Category Archives: North Africa

How to steal billions from Africa, all perfectly legally

African Arguments

When UK PM David Cameron opens the Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May, we should be aware that the greatest fraud perpetrated on the majority of the world’s citizens is all perfectly legal.

The City of London, arguably the heart and headquarters of a network of international tax havens. Credit: Michael Garnett.

Africa loses at least $50 billion a year — and probably much, much more than that — perfectly lawfully. About 60% of this loss is from aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, which organise their accounts so that they make their profits in tax havens, where they pay little or no tax. Much of the remainder is from organised crime with a smaller amount from corruption. This was the headline finding of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, a year ago.

This amount is the same or smaller than international development assistance ($52 billion per year) or remittances ($62 billion). If we take the accumulated stock of these illicit financial flows since 1970 and factor in the returns on this capital, Africa has provided the rest of the world with $1.7 trillion, at a conservative estimate. Africa is a capital exporter.

The rest of the world didn’t take much notice of the Mbeki Panel’s findings until the Panama Papers revealed the extent to which this is just part of a global phenomenon. The rich aren’t being taxed. The rest of us pay for everything.

The OECD calls the phenomenon ‘base erosion’ (referring to the emasculation of the tax base of the affected countries) and ‘profit shifting’. The beneficiaries are a small fraction of the world’s wealthiest 1%, and the secrecy jurisdictions (aka tax havens) where they sequester their money. These locations include the City of London, numerous British overseas territories, Switzerland, and new entrants to the global business of looking after the monies of the hyper-wealthy and ordinarily wealthy, who would prefer not to pay tax. Countries including Mauritius, the Seychelles, Botswana and Ghana are seeking to enter this competition.

And the vast majority of this is perfectly legal.

Accountants’ alchemy

Two hundred years ago, the slave trade was legal. One hundred years ago, colonial occupation and exploitation were legal. This time the legal immiseration is done by accountants.

This dimension of unethical financial activity isn’t captured by Transparency International (TI) and its Corruption Perceptions Index. That index is, as it says, a measurement ofperceptions. But of what andby whom? As the UN Economic Commission for Africa recently observed, it relies on asking key power players in a nation’s economy what they think of the level of corruption. Many of those are foreign investors. Using this approach a country like Zambia will unsurprisingly tend to rank high on corruption – 76 worst out of 168. Meanwhile, Switzerland will rank low – 7th.

But the perfectly legal transfer of the wealth of Africa to Europe isn’t captured by this index. As TI notes, “Many ‘clean’ countries have dodgy overseas records”. Consider this: the number one destination for Zambian copper exports is Switzerland, which in 2014 accounted for 59.5% of the country’s copper exports. Yet Switzerland’s own imports that year scarcely contained any mention of copper at all. Had the African country’s main exports just vanished into thin air? The 2015 figures suggest that in fact much of these exports were destined for China (31%), though Switzerland remained the number one destination (34%).

The answer to where the money goes lies in accountants’ alchemy. International corporations present their books in such a way that they pay as little tax as possible in either Zambia or China. And they don’t pay much in Switzerland either – because the Swiss don’t demand it.

Suddenly the ranking of Switzerland, 69 places ahead of Zambia in the honesty league, looks a bit suspect. But of course it’s all perfectly legal.

From Zambia’s point of view, what counts as corruption is defined by the rich and powerful. When their country is robbed blind by clever accounting tricks, against which their government and people have no recourse, it is just the operation of a free market controlled – as free markets so often are – by corporations that have enough power to set the rules.

Political money in a political marketplace

Another little noticed but significant feature of illicit financial flows from Africa is that there are occasional reverse flows. The movements back into African countries aren’t as big as the outflows, but they are important. What is happening here is “round-tripping”: spiriting funds away to a safe place so they can be brought back, with their origins unexplained, and no questions needing to be asked.

The same multinational corporation that is defrauding an African country can pay money into the offshore account of one of its political leaders. Or that leader can whisk funds away by other means. Our main concern here isn’t the money invested in real estate in France, yachts, fast cars, or foreign business ventures. These are personal insurance policies in case things go wrong at home, or tickets to the global elite club. Rather, our concern is the cash kept liquid, to be brought back home when needed – the money brought back to fix elections, buy loyalties and, in sundry other ways, secure leaders in power. These are political budgets par excellence: the funds used for discretionary political purposes by political business operators.

In the United States, almost any kind of political funding you can think of can be done in a perfectly legal manner, given a smart enough accountant and lawyer. Political Action Committees can spend as much money as they like in support of a candidate. Campaign finance is essentially without a ceiling.

In Africa, political finance laws range from lax to non-existent. Spending vast amounts of money on winning political office – or staying in office – offends no law. The monetisation of politics is one of the biggest transformations in African political life of the last 30 years. It is generating vast inequalities, consolidating a political-commercial elite which has a near-monopoly on government office, fusing corporate business with state authority, and making public life subject to the laws of supply and demand. Political markets are putting state-building into reverse gear, transforming peace-making into a continual struggle against a tide of mercenarised violence, and – most perniciously – turning elections into an auction of loyalties.

Political money is discrediting democracy. Some of the transactions that constitute Africa’s political markets are blatantly corrupt, but many are simply the routine functioning of political systems based on the exchange of political services for material reward.

Yes, there is corruption in Africa, just as there is corruption in international trade and finance. But when Prime Minister David Cameron opens the Anti-Corruption Summit next week on 12 May, we should be aware that the greatest fraud perpetrated on the majority of the world’s citizens – notably those living in Africa – is all perfectly legal.

Alex de Waal is the Director of the World Peace Foundation. 

Sudan – Sudanese army claims capture of last rebel stronghold in Jebel Marra

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Tuesday said its forces captured the last rebel stronghold area in Darfur located north-west of the Jebel Marra, three months after a large-scale attack launched in mid-January,

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SLM-AW rebels look on during a visit by former joint special representative Ibrahim Gambari to West Darfur’s Fanga Suk village in East Jebel Marra on 18 March 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

The valiant armed forces (….) managed to fully clear Jebel Marra area of insurgency and was able to establish full control of Srounq area, the last strongholds of the rebel (Sudan Liberation Army) Abdel Wahid (SLM-AW), said a statement issued by SAF spokesperson Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami.

Last Friday, Central Darfur state announced that the Sudanese army had defeated the SLM-AW fighters in Srounq, stressing that before to retake the last rebel stronghold, the army managed to capture Tekno and Keiwi.

Since, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) released on the internet pictures of dead bodies and prisoners of war claiming they were killed or captured during the recent attacks on the rebel positions in Jebel Marra.

Also, several obituaries published with his picture announced the death of commander of SAF force that attacked Sroung Colonel Ibrahim al-Sharif.

However on Monday, SLM-AW military spokesperson Shihab al-Din Ahmed Hagar said they repulsed the attack on Sroung, adding that they forced the Sudanese troops to flee into Golo.

Hagar further told Radio Dabanga they killed 1070 government soldiers and militiamen and destroyed some 83 vehicles .

In a briefing to the Security Council, U.N. Security Council, Wednesday 6 April UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said UNAMID reported that clashes and air strikes continue, in Jebel Marra.

“UNAMID also continues to receive reports of government troops reinforcements to Golo and Guldo in central Darfur, the epicenter of the fighting,” he added.

In a separate development, the Central Darfur Governor, Jaafar Abdel-Hakam, has directed Golo Commissioner directed Golo commissioner and the staff members of his administration to return to the area and resume their activities in order to prepare for the return of displaced persons and to provide them with the needed facilities.

After a meeting with the central humanitarian affairs officials in Zalingei on Tuesday Abdel-Hakam, said his administration anticipated the move and formed a a committee to follow up the return of IDPs, aid a statement released by the state information center.

UN agencies estimate that over 120,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Jebel Marra area since last January.

(ST)

Sudan – Darfur to get chance to vote on status

BBC

A member of electoral staff display informative posters at the entrance of a polling station in El-Fasher, in North Darfur on April 10, 2016AFP/Getty The referendum runs until Wednesday

The western Sudanese region of Darfur is to vote on its administrative status, 13 years after the start of a conflict which has left 300,000 dead.

The referendum over whether to remain as five states or form a single region runs until Wednesday.

It is being held amid ongoing insecurity and many displaced people have not been registered to vote.

The US has said the vote will not be credible but President Omar al-Bashir insists it will be free and fair.

“If held under current rules and conditions, a referendum on the status of Darfur cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the people of Darfur,” said US State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

The referendum is the last step in a peace process negotiated in Doha. Rebels have long requested more regional powers to end what they see as Khartoum’s interference in land ownership conflicts.

Media captionThe BBC’s Thomas Fessy accompanied Sudan’s President Bashir on a tour of Darfur

If Darfur chose to form one region, it would carry more weight within Sudan, they believe.

But the BBC’s West Africa Correspondent Thomas Fessy, who recently visited Darfur with Mr Bashir, says many of those who initially wanted this referendum will be likely to boycott the vote because they say it will not be fair.

More than 2.5m people remain displaced in Darfur and 130,000 more have fled renewed violence this year, the UN says.

Some 300,000 people have been killed since conflict broke out in the troubled region in 2003.

People register for a Darfur referendum, on whether to remain as five states or merge into one, at a registration centre at Abo-Shouk IDPs camp at Al Fashir in North Darfur February 17, 2016.Reuters Critics say many people displaced by fighting have not been registered to vote

Janjaweed militiamen riding horses spread terror in a multi-layered conflict after rebels took arms against the central government, feeling marginalised.

The Janjaweed were used by the government alongside bombing campaigns. Today, many have been integrated into the Rapid Support Forces, currently fighting in the Jebel Marra region.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted President Bashir on counts of genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur.

Mr Bashir – who has told the BBC he will step down as president in 2020 – has dismissed the ICC as a “political tribunal”.

Sudan – East Jebel Marra in Darfur surviving under siege

Radio Dabanga

EAST JEBEL MARRA

The village of Rokona in East Jebel Marra (RD)

The village of Rokona in East Jebel Marra (RD)

By Kamal El Sadig

The continuous attacks and air raids on East Jebel Marra in South Darfur have put most of the population to flight. Some have reached camps for the displaced in the region, while others shelter in the caves and valleys of the Jebel Marra massif. An almost complete lack of heath care makes their plight even worse.

“There is not a single health centre throughout East Jebel Marra; there are no drugs and no health workers,” a doctor laments. He’s sitting under a rakuba sun shade. There is a small table and a rickety chair. He’s examining a small child while the mother looks on.

“I’ve been here for more than four months. I came of my own accord to offer whatever health service I can. I even had to carry the medicines I bought with me secretly, because the government does not allow the entry of anything that would help the people here; not even peanut oil or flour.”

“This huge area has no health service or any kind of humanitarian aid. It completely cut off from the world.”

The doctor says that three children and an elderly woman have died in the month since he arrived: “One child died from cerebral malaria, another of acute malnutrition, and a new born baby from bacterial poisoning. The 60-year-old woman died after suffering a stroke. They all arrived too late. I do not have a vehicle to transfer them to intensive care centres in Nyala or El Fasher.”

The doctor seems very sad as he talks. The child he is examining interrupts him with a cry. There is a long line of other patients waiting outside. “I am sorry, here in Jebel Marra we do not have time, we are very busy, please wait for a moment…”

The doctor finished examining a malnourished child, he said. “I know that there are hundreds of applications submitted by the UN to allow humanitarian organisations access to East Jebel Marra, but the government refuses to do so, since the expulsion of the French Médecins du Monde, which it was the last one working in the area in 2010.

“That happened when the government forces attacked and swept East Jebel Marra, and seized control of some areas such as Deribat. Since then, people here are completely dependent on municipal treatment and ‘vein trees’ as medicine. However, when there are serious cases, people hire vehicles. The cost is around SDG3,500 ($410) for a patient to be taken to Nyala or El Fasher.”

East Jebel Marra, an area with vast mountains, many valleys, and many types of trees, administratively belongs to South Darfur. Located southeast of Deribat and home to around 50,000 people, as the doctor told me, this huge area has no health service or any kind of humanitarian aid. It completely cut off from the world.

“What are the most prevalent diseases here?” I ask.

“I see a lot of malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and respiratory diseases such tuberculosis, and also infections and diseases related to pregnancy, such as anaemia,” he says. “There are also wounds that are not related to the war. Because of the rugged terrain that people must pass on a daily basis, people are injured in falls from the mountains, many fractures and leg injuries.

“The most painful part is that have been no vaccines for children in the last five years. The routine coverage of the vaccination for children in east Jebel Marra is nil. Death among children is very high from malnutrition, diarrhoea, and infections. Since January this year, about 35 children have died in the area between Suni in the west, Leiba in the east, Feina in the south, and Sawani in the north. At least five women have died from complications related to pregnancy. The government went as far as to prevent any commercial vehicle going to East Jebel Marra, except to Deribat, where there has been a military base since 2010.”

“The people here live in rebel-controlled areas, but go farming in the areas under government control.”

The doctor pointed out that most of the population of East Jebel Marra locality live in the rebel-controlled areas. “The entire locality is under control of the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid El Nur, except Deribat and Leiba, over which the government took control in 2010. The population of Deribat and Leiba fled the fighting in that year. There are no people living there anymore, except the soldiers and militiamen at the Deribat military base.”

“The people from Leiba and surrounding villages fled to areas higher in the mountain, where they constructed new villages, such as Arbe, Jaso, Rokona, Tumboul, Sese, Doudo, Baeedkoli, Serbo, Figilo, and Sawani. Every creek or hill in the area has a village built by displaced people, who call the new area Leiba as well,” he explained.

“The people here live in rebel-controlled areas, but go farming in the areas under government control.”

I interject: “Ok, doctor, so where is Unamid?”

‘No peacekeepers present’

He laughs for a long time before answering. “In East Jebel Marra, there is no UN peacekeeping presence at all. Unamid and its mission in Darfur have never come here since they first set foot in the region. The situation here as you can see is very bad because of the continuous aerial bombardments which led to the displacement of the local people who fled to the caves in the mountain to save their lives, and to seek shelter from the barrel bombs that are dropped from the aircraft.”

“The government Antonovs drop bombs constantly, especially in areas around Suni where two children were recently killed. Furthermore, all the roads to the eastern side of Jebel Marra are still blocked by the government, to deny access to the UN and other humanitarian organisations. Therefore, there have been no medicines or food supplies to Mount Marra since the start of the military operation in mid-January up to date.”

The Feina village market, toched by militiamen on 20 february 2016 (RD)

He continues: “The government didn’t engage in any direct military clashes on the ground with the Sudan Liberation Movement in East Jebel Marra. One month ago, the Sudanese army and janjaweed attacked the area. They looted and burned the market of Feina, and killed one citizen. They left after clashes with the rebels on the second day. The government forces killed 21-year-old man Mohamed El Tahir Adam, and wounded his 18-year-old brother, Eisa El Tahir Adam. The two brothers were on their way back after retrieving two camels which were stolen by the janjaweed, near the village of Kela, west of El Malam.”

Education

The doctor kept silent for a while. I changed the subject and asked him about the children playing over there. They actually reminded me of school. What about education for these children? Are there schools?

He gestured toward the western side, where several children played around some grass-rooved stone karanik [room huts]. “Do you see that building? That is a school built mainly by the efforts of the people of the area, who came together, contributed, and built it. This school actually is one of 14 basic schools and seven secondary schools in the area. 90 percent of the teachers are volunteers from the residents of the area, most of them are university graduates from East Jebel Marra, but they are not employed yet.

The school of Arbe village in East Jebel Marra (RD)

“Their offices are these weakly built rakubas. About 1,000 pupils from East Jebel Marra went to take the final exam from primary school in Mershing. They walked for seven hours to reach the areas where the government allows the movement of public transport, and from there to Mershing. They returned the same way unharmed after they did the exam successfully.

“We are now waiting for the return of more than 1,000 secondary school students who went to Nyala to sit the Sudanese national exam. We wish them a safe return.”

“Yes, we wish them a safe homecoming,” I echoed him, “but when will this blockade end so that the situation can be changed?”

“I do not know for how long,” he says. “How long will the international community keep so silent about the suffering of civilians in Jebel Marra? And all of the civilians in these mountain caves, far away from their homes and in fear of aerial bombardments? The worst part is the health situation, which is very serious here.

“Besides, there is not a single international humanitarian organisation able to reach the people in East Jebel Marra.”

Rokona village in East Jebel Marra (RD)

 


The conflict in Darfur

Darfur is largely disrupted by armed conflicts. In April 2003, rebels took up arms and rose up against the government, accusing it of neglecting the Darfur region. The government responded with a counter-insurgency campaign, that spilled over to the rest of Darfur and Chad in 2004 and 2005. Civilians have come under attack from army troops, the Sudanese Air Force, government-backed militias, and rebel groups since then.

In 2009, the outgoing military commander of Unamid said the conflict was effectively over. But fighting escalated in 2010, forcing tens of thousands more to flee their homes. This year, over 2.6 million people remain displaced from their homes in Darfur, according to international organisations. As of 20 March, an estimated 129,200 people in the Jebel Marra area were displaced by a major offensive launched by the government on rebel strongholds in the area since 15 January.


 

 

The people of Arbe village building the school (RD)

Arbe village in East Jebel Marra (RD)

 A child with diphtheria visiting the doctor. No vaccinations took place since 2010 (RD)

 

 

Sudan mediation – rebels lose faith in Mbeki as mediator

Martin Plaut

Mbeki as Sudanese peacemaker – now deeply distrusted

Thabo MbekiThis detailed critique of Thabo Mbeki’s role in Sudan explains why he is seen as ‘Khartoum’s man’ and no longer a credible mediator between the government and rebels.

Martin

 

A Diplomatically Corrupt Thabo Mkebi Offers His Latest “Roadmap for Sudan”: rejection by the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) was inevitable

Source: Eric Reeves | March 22, 2016  |

Some are critical of the decision by the Sudanese rebel coalition known as the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) to reject a new “roadmap” from the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who tabled his proposal in Addis this past week. Described as reflecting a “maximalist” negotiating view, the SRF rejection has in fact very considerable context and understandable motivation.

First, it is an open secret that the two main elements of the SRF—the Darfuri rebel groups led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, Minni Minawi, and Jibril Ibrahim on the one hand, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-North (SPLA/M-N) of South Kordofan and Blue Nile on the other—are a coalition in name only. The Darfuri rebel groups are fractious, irresponsible, and in the case of Minawi, burdened with a long history of brutality and inconsistency. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is led by Jibril Ibrahim, brother of former JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, but with no real training or background justifying his leadership of the movement. For its part, the SPLA/M-N doesn’t know how to mend the rift or bow out of the SRF without seeming to be contributing to opposition splintering, a chronic Sudanese problem in opposing the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, either militarily or politically.

Second, at this point Mbeki is deeply distrusted by all non-regime parties in opposition. Over the past eight years of relentless failure, Mbeki has supported the regime in far too many instances and is no longer considered an impartial mediator, especially by Darfuris. Moreover, on the present occasion, it was perversely foolish of him to sign his own “roadmap,” especially after the regime had signed it. This just compounds his credibility problem with the rebels groups, who knew that it was his roadmap. Why did he need to sign it himself except to ingratiate himself with the Khartoum regime?

Mbeki simply cannot any longer carry the title of “mediator” with any credibility. We should recall that “AUHIP” refers to the AU High-Level Implementation Panel,” i.e., “implementation” of Mbeki’s disastrous 2009 “Roadmap for Darfur,” which ultimately failed so badly that the absurd “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur” (July 2011) became inevitable. Mbeki has betrayed Darfur, and the vast majority of non-Arab Dafuris deeply distrust and resent him. Moreover, it has been over four years since the African Union, which Mbeki represents, proposed a credible plan for humanitarian relief in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (February 2012). The SPLA/M-N signed immediately; the Khartoum regime has continued to balk at every stage, giving the appearance of readiness, but always changing the conditions. Why on earth would the SPLA/M-N trust either the AU, Mbeki, or for that matter an international community that has done nothing to recognize the still-growing urgency of the need for large-scale cross-border/cross-line humanitarian access?

Mbeki is rightly perceived as a tool of Khartoum (for extraordinary revelations of Khartoum’s perceptions of Mbeki, see Appendix A). He should long ago have been replaced. But the AU has proved time and again that it does not take critical issues in Sudan seriously, and has repeatedly failed to confront Khartoum, even over instances of serial war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Mbeki evidently loves being in a high-profile role that has now extended over eight years, for which he has been handsomely remunerated in various ways (he began “research” for his Darfur “roadmap” in 2008). As it happens, we can learn much, very quickly, about Mbeki’s tenure from the leaked minutes of a September 10, 2014 meeting in Khartoum of the most senior regime officials. In the words of Ibrahim Ghandour, then Deputy Secretary General of the NIF/NCP and currently Khartoum’s Foreign Minister:

“But whatever we do to thank Mbeki will not be sufficient to reward him fully for the things he did for our sake and our behalf.”

Thirdly, we should remember that this regime has never abided by any agreement made with a Sudanese party—not one, not ever. The Darfur Peace Agreement (Abuja, 2006), the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (2006), the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011, Qatar), and the various protocols of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005), not one of which was fully complied with, most conspicuously the Abyei Protocol, but also the protocols on border delineation, power-sharing and wealth-sharing, as well as the “popular consultations” for South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Even the much-touted January 2002 Nuba Mountains ceasefire was immediately violated when Khartoum’s military directed two brigades, a very substantial force, to re-deploy from the Nuba to what was then Western Upper Nile, where fighting in the oil regions was still ferocious. This directly violated the terms of the cease-fire. On this issue, I closely questioned Brigadier-General J.E. Wilhelmsen of Norway, leader of the Joint Monitoring Commission, when I was in Kauda in January 2003. His response was to turn away contemptuously, saying only, “That was before my time here.” This entirely predictable violation was never discussed prominently, certainly not be those who championed the cease-fire.

With this history of non-compliance in mind, and leaving aside the problems created by the poorly led Darfur rebel groups, the SPLA/M-N clearly needs stand-alone agreements on a cease-fire and humanitarian access before it will accept any Mbeki- or AU-sponsored “roadmap.” Neither they nor anyone else seriously believes that the regime’s “National Dialogue” is anything but a charade. Mbeki, predictably, made a terrible mistake in bundling any discussion of the “National Dialogue” with the issues that matter most to the SPLA/M-N. But that he did so was his predictable concession to Khartoum, and doomed “negotiations” from the beginning (Khartoum’s negotiator, Ibrahim Mahmoud, had no authority to go beyond Mbeki’s roadmap, which the regime had undoubtedly seen before the meeting this past week in Addis).

This analysis from Sudan Democracy First Group and is surely right:

Abdelmonim El Jak, Chief Executive of the Sudanese Democracy First Group, explained the content of the roadmap agreement proposed by the AU mediator.

“The roadmap is based on two main components. The first one concerns a cessation of hostilities, a comprehensive ceasefire, and political negotiations on the Two Areas (Blue Nile and South Kordofan) and Darfur, while the second component is related to the National Dialogue process, in particular to the stances of the ruling National Congress Party.” (all bold added)

El Jak stated that it was envisaged that as soon as the warring parties have signed the roadmap, the attention would immediately turn to developing an accord on the cessation of hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas, followed by an agreement on a comprehensive ceasefire, and an agreement on political solutions for Darfur.

[Such may indeed have been “theoretically” envisioned by Mbeki and Khartoum, but good faith negotiations by Khartoum are impossible to imagine, especially as violence in South Kordofan again escalates, including aerial bombardment of civilians—ER]

“Immediately after these accords, the opposition was supposed to reach an agreement with members of the 7 +7 Dialogue Mechanism in Addis Ababa about arrangements for the opposition groups to attend the National Dialogue in Khartoum,” he said. (Radio Dabanga, March 22, 2016)

Without a stand-alone agreement on a cease-fire in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and a firm guarantee of humanitarian access, the SPLA/M-N saw that any agreement that bundled these issues with a politically manipulated “National Dialogue” would be held hostage to Khartoum’s infinitely expansible “stages, in this case the “7 + 7 Dialogue Mechanism.” In short, Khartoum could always use failure of this agreement as justification for abrogating any cease-fire or humanitarian access agreement.

Here also we must remember what the regime itself has repeatedly said about the “National Dialogue” when speaking with (erroneously) presumed total confidentiality: that it is a political ploy, simply an expedient means of giving the appearance of democratic reform (see Appendix B). The military generals who matter, especially First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh and President al-Bashir himself, have nothing but contempt for any real “National Dialogue,” a phrase now so expansive that it has lost all meaning. In an especially revealing remark, al-Bashir declares in a meeting of July 1, 2014 that,

“The National Dialogue is also intended to provide political cover for the present Constitution and the Decisive Summer Campaign [against rebel groups in Sudan].” http://sudanreeves.org/2015/02/18/fluent-idiomatic-rendering-of-received-english-summary-translation-of-minutes-from-july-1-2014-meeting-in-khartoum-18-february-2015/

The SPLA/M-N knows all this: they are intelligently led and know the stakes if “mediators” attempt compel them to accept bad agreement. On the political front, Yasir Arman has got it largely right:

SPLM-N Secretary General Yasir Arman Sunday accused the government of seeking to create two forums for the pre-dialogue process, one outside Sudan with the rebel groups and the second with the political forces inside the country. He further said all the opposition forces participating in the Strategic Consultations Meeting rejected the government proposals and have demanded that the National Dialogue Preparatory Meeting be held in Addis Ababa with the participation of all the opposition forces.

Of course Khartoum won’t agree to this, surrendering in part their absolute control of the “National Dialogue” inside Sudan. Moreover, the regime feels no pressure to open the process in a truly meaningful way. They are running the “National Dialogue,” and they are not about to surrender any control over, most certainly not moving discussions to Addis.

*****

APPENDIX A: Khartoum’s view of the African Union, AU officials, and Thabo Mbeki in particular is startlingly revealed in leaked minutes of a September 10, 2014 meeting of senior regime officials (see “Newly Leaked Minutes: Another high-level meeting of Khartoum regime officials,” September 10, 2014 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ff (English translation as well as a link to original Arabic text)

Indeed, language from the meeting of September 10, 2014 meeting (which included President al-Bashir) is disturbing evidence of diplomatic malfeasance on the part of the African Union’s Thabo Mbeki, Haile Menkerios, and Mohamed Ibn Chambas.  Their imbalanced and tendentious mediation between the belligerents in Sudan’s ongoing civil wars, as well as their poisonous relations with South Sudan—particularly over Abyei—are put in a context not previously available from public sources.

Khartoum has obviously been well pleased by the efforts of the three men, as suggested by the comments of various senior officials. Former Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein is typical in noting:

“By the way, Haile Menkerios is cooperating with us fully and likewise are Thabo Mbeki and Mohammed Ibn Chambas who are so keen to serve and protect our interest, even more than us.” (all bold added)

Hussein completed his contribution to this theme in the discussion by declaring:

“When they visited Qatar they were accorded a good reception and treated generously; they [Mbeki, Menkerios, Chambas—ER] are now under our control. These are the ones we use to dismantle the rebellion…  [W]e will also use them [again, Mbeki, Menkerios, Chambas—ER] to subjugate the South to our will and implement the agreement the way we want. All of these envoys promised to submit to the African Union and the United Nations positive reports on Sudan records on human rights and freedoms.”

Other members of the regime had strong words of praise as well:

“Let us bless the agreement politically in the media and keep our real position tightly held among ourselves, working to achieve our goal using the agreement itself. Since Mbeki and Mohamed Ibn Chambas are cooperating with us, let us use them to help us achieve the following things…”

“After that I met Mbeki and we agreed on the recommendations he should submit in his report to the AU Peace and Security Council and the report to UN Security Council. That should include a request concerning the lifting of sanctions and support to Sudan in addition, he should reflect a good image of the Government of Sudan. For now we have won the game.”

“But whatever we do to thank Mbeki will not be sufficient to reward him fully for the things he did for our sake and on our behalf.”

“At this stage we must welcome the [Addis Ababa] agreement [September 2014] in order to give Thabo Mbeki and Mohamed Ibn Chambas the ability to be seen as productive and having achieved something. Accordingly, we must participate in the writing of the report that will be submitted by Mbeki to the African Union and the UN Security Council in order to ensure that it reflects the political transformation that is taking place in Sudan.”

This last excerpt represents either extraordinary presumption, or reflects confidence that Mbeki would indeed allow members of the genocidal Khartoum regime to “participate in the writing of the report that will be submitted by Mbeki to the African Union and the UN Security Council in order to ensure that it reflects the political transformation that is taking place in Sudan.” Mbeki’s corruption has become total.

Especially disturbing was a statement made by General Ismat Ahmed Babikir, Under-Secretary for Presidential Affairs. It comes in the context of the political charade that is the September 2014 “Addis Agreement,” and by way of thanking Mbeki and Ibn Chambas for efforts that the regime clearly feels benefited them enormously:

“And I say you must give incentive to Mbeki, his people, and Ibn Chambas from the money of the Islamic Movement that is deposited abroad.”

President al-Bashir also weighed in:

Our consent in signing the [Addis] framework agreement with the Mechanism came after consultation with all the relevant organs and supported with thorough information. Actually, we were in need this agreement. Accordingly, we thank Mbeki, Haile Menkerios, Ibn Chambas, and Qatar for achieving this agreement.

After eight years of representing the African Union diplomatically as a mediator in Sudan’s conflicts (first in Darfur, to no effect), Thabo Mbeki is well known to this regime.  And Khartoum is in a position to know whether he would accept “money of the Islamic Movement that is deposited abroad,” even though this is hardly a standard method of payment for what are to be neutral and impartial diplomatic efforts.  This is no small matter, since the focus of much these minutes is on Mbeki, the September 2014 agreement in Addis he helped secure, and how that agreement will affect Khartoum’s domestic political and electoral plans.

APPENDIX B: Comments by senior regime officials on the “National Dialogue” (again, comment erroneously presumed to be completely confidential):

In the leaked minutes of August 31, 2014, then Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein—indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity in Darfur—declared: “Our National Dialogueinitiative is just a maneuver to provide us with political cover for a continuation of the war….”
In a meeting of July 1, 2014, President Omar al-Bashir—indicted by the ICC on multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity—weighs in with the claim that,  “The National Dialogue is also intended to provide political cover for the present Constitution and the Decisive Summer Campaign [against rebel groups in Sudan”
But Khartoum’s view of the much touted “National Dialogue” are revealed most fully in leaked minutes of September 10, 2014: “Newly Leaked Minutes: Another high-level meeting of Khartoum regime officials” | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ff(English translation as well as a link to original Arabic text):

General Khalafalla, Deputy Director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS):

At the same time we guarantee that the National Dialogue is going on within the country and the elections are taking place. We shall call international NGOs to monitor the elections, and there will be no rigging because we don’t need to do it due to the fact that the voting will be done through the National Identification Number and the majority of those who got it are NCP supporters.

This is an opportunity that will not repeat itself. We will be in a position to dictate our conditions on South Sudan using Mbeki and Haile Menkerios, who can play this role to enable us control our borders. Additionally, we keep the peace-talks forums in Addis and Doha (Qatar) going on separately when we discuss the details of the agreement signed in Addis with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

General Ismat Abdel Rahmin, Minister of Interior:

Let us bless the agreement politically in the media and keep our real position tightly held among ourselves, working to achieve our goal using the agreement itself.

[The regime has been as good as its word in these minutes, refusing to take the extension of the “Addis Agreement” seriously. Sudan Tribune reports (April 4, 2015):

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on 29 March refused to attend a meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss issues pertaining to the National Dialogue conference and its procedures. Khartoum said the mediation didn’t coordinate with the government on who [would] participate in the meeting; also it said it would be held at the wrong time, arguing they are busy with the election of 13 April.

In a statement released on 1 April, the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) regretted the NCP refusal saying it had previously pledged to attend the consultations. The mediation also said the agenda of the two-day meeting were exclusively dealing with the dialogue process in line with its mandate, refuting claims that it aims to postpone the elections.]—ER

Since Mbeki and Mohamed Ibn Chambas are cooperating with us, let us use them to help us achieve the following things:

[a] Lifting the blockade (sanctions).

[b] Get economic support.

[c] Alleviate the pressures on us.

[d] Dismantle the movements [Sudan Revolutionary Forces]…

Those who want to express their views from the political parties or individuals are allowed to do so through the National Dialogue forums, not though demonstrations.  The media must be controlled when it is covering the news of the armed forces [Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Response Forces—ER]. On the other side, any delay of the elections will demoralize our forces, so elections should take place on time and should not be connected to the National Dialogue.

The elections should take place on time, and the National Dialogue can continue for two to three years after the elections. It will make no difference.

General Mustafa Ebeed, Sudan Armed Forces Chief of General Staff:

We prefer the mechanism of “National Dialogue” from within. The Sudan Armed Forces are ready for the elections and the coming dry season military operations. The concessions made by the rebels and their decision to sign the agreement came out of fear from the coming Decisive Summer Campaign military operations. In the past they were not interested in peace negotiations; we understand the motive behind their current position and won’t be bluffed at all. Our plan is to continue with our strategy. If they accept disarming and demobilizing their militias, no problem. But we will not accept partial cease-fire or humanitarian assistance unless they demobilize their forces according to a full agreement.

[In other words, surrender unconditionally and accept the genocidal consequences for the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile—ER]

Let us use Mbeki to help us finish the rebellion for good. We don’t accept anything called a “transitional government” or “constitutional conference.” It is up to the politicians to welcome the Addis Ababa agreement in order to attract the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Forces to the National Dialogue according to our conditions, but only if any National Dialogue taking place is presided over by the president.

General Osman, Director of the Central Security Corporation:

We got the outcome of the opposition meetings with the foreign diplomats and we passed it to the members of the 7+7 team going to Addis Ababa in advance in order to sign the agreement and foil the opposition plan. The opposition conspiracy that was aiming to sabotage the internal National Dialogue and pit the National Congress Party against the international community giving them the impression that the National Congress Party is not serious about the [National Dialogue] and peaceful settlement to the conflict in Sudan… So the decision to release Ibrahim al-Sheikh was designed to coincide with Mbeki’s visit to Khartoum and prior to the submission of his report to the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.

Ibrahim Ghandour, Deputy Secretary General of the National Congress Party (currently Khartoum’s Foreign Minister):

In fact, the concessions made by the rebels puzzled me, because the sons of the two areas (Nuba and Blue Nile) have not changed their positions for long time. After that we decided, with the security organs, to wait and monitor the situation until we got full information about the motive behind their new position.

So we decided to sign since it is not a framework agreement and not binding to us; instead we have used their signature in propaganda that serves our party and to show that the National Congress Party is serious in regards to National Dialogue. That way we will be able to mislead the countries supporting them in order that they don’t influence the European Union’s positions. That is why we declared that the National Congress Party welcomes the Addis Ababa agreement of 2014. We decided to use the agreement for propaganda in the media, to be followed by the decision to release Ibrahim al-Sheikh.

But whatever we do to thank Mbeki will not be sufficient to reward him fully for the things he did for our sake and our behalf.

I say that you must properly cover the movement of the weapons you are transporting to Libya, so that we avoid embarrassment next time. There is a general consensus within the National Consensus Forces that they should maintain their position and not sign the Addis Ababa Agreement, or unite with the Sudan Revolutionary Front and Sadig al-Mahdi. We provide the National Consensus Forces with full freedoms as requested in their statement so that we use them in bargaining with the international community, which is currently supporting preparatory meetings in Addis Ababa for the National Dialogue to take place in Khartoum.

Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir, President:

So in Libya we must work secretly; it is all about the requirement of the situation in this country. We have political detainees and we released Ibrahim al-Sheikh; but the rest are sentenced before courts and their fate is connected to a political agreement with the rebels after we force them to demobilize their forces. This will be done by means of the Decisive Summer Campaign military operations on one hand and continuing the National Dialogue on the other hand. We will go anywhere wearing the hat of “dialogue,” and on this basis the negotiations will continue.

“We will going anywhere wearing the hat of [national] “dialogue”—in others words, it is a highly expedient ploy.

The concluding words in this set of minutes were uttered by President al-Bashir, speaking of the tasks at hand (again, this meeting occurred on 10 September 2014):

“Prevention of any demonstrations in this month of September by means of the arrest of anybody reported to have an intention to participate in demonstrations. Any demonstration to be fired at with live ammunition.”

“Any demonstration to be fired at with live ammunition”—during the popular uprising in September 2013, Khartoum’s security forces were given, as Amnesty International has established, “shoot to kill” orders from the outset. This is what accounted for the hundreds of deaths of unarmed civilians, including innocent bystanders—in Khartoum, Omdurman, Port Sudan, Atbara, Wad Medani, and other cities. No census was permitted at the morgues of these cities, but it is clear from comments by medical personnel in Khartoum that some 200 people died there alone from bullet wounds. This hardly sounds like “political transformation.”

There are yet further comments on the “National Dialogue,” again obviously made with the assumption of confidentiality: “The minutes of the Security and Military Committee meeting held on the premises of the High Academy of Security, 3 June 2014 (Part 1)” | 28 May 2015 | http://sudanreeves.org/2015/05/28/the-minutes-of-the-security-and-military-committee-meeting-held-on-the-premises-of-the-high-academy-of-security-3-june-2014-part-1/

Current Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour:

“Each party was given the chance to meet with the President alone. The aim was to guarantee their loyalty, and ensure that they remain divided and far from one another. That is one of the methodologies adopted in order to protect the National Dialogue and to keep it under control.”

“Political parties that have not had such an opportunity for a very long time were able to discuss issues in detail. Each party was given the chance to meet with the President alone. The aim was to guarantee their loyalty, and ensure that they remain divided and far from one another. That is one of the methodologies adopted in order to protect the National Dialogue and to keep it under control.”

Those interested to participate in the National Dialogue have to dismantle their militias first; the same applies to the Darfurian movements; we will not allow them to participate in the National Dialogue through Doha. Whatever the case we will not accept taking the National Dialogue abroad: it comes from within the country, and those interested must accept this condition. There will be no National Dialogue in a foreign country.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA  01063
ereeves@smith.edu
http://www.sudanreeves.org
Twitter@SudanReeves

Sudan – Hassan al-Turabi: democrat turned Islamist authoritarian

African Arguments

Hassan al-Turabi: Sudan’s democrat turned authoritarian (1932-2016)

The core of the Islamist’s ideology can be difficult to pin down, but what united his many conflicting visions was the belief that they could be realised through the seizure of the state.

Hassan al-Turabi was an influential figure in Sudan's politics for over half a century.

On 5 March, Hassan al-Turabi, secretary general of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) and long-term leader of Sudan’s Islamists, died following a short illness. Both his political career and ideology were defined by their contradictions, but al-Turabi will long remain significant as the first Islamist leader to take control of a state within the Sunni Muslim world.

Al-Turabi’s supporters have frequently presented him as a moderate thinker who sought to reconcile Islam with democracy in Sudan, but many will remember him best and bitterly as the man who orchestrated the coup that brought the current military regime of Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989.

However, al-Turabi’s close involvement in Sudanese politics began more than two decades before that pivotal moment. In fact, those who know al-Turabi as the man who aborted Sudan’s last experiment with parliamentary democracy in 1989 may find it ironic that he first rose to prominence as one of the heroes of Sudan’s democratic revolution in 1964.

One month before the outbreak of protests that led to the collapse of Sudan’s first military regime, al-Turabi had galvanised students with a speech at Khartoum University in which he declared that only liberation from military authoritarianism could guarantee the end of Sudan’s protracted civil war in the south. Few outside the Muslim Brotherhood recognised him as an Islamist at that time, but immediately after the 1964 Revolution, he established the Islamic Charter Front to campaign for a constitution based on sharia law.

Al-Turabi was a popular figure amongst the educated elites of the urban areas, and in the 1965 elections, he won more votes in Sudan’s ‘Graduate Constituencies’ than any other candidate. However, his defeat to a fellow member of the al-Turabi lineage in his home district of al-Masid in 1968 illustrated the challenges he faced in breaking the stranglehold of the existing religio-political parties – the Democratic Unionist Party and Umma Party – over the rural areas of northern Sudan where the sufi Khatmiyya and Ansar religious movements (followers of the 19th century revivalist Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi) were at their strongest. In 1969, al-Turabi’s former schoolmate Jafa’ar Nimeiri orchestrated a military coup, and the Islamist leader spent most of the next eight years in jail.

It seems likely that two factors from al-Turabi’s first few tumultuous years at the top of Sudanese politics contributed to his transition from democrat to authoritarian, a shift that began with his reconciliation with Nimieri in 1977. The first was the sense that rural Sudan’s ongoing attachment to the sufi and neo-Mahdist religious orders would frustrate his attempts to come to power democratically; the second was fear of the potentially terminal consequences of a protracted struggle against a military regime that had already crushed movements led by Sudan’s religiously orientated parties in 1970, 1973 and 1976.

Al-Turabi’s conflicting visions

Al-Turabi is often depicted as the architect of the ‘Islamisation’ of Sudan’s laws in 1983, although the reality is more complex. Shortly before the declaration of these laws, Nimeiri removed him from his post as Attorney-General and had two obscure lawyers prepare a draft that reversed a number of al-Turabi’s earlier promises of a liberal interpretation of sharia. Nevertheless, being dependent on Nimeiri’s favour for his own political survival, al-Turabi vociferously endorsed the laws and campaigned vigorously for them to be maintained even after Nimeiri had been overthrown.

This crucial episode highlighted al-Turabi’s trademark capacity for political and religious shapeshifting. It is perhaps telling that his most significant texts were published after he intervened in the Sudanese political arena, and his interpretations of jihad, Islamic democracy and the Islamic State were often reworked to justify political agendas he had already pursued. Like many Islamists, he employed a vision of the past to articulate his own vision of modernity, yet the vision of the future he offered was rarely a consistent one.

While al-Turabi was evidently a political animal who rejected the gradualist and ‘educationalist’ approach pursued by other Islamists in Sudan, a search for his ideological core can be a frustrating endeavour. For instance, he often presented himself as a post-colonial thinker, marketing his brand of Islamism as emancipation from cultural subjection to the West; yet his British colonial education shaped important elements of his worldview.

Following his clandestine takeover via Omar al-Bashir’s military coup in 1989, many salafi jihadists found a safe haven in Sudan, although many of the same individuals denounced al-Turabi as an unbeliever and called for his execution. He used his Popular Arab and Islamic Conference of 1991-1995 to rally radical movements all over the world against Western imperialism, but alienated many of the radical Palestinian factions, negotiated the surrender of Carlos the Jackal (who had sought protection in Khartoum) to the French, and made secret overtures to Western governments. Parties on all sides of the ‘War on Terror’ perceived al-Turabi to be treacherous.

What united al-Turabi’s many conflicting visions of the Islamic future, however, was his belief that they could be realised through the Islamic Movement’s seizure of the state. For Sudan and for al-Turabi himself, this ideological hubris was catastrophic. He had hoped that by ruling Sudan after 1989 via a secret ‘leadership bureau’ that gave its orders to the official government, he would be able to maintain his liberal image while distancing himself from the vulgar necessities that accompanied the military takeover. However, his credibility as a self-professed reformer and moderate was rapidly undermined as he was forced to deny the tortures and abuses committed by the regime he had created, the evidence of which became increasingly stark.

After his rift with al-Bashir in 1999, al-Turabi was quick to blame his erstwhile military allies for the regime’s arbitrary behaviour. But the regime in the early 1990s was so lacking in transparency that it may never be possible to judge the level of his personal responsibility, and whether his re-emergence as a champion of democracy in the late 1990s was part of his long-term strategy or rather a knee-jerk response brought about by conflict with ambitious junior colleagues in the Islamic Movement keen to usurp him.

In the years following his split with al-Bashir, al-Turabi was imprisoned five times and even called on the president to surrender himself to the International Criminal Court to face charges of genocide. Many of the Islamists hailing from Sudan’s marginalised regions, particularly Darfur, sided with al-Turabi after the split, and the government accused him of backing the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur.

Nevertheless, it seems that al-Turabi himself may have been instrumental in persuading the Darfuri Islamists who joined his PCP party to fight a civil as opposed to military struggle against the regime, fearing that an intensification of the Darfur conflict might lead to the breakup of the country.

After al-Turabi

The events that follow al-Turabi’s death will probably reveal the extent to which the rift in the Islamic Movement was determined by the animosity between himself and al-Bashir. Without the symbolic al-Turabi at its helm, many elements within the Popular Congress Party may complete the process of reintegration into al-Bashir’s National Congress Party that appeared to have begun in 2015. But without al-Turabi’s restraining influence, other Darfuri Islamists might also be persuaded to abandon the arena of civil politics in Khartoum and join rebel movements fighting the political centre.

[See: Sudan’s Islamist Resurrection: al-Turabi and the Successor Regime]

However, to anticipate the immediate eclipse of Islamism in Sudan on account of al-Turabi’s passing would be to overstate the agency of the man. Al-Turabi did not invent Islamism in Sudan – many of his followers were as influenced by globally famous Islamist ideologues such as Abu’l Ala Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb and Hasan al-Banna as they were by al-Turabi himself.

His prominence came from his charismatic personality and his ability to mediate between a number of competing ideological and religious trends, including Salafism, Sufism, Qutbism and reformism. When he left the government in 1999, the regime did not so much abandon ideology so much as complete what Olivier Roy characterised in 1994 as the transition from Islamism to neo-fundamentalism, from an ideology that emphasises social and political revolution to one more concerned with regulating social mores.

The increasing visibility of Sudan’s Public Order Police is evidence of this. Nevertheless, al-Turabi himself continued to advocate a revolutionary brand of Islamism after 1999, and his party retained a significant following among student milieus in Sudan. If the regime fails to reintegrate al-Turabi’s former followers into the Islamic Movement, this ideology may still represent the most significant threat it faces.

Dr W. J. Berridge is Lecturer in Global History at the University of Northampton. She is currently writing a book on Hasan al-Turabi, drawing on his numerous Arabic language works.

Un Security Council condemns attack on aid convoy in Sudan’s Darfur region

Reuters

The United Nations Security Council on Friday strongly condemned an attack on a humanitarian convoy in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur on Wednesday by a group of unidentified armed men.

The convoy was escorted by the African Union and United Nations peacekeepers and was travelling from Kutum to Djarido, North Darfur, the statement said.

One South African soldier was killed and another was wounded in the ambush.

“The members of the Security Council called on the Government of Sudan to swiftly conduct a full investigation into the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the statement said.

The attacks may constitute war crimes under international law, it added.

More than 105,000 civilians have been reportedly displaced from the Jebel Marra area in Sudan’s Darfur region since mid-January 2016 due to increased hostilities, the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs said. The numbers are rising on a daily basis.

South Africa’s government said last month it planned to withdraw its contingent of troops from Darfur, where they have been serving as part of a large United Nations peacekeeping force trying to quell more than a decade of conflict.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif)

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