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Sudan's SPLM prepares for independence
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Jan 15, 2010 - 7:34:55 AM

By Mohamed Vall in on January 15th, 2010
AFP photo

Muslim members expected to fend for themselves as the party of former southern rebels gravitates towards secession in next year's crucial referendum.

It is now official: Salva Kiir, Sudan's first vice-president, will run for president of south Sudan in April's elections, leaving the post of national presidency to be contested by Yassir Arman, a lower-ranking northern member of his party.

The decision means the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is both adamant about and sure of secession to result from next year's referendum on the future of Southern Sudan.

So the southern leaders don't want to remain entanged with the North one second after the referendum results are out. They will retreat to their new capital Juba in the south, create their state and leave their northern comrades (including Arman) to rule the north where he belongs.

This also means they will try to keep the north under their wing if their candidate wins the race! But he won't!

He is popular neither in the south nor in the north!

The SPLM leaders are stupid or maybe they just know they won't win and this nomination is just for the political game to continue until they can break away smoothly.

Unresolved issue

The SPLM has had a big but understated issue: what to do with its northern Muslim members like Arman and Mansour Khaled.

They fought in the SPLM's ranks during the civil war and they continued to dedicate themselves to the southern cause. But that was at a time when the late SPLM leader John Garang was promoting a unionist agenda.

He professed to fight for the rights of all marginalised Sudanese and to be working for one free and united Sudan. Thus he drew many non-southerners, including Arab Muslims, to his ranks.

But when Garang died, those who followed had neither his charisma nor his political skills.

They couldn't hide their separatist inclinations or continue to win Arab and Muslim Sudanese to their side.

Widening rift

The rift between the so-called Garang boys - those who believe in one united Sudan - and the SPLM hawks - those who insist on secession as the only way ahead - has started to widen.

The northern members of SPLM, especially the senior ones like Arman and Khaled, began to feel out of sync with the new SPLM leadership and thus out of any future place in the south.

They have been increasingly sidelined and alienated from the inner circles of the SPLM.

So the nomination of Arman, to my understanding, is a political deal with them, basically a nice way of saying "Thank you, and good bye! Take power in the North if you can, that's your share and that's where you belong. But forget about the South!"

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