voices calling for annexing the Upper Nile and Unity States to Sudan and parts of Equatoria States to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic of Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Such voices are serious and they are actually inspired by the Russia-Ukraine case of Crimea,” Gen. Aturjong explained.

“And I think some countries with interests in the region can quickly support local initiative, like it happened in the case of Russia and Ukraine over Crimea”, he further stressed.

Meanwhile Peter Adwok Nyaba, a former South Sudanese education minister, now with the rebels, advocated for an increase in the level of struggle to cover other parts of the countries, saying it was the only way to bring change in the country.

He claimed president Kiir was “insensitive” to calls for peace in the young nation.
“SPLM in opposition does not belong to Riek Machar and those who refused to join because of him are mistaken. The resistance to Salva’s regime is acquiring a national and democratic character,” Nyaba told Sudan Tribune.

“The contradiction now is between democrats’ revolutionary and liberal, social or Marxists and the dictatorial regime and other position or stand is fact support for the president,” he added.

President Kiir’s loyalists, however, say those opposed to the present leadership only became critics after they were removed during last year’s cabinet reshuffle, which also affected former vice-president Riek Machar.


Sudan:politics by declaration

African Arguments
Sudan: politics by declaration – By Magdi el-Gizouli

Posted on August 28, 2014 by AfricanArgumentsEditor

Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) and patron of the Ansar brotherhood, held a brief round of talks earlier this month in Paris with leaders of the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), the umbrella organisation whose main members are the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-North (SPLA/M-N), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the two factions of the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M). The talks concluded with the signing of political statement by the two sides on 8 August which they chose to name the ‘Paris Declaration’.

From the French capital, Sadiq al-Mahdi flew to Cairo where he hopes to market his new document to an international audience, while the SRF figures, Yasir Arman, secretary general of the SPLA/M-N, and al-Tom Hajo, a former functionary of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), jetted to London to win the favour of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, the chief of the DUP and patron of the Khatmiyya brotherhood, resident in the British capital since the bloody protests against the downscaling of fuel subsidies in Khartoum in September 2013. A statement released in Khartoum said al-Mirghani only talked about his health to his visitors.

Sadiq al-Mahdi’s daughter and newly declared deputy, Miriam, made the journey to Khartoum where she was apprehended by the security authorities upon arrival and now awaits presidential clemency or prosecution, depending on the political temperature, in the women’s prison in Omdurman. Her brother, Abd al-Rahman, who serves as President Bashir’s assistant, reportedly advised Miriam to stay put in Paris, and has not even made the gesture of interrupting his duties in the republican palace on the Nile. Rather, he has been busy discussing ‘national dialogue’ with Hassan al-Turabi, his uncle-in-law (husband of his paternal aunt) and chief of the Popular Congress Party (PCP).

The itinerary of its signatories aside, the four-page Paris declaration is the latest incarnation of a trail of documents that brought together the ancestor SPLM and representatives of Khartoum’s political class dating back to the 1980s, with the promise of delivering an agenda and platform for the transformative management of Sudan’s crises. The first of these documents is the March 1986 declaration signed by the SPLA/M and delegates of the National Alliance for National Salvation (NANS) in Ethiopia’s Koka Dam. The NANS joined the political forces that came together to topple the regime of Jaafar Nimayri in the 1985 intifada.

Idris al-Banna represented Sadiq al-Mahdi’s NUP in the NANS delegation, which was dominated by leaders of professional associations and academics. But the NUP backtracked from the deal under immense pressure from the Islamic Movement under Hassan al-Turabi, at the time politically operative as the National Islamic Front (NIF), when the two pages of the document were made public in Khartoum. The NUP eventually found no need for the Koka Dam declaration once it won the largest share of parliamentary seats in the April 1986 elections and Sadiq al-Mahdi’s premiership was guaranteed.

The Koka Dam declaration called for a ‘national constitutional conference’ to debate Sudan’s governance crisis, predated by a series of measures to ensure an adequate political environment, notably the repeal of sharia laws, adoption of the 1956 constitution as amended in 1964, and efforts to sign a ceasefire with the SPLA/M in southern Sudan. The document demanded as a condition for the ‘national constitutional conference’ the dissolution of the government of the day, the chronically rotating cabinet premiered by Sadiq al-Mahdi, and its replacement by an ‘interim government of national unity’ representing all the political forces in the country, including the SPLA/M and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

Whether by design or destiny, the Paris Declaration of Sadiq al-Mahdi and the SRF rehashed the basic tenets of its Koka Dam predecessor: the call for the convention of a constitutional conference under the authority of an interim all-parties government that accommodates the political leaders of an insurgency. Koka Dam it must be said was a touch more ambitious and boldly promised to inaugurate the ‘New Sudan’, a term that the SPLA/M-N and its allies in the SRF consciously dropped in their Paris document for understandable reasons. They opted instead for the blanket reference to ‘forces of change’. While the signatories of the Koka Dam declaration, Khartoumian intellectuals of a liberal bent, could easily claim the credentials of the ‘New Sudanese Man’ (at the time gender sensibilities were not particularly sharp), buoyantly democratic and human rights conscious, Sadiq al-Mahdi, an establishment heavyweight, can hardly claim to represent anything ‘new’ in the Sudanese polity.

Earlier this year, the NCP launched its National Dialogue initiative in close coordination with the NUP chairman Sadiq al-Mahdi and the PCP chief Hassan al-Turabi. The two men, along with Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani, newly evolved into an opposition figure after an outstanding record of service in the successive governments of President Bashir, listened intently to the President’s ‘leap speech’ on 27 January this year, and were involved in the initial deliberations to form the 7+7 steering committee, composed of an equal number of representatives of government and opposition parties.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, however, soon opted out, for the same reason that he had before parted with the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to sign the Djibouti accord with President Bashir in November 1999 and more recently walked out of the opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF), when his plans for restructuring the alliance were rejected. The former premier identified his core grievance in a proposal he voiced in July after the suspension of his party’s involvement in President Bashir’s National Dialogue a few weeks earlier. A frustrated Sadiq called for the National Dialogue process to be restricted to the “six historical parties” and the rebel movements – excluding the smaller organisations and break-off factions that confound the NUP’s claim to be the largest political party in the country, a claim based on the results of the 1986 elections, twenty-eight long years ago!

The big six in Sadiq al-Mahdi’s count are his NUP, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s DUP, the two wings of the Islamic Movement, the ruling NCP and Hassan al-Turabi’s PCP, in addition to the SPLA/M, in the really existing ‘New Sudan’ the SPLA/M-N of Malik Agar, Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu and Yasir Arman, and the Sudanese Communist Party. According to Sadiq al-Mahdi’s calculus, newcomers would have to prove their political weight through demonstration of a country-wide network and a record of activity in order to secure access to the comprehensive national dialogue he envisions. Sadiq’s July proposal had the bulky title: “The Nation-Building Charter – Unified Diversity”. When asked about the activity of his own party, Sadiq, the keen accountant, usually cites the numbers of workshops, press conferences and political declarations with an NUP tag.

Sadiq al-Mahdi’s concern for representation stems from his stubborn resistance to acknowledge the mutations of the political terrain he attempted and disastrously failed to charter as premier between 1986 and 1989, a time when he failed to live up to his billing as “Sadiq… hope of the nation”. Darfur and southern Kordofan were once regions of a secure NUP vote, so much so that the party had more trouble managing factional disputes over candidacy than defeating competitors. Since then, the violent convulsions in those areas have generated patterns of political consciousness, easily dismissed as ‘tribal’, that preclude a NUP sweep without further qualification.

To access the electoral benevolence of his core constituencies once again, Sadiq al-Mahdi would have to bargain hard and long with skilful Baggara politicians, who now command local and state governments and standing militias, and brag about cabinet quotas in the central government. In the White Nile, the other historical safe haven of the NUP, socio-economic transformations, including the massive expansion of higher education under the NCP and mass labour emigration, are likely to sap away at the NUP vote just as the urbanisation wave of the 1970’s reduced the DUP’s dominance in the three towns of the capital Khartoum to a mere remnant in the 1986 elections, to the good fortune of Hassan al-Turabi’s NIF.

The NUP as a party suffered this inconvenient history as a series of splits which Sadiq al-Mahdi prefers to blame squarely on the NCP, the most dramatic being the decision of Sadiq’s cousin and former NUP secretary general, Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, to run away with almost half of the party organisation straight to the presidential palace in 2002. Mubarak’s tenure as assistant to President Bashir ended in 2004, but the party he summoned out of the NUP remained in government bondage, albeit splintered in yet another bout of factional dispute. Sadiq al-Mahdi has since effectively barred Mubarak’s return to the NUP homestead despite multiple attempts at reconciliation; the most recent mediated by the estranged Mahdi elder and Sadiq’s uncle, Ahmed al-Mahdi, on the occasion of Sadiq’s release from brief imprisonment in July.

It is then conceivable that Sadiq al-Mahdi found no entertainment in the NDA leadership structure before his departure in 1999. His rival Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, chief of the DUP, maintained a permanent chairmanship thanks to an unwritten understanding with the late John Garang. Sadiq al-Mahdi also had to suffer formal equality in decision making processes with exiled trade union leaders and army officers. Likewise, Sadiq al-Mahdi could secure no advantage of political history and stature in the NCF where his NUP had to bear the same voting rights as the Communist Party, factions of the Baath Party, the miniscule New Democratic Forces Movement (Haq), itself a faction of a faction that jumped off the Communist Party in 1995, and the opposition Sudanese Congress Party of Ibrahim al-Sheikh among others.

President Bashir’s National Dialogue, where Sadiq al-Mahdi had hoped to receive the accommodation due to a former prime minister, proved no exception. Not only was the process largely dominated by Hassan al-Turabi, whose party in effect turned the page on its dispute with the NCP; but Sadiq al-Mahdi was asked to share the table with figures who had departed his NUP and formed their own mini-Ummas on the government side as leaders of political parties that had an equal say in the process as he did. Others at the table included two splinters of the ruling NCP, Ghazi al-Attabani’s Reform Now Movement (RNM) and Tayeb Mustafa’s Just Peace Forum (JPF), on the opposition side, next to a range of exotic newcomers and a tragicomic association of Nimayri fans who miraculously resurrected the long dead Sudan Socialist Union – the Alliance of the People’s Workforces but corrupted the name with the adjunct ‘democratic’.

According to President Bashir’s count, the national dialogue heralded by the leap speech brought together eighty four political parties, equal as the teeth of a comb to paraphrase a tradition of the Prophet Mohamed. In this crowd, managed by the NCP and the PCP, Sadiq al-Mahdi and his big NUP had one vote. Compared to this political bazaar, members of the SRF were at least a countable bunch.

In signing the Paris Declaration with the SRF after an extensive and eventful flirt with the NCP that included a short spell in the Cooper prison in Khartoum, Sadiq al-Mahdi was apparently enacting a political tactic employed against him during the last year of his premiership back in 1988 by his less glamourous rival, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani. At the time, the DUP was partnered with the NUP in one of Sadiq al-Mahdi’s wobbly cabinets. Mirghani flew to Addis Ababa where he negotiated the principles of a peaceful settlement for the civil war in the country with the SPLA/M leader John Garang. It has since been hailed as Sudan’s wasted peace opportunity.

The November 1988 Sudanese peace agreement as it came to be known was a shorter version of the Koka Dam declaration, which the DUP and the NIF had boycotted. It featured Koka Dam’s basic tenets apart from dissolution of the government of the day, namely the call for a national constitutional conference to be held on 31 December 1988 on condition of the repeal of the Sharia laws, the implementation of an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the state of emergency in southern Sudan. Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani received a hero’s welcome in Khartoum upon his return from Addis Ababa, but the NIF launched an aggressive campaign against the deal focused on the blasphemy of suspending the holy laws. Sadiq al-Mahdi was intimidated into rejecting the Garang-Mirghani accord, the DUP walked out of the cabinet and the NIF stepped in instead.

The SPLA/M-N today can hardly claim the military stature of the parent SPLA/M under Garang in the 1980s, wired to the plugs of the cold war and sufficiently serviced by the Ethiopian Derg, hence the declaration was signed in Paris and not a neighbouring capital. If Sadiq al-Mahdi sought to borrow the SRF’s regime change agenda in pursuit of a more favourable bargain with Khartoum’s rulers, the SRF wants from Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Imam, the stamp and signature of the Sudanese establishment, the very old Sudan it wishes to dispense with in ‘revolutionary’ fashion. Each side is fully aware of the tactical motives of the other but simply have no better politics to offer than the exhausted plagiarisation of past exercises.

Even the pernicious Tayeb Mustafa, leader of the JPF, could not resist the tempting opportunism of the Paris Declaration. The dedicated enemy of the SRF announced his support for the document, saying he tried but could not find fault with it. Instead of its original objective of ‘overthrowing’ the regime, the SRF had adopted Sadiq al-Mahdi’s line of ‘changing’ it, he argued in a flash of semantic insight. Next to the PCP, the NCP’s main partner in the National Dialogue, the JPF is but a footnote, and Tayeb Mustafa, the politician, is apparently a fast learner.

The SPLA/M-N ventured beyond the routines of déjà vu last July when its senior commander in South Kordofan, Jagoud Mikwar Murada, talked politics with Ismail al-Aghbash, representing Musa Hilal’s newly launched Sudanese Awakening Council. Hilal is best known as a Janjaweed leader, but his relationship with Khartoum is now stormy. Murada and al-Aghbash signed a nameless joint statement promising future cooperation to abort the politics of divide and rule in the war-ravaged peripheries of the country and establish a state based on good governance and citizenship through a “comprehensive constitutional process conducive to change”. The encounter set sirens off among the ‘liberals’ of Khartoum, devoted hitchhikers of the SPLA/M-N bandwagon and perennial advocates of ‘change’. They cried génocidaire at Musa Hilal but could not comprehend the prospect of autonomous politics flowing out of the settlements of the Mahameed in North Darfur, unmediated by a sectarian jellabiya from the capital.

Intimidated by the backlash, the SPLA/M-N leadership buried the statement in silence, preferring instead the Parisian high notes of Sadiq al-Mahdi. Hilal aside, the shoulder taps between al-Aghbash and Murada signal a potential of inventing a politics of struggle for the nas (commoners) across the racial divide of the Sudanese hinterlands, an avenue for the ‘New Sudan’ that the SPLA/M-N in its infatuation with the declaration politics of the ‘old Sudan’ is very likely to stray away from.

Magdi el Gizouli is an academic and a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He writes on Sudanese affairs at

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Sudan – government bombing continues in South Kordofan mountains


Sudan: bombings force children out of classroom and into camps

Renewed violence in South Kordofan is robbing a new generation of their education, former students and teachers tell Nuba Reports

Children play in the mountains outside of Tess, South Kordofan, Sudan.
Children play in the mountains outside of Tess, South Kordofan, Sudan. Photograph: Adriane Ohanesian/AFP

With every year and every lesson missed, the hopes for a new generation – nurtured in brief peace between 2005 and 2011 – are fading.

Howa James is one of this generation. Before the conflict between Sudan’s armed forces and Nuban rebels reignited in the Nuba Mountains in June 2011, Howa was a student at the Girls’ Peace High School in Kauda. Peace High School is a boarding school, but Howa’s family lives next door, so teachers allowed her to sleep at home.

Howa loved her time at Peace High. As the war intensified, she and her classmates tried to continue on with their lives. But they soon found themselves caught in the middle.

“I heard the sound of the jet and when I looked up, I saw the plane dropping bombs on me,” she said. “I didn’t have time to run but I found a small hole near me and I got in it. The bomb exploded 10 metres from me.”

Howa told her story as she stood next to the huge crater created by a bomb that nearly killed her. She hasn’t been to school since that day over two years ago.

Destruction of schools

Education is at the core of the Nubans’ cultural values. For all the damage war has done in the Nuba Mountains, the destruction and shuttering of the schools have hit the communities hardest.

I heard the sound of the jet and when I looked up, I saw the plane dropping bombs

Before the war, hundreds of members of a community would volunteer their time, money and crops to build and fund community schools and their students. Towns even pooled funds to fly in teachers from Kenya.

Early in the war, students would sit for final examinations with a rock on their desk. If an Antonov bomber flew overhead, the rock held their papers in place while they hid in foxholes.

At the end of each year, the schools would hold a celebration for the entire village. The teachers call the students’ names one by one and present them with handwritten certificates confirming they’ve passed their classes.

As the name of each child is called, their parents run and dance towards them. The mother sings a song praising the child, and the father slaps five Sudanese pounds ($1) to their head. The note sticks to the student’s scalp as if they are wearing a crown for their achievements. For many communities these celebrations have stopped and it is no longer safe to bring in teachers.

Aerial bombardment

Before the war, there were 255 schools in the Nuba Mountains. Now there are less than 100. None are able to provide the same level of education as they did before the war. There are not enough teachers to provide instruction for all eight grades, books are rare and there are few resources to help with lessons.

According to Tajani Tima, minister of education for the insurgent group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N), 10 national and international organisations were supporting education in the region but now only two of these organisations are willing to help the schools.

Before the war, there were 255 schools in the Nuba Mountains. Now there are less than 100

“The education budget for the state is significantly lower than years of peace,” Tajani said. “Teachers have fled the region and there is a high student dropout rate because most schools can’t continue to operate due to the ground fighting and increased bombing.”

Many schoolyards within the SPLM-N controlled areas have been targeted by the Sudanese government in its near-daily aerial bombardment. Bombs have landed near the Girls’ Peace High School on several occasions. But on the morning of 29 December 2012, an Antonov flew over, dropping bombs and finally hitting the school.

Jawahir Yusif was studying there at the time. “Six bombs were dropped on the school. It destroyed one of the classrooms and the dormitories for the girls,” she said, adding:

“The students and teachers are scared that if the government hears that many people are in one location like the school that they will send a plane to bomb us.”

School officials said they had no choice but to shut down.

Refugee Schools

The only other option for many students are the refugee camps across the new border in South Sudan. Families have sent their children hundreds of kilometres to Yida, home to over 70,000 refugees from South Kordofan.

According to UNHCR, Yida is too close to the Sudanese border and the conflict the refugees left behind. Unless the camp can be moved further south, the organisation says it cannot provide education.

Refugee children copy notes from a chalkboard during an open-air English lesson under a tree at the Yida camp in South Sudan. As there are no schools in the camp, refugees have organised themselves, making a few primary schools with volunteer refugee teachers to educate the children.
Refugee children copy notes from a chalkboard during a makeshift open-air English lesson under a tree at the Yida camp in South Sudan. Photograph: Reuters

The only schools operating in Yida camp are elementary schools that have been started by the refugees themselves with minimal outside funding. These schools serve thousands of students under trees and small grass huts and do not have the resources to pay their teachers well or provide textbooks. Still, the students walk days to the camps at the start of each term and sit in the sweltering heat for a chance to learn.

UNHCR does support elementary and high school education in the Ajoung Thok Camp about 60 km from Yida. Despite the efforts of UNHCR to convince the refugees to move from Yida to Ajoung Thok most families have been reluctant. Only around 13,000 have settled in in Ajuong Thok. Some students opt to go there without their families but there still aren’t enough schools for all the students in Yida or South Kordofan who need education.

The Next Generation

No matter how difficult it may be, people are determined to educate their children. Oum Juma worked as a teacher in Yida during it’s first year of existence. Like many teachers here, she refuses to let the conflict take her daughter’s childhood the way the earlier conflict, Africa’s longest-running civil war, took hers. She was separated from her family by Sudan’s war with the south, which ran from 1983 to 2005 and eventually saw South Sudan split from the north in 2011.

I just focus on these children. I want them to know right from wrong

She was raised and educated in a missionary school, and didn’t see her mother until after the peace deal in 2005. Since then, she’s become a mother herself. When fighting broke out again she fled the carnage with her infant child. She made it to Yida, but her husband disappeared.

“My whole life has been war, since I was a child, 24 years – that’s how old I am,” she said. “I just focus on these children. I want them to know right from wrong.”

For all that she has experienced Oum Juma does not want revenge. She believes education can bring peace to her children and the next generation of Nubans.

“Education cannot stop the war, but this generation must understand the problems. The children may say my mother was killed and now I want revenge. ‘I want to kill those who killed my mum,’ – an eight year old thinks this. But that thinking just starts another war. If they understand they can think of a new future, there are many ways of solving problems.” Guardian