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The Role of Arab-Islamic Elite in the Matters of War and Peace: The North-South Relationship by By Charles K Deng

4/15/2005 3:56 pm

By Charles K Deng
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On January 9, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the National Islamic Front (NIF) theocratic Khartoum government signed the Naivasha peace agreement in Nairobi, Kenya, that ended 22 years of violent conflict, which killed over two million southerners and displaced over six million persons. In essence, the Naivasha peace agreement was an arduous give-and-take process, aimed at bringing to an end a scorch earth war. During this process, the negotiators had, on both sides, found out that going back to war was absolutely not a sensible option; it was a choice only available to those who fight wars in their dreams. Naivasha therefore justified the amount of time SPLM invested in negotiations (1989-2004). SPLM leadership made deliberate and painful concessions and acceptance: first, of the unnecessary long interim period of almost seven years for the holding of the referendum; second, the continued stay of the NIF army in the South for a period of two and half years after the end of the war. Indeed, the continued stay of the NIF army in the South, will definitely deal a psychological blow to millions of returning refugees and IDPs who will still find in place the same army that was the cause of their flight. And third, the parties adopted a fifty-fifty agreement on wealth sharing, a wealth that is essentially found in the South.

What then was the reaction of the Arab-Islamic elite for the dawn of peace (by Arab-Islamic elite, we mean that section of northern intellectual society cutting across the spectrum of Sudan politics)? The Arab-Islamic elite reaction to this historic peace deal, has been, to say the least, lukewarm. Neutral observers have been mesmerized by its unenthusiastic welcome to such an historic process that has keptat least for nowthe unity of the country. An agreement that has also promised democratic one Sudan regardless of race, religion, or tribe, and further promised fundamental rights, rule of law, and independent judiciary.

For the last two months, I have therefore followed the writings of the Arab-Islamic elite in the media, in general, and in the electronic media, in particular. I could not believe my eyes, when I found out that this elite has learnt almost nothing or very little from the thirty-eight years of military rule in the Sudan (and still continuing) and the twelve years of the so-called democratic rule of the myopic sectarian parties, which two periods basically constitute the age of independent Sudan (1956). Moreover, I have been disappointed in the manner the Arab-Islamic elite treats the issues of war and peace, and its resistance to change over the last fifty years, even though the world around it has undergone a tremendous change since the collapse of Soviet Union. A change that brought about years of upheaval, giving rise to national, ethnic and cultural movements, which had metamorphosed into many new states, mainly rising from the ashes of the former Soviet Union.

In attempting to gauge the opinion of that elite on the Naivasha peace process, I have selected at random opinions of four leading opinion-makers across the northern political spectrum. They are representative specimens of the far left, the center, and the far right. The far left is represented by lawyer Kamal al-Gizouly and Dr. Hydar Ibrahim Ali, the center is represented by Professor Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, and the right wingers by Dr. Abdel-Wahab al-Affendi and Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim (an intellectual who has traveled from the far left to the far right in so short a time).

In his many writings in al-Midan, Sudan Communist Party (SCP) mouthpiece, and Sudanile, lawyer Kamal al-Gizouly seems to blame SPLM for betraying the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in reaching a bilateral peace agreement with the NIF, to the exclusion of the NDA, an erstwhile ally of the SPLM. This has made Mr. Al-Gizouly and his SCP, jumpedwhether intentionally or unintentionallyinto the bandwagon of Imam al-Sadig al-Mahdis call for a national constitutional conference, purportedly, to remedy what all of them see as deficiencies in the peace agreement. Imam al-Sadigs political views have been tested in the past and found controversial since the sixties of the last century, and his ideas should be treated with utmost caution, if not with suspicion. Indeed, there has been nobody, among the Arab-Islamic elite, including Mr. Al-Gizouly and the SCP, who has the guts to tell Imam al-Mahdi dj vu, we have been here before, when he (al-Mahdi) allowed his brother-in-law, the Islamic ideologue, Dr. Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi, to scuttle the al-Mirghani-Garang agreementthe only realistic chance for peace at that time in late 1988. I therefore think that my friend al-Gizouly should have been courageous enough and stand up and tell the members of his elite: sorry, it is too late.

Further, it seems that the SCP boss, Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud, has risen from his long slumber to defend solutions tabled by his party in times passed by, and accused Dr. Mansour Khalid of amnesia for articulating the real political stance of SCP during that period. The SCP solutions to the so-called Southern Problem were, at best, halfhearted and, at worst, preconditioned on class formation in the South. Some of us had an opportunity to hear that from the mouth of late Joseph Garang in the early seventies of the last century, and no selective citation of SCP documents can make the communist boss any more credible than what history tells us. Over and above, the SCP condoned, whether consciously or unconsciously, the atrocious human rights abuses that took place both under the sectarian and military governments in the South and against southerners (these excesses, we shall detail in the next article).

Remaining with the representatives of the left, Dr. Haydar Ibrahim Ali, a man known for his integrity and rich intellectual contribution to the Arab-Islamic elites political literature, has joined the chorus of this disgruntled Northern Arab-Islamic elite. In his article in electronic Sudanile, titled The Sudan: The Multi Masks of Totalitarianism, Dr Haydar makes somewhat a successful analysis of the failures of the traditional sectarian parties and the Arab-Islamic elite, which have been ruling the Sudan for the last fifty years. His anger about these two political centers is not because considerable majorities of non-Arab Sudanese were entirely marginalized, but because the SPLM/A had dared conclude such a peace agreement. Though, according to Dr. Haydar, the sectarian political parties believe in liberal democracy, they have miserably failed to give any economic and social dimensions to such democracy, which, if found, makes democracy most preferable to any other system. In the opinion of Dr. Haydar, the failure of the sectarian parties to achieve economic and social progress resulted in the military oligarchies taking the initiative and finding a strong pretext to grab power, invariably with the active support and instigation of the Arab-Islamic elite1958, with help of the sectarian parties, 1969, with the help of the SCP, and 1989, with the participation of the NIF.

As long as the peace agreement is not inclusive, in the opinion of Dr. Haydar, there is no guarantee that democracy will ever reign supreme in the Sudan. But Dr. Haydar does not tell us whose fault is the ignominy of democracy in the Sudan? Instead, he further argues that the conclusion of peacebringing an end to war that has already taken more than two million Southern Sudanese livesas another coup detat, establishing a new partnership between the SPLM and the NIF. Thus, Dr. Haydar would rather have the war continued and more millions southern lives sacrificed for him to have and enjoy democracy, while none of his kids, or the kids of his Arab-Islamic elite, are carrying arms and dying like the southern kids in the SPLA. This is clear when he says, in the same article, that the new partner (SPLM) of the NIF has forgotten its obligations to its former ally, the NDA, and the resolutions of Asmara conference in 1995.

In his inexcusable assault on the SPLM, Dr. Haydar apparently forgets why SPLM/A was initially formed. In this regard, we can still remind Dr. Haydar why SPLM/A was originally established: First, SPLM/A was established to address the issues of political marginalization, general economic backwardness in the areas of the marginalized, and the reconstitution of the Sudan political and socio-economic institutions. Democracy, in the elitist sense, was not one of its original objectives. It was therefore established much before any person could think of NDA. Paradoxically, when those parties, which constituted the NDA umbrella, were the government of the day, SPLM/A had fought against them. Second, when SPLM came under the NDA umbrella, it was clear that its political options would not be subject to approval or disapproval of the NDA. Third, SPLM had always declared and made it clear to its political allies in the Sudan North that it would always negotiate with the government of the day, a corollary of its freedom of policy choices. Its leader, Dr. John Garang, had always emphatically stated that he and his comrades in the SPLM/A were not revolutionary romanticists, but practical politicians who knew what they took arms for. Fourth, before the formation of the NDA in 1991 and thereafter, SPLM had been negotiating with NIF Khartoum government under the bright daylight, and I, for one, never heard Dr. Haydar or his NDA associates protesting or rebuking SPLM for engaging in such activity. Fifth, in those negotiations, SPLM had represented the wider marginalized and fighting black people of the South, Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains, with the exception of the black people of Darfur, who mistakenly thought they were Muslims and that they had no quarrel with the North Nile Arab Muslims (their day came too soon more than anybody could imagine). Sixth, I do not know whether Dr. Hydar recalls the resolutions of the Torit meeting of September 1991, a few months after the fall of Mangistu regime and immediately after the Nasir Split. Certainly, Dr. Haydar will recall the insistence of Dr. Garang on a united secular democratic new Sudan, and how such a call was a source of embarrassment to him when NIF managed to play on the contradictions within the SPLM/A and opportunistically supported the Riak/Lam call for separation, putting Garang and his colleagues meeting in Torit in an awkward position before the Southern masses. As a result, the Torit meeting, for the first time, called for self-determination, which was echoed by the 1994 SPLM national convention and, later on, found acceptance in the resolutions of the Asmara conference of 1995.

Dr. Haydar keeps on lamenting his misfortunes and that of his Arab-Islamic elite that democracy and change are being sacrificed for the sake of peace. Impliedly, Dr. Haydar is saying Southerners should continue fighting and uproot NIF theocratic Khartoum regime, so that the Arab-Islamic elite may enjoy democracy over the tears and wailings of southern mothers whose sons and daughters wereuntil Naivashathe fodder that fed that despicable war.

Strangely enough, Dr. Haydar wanted the SPLM to have negotiated the end of the role of religion in politics, when he says that the Asmara conference of 1995 had ruled that there shall be established a democratic system and a civilian state, based upon citizenship and not religion or faith. The fact that the SPLM has successfully banished sharia from the south and refrained from doing the same for the north, makes Dr. Haydar an unhappy and miserable man. He (Dr Haydar) and his Arab-Islamic elitists do not command enough courage to tell the Khartoum theocratic regime that they are against sharia in the north as well. Dr. Haydar and his elite refrain from calling for a sharia-free Sudan because he has been made to believe that such utterances by a Muslim, in Islamic jurisprudence, bring him one step closer to the gates of hell. If it has to be done, in the opinion of the northern elite, it must be entrusted to the SPLM. However, Dr. Haydar and his elite do not tell us what will be the reward of the SPLM for bringing about liberal democracy and banishing religion from politics. Probably, the reward will be the normal marginalization Sudan has been experiencing since independence.

To turn to the role of the right-wingers among the Arab-Islamic elite, I have chosen Dr. Abdel-Wahab al-Effendi and Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim. Since the conclusion of the Naivasha peace deal, Dr. al-Effendi has written several angry articles in the Sudanile, though lacking in intellectual depth, but all of them were an indirect defense of his idol, the maverick Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi. In one of his articles after Naivasha, Dr. al-Effendi reveals to the Sudanese people the turmoil in the ranks of the SPLM/A and the challenge facing Dr. Garangs leadership of the SPLM/A, ostentatiously, put up by CDR Salva Kiir Mayardit. Dr. al-Effendi even predicts the 1991-style coup led by Dr. Riak Machar and Dr. Lam Akol against Dr. Garang. He further analyses the apparent contradictions found among southerners, such as the enmity between the Dinkas and the Nuers. Yes, there maybe political differences inside the leadership of the SPLM/A and between the Dinkas and the Nuers, but objective reading of those differences, tells us they are differences found in any political organization, or among people who share one destiny, particularly people or organizations undertaking a peace initiative similar to what SPLM/A had embarked on since 1985. It is also worth noting, that those differences could be easily contained if the North and the NIF were to refrain from fueling them.

However, Dr al-Effendi perhaps knows what we do not know because of his much talked-about connection to intelligence circles. Otherwise, his anger directed against Garang is a product of Garang reaching peace with Ali Osman Taha, the political nemeses of his idol (Dr. al-Turabi) since the great split in the NIF 1999. Effendi would have, therefore, loved if such an agreement had been reached under the leadership of his Islamic ideologue, Dr. al-Turabi. Since writing his book showering praises on al-Turabi and the Islamic Movement, al-Effendi has helplessly watched the boat of al-Turabi and his Islamic Movement sinking in the mid ocean. And in this juncture, our black people of Darfur should be warned and reminded about the virus al-Turabi has planted in their midstthe Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

Even though his arguments fly in the face of empirical evidence of the last fifty years, Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim does not blink a minute in putting the blame of Sudan tragedies squarely on the shoulders of the SPLM/A. He claims that the failure of democracy in the Sudan has been because of the insistence of SPLM/A on war and its refusal to reconcile with the peaceful intentions of the so-called third democratic period (1985-1989). He further argues that al-junubienhis usual preferable term when referring to any non-Arab Sudanesewere also the cause of the collapse of the second democratic period between (1964-1969), when they (al-junubien) refused to attend the Round Table Conference.

Dr. Abdullahi distortion of facts, when it comes to the South, is always puzzling and mind-boggling. In attempting to present these distortions as facts, Dr. Abdullah uses a philosophical and poetic Arabic language, believing he is presenting a water-tied case. By so doing, Dr. Abdullah does intentionally ignore the minutes of Juba conference 1947, the exclusion of southern leadership from Cairo conference 1953, the declaration of independence inside parliament, December 19, 1955, the proposals of southern political parties during the Round Table conference, and subsequently, the acceptance by southerners of regional autonomy during the all parties conference, the Addis Ababa agreement 1972all these were attempts by southerners to preserve the unity of Sudan. How come then, al-junubien are still responsible for the tragedies of Sudan? No surprise, when ones discovers that the man holds so much detestation for anything black because he thinks black detracts or pollutes his dream of pure Arab-Islamic Sudan. Apparently, Dr. Abdullahi lacks the courage of late Hassan Mahjoub and others who honestly called for the separation of South and North. His disrespect of anything that reminds him of the fact that he shares the land (Sudan) with a non-Arab is a conundrum I do not believe Dr. Abdullahi will ever overcome.

Probably, the greatest enigma to the Naivasha process is the grudging acceptance by a section of the Arab-Islamic elite of the necessity of letting the south goes its own way now, and not later. The supporters of this view are found in the political center, and Professor Dr. Ahmed Adel-Rahaman represents this section of the elite.

Dr. Adel-Rahman addresses northern politicians and elite not to wait for the referendum that will be held six and half years from now. Rather, he would like to call upon the northerners to recognize the rational circumstances and factors that point to the undeniable fact that South and North are two nations. And because history, geography, religion, language, and common interest are diametrically opposed and irreconcilable, he advises the North not to wait for the year 2010. He further advises that there is no need to form interim institutions such as parliament, national army, judiciary and the executive that would be abandon, once the south decides to go it alone.

I call the opinion of the Professor as an enigma, not because I disagree with him or the supporters of this line of thinking in the North, but because it is coming too little too late, when South and North have already agreed on the process for such a split under Machacos Protocol. It is also an enigma for the fact that the Professor and his supporters, for the last fifty years, have failed to convince the Arab-Islamic elite of the soundness of their position, and since then lot of water has passed under the bridge. In spite of the clear writing on the wall, many Northerners have failed in the last fifty years to see it clearly, and the present reaction of the Arab-Islamic elite makes even more certain that the country will fall apart, sooner than later.

To conclude, any person who has read the several protocols that comprised the Naivasha peace agreement, particularly the Machacos Protocol, will discover that there are many provisions speaking of fundamental rights, separation of powers, rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. Article 1.4 of the Machacos and Power-sharing Protocols prescribes the sources of legislation in both North and South. In the North, it is obviously Sharia because of the insistence of the NIF delegation on Sharia and because the majority of the population is Muslim, and SPLM/A had no argument in insisting on secularism when the NIF delegation had accepted secularism in the South. Furthermore, the pressure of the mediators was felt by the SPLM/A that any talk about secularism would jeopardize the whole process of negotiations. In addition, the grass root southern feeling was that the North had always acquiesce in the imposition of sharia since 1983, and the government of the April Uprising had failed to repeal the Nimeiri September laws, when it had the opportunity to do so.

The Arab-Islamic elite, including Dr. Haydar, allowed itself to be intimidated by the NIF and the sectarian parties, led by the now Imam al-Sadig al-Mahdi, not to repeal the September laws, because they were told they were laws ordained by God and Islam. This elite had an opportunity to rid Sudan of the sharia, but failed, because it was made to believe that according to Koran, anybody who does not apply what God has ordained is a kafir. Where is therefore the blame of the SPLM/A in not insisting on secularism for the whole country?

The Power-Sharing Protocol has detailed provisions on human rights and fundamental freedoms under Article 1.6. This Article obliges the Republic of Sudan to comply with its obligations under ICCPR, ICESCCR, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Slavery Convention of 1926, the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid in Sports etc. These rights include the right to life. Since independence 1956, the sectarian, military governments and the Arab-Islamic elite that have ruled the Sudan, have never taken the right to life seriously as a fundamental right, equal in importance as the freedom of speech, press, assembly and association. Historically the Arab-Islamic elite has always relegated the right to life to a secondary position and emphasized the independence of judiciary or the academic independence. Hence, various Sudanese governments, supported by the Arab-Islamic elite, have watched Sudanese dying like goats and camels from preventable and man-made starvations and famines. Not only that, the elite has encouraged these governments to invest the meager economic and financial resources of the Sudan in genocidal wars in the South, and now in Darfur.

It has been the practice of the elite to give undue importance to the freedom of expression and assembly, at the expense of the right to life. For the first time a Sudanese document (Naivasha peace agreement) has emphasized this right. It has not done it at the expense of other important rights, because Articles,,,,,, 16.2.8, and provide for personal liberty, slavery, torture, fair trial, privacy, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association, respectively. All these rights and freedoms have their meanings under international conventions, international public law and the constitutions of democratic nations and their inclusion in the Interim Constitution should be the duty of the elite. However, the Arab-Islamic elite has closed its eyes to these provisions and has chosen to attack the SPLM/A on signing a bilateral treaty with the NIF. Its unjustified assault on the SPLM/A is on the power-sharing percentages that have been assigned to the parties to Naivasha.

Substantive provisions of the peace have been ignored, and what matters to the Arab-Islamic elite are just the percentages assigned to the parties, when it would have been a robust and wise policy of this elite to grab the opportunity and work together with SPLM/A to undermine the NIF totalitarian theocratic power, which has continued to oppress and impoverish the Sudanese masses for the last fifteen years. Since 1989, this elite has failed to remove the NIF from power, whether through a popular intifada or through armed uprising, and if an opportunity like the peace agreement has presented itself, it should be taken and developed into a possible powerful weapon bringing the downfall of the regime. We should all forget about this lazy talk of constitutional conference, and work together to see this theocratic regime is assigned to history.

SPLM/A has done what it could, and has no obligations towards the elite or the NDA, but to the people of fighting Sudan. Undermining the agreement itself on the pretext that it has made the SPLM/A a part and parcel of the NIF theocratic regime, will never help and may jeopardizes the only instrument that should be used against the NIF. According to the peace agreement, there will be elections in a matter of three years and if Imam al-Sadig al-Mahdi and the SCP think they will win the majority, it is prudent for them to wait until their D-Day (this article will be followed by another).


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