Since the conclusion of the Naivasha Peace deal, arguments have been flying back and forth, particularly among the Arab Islamic elite. The general theme that is discernible from these arguments is its inability to recognize the changed conditions and the need for it to relinquish the hegemony it has established over the Sudan since 1956. For the Sudan to remain united, it has to understand the need to accommodate non-Arab ethnicities that share with them the country called the Sudan. Some northerners have begun to work tirelessly to undo the peace that has taken millions of lives and over 15 years or more of negotiations. Northern arguments can be summarized under the following rubrics:
• That the peace is bilateral, and not inclusive of all the political forces in the Sudan, and thereby creating a bilateral partnership between the SPLM/A and the NIF;
• That the SPLM/A has failed to remove the NIF from power, leaving thereby the NIF machine intact; and thereby perpetuating the life of the theocratic regime;
• That the SPLM/A and Garang do not represent the South;
• That the Umma Party/NIF created militia in the South have been excluded and would be used to destabilize the South, if SPLM/A does not agree to leave power for Northern Arab competition only, as it has been since independence;
• That there should be a constitutional conference to endorse the Naivasha peace and that would remove the RSD, otherwise it would remain bilateral and not comprehensive;
• That the East and the West are still fighting, therefore, the peace is not comprehensive;
• That the peace will not result in the much awaited democratic change;
• That the Nile North has been marginalized in the same manner the non-Arab Sudan was marginalized;
• That the agreement gives too much power and wealth to the South, at the expense of the West and the East; and
• That the right of self-determination (RSD) will ultimately lead to the break-up of the Sudan.
If these arguments have been about how the Nivasha peace agreement could be developed into a potent instrument in achieving real transition from theocratic totalitarian regime of the NIF to democracy, there would have been no problem. However, politicians such as the twice-failed former prime minister, al-Sadig al-Mahdi of the Umma Party, the Sudan Communist Party, the Baath Party—with its Iraqi and Syrian wings—the National Congress Party of the mentor of the dictator al-Bashir, the eccentric Islamic ideologue Dr. al-Turabi and the majority of the non-ruling Arab-Islamic elite have again embarked, whether knowingly or unknowingly, on a diabolic scheme of restarting the war. The peace seems a threat to their historical hegemony over the Sudan.
It also seems that the peace deal southerners and the SPLM/A have painstakingly negotiated and signed with theocratic Khartoum regime in Naivasha is in real danger, simply because it saves the lives of southerners, offers an opportunity for a new beginning for the war-weary Sudan and ushers in a new era of democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights. Indeed, the agreement somehow removes the Arab North grip on power for the first time since 1956, and establishes common ownership of the Sudan by all its ethnicities. This, however, has resulted into the Arab-Islamic elite exhibiting utter unhappiness, sometimes under the pretext that the agreement does not guarantee democratic changes or the removal of the NIF from power. Perhaps, the fact that the agreement has not restored the political power to al-Sadig al-Mahdi in particular or to the north in general is another source of unhappiness.
Northerners also support their argument by saying that the SPLM/A did not topple the NIF regime, which stole the elite’s power on the night of June 30, 1989. In fact, the coming into power of the NIF is sometimes blamed on the SPLM/A (Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim et al). This argument is submitted by Northern elite in lieu of the fact that the military, whether with the backing of the left or the right, has always taken power because of the constant bickering of the northern elite over political power and wealth. Southerners have fought against both the northern Arab military and civilian governments, due to the injustices of both systems, which have monopolized political power and wealth to the exclusion of the South since 1955.
Furthermore, the removal of the NIF or any other government from power has never been one of the objectives of the SPLM/A. SPLM/A took to the bush to correct the injustices of the successive Khartoum governments, which have inflicted untold sorrows on the South and the rest of the marginalized non-Arab population, by operating, since 1955, a system similar to the South African apartheid. And in this, there has been no difference between al-Azhari, Abdalla Khalil, Abboud, al-Mahjoub, al-Sadig al-Mahdi, Nimeiri, al-Turabi, and the northern elite. Without an exception, their policies have been geared towards the Arab-Islamic ideology to the exclusion of the non-Arab Sudan, and therefore the competition for power has been exclusively among those who call themselves Arabs.
Whether northern elite believes in the veracity of these arguments against peace remains to be seen. Since al-Turabi/al-Bashir coup, what has the disgruntled Arab-Islamic elite done in order to regain what it thinks is its stolen power? As the bloody nature of the NIF coup became apparent immediately after al-Turabi/al-Bashir takeover, the Arab-Islamic elite began a mass exodus from the Sudan to America, Europe, Egypt and Australia, preferring to escape the brutality of al-Turabi regime, and leaving the SPLM/A alone in the field to face this brutal theocratic monster. And since 1989 SPLM/A had fought against an enemy that unleashed a religious scorch-earth war, without any help from the Arab-Islamic elite whatsoever. For twenty-two years, it has fought gallantly a war in which the NIF used all weapons (rape, slavery, famine, disease, forced arabization and islamization etc.) to wipe out the population of the South. Assuming that North and South form one country, al-Turabi turned the civil strife between the two parts of the country into the so-called jihad war against infidels in the South, who had to be wiped out from the face of the earth for Islam to triumph. The result was the loss of more than two millions southern lives. Southerners therefore began to ask themselves that if the North wants an Arab-Islamic Sudan, why should they continue to fight and die? Why should not the SPLM/A look for away out of such Sudan?
This how the idea of RSD (the right of self-determination) came into being. It was a pressure from southern masses and the SPLM/A split of 1991, when SPLM/A leadership saw it expedient that the issue of a separate state for the South could not be decided or exercised by a tiny number in the leadership of the SPLM/A—as some of the SPLM/A membership was advocating—but as a democratic right that the South, as a whole, should exercise as people. SPLM/A therefore sought the help of the regional and international community to negotiate the RSD and bring about some sanity to the country that had been at war with itself since 1955. SPLM/A has believed all along that if the war was ever to be ended, it must end at the negotiation table. It also believed that if the Sudan is to remain united that unity should be an outcome of a voluntary choice in a referendum, determining whether southerners agree to such unity or not. Such unity cannot, therefore, be an outcome of a victory in war, as all the Khartoum governments, including the theocratic junta, have been dreaming since 1955.
SPLM therefore entered into negotiations in an open transparent atmosphere and before the world. Its allies, the NDA parties, were kept informed and knew what SPLM/A was doing. There were no arguments as to how SPLM/A was to conduct itself in the process of negotiations. Its allies knew since 1983 that SPLM had negotiated with the government of the day, including the governments formed by most of the parties under the umbrella of the NDA. The resolutions of 1995 Asmara conference confirmed and recognized the SPLM/A direction and independence in policymaking and policy choices.
Throughout these negotiations, SPLM/A seriously endeavored to include and involved all the Sudanese political forces for the purpose of arriving at a comprehensive and inclusive peace. Invariably, the NIF had refused such inclusion, but insisted that the SPLM/A was only fighting and representing the South, and that NIF would not ready to negotiate with an entity, which was not carrying arms. In 2000, the IGAD and the internationally community accepted the argument of the NIF negotiators and pressured SPLM/A into accepting a bilateral negotiations. Despite that acceptance, SPLM/A continued to advocate for a confederal or federal system in which the South and the North would constitute two equal entities, leading the two entities so formed to constitute a third entity known as the confederal, federal or central entity. This was rejected by the NIF, resulting in the present arrangement, which makes the South to have its government, while the North remains without its own. This strange arrangement was the repetition of the Addis Ababa dispensation in 1972. The reason for such strange arrangement was obvious; it was the NIF desire to retain shar’ia in the North, and be able to continue and to extort the northern democratic secular forces.
The parties that are claiming today that SPLM/A had concluded a bilateral peace deal, which had not led to a comprehensive peace, were the same parties who had been separately and secretly negotiating with NIF since 1999. In that year al-Turabi and al-Bashir led al-Sadig into signing a bilateral peace in Geneva and Djibouti. In that peace, al-Sadig apparently relied on his blood relation with al-Turabi, and as soon as al-Sadig packed his bags and returned to Khartoum that was the end of that peace. From 1999 SPLM/A persevered and concluded the DoPs, forcing the NIF to negotiate on the basis of these principles, while insisting on the inclusion, at least, of the NDA in the negotiations.
Of course, neither SPLM/A nor Garang has ever claimed that it represents the ten million or so southerners, but at least SPLM/A represents the aspirations of the vast majority of population of the South. However, without the support of the people of the South, SPLM/A could not have successfully fought this long war. On the one hand, the support of the South enabled the SPLM/A to fight this long war. On the other hand, the NDA and the Arab-Islamic elite lacked the support of the northern population, which made the NDA a hollow resistance movement. With exception of some timid skirmishes with NIF forces, the Umma, the DUP and the Alliance forces of General Abdel-Aziz Khalid played insignificant role in the war against the NIF. As soon as the NIF waved the possibility of Umma Party participating in the government, al-Sadig al-Mahdi withdrew his forces from the battlefronts to Khartoum, leaving the gallant the SPLA, together with courageous Nuba and Beja, to fight the NIF, both in the South and in the East.
Earlier in 1991, the Darfurians defeated the SPLM/A attempt to extend the war to the West. Daoud Bollad’s campaign, supported by the SPLM/A, was betrayed by the local Darfurians and was crushed by the NIF. Our western brothers thought they were Muslims, and therefore had no problem with theocratic regime of al-Turabi. In fact, the NIF had a sizable number of its membership coming from the west, and therefore oblivious of the racist nature of the NIF. When finally, the war broke-out in the west, they woke-up to the true nature of the NIF, an Arab-Islamic exclusionary ideology, only equivalent to the erstwhile apartheid of South Africa.
As the NDA and the Arab-Islamic elite failed to exert efforts in the battlefronts, they also miserably failed to pressure IGAD and the international community into making the NIF accepts their participation in the peace negotiations that led to Naivasha. Indeed, true to its historical unfounded despise of Africa, NDA and northern elite saw no reason of talking to IGAD. The NDA was not interested in the IGAD process and began shopping for a different peace forum in order to avoid the RSD, which was adopted by IGAD. Hence, the Libyan-Egyptian initiative was hurriedly put together, omitting the RSD in accordance with advice of Egypt and the Arab world. For the same reason the NDA became not interested in the IGAD peace process and despite its commitment to IGAD forum, the NIF quickly accepted the Libyan-Egyptian initiative. The NDA, the allies of the SPLM/A, expressed enthusiasm to negotiate with the NIF under the Libyan-Egyptian initiative, and made several and serious attempts to convince SPLM/A to quit the IGAD forum. The apparent enthusiasm of the North for the Libyan-Egyptian initiative was because it omitted RSD and had the support of the Arab world. SPLM/A was aware of the obvious contradictions between the IGAD and the Libyan-Egyptian initiatives, and therefore, diplomatically rejected the Arab forum.
Further, the Arab-Islamic elite argues that the peace deal signed by the SPLM/A perpetuates the NIF rule and does not lead to meaningful democratic changes in the political system. Not only that, it is alleged that Naivasha creates a bilateral partnership between the NIF and the SPLM/A. This argument is advanced by northern intelligentsia as a justification to rally behind al-Sadig al-Mahdi and al-Turabi’s opposition to peace. Nonetheless, these arguments are totally false, and are comprehensively negated by the Machacos Protocol and others, which contain detailed provisions calling for that democratic change; and if the Arab elite were to support SPLM/A it could force the NIF into implementing those provisions. By continuing to denounce the Naivasha peace, the Arab-Islamic elite will remain forever lacking credibility in the eyes of southern secular and democratic forces.
If one day the Arab-Islamic elite would convince the world that the sun rises from the west and sets in the east, I would never be convinced that al-Turabi/al-Sadig alliance believes in democratic freedoms, human rights and the rule of law. All that al-Turabi/al-Sadig’s alliance believes in is the theocratic totalitarian system of government. From 1985-1989, al-Sadig rejected the constitutional conference, and when he did finally accept, his brother-in-law (Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi) was there to mount the June-thirtieth coup and put an end to the peace the people of Sudan had chosen. For that reason, both al-Turabi and al-Sadig al-Mahdi has no credibility to call for a national constitutional conference. Indeed, their real intention is to renegotiate the Naivasha protocols from the beginning. I therefore believe that the leadership of the SPLM/A will probably never agree to such a conference.
Another argument that runs across the northern political spectrum is that the peace agreement gives to much power and wealth to the South, including the right of succession. This is old wine in a new bottle. It is an argument the North has historically used whenever the South had fought a long war and negotiated an agreement with government of the day and won humble concessions, as it happened after the Addis Ababa Agreement. This argument is put forward to camouflage for the protection of the historical dominance of the Arab North of political power and wealth.