KHARTOUM, Nov 21 – The uncle of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, until just days ago head of the country’s biggest newspaper, says he has been forced out in a dispute with a “military dictatorship”.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir/FILE
“I believe this regime cannot be reformed,” Al-Tayeb Mustafa, 67, a former member of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), told AFP in an interview.
He said relations with his nephew have soured because of their political differences.
More than seven years after founding Al-Intibaha newspaper, Mustafa says he is not writing any more columns and has resigned as chairman of the daily’s board.
He said that nobody in the ruling party is able to stand up to Bashir.
NCP leaders “are following him like a goat behind its herders”, Mustafa said.
“They do what he wants, and this has left him the only one who governs. He has the final decision on everything. Anyone who has a different position from him will be kicked out.”
A senior ruling party official, Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid, rejected the accusations. He said Bashir listens to others.
“He cannot do each and every thing individually,” Ebaid said.
He said the government was elected in 2010 and is not a military regime.
Although Bashir first took power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup, his government uses the religion “only as slogans”, Mustafa says.
“All Sudanese people know this. They say: ‘Those people are telling lies. They didn’t give us freedom. They are corrupt. And all of this is against Islam’.”
Mustafa has long been outspoken in his political views, but his comments coincide with mounting criticism of Bashir since security forces cracked down bloodily on September protests against the lifting of fuel price subsidies.
Speaking at his private office, Mustafa said those in power were worried about the growth and influence of Intibaha as well as Just Peace Forum, his political party whose views were expressed through the newspaper.
“Intibaha wasn’t afraid of the government.”
Daily circulation reached 80,000 but has dropped since Mustafa departed, he said.
State security agents ordered the newspaper closed in late September after the cash-strapped regime slashed fuel subsidies, leading to the worst urban unrest of Bashir’s rule.
Intibaha had been deeply critical of the decision to cut the subsidies.
Authorities banned the newspaper for “political reasons” but allowed it to return to the streets on November 3 if he stepped down as chairman, Mustafa said.
The next day, the board asked Sudan’s corporate registrar to revoke his 60 percent share ownership, leaving him with only two percent, he said, adding that he had begun legal action.
Ebaid, of the NCP, said he does not think the ruling party now controls Intibaha, although individual NCP members may be involved with the newspaper.
That is a commercial matter, “far away from politics”, Ebaid said.
More than two years after the secession of South Sudan, war remains the major problem of the rump state that remains, Mustafa said, glasses hanging low on his nose.
“There is no freedom,” he said. “This is a military dictatorship.”
Mustafa proposes that Bashir lead a transitional government which would include other parties and technocrats ahead of transparent elections.
He described his nephew as “very close to the people”, an easy-going man in social settings.
“But politically he wants to stay in power”, to protect himself from warrants issued by the International Criminal Court over alleged war crimes in Darfur, he said.
Mustafa says he asked his nephew, who is used to his uncle’s outspoken ways, to keep their political and family relations separate.
That has proven difficult.
“Now my family relations with him are not so good.”