Charles K Deng
From the events we have recounted thus far, we have seen how al-Sadig al-Mahdi, the prime minister of the third democratic period, let the peacemaking slip between his fingers, through lack of sense of history and hesitation. This lack of sense of history and hesitation has characterized the political life of al-Mahdi’s grandson. Since independence, only al-Sadig has had a second chance, but unfortunately, he squandered it all. From May 1986, the time he became prime minister, to June 30, 1989, the time when Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi staged his theocratic military coup, al-Sadig wasted precious time making meaningless speeches and comparing systems of governance that did not require comparison. For instance, in July 1985, he talked extensively to his party cadre about five systems of governance: military or civilian dictatorship, the communist system, liberal democracy, the hereditary system, and finally the Islamic (religious) system, which he preferred as the most appropriate system for the Sudan!!
This clearly demonstrated al-Sadig’s inability to prioritize the issues that needed his immediate attention. When his government became sure that it might well lose the war in the South, al-Sadig unleashed the militias. Some of these militias were Southerners, such as the remnants of Anyanya II, the Mundari or Toposa tribes, who got somewhat rough treatment from the ever-advancing SPLA. Al-Sadig went as far as creating in the cultural friction areas of Sudan (Abyei and Aweil areas), militias, from Fertit (jesh al-Salam), the notorious killers in Wau, and finally the deadly Baggara Murahileen. Being essentially Ansars, al-Sadig armed the Baggara Murahileen with modern weaponry. He further attempted to legitimize this myriad of militias by proposing laws inside parliament. The under represented South, with its allies from the non-Arab east, west, the Nuba, and some liberal northern MPs, put up a tenacious fight to prevent al-Sadig and his Arab-Islamic ideologists from passing those laws.
The Sudanese watched their prime minister of the third period of liberal democracy with trepidation. At the beginning of the third democratic period, they had high hopes in him to resolve the war that had consumed the Sudan in last twenty-seven years. Now, they realized that he was the best politician who could implement his brother-in-law political agenda. Al-Sadig was anti-peace and against ending the suffering of Sudanese people. He failed miserably to recognize the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious nature of Sudan. In short, al-Sadig and his brother-in-law, Dr. al-Turabi, both epitomized the exclusionary Arab-Islamic ideology, which practically marginalized any Sudanese who is neither an Arab, nor a Muslim. Even within that Arab-Islamic ideology, if a Muslim is not an Arab, it is legitimate (halal) for his wife, daughter or sister to be raped, as it is happening in Darfur.
This was the backdrop, from which al-Turabi and his National Islamic Front (NIF) decided to take power on June 30, 1989. Al-Turabi and al-Sadig come from this extreme exclusionary Arab-Islamic ideology. The only difference between the two men (al-Sadig and al-Turabi) is how much blood; both wanted to shed. Al-Turabi rode on the back of an armored vehicle on the morning of June 30, 1989, to establish his theocratic Islamic regime, first, not trusting his friend, al-Sadig, would continue faithfully to implement the NIF agenda; and second, hoping he would take back the Sudan into the seventh century A. D., the time when Mohammed began his messianic mission. The NIF also, under the leadership of al-Turabi, staged the June-30-coup to prevent peace under the Koka Dam Declaration, modified by al-Mirghani-Garang agreement. General Omar Ahmed Hassan al-Bahir, the nominal military coup leader, said, in his first statement that the coup was carried out “to save the country from being taken over by the infidels and preserve the Islamic and Arab identity of the Sudan”. This is the ideology al-Sadig al-Mahdi and al-Turabi belongs to, an extreme racist ideology comparable to that of the Boers in South Africa.
In the first days of the coup, strenuous efforts were made to hide the Islamic ideological nature of the coup. The Islamic ideologue, Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, was detained with the rest of the parties and trade unions leaders, not because he did not mastermind the coup, but because, first, for his personal protection, if the coup were to fail-the lessons of Hashim al-Ata were not forgotten; second, for sheer deception. Further, the government the NIF toppled was a hollowed skeleton, despite the prime minister’s bragging of its strength and ability to absorb the first blow, and its capability to strike back with strength. However, as the NIF struck on early hours of June 30, 1989, the government of al-Sadig al-Mahdi came tumbling down like house of cards. Al-Sadig himself was on the run for a week or so; he was finally arrested and put behind bars. His brother-in-law did not take into account that this was the man who was just a week ago implementing the NIF agenda. Since that time nobody ever heard again about his militias. Indeed, as we shall see later on, they were inherited by the NIF and restructured into the deadly Mujahideen.
The NIF military wing claimed also to have taken power in the name of the Sudanese Armed Forces. This was another lie because the first victim of the coup was the Armed Forces legitimate high command. General Fathi Ahmed Ali, the Commander-General, and the members of the staff command were arrested in the morning of the coup. The NIF officers also claimed that they wanted to attain a just peace in the South, to restore Sudan diplomatic relations that had been decimated by the previous government policies, and to alleviate the harsh economic situation in the country.
In fact, the new Islamic junta, attempted to hide its true nature, i.e., it belonged to the exclusionary Arab-Islamic ideology, championed by al-Turabi and al-Sadig, albeit, each from different vintage point. Thus, the NIF junta began their rule of Sudan, saying things and hiding others. It began with ruthless and unprecedented violence against those it perceived as enemies, while generally, adopting deceit as policy, particularly behind the borders of Sudan.
Violence was manifested in the manner the junta treated al-Sadig al-Mahdi, the closest political and ideological ally of al-Turabi, and a relative by marriage. In October 1989, al-Sadig was blind-folded, and put in a car that went around Khartoum, without any purpose, while some of the security elements in the car with him, taunted him with insults and threats of death. Another example was the treatment given to Professor Faroug Mohammed Ibrahim al-Nur, who was manhandled and extensively tortured. The same treatment was meted out to well-known personalities, such as the president of the Engineers Association, Hashim Mohammed Ahmed, the well-known lawyer, our friend al-Sadig al-Shammi. However, the junta went “nutty” when the Medical Association went on strike. Members of the Association were arrested en mass, tortured and murdered in cold blood, as in the case of our late friend and martyr Dr. Ali Fadl. The president of the Medical Association was condemned to death; only the death of his colleague Dr. Ali Fadl and the intervention of the International Labor Organization (ILO) saved his life. When some army officers attempted to stage a coup in April 1990, fire squads executed 28 officers in less than two hours, from the time of their arrest, trial and execution.
Regarding internal policies, the junta began, during its first month in power, mass dismissals from the civil and military services of anybody it felt, he/she, did not belong to this Arab-Islamic ideology. Incompetent personnel from the NIF membership list were either promoted/appointed to replace this mass body of dismissed civil and military personnel. In the private sector, any businessman who did not belong to the NIF was robed of his property, in manner similar to highway robbery.
To give itself some appearance of legitimacy, the junta constituted a sham parliament and called it the “Transitional National Assembly” appointed mainly from the 51 representatives it had in the disbanded parliament. Conscious of its tiny membership base, it co-opted the remnants of the dictator Nimeiri regime, who were too happy and eager to serve the NIF machine. In addition, the head of the junta, General al-Bashir began justifying the formation of this sham “assembly” as a reflection of the agenda the largest parties (Umma, DUP and the NIF) in the disbanded parliament contested the elections. People could not believe this logic, simply because, how could al-Bashir dissolve a parliament that was a result of that agenda! Indeed, the junta was conscious of its lack of political support among Sudanese people, despite its deceit and horrendous human rights abuses.
Beyond the borders of Sudan, the junta succeeded in deceiving president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (whether true or not, it is another story) and supported the request of the junta to the world community that it did not belong to the NIF. Mubarak was even deceptively promised that the coup might restore Field Marshall Ga’afar Nimeiri, who was exiled in Egypt and was reported to have gone back to alcohol consumption at a horrifying rate. The support given to the junta by Egypt’s Mubarak made the US government to use the policy of wait-and-see for the first six months of a junta that deposes an elected government. Besides canvassing for the Arab support for the regime, Mubarak also managed to market the NIF regime during the meeting of G-8 in Paris, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the fall of Bastilles (the French Revolution of 1789).
Regarding the South, the regime started out with a policy statement that it wanted a “just” peace to the so-called “southern problem”. The junta knew that it had just stopped the process of peace, which would have led to the national constitutional conference, as a forum allowing Sudanese a new Sudanese political dispensation, and ultimately peace. It took SPLM/A one month to react to the events that had occurred in the Sudan since June 30, 1989. The reason why SPLM/A had had to take such a long time to put forward its opinion on the events inside the Sudan was, in the words of its leader, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, to survey the opinion of its fighters in the field. Before the SPLM/A could make its opinion known, the junta had already made contact with the former Ethiopian leader and strong man, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, that it wanted dialogue with the SPLM/A, provided that there were no pre-conditions to restarting such dialogue, and provided further that the dialogue should begin from point zero, thereby preempting any agreement or understanding the Sudanese political forces might have reached since April uprising, 1985. The same message was conveyed to the SPLM/A leadership by the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who seemed to have devoted all his time to the service of the Islamic junta in Khartoum, but however, was paid back by the Islamic junta in form of Haleib.
On August 14, 1989, and for two consecutive days, the leader of the SPLM/A broadcast a radio message addressing all Sudanese in general, and southerners in particular. The message clearly set out the vision of the SPLM/A and its strategic position, as well as the issues of national unity, the state and religion, the system of governance, and the restructuring of the state institutions, including the armed forces and the economy. But Garang added that SPLM/A would deal with the government of the NIF, as it had dealt with all the Khartoum governments that had come and gone.
Until that moment al-Turabi, the real brain that masterminded the coup was still under “protective” detention. During this period, a cabinet was put together, but it quickly became evident to all Sudanese that all its members came from the NIF. However, that cabinet was not the real authority behind the coup. The real authority was a shadowy group of forty NIF militants, who met after hours under chairmanship of the Islamic ideologue, Dr. al-Turabi. To attend these meetings, he was allowed out of the detention every evening and would therefore decide how the sham government was going to conduct itself the next day. Although some lazy brains continued to believe that it was a military regime, reasonable minds concluded from the first day of the coup that it was NIF regime. Period.
Besides the mass dismissal of the most experienced civil and military personnel, a hellish security apparatus was put in place. The starting point in the creation of this monstrous body was the NIF security (Amn al-Jabha), headed by Nafie Ahmed Nafie, a Khartoum University School of Agriculture lecturer, who successfully deceived his supervisors in the university that he was going to Teheran on a sabbatical leave. During his sojourn in the Ayatollah country (Iran), he learned and perfected the art of torture, extra-legal executions and some other things the human rights bodies call crimes against humanity and violations of humanitarian law. Since that time, the security apparatuses mushroomed. Nimeiri’s security personnel were recalled, such as al-Fateh Erwa, Hashim Basaeed, Osman al-Sayed etc. With the multiplication of security bodies, arbitrary arrests, torture in what had been know as the “ghost houses” increased dramatically. People were brought to security offices in the morning and put under surveillance for the whole day to be sent home late in the evening and told to report back the next morning. For those who still kept their jobs, job deprivation or threat of it was a weapon frequently used to cow the opponents.
In the final months of 1990, the NIF regime adopted the cruelest policy of foreign currency control and restrictions. In a sudden announcement, possession and dealing in foreign currency was outlawed. In fact, the policy was directed at certain individuals and punishments were meted out as lessons to certain communities. For instance, a son of a well-known businessman, Majdi Mahjoub Mohammed Ahmed, was arrested after an illegal search of his house; he was hurriedly tried and sentenced to death. No amount of pleading from even some influential members of the Arab-Islamic personalities could save his life. The notorious member of the Islamic military junta, Ibrahim Shams el-Din, supervised that extra-judicial killing. Two other people who met the same fate were the Sudan Airways Coptic pilot Girgis Basthus and a southerner of the name Archanjelo.
We have seen the theocratic regime of Khartoum wanting a “just peace”, and stated that it wanted it to start from point zero. This meant that it rejected all understandings and agreements the previous government had reached with the SPLM/A, including the Sudan Peace Agreement, which gained the acceptance of all-Sudanese political forces, except the NIF. It therefore claimed that the previous government had accepted the Sudan Peace Agreement, because it had no alternative, and that the acceptance of the Sudanese political forces for the abrogation of all defense pacts with Egypt and Libya were in derogation of supremacy of Sudan state. Nonetheless, the regime that put emphasis on the issue of supremacy was the same regime that abrogated the constitution that buttressed the same supremacy. In August 1989, the theocratic regime and the SPLM/A met in Addis Ababa. The meeting, however, ended in a total failure, except an agreement to maintain contacts between the parties through the Sudan Embassy in Addis Ababa.
Immediately after those failed negotiations the SPLM/A, issued a statement to the effect that the SPLM/A held the view that there should be a transitional government; such a transitional government should guarantee and allow the participation of all Sudanese political forces that were committed to democracy and national unity; and that such a government should avoid the call that deepened differences among all political forces, whether through religion, tribalism or regionalism.
The NIF delegation went back to Khartoum, knowing very well the position of the SPLM/A that the way forward was the Koka Dam Declaration, modified by the Sudan Peace Agreement. The Sudan Peace Agreement made it clear that there should be convened a national constitutional conference, in which the Sudanese would resolve the issues of peace, the building of democracy, national unity and the economy. However, that was not absolutely the understanding of the NIF regime. As soon as the delegation reported to the government, the regime convened a conference to study all the current issues of the Sudan. Indeed, the NIF regime did not only want to study all contentious issues, but falsely considered it as the constitutional conference the SPLM/A had been calling for since 1985. Invitation to the conference was extended to the SPLM/A at the opening of the conference and through the radio and not through the contact the parties had agreed-Sudan Embassy, Addis Ababa.
Historically, that was how all Khartoum governments had dealt with the South, and the NIF government was not an exception. The only difference, if there was one, was that the Muslim Brothers, who had taken power in Khartoum, meant to mold the whole Sudan in their image. The leader of the SPLM/A, Dr. John Garang, accepted the invitation and also through the radio, but said that whereas the conference was about taking decisions determining the destiny of the country and to reach a national consensus, all political forces in the Sudan should participate. And to make that possible, all decisions dissolving the parties, trade unions and the press should be abrogated to allow all concerned parties to freely participate in the future of their country. Garang precisely knew that this kind of talk did not interest the NIF stalwarts.
The conference was convened between September 9, and October 21, 1989. For almost forty-three days, the conference studied the so-called “the facts of national reality”, the visions and views of all parties, including those of the SPLM/A. The final declaration of the conference also stated that maintaining the unity of the country should come through allowing people total and complete expression of cultural, religious, ethnic, geographical and social diversity. And further, to ensure the nonaggression of one entity against the other, with the intention of marginalizing or excluding, and not to exercise the mere belonging to a culture, faith, ethnicity as conferring an advantage on a citizen, at the expense of another. The conference also recommended that the federal system was the appropriate system of governance for the Sudan, and could absorb diversity of the Sudan therein. Fortunately or unfortunately, the final declaration did not mention that southerners were the first to propose this federal system, the “Brothers” suddenly discovered. Southerners proposed the federation way back in 1947 (Juba Conference), during the declaration of independence on December 19, 1955, and the Roundtable Conference, but the North described them as “separatists”.
The other issue the NIF conference considered were the reasons why all previous peace initiatives, during the government of al-Sadig, did not translate into real peace. The conferees identified two reasons:
The refusal of the SPLM/A to recognize successive Khartoum governments; and the tendency of SPLM/A to dialogue with civil society organizations; and the SPLM/A constant change of its position;
The previous governments’ lack of political will, confidence, credibility, parties in fighting, and instability of governments.
The first reason why SPLM/A refused to recognize various Khartoum governments suffers from what specialists in science of logic call the “fallacy of composition”. How could SPLM/A recognize the Khartoum ever changing governments, if the same governments kept calling the members of the SPLM/A and the South as the “mutineers” or the “outlaws”? In fact, SPLM/A had never refused to enter into dialogue with any Khartoum government, except the government of the General Sawar el-Dhab and for reasons we have pointed out in these articles. As to inflexibility of the SPLM/A in its conditions and changing of conditions with changing governments seem contradictory. How can a person be called inflexible if he keeps changing his conditions? The reality is that SPLM/A had been from the beginning insisting on Koka Dam Declaration since its inception in 1986 that would have led to the constitutional conference, which many Arab-Islamic elite, particularly al-Sadig al-Mahdi, is desperately calling for in year 2005 when it had rejected since 1986.
The second meeting between the NIF government and the SPLM/A took place in Nairobi, Kenya in December 1989 under extreme exchange of recriminations from both sides. The SPLM/A accused the NIF government of horrendous human rights violations and extreme violence against all Sudan political forces, as we have detailed above, while the NIF accused SPLM/A also of human rights violation by imprisoning some of its members. Dr. Lam Akol defended the SPLM/A that the SPLM/A was not a government, but a group of revolutionary volunteers that must be disciplined to create a semblance of harmony among its rank and file. Though sympathetic to the views of the SPLM/A, former President of the USA, who chaired the meeting in an effort to bring the two sides to the middle ground, failed to bridge the gap between the parties. President Carter, the architect of Camp David, could not do what he succeeded in doing between Egypt and Israel.
It was apparently clear that the parties had reached a dead-end. By that time also the nature of the new government had become clear to everyone, both locally and internationally, and the NIF was making preparations for the D-Day. In preparing for the defeat of the SPLM/A, the Khartoum theocratic regime took two courses: one political and the other military.
On the political front it attempted the traditional way, i.e., “divide and rule”. Southern politicians inside were cowed by the use of the same violence, the NIF had used against the northern politicians. Mass arrests and torture of southern politicians who dared to express freedom of opinion was used with power of steel-among those who suffered this fate were Eliaba James Sarour and Henry Tong Chol. Churches were harassed and prevented from helping even the internally displaced persons (IDPs). The IDPs were harassed, arrested, tortured and imprisoned. The camps of IDPs around Khartoum-described by the Arab-Islamic elite as the “black belt”, and there were many-were removed into open desert by the use of extreme violence when moving them. The foreign Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) that provided some social services to the IDPs were prevented and sometime their personnel manhandled, and finally expelled. These NGOs were prohibited from distribution of food aid to the IDPs; and the only distribution was to be undertaken by Islamic NGOs. Foreign NGOs were therefore forced to handover food provided by them to the Islamic NGOs, who used such food for islamization and arbization. This took a more radical tendency in the South itself, especially when the NIF created famine and starvation became prevalent, as we shall see later.
In Khartoum, women, in general, suffered from various kinds of harassment. They were chastised for wearing clothes the NIF fanatics thought were immodest, or reprimanded if they talked in the street with somebody who was not their husband or relative, or lived in a house with no male relative. Southern women were singled out for severe inhumane treatment, particularly the IDPs, who were sometimes raped in the police stations. Those who sold alcohol-because that was the only way they could look after their families-were wiped publicly and viciously. Accusations of prostitution against southern women were rife, because of their cultural and ethnic background, plus the fact that southern women are more liberal due to their different upbringing. The NIF security forces invariably traded sexual favors for their release.
Members of the notorious Popular Defense Force (PDF), were encouraged and promised financial reward if they could produce children with southern women, whether through sexual violence or through consent. The French researcher Gérard Prunier once wrote: “All in all the picture of human rights in the Sudan can appear very misleading. To the casual outside observer who arrives in Khartoum expecting to see veiled and heavily garbed women, a cowed and silent population and armed guards at every street corner, the situation appears disconcertingly relaxed. But a longer stay and a moderately deeper probe will quickly reveal a society only half breathing and strenuously living from day to day without enjoyment of life, hope or feeling of security.” What the French researcher was trying to say is that the incredible resilience of Sudanese to live under the bloodiest dictatorship and their enviable willingness to quickly forgive.
Where was al-Turabi, the architect of this bloody regime, at that time, when these human rights violations occurred? He was at the heart of those events, approving and justifying their necessity. He was stomping the world forums, denying and justifying the occurrence of these violations, even when he was faced by a living example such as the lawyer Abdelbagi el-Rayeh. Al-Turabi spoke in London in 1992 about the tolerance of Islam and its condemnation of human rights abuses under whatever justification. When lawyer al-Rayah showed him his amputated leg, al-Turabi was stunned and appeared to be condemning what happened to this poor lawyer. However, as soon as he left the lecture hall, he immediately made a statement to the press that the lawyer’s leg was amputated because of cancer and he did not want to embarrass him by telling the “truth”. The NIF Machiavellian went on to justify the horrendous abuses of human rights by the regime and sometimes attacking human rights organizations, alleging that the west was against Islam and acted from a different understanding of human rights.
The human rights situation in the South was quite a different story. South was a war zone, and the main reason why the NIF grabbed power on June 30, 1989, was to stop the peace process that would have led to a national constitutional conference and to end the war. The theocratic regime began with timid approaches to the SPLM/A looking for political settlement to the raging war in the South, but the purpose of such approach was to buy time and prepare for war that would give it a final victory it had been dreaming during the third democratic period. Their main objective in pursuit of war was total islamization and arbization, or total extermination of the southerners and to inherit the natural wealth of the South without the people. The Arab-Islamic elite understanding of the cultural, ethnic, and language diversity of Sudan means, in the words of Dr. Al-Turabi, “catastrophe”, and therefore must be corrected by one of the two ways, complete arabization and islamization or annihilation of the non-Islamic and non-Arab Sudan. In other words, al-Turabi wanted to create a one-dimensional Sudan-an ideology even the Boers never pursued in South Africa.
Al-Turabi and his theocratic Khartoum government went about achieving these goals by adopting two tactical approaches: first, devising means to split the SPLM/A; second, armed itself with deadly weapons of war. Starting with second approach, a law legitimizing the militias of al-Sadig al-Mahdi was quickly adopted on the first few weeks of the NIF coup. All militias were legalized and brought under the umbrella of Popular Defense Force (PDF). A massive program of recruitment was adopted and the force was boosted to the tune of several hundred thousands, intended to be a politically and religiously motivated force in competition with Sudan Armed Forces. In the South, the Sudan Armed Forces itself had a long history of human rights abuses since the Torit revolt of 1955. There was therefore the obvious competition between the PDF and the SAF, who would be more deadly than the other.
During the period of implementation of this policy, SAF and PDF were competing as to who would kill the largest number of civilian population. SAF carried out massive program of bombing to the civilian centers and villages that were not under its control, resulting in massive loss of civilian lives and internal displacement of four million persons. Those who were safely near the international borders, made it to the neighboring counties as refugees. Those who were unfortunate and far away from the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DRC (former Zaire) and Central Africa Republic, such as the Dinka of northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, had no choice but to go to the North. The North treated these internally displaced persons with contempt and out-right discrimination. Being subjected to maximum harassment by the ordinary population of the North and by the NIF government in the manner described above, the life of these IDPs was so miserable and tragic.
The Arab-Islamic elite never felt the sufferings of these IDPs. On the contrary, it argued that Southerners were coming to the North because they loved the North. This argument was so frequently repeated until it became like a fact. First, the Arab-Islamic elite did not investigate thoroughly why Southerners were coming northwards, and who were these southerners who came to the northern towns and population centers. Second, simple geographical facts were ignored. If the Arab-Islamic elite had done some reasonable investigation, it would have come to the correct conclusion, that the Dinka of Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal found Northern Sudan nearer to their villages and population centers than the thousands of miles far away Kenyan, DRC, Ethiopian, Central African borders. It was not the love these Dinka had for the North that forced them to come to the North, but the proximity of the North to their areas. They pretty well knew that the person they were running to was their tormentor, but had no choice. It is like saying that the Palestinians who worked, and still work, in the construction of the Israeli security wall or daily work in Israel do that for the love of Israel. Certainly, they do that work and seek to go into Israel, because they are forced to by economic needs to work for the Jews, not because they love them. To feed their families, these Palestinians do queue-up for hours and hours at the security entrances to Israel. Arab countries are either thousands of miles far away, or economically weak to guarantee jobs for Palestinians, but Israel is economically strong and a stone throw from them.
SAF never took prisoners of war. Captured SPLA gallant fighters, whether wounded or unscathed, were slaughtered on the spot. There was no respect for the international conventions of war. In the last exchange of prisoners of war, the government had no SPLA prisoners, while SPLA had several hundreds army personnel who were handed over after the signature of the Naivasha peace. As usual the Arab-Islamic elite did not hold or ask the government why it had no POWs. Instead, the argument currently has been about how the SPLM/A dared sign a bilateral peace.
For the PDF, it was engaged in slave taking. The Murahileen of al-Sadig al-Mahdi (which were absorbed in the PDF), who used to frequently invade helpless Dinka villages, looted, raped burnt, maimed and killed elderly men and women, while taking away the fittest and able bodied young men and children as slaves. If there is any criticism of Naivasha, it is that it has put a lid on this issue, which does not augur well for the SPLM/A. History will stand, however, in judgment of the SPLM/A leadership, whether it ever cared for the lives of millions of southerners lost in this war.
Nonetheless, the most effective weapon perfected by the NIF Khartoum government was the use of food as a weapon of war. We all recall the United Nations Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), which was established towards the end of Sawar-el-Dahab-el-Gizouli Daffalla’s rule. Under that program, it was agreed between the UN, SPLM and the Khartoum government that the newly created OLS would carry food relief to areas under the government and the SPLM control in the South, plus other areas in the Sudan, which were suffering from food shortages. As soon as the elected government of al-Sadig al-Mahdi, the new prime, took over from the Transitional government, disagreement occurred between the UN envoy and the prime minister appointee, Mr. Kamil Shawgi. The prime minister took the side of his appointee who held the view that the participation of SPLM in the operations of OLS was derogation to the supremacy of the Sudan, and the UN envoy was asked to leave the Sudan. It was the first time that a government of a UN member-state had declared a UN staff member as persona non grata.
In the years that followed the NIF coup and until the signature of Naivasha peace, the NIF used food as a weapon of war. Planes faring food for the hungry in the South were refused landing; food relief centers were bombed in the SPLM/A controlled areas; NGOs cooperating with OLS or independent of the OLS were prevented from distribution of food to the needy. Under these circumstances, famine and starvation took their toll, and displacement increased. This was accompanied by massive killings of civilians, bombing of refugee camps, forced population transfer, separation of families, forced conversion to Islam of children, and sexual abuses of women. In the towns, under the NIF control, a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed. Government militias like jesh al-Salam were given free hand to torture, maim and killed, whomever they chose from the town’s population, on trump up charges of belonging to SPLM/A. PDF was given the license to roam the countryside, killing and looting the villages, especially in northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, Abyei and Western Upper Nile. The result of all these NIF measures was an estimated three million loss of life. The greater part of this loss of life was through starvation and disease
In western Upper Nile where oil companies were undertaking major oil operations, villages were bombed and raided by the government-supported Nuer militias; and the population, mostly Nuer and Dinka, were forced to flee southward. Arab tribes living north of South borders were encouraged to settle in Nuer and Dinka villages. Indeed, the NIF government’s plan was to depopulate north and western Upper Nile, northern Bahr-el-Ghazal and Abyei area. All these areas rich in oil and the NIF government saw it fit to empty it from its original owners, the Nuer and Dinka. Most of the human rights abuses and mass killings in these areas occurred from 1996 until the signature of Naivasha. Even after Naivasha, though mass killings might have stopped, reports of human rights abuses are still continuing.
The most dangerous and despicable human rights abuses took place in the Nuba Mountains. The Nubas are black people inhabiting southern Kordofan. The injustices of the ruling Arab-Islamic elite fell hardest on these black people of Sudan. Though they have been part of the North, they had been known for providing the gallant foot soldier in the Sudan Armed Forces. The injustices of the North had forced the few educated sons of Nuba to join the SPLM/A in numbers, under the leadership of late CDR.Yusuf Kowa Mekki. Al-Turabi/ al-Bashir regime used extreme violence against the gallant people of the Nuba. Thousands of Nuba sons and daughters began to mysteriously disappear from towns and villages; villages were wiped out. Islamization was conducted among the Nuba with the use of extreme violence. The population of numerous villages was forcefully removed to northern Kordofan, among Arab population in order to change them into Arabs. In their new sojourn, many practically became slaves.
The other non-Muslim but Arab section of Sudanese population are the Copts. No islamization project was tried on them. However, they were prevented from building churches or running Sunday schools. Because the Copts are people of trade and commerce, export and import licenses were withdrawn from those who had them and new licenses were arbitrarily denied. The few, who held jobs in government, were dismissed, and new graduates were denied jobs in the government. Finally, they were encouraged to find resettlement either in the United States, Canada, Australia or Egypt.
In the early years (1989-1991), the NIF regime was making frantic diplomatic efforts to find international allies that could be a secured source of arms, enabling to conduct its war in the South. Despite deceiving Mubarak of Egypt into backing the NIF, al-Turabi could not find any friends of value, except the Ayatollahs of Iran. No sooner, did al-Turabi opened up Sudan, terrorists and fundamentalist Islamic organizations, descended on the Sudan from every corner of the world, including HAMAS, Al-Gaeda of Bin Laden and Bin Laden himself, and the Algerian Islamic Front for Salvation, the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, and the Palestinian Popular Front of George Habash.
Although Sudan has never been a major player in Arab politics, the NIF decision to side with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait had major negative ramifications for its poor economy and diplomatic isolation. Al-Turabi attempted to explain away such a decision by arguing that the Arab opinion supported Saddam Hussein against the Americans, and, of course, the coalition forces, led by America, would defeat Saddam Hussein and there would be a lot of bitterness and resentment against the Arab states. Further, Saddam Hussein secular regime marred by defeat and humiliation would not endear him to the Arab masses. Al-Turabi therefore concluded that his Islamic Movement stood to benefit and the Arab masses would turn to his movement. After the liberation of Kuwait, Al-Turabi’s Machiavellian analysis of the Gulf war cost thousands of Sudanese working in Kuwait their jobs, and more isolation for the Sudan.
In 1991, the Horn of Africa was boiling, and dictators were falling from power. Siad Barre of Somalia was booted out from Mogadishu, and Somalia went into chaos that sill persists until today. In Ethiopia, a coalition of rag-tag guerrilla forces of Eritrea Liberation Front (ELF), the Tigrinya Liberation Front (TLF) and the Ethiopian Democratic Front (EDF) defeated the formidable Mengistu Haile Mariam’s army, forcing him to flee into exile in Zimbabwe. Al-Turabi and his NIF government were more than happy. According to him, SPLM/A had lost the support, which made it invincible. Now, it is time to deal a blow to the SPLM/A, once and for all.
SPLM/A was tugging a heavy baggage in its flight from Ethiopia after the defeat of Mengistu. There were half a million refugees in refugee camps in Ethiopia, and the flight happened at the beginning of the rainy season of 1991. During the flight, the refugees paid highly in lives. Moreover, some members in the SPLM/A leadership began to conspire. The conspirators calculated that the loss of Ethiopian support had made the leader of the SPLM/A become weak and therefore liable to overthrow. Indeed, most of these conspirators were motivated by tribal rivalry and by naïve promises of the NIF of separation, if they managed to overthrow Colonel John Garang. In reality, NIF had penetrated the SPLM/A since early days of the third democratic period; either by using bribery or giving promise of let South goes its own way. Because of the changing world political scene, coupled with the false NIF promises, three members of the High Political and Military Command, CDR, Dr. Riak Machar, CDR Dr. Lam Akol and CDR Gordon Kong declared in Nasser that CDR. Dr. John Garang had been removed from the leadership of the SPLM/A, and that CDR. DR. Riak Machar was the new leader. BBC relayed the orders of the new leadership to all SPLA units to take their commands from the new leadership. Dr. Garang was accused of human rights abuses and of dictatorial tendencies.
Meanwhile, in Torit Dr. Garang and his group held a meeting in September 1991 in Torit. The Torit meeting was scheduled and preparations were made prior to the split, to consider the available options to the Movement after the fall of Mengistu of Ethiopia, particularly the military and diplomatic situation and the humanitarian consequences of the flight of refugees from western Ethiopia back to the Sudan. The meeting recognized that the Movement had always believed in peaceful solution of the Sudan war through dialogue, and therefore had called for the convening of national constitutional conference, concluded the Koka Dam Declaration 1986, reached a common understanding with USAP, in 1988, concluded the Sudan Peace Agreement, and had already entered into meetings with the NIF theocratic regime. Further, the Torit meeting stated that the Sudan had experimented with centralized government that had always assumed the Arab and Islamic nature of the whole country-sometimes creating self-government rule in the South-but all had come to nothing. Instead, the country had dithered between war and peace for the last 25 years of the 36 years of the independent Sudan. In the light of that history, the Movement, for the first time, called for either a confederal Sudan or the right of self-determination (RSD) to the people of the South. This was the first time SPLAM/A adopted self-determination in its political agenda.
While sitting south of Nasser in Torit, Dr. Garnag in Torit town stated that the Nasser coup was a theoretical one and he was still in command of the SPLM/A. He (Garang) accused the coup makers of selling out to NIF government of Khartoum. As a reaction to the news of this coup, southern communities inside the Sudan and in the Diaspora, split along tribal lines. The majority of the Dinkas, who formed the backbone of the SPLA fighting force, stuck with Garang, while Nuers and other tribes went over to the coup makers. Soon it became clear that the coup leaders had no clear program and had established close links with the NIF government of Khartoum. Not only that, the coup leaders began committing human rights abuses of which Garang was accused. SPLA Dinka officers who found themselves to be in Nuer areas, at the time of the coup, were massacred in cold blood on Lam and Riak’s orders, and in October 1991, Bor District was devastated by hordes of Anyanya II, acting under the orders of the coup leaders.
However, the worst was still to come. As a result of the split, the NIF took full advantage of the situation and regained the military initiative for the first time in eight years. Between 1991-1992, SPLM/A came under a sustained military attack from the NIF, declaring jihad (Holy War) against the infidels. The war was no longer a civil strife between citizens of the same country, but it turned into a religious war in which one party, the NIF, was fighting a jihad. It is during this time al-Turabi authorized everything, beginning with looting, pillaging, rape, slave taking and Arab settlement of the areas depopulated from southerners, particularly in western Nuer (western Upper Nile) and Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal. A large amount of armament was procured from People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Iran to fight the jihad war.
Reeling under the split and the offensive of the NIF-in which the Nasser group effectively joined on the side of the enemy-the SPLM\A-Torit-as it became to be called-agreed to attend negotiations at Abuja, the Nigerian Capital, between May 26 and June 4, 1992. Prior to this round of talks, the SPLM/A-Nasser-the breake-away group-had reached an agreement with the enemy (NIF) in Frankfurt, Germany. So, the NIF delegation came to Abuja talks expecting that it would simply attend the actual surrender negotiations of the SPLM/A-Torit. The result was absolutely the opposite. SPLM/A Torit tabled the right-of-self-determination (RSD). According to Khartoum, the abid (slaves) had reunited and talked with one voice, RSD. NIF therefore had to go back to the drawing board to prevent that unity of purpose. Of course, money was the best weapon to achieve it. At this juncture, Dr. Ali al-Hajj began his many shuttles between Nairobi and other foreign capitals carrying bags of “precious dollars” to his allies in the SPLM/A-Nasser. However, how much of those “precious dollars” went into pockets of the Nasser group, and how much went into Dr. Ali al-Hajj’s Swiss Bank or Kualampor accounts, nobody knows.
In the dry season of 1993 and with the effective support of Iran military and Bin Laden terrorists, the NIF mounted an offensive, but the offensive, for one reason or the other, fizzled out. Thereafter and to put an end to the NIF dream of surrender, the SPLM/A-Mainstream mounted a daring attack on Juba in 1993, and inflicted on the NIF heavy casualties. In the aftermath of Juba attack did the member of NIF military command council, the notorious Ibrahim Shams al-Din, supervise a massacre of southern intellectuals, still hole-up in Juba. Even before the attack on Juba, the SPLM/A-Nasser had come out clearly on the side of the NIF, and was attempting to achieve what NIF had failed to achieve, by attacking the SPLM/A-Mainstream for a sustained period of three months, aiming at the final destruction of the SPLM/A-Mainstream. Nationalists like late CDR William Nyoun Beny were bribed by the Nasser group to join them. During this period it became clear that the NIF government was bankrolling the destructive activities of the Nasser group, whether in Nairobi or in the South. Sudan embassy in Nairobi became one of the Sudan largest and most important embassies around the world. The NIF was attempting to build SPLM/A-Nasser not as an alternative to SPLM/A-Mainstream or a parallel organization, but as a weapon of destruction of the Southern cause. Nonetheless, our brothers in the Nasser group failed to see the apparent strategy of the NIF.
The intra-SPLM/A fighting of 1993 was the most damaging and caused thousands of casualties among southern population than what the NIF was able to inflict, including the IDPs who starved to death. When a seize-fire was finally arranged between the two factions of the SPLM/A, the Nasser group in Equatoria quickly broke it on the instigation of the NIF. By the end of 1993, SPLM/A-Mainstream only held Western Equatoria and the strip along the borders of Uganda, Kenya and DRC. While the intra-SPLM/A was going on, Southern churches, elders and nationalists attempted, with no success, to heal the rift between the two factions. Always, the Nasser group met them with the agenda of the NIF, i.e., the total destruction of the Mainstream, which it could not, single-handedly achieve or even with the help of the NIF.
At any rate, the SPLM/A-Nasser had split by early 1994 into factions along tribal lines. The first faction, led by Dr. Riak Machar and his hordes of Nuers, transformed itself into Southern Sudan Independence Movement/ Southern Sudan Independence Army (SSIM/A). Dr. Lam Akol and a few Shilluks, led the other faction under the of SPLA-United. None of these factions relinquished or renounced its cooperation with the enemy NIF. The most important event of this split was marked by rather an unexplainable death of the veteran politician Joseph Odohu. It happened during an attempt by the SPLA-United to hold an important meeting in Kongnor, the birthplace of Dr. John Garang. It was claimed that SPLM/A attacked the meeting, and during the confusion that ensued, Odohu was killed. As to which of the two fighting parties (SPLM/A and SPLA-United) caused the death of Odohu, nothing has been made emphatically clear.
Earlier in 1991, the Northern political opposition parties to the NIF coup d’etat had founded the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as an umbrella organization for the entire opposition group. SPLM/A became a founding member of the NDA, provided SPLM/A maintained its flexibility and independence, including talking to the government of the day in Khartoum. In June 1995, NDA reached a critical stage, and attempted to layout a program of action, should the NIF government in Khartoum fall. NDA therefore agreed on every possible contingency, including the issue of RSD. At the beginning, there was a sharp division within the NDA, whether the SPLM/A demand for self-determination could be accommodated, which led Bona Malwal to ask “Will the debate for self-determination sound a death knell for the NDA?” At the end of the conference, SPLM/A prevailed and the issue of RSD was accepted, albeit grudgingly.
As for the Islamic fundamentalists in the NIF and its government, the issue of RSD was first raised in Abuja conference, and one of the NIF members of its delegation (Mohammed al-Amin al-Khalifa) stated that south would not have RSD, except through the barrel of the gun. Period. For the NIF, the issue of RSD was not perceived as a mechanism allowing mutual settlement of the war, but it was closely linked to the issue of arbization and islamization of the “heathen jungles of Africa”, in the words of the Abdel-Wahab el-Effindi. It simply meant that the Arab culture is superior to African culture and that God Himself has sanctioned that superiority through Islam, which is both sacred and inseparable from Arabic language, a culture and a political system. So, recognizing RSD would be a political suicide not only of the NIF but also of Islam, as a religion.
In 1995, SPLA managed to reorganized its ranks and initiated political reforms within the Movement. In April of the same year SPLM/A held its first National Convention in Chukudum, inside the Sudan; it further held a humanitarian conference, comprising of SPLA commanders, donors and the NGOS; and also a third meeting was successfully organized, which brought together all senior SPLA officers. These reorganization activities produced a rejuvenated SPLA, which enabled in October 1995 to undertake a robust offensive in Eastern Equatoria, leading to the recapturing of almost the whole of Eastern Equatoria, except Torit and Kapoeta. The NIF army and PDF sustained heavy casualties in men and equipment. At the beginning of 1996, the NIF defenses were crumbling and its losses were estimated at more than 10,000 men.
Since the collapse of the two Abuja conferences, the NIF Khartoum government sought another forum. The Nigerians, whom they thought would pressure SPLM/A into surrender, disappointed them. Moreover, the results in the battlefronts were extremely going badly for them. Khartoum economy was collapsing at an alarming rate; necessities were hard to come by in the Khartoum shops; and the PDF, its army of secondary school boys conscripts, was hit by low morale and desertions were common. Hence, there was a need for a new peace forum. This time the NIF approached the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) of which it was a member. The Sub-Regional organization accepted the challenge and started its mediation to end the war. For this purpose, a committee of presidents was established, consisting of President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya, as chairman, and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Afwerki of Eritrea, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, as members.
The mediators consulted with the two warring parties; SPLM/A agreed to IGAD mediation, and the peace initiative was officially and publicly launched in March 1994. Negotiations that followed this development broke down. The NIF delegation led by the eccentric Dr. Ghazi Salah el-Din Atabani quickly rejected the idea of RSD or secularism. In a moment of “truth”, Atabani went into a fit, shouting at the SPLM delegation and the IGAD diplomats that they “ would get neither secularism nor independence” and that “the Sudan’s mission was to Islamize Africa”. Consequently, Khartoum resorted to an attempt to win the war militarily, and Southern Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A) was approached, with aim of reaching an internal settlement.
At this point, the mediators assumed a more positive role and drew up a document containing six points, dubbed as the Declaration of Principles (DoP), as the basis for future negotiations. The DoP proposed, inter alia, a secular and democratic Sudan, the equitable share of resources between the South and the North, and respect of human rights. Failing that the South should exercise the right to self-determination (RSD). SPLM/A endorsed the DoP, but the NIF rejected the document and expressed its intention of not participating in further negotiations. Under these circumstances, the IGAD diplomats turned to western countries for moral and material support of the process. So, the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF) was created, including the United States of America, Britain, Norway and Italy.
In 1997, the combination of western pressures and the spectacular sweeping victories of the SPLM/A on the battlefronts forced the NIF to accepting the DoP, as the basis of negotiations. In that offensive, SPLA swept from Kaya to Gogrial in a matter of three to four months, taking garrison after garrison. The NIF government was stunned and shocked. The NIF army was retreating and on a run, without putting up any meaningful fight. Suddenly, the SPLA brought to an end that gallant offensive, without any clear explanation. Those of us, who observed the battlefronts from afar, were mesmerized by the SPLA war machinery decision to bring an end to that successful offensive by all imaginable standards. Juba and Wau were at the stone throw from the SPLA fire.
The NIF Khartoum government thought the hour of reckoning had come, and it was a matter of time for an historic final SPLA victory. Not only things were going bad at the battlefronts, in 1997, it lacked the basic requirements for fighting on for another one month or two. Its army lacked the basic military logistical supplies-fuel, ammunition, clothing, salaries etc. In addition to lack of supplies, the necessary fighting morale of the NIF fighting force plummeted beyond any imagination. As far as the NIF was concerned, the decision of the SPLA to halt its offensive had never come in any better opportune time than the very moment when the SPLA made that decision. Perhaps, SPLA knew better than what we, the observers, knew. The capture of Wau in early 1998 and the attempt to move on Juba in the same year were easily beaten back, because the NIF, between March 1997 and September 1998, had had enough time to replenish its war arsenal and boost the morale of its fighting force.
On the peace front, the NIF had skillfully lured Riak Machar and his SSIM into signing an internal sham peace, in an attempt to isolate SPLM/A. The internal settlement was preceded in 1996, by the signature of the so-called the Sudan Charter, in which self-determination was promised. The April Peace Agreement confirmed the RSD would be exercised after four years. There were no provisions as to the mechanism of carrying out the RSD. The NIF never intended to carry out what it signed but to create from Riak Machar’s militia a force that would fight the war in the South on behalf of the NIF. Therefore, Riak Machar was allowed to create a militia from the renegade forces that were parties to Khartoum Peace Agreement. A coordination council was created by the agreement, based in Juba and Riak was made the figurehead. In fact, that council never set foot in Juba, until Riak fell out of favor in January 2000 and rejoined the SPLM/A. To be fair to the man, Riak was never allowed to fight SPLM/A. The NIF retained its authority over Anyanya II, led by Paulino Matip. Paulino became a headache to Riak, as he was constantly fighting and harassing Riak forces, especially in Western Upper Nile. The area (Western Upper Nile) contains the major oil reserves in the Sudan, and Riak could not be entrusted with such strategic area (we hope recent arrangements under Naivasha have avoided this predicament).
We have seen, SPLM/A mounting several attacks on towns throughout 1998, but all attempts were beaten back by a rejuvenated NIF. During that period Kapoeta was retaken and stayed that way, but the attempt on Raga, Western Bahr-el-Ghazal, though initially successful, did not last for long, and Gogrial was lost to the NIF too. SPLA’s attempt in September 1998 to move on Juba, through Liria, Ngngala and other converging points, were all met with an intensive and superior fire power of the NIF. Indeed, in 1998, the petroleum finds in the South became a reality, and the NIF had used the possibility of oil existence in economic and commercial quantities to rearm itself from China, Russia and Ukraine. Also France and Malaysia had come as financial guarantors of arms deal for the NIF.
SPLM/A had to go back to the drawing board and find out how to counter NIF firepower. However, the intervention of the international community and the call to end the war intensified. Under an intensive IGAD and international community pressure and towards the end of 1998, the SPLM/A and the NIF began to seriously consider the IGAD peace forum, and the parties were required to state their positions on DoP in writing. Although the parties detailed and refined their positions, it was not enough to form a basis for a break through, capable of achieving a comprehensive peace. The NIF was still dithering and asking for a ceasefire, while SPLM/A would not have ceasefire, except as a part of a final and comprehensive peace settlement of the war. However, the outbreak of Eritrean/Ethiopian war in that year slowed down the IGAD initiative. The peace efforts were not restarted until July 2000, but the real negotiations were not undertaken until July 2002.
During this period, the United States, under pressure from the Black Congressional Caucus, the Christian Right, the human rights organizations and liberal America, took a giant step towards engaging in the Sudan. President George Bush appointed former Senator Danforth, as his special envoy to Sudan. This increased interest from the Polar superpower pointed the way for all parties to the conflict in the Sudan that it could not be business as usual. Senator Danforth proposed confidence-building measures, including ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains, tranquility periods for vaccination, a commission to investigate slave taking, and an end to attack on civilian targets. Compliance with these measures was not fully achieved by the warring parties, particularly from the side of the NIF. The NIF continued to target population centers in the South and forced depopulation of Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, Western Upper Nile and Abyei continued also unabated, particularly from the oil rich areas. It was this effort of the US that made the negotiations to take off, and in July 2002, the warring parties signed the Machacos Framework Agreement.
From Machacos to Naivasha, it was a bumpy road; it took another three years to finally dot the “Is” and cross the “Ts”, on January 9, 2005. Since that date, the pre-interim period has passed without any significant achievement in the road to implementation. The parties are still unable to produce the Interim constitution. Moreover, the Arab-Islamic elite has step in with the usual confusion and sabotage of agreements (to be continued by drawing lessons learned in the last fifty years).