Articles and Analysies
The Polemics of Politics of Transitions in Sudan By John G Nyuot Yoh*
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Jan 4, 2008 - 8:53:55 AM

The Polemics of Politics of Transitions in Sudan By John G Nyuot Yoh*

(January 2008)

The period between October and December 2007, had
witnessed a serious political impasse in the country,
a situation which was brought into relative normality
after fierce diplomatic and hectic negotiations
between the two main partners to Naivasha consensus.
Indeed, as a result of the suspension of the SPLM
participation in the daily activities of the
Government of National Unity (GONU) in October 2007
fundamental national issues were raised, vital issues
which most of the Sudanese intellectuals and
politicians had tried very hard to shy away from since
the CPA was signed in Nairobi in January 2005.

In fact, the SPLM decision was so controversial that
even the traditional assumption that the National
Congress Party (NCP) is the only political party in
Sudan that controls all the aspects of national
politics since it came to power in June 1989, was
proven by the SPLM Interim Political Bureau action
that such an assumption should be re-evaluated.

The country has been hostage for so long under the NCP
manipulative politics that the rest of political
forces in the country were cowed to speak out for too
long let alone opposing openly the NCP on national
issues, except in exceptional occasions.

For about twenty years, the Sudanese were made to
believe that on national issues; only NCP can provide
the solutions. The rest of the political forces'
leaders were forced into exile, silenced, forced into
hiding; jailed or bribed with ministerial and/or
financial incentives.

In fact, some SPLM members and very close friends of
the Movement were almost made to believe that the
SPLM, by suspending its participation in GONU, has
made one of its deadliest political suicides. 

But the decision itself have paved the way for both
political activists and politicians of all shades of
Sudanese politics to begin to think of ways to handle
some important national issues, if Sudan is to be
saved from imminent disintegration due to political
conflicts, immaturity of some leaders, lack of sense
of responsibility towards ordinary people, and narrow
political selfishness of the elites.

Firstly, the decision of suspending the participation
of the SPLM in the GONU was informed by two
confrontations that the SPLM have had with the NCP in
2005 and 2006 consecutively. In 2005, the SPLM was
forced to accept the decision by the NCP to retain the
national Ministries of Energy and Mining, Finance,
Interior, and Defense, a decision which meant that if
the SPLM did not give in, the NCP was ready to wreck
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) head on. The
message from the NCP to the SPLM leadership was that
there were redlines, which the SPLM must not cross,
otherwise the CPA will be the first victim.

The second show down, was in 2006, when the SPLM
Chairperson, Salva Kiir Mayardit, having reached
deadlock within the Presidency, he convened a press
conference where he informed the Sudanese public and
the international community that the NCP has not been
transparent in the management of oil revenues, by
withholding vital information regarding the exact
amount of funds allocated to the Government of
Southern Sudan (GOSS), as agreed in CPA.

The reaction of the NCP was a total reign of
disinformation, by informing the Sudanese and the
world that the GOSS has been receiving its full fifty
per cent share of the oil revenue regularly. The
reality of course was that the funds in question were
only transferred to GOSS account three days after
Kiir's press conference, in three instalments.

The SPLM have learned from these two stand offs that
the NCP does not like open confrontation on national
issues; rather it prefers playing games behind the
scene.. talk, talk, talk and do nothing! In a common
man/woman language the NCP was saying to the Sudanese
and the international community: the NCP and SPLM must
keep on talking and buy time, soon new priorities will
surface and SPLM will just come back to the

Secondly, the suspension of the SPLM participation in
GONU brought into fore the issue of sustaining and
managing the grassroots support and their expectations
to and from the SPLM as the vanguard of revolution in

The population of the New Sudan came out in their
thousands to send a message to SPLM, NCP and Sudanese
political parties leaderships that the war which was
waged by the Sudanese for over two decades was about
transformation of politics of dominance by the centre
and democratisation of Sudan, and not about who should
rule the country as the NCP was trying to make
everybody believe.

The messages was that although the SPLM government has
not yet deliver sufficient services in the counties
and rural areas as it should, the New Sudanese of all
walks of life will continue to support SPLM, as long
as the CPA, the only guarantor for the transformation
of Sudan, is intact.

The other message which the SPLM leadership must have
learned was that although the Movement contacts with
the rural areas was not at the levels it should have
been, the Sudanese at the grassroots, are aware of
what was happening in Khartoum and Juba and that the
SPLM must start to do something tangible in its power
bases, if it has to continue to enjoy the mass support
it is currently enjoying throughout the country.

The message that the NCP and other Northern political
parties were made to understand by the Sudanese masses
was that the SPLM is the leading force in the
transformation of the country, and should be supported
by every Sudanese organization that espouses the
transformation agenda in the country.

Thirdly, the SPLM leadership decision has also raised
questions relating to the responsibility of national
political organizations in seeing to it that proper
institutional frameworks are put in place for
conduction of just, proper and transparent census,
general elections and referendum for the people of
Southern Sudan. It seems that prior to the decision of
the SPLM Interim Political Bureau that NCP and other
political parties were not necessarily bothered by the
delays that being encouraged by the NCP in carrying
out the census, elections and the establishment of
national awareness and institutional framework for the
impending referendum. Now it seems that all the
political parties in the country have come to realize
that the CPA indeed has aspects that are national in
character, which every political minded individual
should take keen interest in advancing and talking

Fourthly, relating to the above issue is the decision
by the SPLM-NCP Six-man committee to raise the
question of national reconciliation and the desire to
prepare the ground for a national conference to
discuss national issues that the CPA has highlighted,
but were not necessarily regarded by the NCP as
priorities during the interim period.

This aspect is very important, because it forces the
NCP and Northern political parties, to go beyond their
preoccupation with pending elections, which they hope
to win, and begin to ask themselves, what indeed, if
elections do take place, and the SPLM win elections or
the opposition parties got the majority votes, what
will become of the CPA and what will be the future of
the country? Are elections guarantor for the unity of
the country or there are other political steps that
needed to be taken into consideration? Who in reality
wheel the power to make drastic changes in the country
today? Does the fact that the NCP retains 80 per cent
of the oil revenues in the country make it the
candidate to win the next elections? Will elections
take place in Darfur and Eastern Sudan and who is
mostly likely to win there? These questions can only
be answered through a sustainable dialogue among
Sudanese political parties and not through selective
and ad hoc bilateral meetings between the NCP and
individual political parties as seems to be the trend
these days.

Fifthly, the decision of the SPLM has brought to fore
questions relating to dynamics of nation building in
every aspect as stipulated in the CPA. The leadership
of Sudan has always been regarded as a prerogative of
the "national political parties", meaning the Umma
National Party, Democratic Unionist Party, National
Islamic Front (with its two wings of El-Beshir and
Al-Turabi) and the Sudan Communist Party.

It is natural to see the four leaders of these parties
paraded on national TV, either meeting with each other
to reconcile or giving their perspectives of what
ought to be done in the country. Whatever they say,
irrespective whether it is meaningful or not, it is
considered and carried on by all public and private
media as a matter of national concern and importance.

Although the decision by the SPLM to suspend its
participation in the GONU was praised and condemned by
some "national leaders"; in fact  it was regarded by
some as out of ordinary move for a Southern based
political organisation to question legitimacy of a
central government in Khartoum, which included in its
cabinet and assembly some 'national' political
parties. To put it differently, a sizeable number of
Sudanese were surprised by the action of the SPLM
which challenged the behaviour of the NCP.

What those who were surprised by what they regarded as
'unorthodox' decision of the SPLM Political Bureau did
not seem to understand, was that the SPLM knew very
well that the GONU was product of the CPA. General
El-Bashir, Vice President Taha and First Vice
Presidents Garang and Mayardit were sworn into power
as a result of the "new National Interim Constitution"
which replaced the NCP's 1998 Islamic constitution.
All the new institutions that are currently operating
in Sudan, including the states constitutional
frameworks came into being because of the CPA.

In fact, during the first two weeks after the decision
of the SPLM leadership, those who watched Sudan
satellite TV might have noticed that President
El-Beshir seemed to be convinced that the Government
of National Unity (GONU) was still in tact and that it
was not affected by the suspension of the
participation of the SPLM's 18 ministers and 2
advisors from its daily activities.

Next to him was seated Vice President Ali Osman Taha,
and around the table were NCP state and cabinet
ministers, their Northern allies, plus the four
Southern Sudanese Ministers, General Allison Manaya
Magaya (NCP), Uncle Joseph Ukel (USAP), Eng. Joseph
Malual (UDSF), and Brig. Galuak Deng (NCP). What was
repeatedly shown on the national TV as a regular
meeting of GONU cabinet was in fact a gross violation
of the Sudan National Interim Constitution, which
brought into being the Government of National Unity.

The fact that the Presidency
(El-Beshir-Garang-Kiir-Taha) and the cabinet were
created by the Interim National Constitution on 9 July
2005, the logic would have it that should any of the
partners abstain from attending the cabinet meetings
for indefinite period, the Constitutional Review
Committee and the National Constitutional Court which
are the guardians of the Constitution in the country
should have considered the move as a constitutional
crisis, and would have immediately summoned El-Bashir
and Kiir to ask them about the state of partnership in
GONU since the two parties were the main signatories
to the CPA which gave birth to the National Interim

Needless to mention that the other political parties
that joined the Government of National Unity, did so
upon the invitation of the two main partners, and
indeed they joined the government on the understanding
that as long as the two parties were still committed
to the agreement until 2009, when the general
elections are held, their participation will be
conditional to that commitment.

In fact, the other political parties, such as Umma
National Party, Sudan Communist Party, and Democratic
Unionist Party, which were not comfortable with some
aspects of the CPA did not join the Government of
National Unity, hence were not affected by the
decision of the SPLM to suspend its participation in
the meetings of Council of Ministers, although some of
them indeed raised the un-constitutionality of NCP
continuing to behave as if the GONU was intact after
the SPLM had recalled its 20 Ministers and advisors.

The crisis that resulted from the SPLM decision must
therefore be seen as an outcome of continued
misreading of the challenges and dangers facing the
future of the country by the NCP, which crowned itself
since June 1989 as the guardian of Northern Sudan
political establishment responsible for bringing an
end to the problems of the country.

Sixthly, another lesson that the SPLM decision brought
about was the question of cohesion of leadership and
clear vision within the organisation's ranks. The NCP
has been for over two years spreading the news that
the SPLM is about to split and that it is a matter of
time before its leadership break apart. Some of the
indicators the NCP has published include domination of
GOSS ranks by big nationalities, serious ethnic
tensions, corruption; lack of access to resources by
ordinary citizens of the South and lack of development
in basic infrastructures.

While some of these challenges are prevalence in the
South, what the NCP should have learned so far is that
the SPLM is a mass movement; it is not a political
party by its nature. As history has taught us, it
takes time for a liberation movement to transform into
a political party.

In fact, it took the Umma National party over four
decades to transform itself from mass religious
liberation movement into a political party. In the
process of transforming itself, the Umma Party had to
split into more than one faction, as a result of the
debates within the movement took ideological roots as
is often the case in such situations.

Yes, a time will come in the future when the SPLM will
transform into a political party, which like any other
political party, will face issues of change of guards,
policy differences, and resources allocations etc. The
SPLM will have to learn from other countries that were
involved in liberation history such as Mozambique,
Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Angola, Namibia to
mention but a few.

In these countries, with time and because of power
comfort comrades became bitter enemies, friends in
arms were transformed into opponents, and few comrades
chose to concentrate power into their hands, leaving
the rest of the countries rotting in a sea of poverty.

Therefore, the NCP should understand that the unity
that the SPLM have shown, first in New Site in August
2005, when its leadership unanimously elected Kiir to
replace late Dr Garang and their decision in Juba, in
October 2007, to suspend the participation of the
organisation in GONU, are two important indicators
that despite the challenges facing the organisation,
there is a political will to act correctly when it is
deemed necessary to do so.

Seventhly, I was impressed by the manner which the
six-man committee points of agreement were
comprehensive in dealing with more than the twenty
seven items of the SPLM concern over the
implementation of the CPA. The decision by the two
parties to pay special attention to the future
relations between the nationalities residing in the
border areas between the north and south, was an
indication that the two parties, and by extension the
other southern and northern political parties should
start to seriously discuss issues relating to the
dynamics and possible scenarios of the referendum

Moreover, there is a need to speculate on the future
alliances during the elections, the ongoing conflicts
in Darfur and Kordufan, the current tensions around
and near oil areas, and the impact that the state of
possible insecurity in borders areas as the country
prepares itself to conduct general elections are
important issues that deserve special attention from
all political leaders in the country. Issues of
leadership in various political parties in the country
require some attention: who are the candidates that
will contest presidential elections on behalf of the
SPLM, Umma, DUP, Eastern Front, SLM, JEM and Communist
Party? The NCP has convened its Second Congress in
November 2007 and has nominated General El-Bashir to
become its presidential candidate in 2009 elections.

The SPLM, the Umma Party, the DUP, and other Southern
and northern political parties are yet to convene
their congresses/conferences/conventions to choose
their leadership.

The country has to start debating some issues on
national agenda, such as what will happen to the rest
of the country should the South opt to vote for
secession; who should be responsible for the payment
of national debts in post 2011 Sudan? Will the current
wealth sharing arrangements between the north and
south remain the same, or new arrangements will worked
out? What will become of the oil contracts
that were signed by the NCP with the Chinese,
Malaysians, Indians and other countries, should south
opt out of the union?  Are the current economic
policies viable and just; what about the state of
current federal arrangements between the centre and
the states (regions), does it requires readjustment.

Eighthly, watching the Sudan satellite  TV on 31
December 2007 had reminded me of the Sudan TV military
shows of the 1990s, especially the Popular Defense
Force's (PDF) famous TV show, "fi sahat el-fida-in the
martyrs fields", a reference to activities of the  PDF
warriors during 'the holy war' that the NCP was waging
in Southern Sudan.

The show of power that the NCP broadcasted on that
day, where it showed off its military and air power on
a national TV, during celebrations of what was
supposed to be a national day, coming barely a week
after the SPLM cabinet ministers returned to the GONU,
seemed to suggest that some policy makers in Khartoum
are not sensitive of the critical challenges that the
Sudanese nation are going through.

The military show on that day paraded in presence of
leading figures in SPLM such as Pa'gan Amum and Deng
Alor, Umma party (Sadig al-Mahdi), and other political
leaders in the country. The speech of President
El-Bashir, which was by all standards reconciliatory
in tone, was contradicted by the military show, which
paraded tanks, rockets, missiles, and military jets,
practically turning the Sudanese capital into a mobile
military garrison.

It leaves one to wonder as to whom was the NCP sending
messages (warnings): to the Darfurian liberation
movements, the UN troops in the South and Darfur, the
Eastern Sudan Front or the SPLA.

Added to the December 31 military show case of the NCP
weaponry, was the insecurity mood which was created by
the NCP leadership mobilization rhetoric in late
October 2007 in Wad Madani, a situation which brought
into fore the issue of what would have happened if
indeed war broke again between the north and the
south. The impression which was preached by President
El-Bashir and his Defense Minister, in both occasions
was that the NCP Mujahideen will swiftly mobilize and
move to the South; reinvade it and re-establish the
central government control.

While this might not reflect the general view within
NCP ranks and file and in the north for that matter,
the reality seems to suggest that a war between north
and south, should it start again, will not be fought
in Kurmuk, Jekow, Kauda, Akobo, Yambio, Raja, Malakal,
Juba, Wau,  Kaya, Yerol, Torit nor in the rural South
as was the case during the period between 1983 and
2005. Rather, all the military analysts in the world
seem to believe that such a war will be fought across
the borders and in the main urban centres. Of course
this is a worrying scenario, because it suggests that
it might turn out to be an ugly war.

Ninthly, the decision of the SPLM also has revealed
that the leadership of the movement was disturbed by
the NCP operatives' practice of undermining the status
of the First Vice President and the SPLM ministers in
the GONU. The NCP senior officials have since the
formation of the GONU adopted a policy of undermining
SPLM ministers in the government of National Unity. In
fact, most of the ministerial portfolios that are
occupied by the SPLM members are staffed by either
senior NCP operatives, most of whom act as state
ministers, under secretaries, director generals or
senior security operatives.

The best examples of undermining the SPLM cadres
activities by the NCP operatives include: the refusal
of President El-Bashir to issue a presidential decree
reshuffling the SPLM members from the cabinet, as
requested by the First Vice President and Chairperson
of the SPLM Salva Kiir Mayardit. The fact that
President El-Bashir objected the removal/appointment
of four of the SPLM ministers/advisors from/in the
cabinet as requested by Kiir, meant that President
El-Bashir was openly, not only undermining, but also
violating First Vice President Kiir's constitutional
rights to remove/reshuffle the SPLM members of the

The second case in point is the role of Presidential
Advisor, Dr Mustafa Ismail, who is unofficially
assigned by President El-Bashir as the de facto
Foreign Minister of Sudan operating from the Palace.
Dr Mustafa, a former Foreign Minister, has been
continuously sent outside the country to conduct
diplomatic activities, leaving the Foreign Minister of
Sudan, who is from the SPLM almost redundant, given
that the other two state ministers for Foreign Affairs
and the Under Secretary of the Ministry, are running
the Ministry and issuing directives to Sudan Missions
abroad, without the knowledge, let alone the
permission from the Minister.

The situation is even worse in the Ministries of
Energy and Mining and Finance and Economic Planning,
where the SPLM state ministers in these two important
ministries are either sidelined, frustrated, and are
often left out of major decisions concerning the
activities of the two Ministries.

It is our hope that the NCP operatives will cease to
pursue this policy of undermining the SPLM ministers'
activities. We also expect the SPLM ministers to stand
firm in resisting this unwarranted behaviour within
the bound of their constitutional rights. What is at
stake after the reconciliation between the two
partners is confidence building, and such confidence
can only be achieved through mutual respect and
commitment to the provisions of the CPA and the
National Interim Constitution.

Finally, the decision of the SPLM Political Bureau has
also brought a new challenge to the SPLM leadership:
the questions of loyalty and accountability. There is
no doubt that the leadership of the movement is aware
that there is a link between the loyalty of the SPLM
cadres to the leadership and the loyalty of the
leadership to the principles and objectives of the
movement. There is also the link between the loyalty
of the leadership of the movement to the masses that
put them in the leadership and of course the loyalty
and the support of the masses to the leadership they
have put into power.

Link to the correlation between loyalty across the
ranks and file of the movement is the sense of
accountability between the masses and the leadership
of the movement. The socio-political contract that the
SPLM had agreed with the New Sudan masses in July 1983
was embodied in mutual loyalty and accountability: the
masses will support the movement until victory, and
the movement leadership would do everything it could
to compensate the masses of their material and human
losses, once the victory is achieved.

The decision of the SPLM to suspend its participation
in the GONU, though regarded by some analysts as risky
political move, was strengthened indeed by the support
the leadership has received from its masses. The SPLM
was assured that even if the NCP
would push the SPLM to war, the masses will standby
its side.

In other words, the SPLM was reminded that the
delivery of services (roads, clinics, schools, clean
water and security) are symbols of the socio-political
contract, loyalty and accountability that the SPLM
leadership has forged with its masses. It is as if the
masses were saying that the news they were receiving
from Juba about roads not being paved; individuals
receiving salaries twice, and infrastructure is
stagnant, should not continue to derail the SPLM
developmental agenda of moving the towns to the
villages, because this is where the revolutionary
masses are located. The masses were telling the SPLM
leadership that they were in their villages waiting
for them to take the towns to villages and that the
New Sudan masses will continue to support their
Movement.  These were key messages that must not be

*John Yoh is a lecturer at Department of Political
Science, University of South Africa in Pretoria.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Galileo Galilei

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