Many Committees, No Commitments.
By: Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.
There we go again, a Presidential order and a new committee. It has long been said that in the Sudan, when the government wants to bury an idea or even projects which are considered of national importance, the sure way is to form a committee for it. This is what the Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir did when he announced the formation of the so-called higher committee for the support of unity and referendum to headed and latter beheaded by him.
What does the timing of this committee supposed to tell us when it is barely two months before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] that forms the back bone of the current political set up in the Sudan comes to an end? For God’s sake would it not have made more sense if such a committee was formed before three years from now and that it could have seen a timelier implementation of the CPA? At least it could have helped prevent the unnecessary delays that happened to the formulation of the referenda laws, and the commissions [with Abyei still having none]. These are but a few of the questions to be asked if at all this committee is in any way a fruit of good intensions.
To a keen eye the top members in al Bashir’s new committee not only reflects the long known truth that the regime has run out of ideas, but it also confirms the widely held believe that the NIF/NCP – Ingaz revolution’s desperation in trying to distribute the responsibility of the unavoidable split of the country into South and North. To pull everybody along with him, al Bashir made sure that he named both his First Vice President Salva Kiir and Second Vice President Ali Osman Taha as his deputies on this good for nothing committee.
It was also natural to see the presidential adviser Bona Malwal; a south Sudanese veteran politician whose positions lately show how determined he is to stick by President al Bashir until maybe God parts them. Whatever that means, he seems determined to put his life on the line in defence of this fugitive. Equally expected were the memberships of the first line Islamists like former president Abdul-Rahman Siwar Al-Dahab, former minister Mohamed Yousif Abdullah and Ibrahim Ghandour from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
But the name of the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Mohamed Osman Al-Mirghani did come as a complete surprise to many people given the fact that he had on numerous occasions made his opposition to the CPA for including the Right of South Sudan to Self Determination abundantly clear. If a spade is to be called a spade, this Khatmiya chief cleric is obviously against the holding of the referendum which he would better see it abrogated even if that means going back to war, than to allow it since it is already known that the outcome would definitely favour the independence of the South.
This latest move by President al Bashir is a clear mockery of the CPA which established a central government in Khartoum, otherwise known as the Government of National Unity [GoNU]. Presumably the GoNU is formed by representatives from all Sudan’s political parties, more so before the controversial April 2010 general election, and then to certain extend thereafter. It is this government of national unity that has the constitutional powers to safeguard the so-called unity of the country should any ever exit. However so far over five years have passed and the GoNU was good at everything except the maintenance of Unity and national consensus.
In the London based Arabic daily the Sharq al Awsat ( Issue number 11661, Monday 1/11/10] as reported by Susan Abu Hussein and Salah Goma from Cairo, that the Egyptian FM Abu Gheit met with Mohammed Osman al Mirghani , the leader of the DUP in Cairo on 31/10/10. The two men discussed the latest development in the Sudanese affairs and the DUP vision on how the Sudan can possibly come out of its current crisis in as far as the North – South relationship is concerned.
It was later confirmed by the Official spokesman for the Egyptian FM, Hussam Zeki that the meeting between Abu Gheit and Mirghani comes in the context of Egypt’s continuous concern in maintaining dialogue with the various Sudanese political parties and forces with the sole aim of enabling the Sudanese to arrive at internal consensus at this particularly sensitive period in its history.
In the Cairo meeting, Al Mirghani expressed his total disagreement with the idea of secession of the South. He reiterated that his party, the DUP maintains a clear opposition to the referendum for the Self Determination in the South since 1995. And he went on to explain that the DUP stands the “Mirghani- Garang agreement” that he signed with late Dr. Garang in 1988 – which stresses the unity of the Sudanese soil and people, clarifying further that when the idea of the Self Determination was first tabled in the NDA, his DUP refused to sign the document- this to him was to confirm the unity of the Sudan now, and in the future. However he was reported later to have concluded that he hopes the polls or the referenda are conducted in a free and fair manner, away from any manipulations.
Some readers may wonder why this story from the “Al Sharq Al Awsat” is given this much importance here? The answer is simple – it explains why and how the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Abu Gheit came out to campaign for the indefinite postponement of the referendum. Mohammed Osman al Mirghani’s finger prints can be seen all over the Egyptian proposal.
As for the President of the government of south Sudan [GoSS], Salva Kiir Mayardit, his appointment to such a committee is only meant to test his integrity and yet make a laughing stock him after he has come out openly in his support for the independence of South Sudan. There is no way that he can sit on such a committee without inviting the curse of the people upon himself. And although the magnitudes of the temptations are increasing by the day, the distance we have so far come, leaves no any room for second thoughts.
Today South Sudan stands in a better position than it was in 1983 when the Late ex-President Gaafar Numeiri abrogated the Addis Ababa Agreement. There is no way that Southern Sudan could surrender its current semi – autonomous status to the central government in Khartoum. Any changes to the status quo can only follow the logical sequence of events as stipulated in the 2005 Peace Deal which gives the south the right to decide its future status – obviously for more autonomy through the coming referendum or any other means that it can afford and sky is the limit.
This belated pro-unity propaganda if at all it takes off from the ground will never be any different from the al Bashir’s presidential campaigns in April 2010. In the south, they are more likely to target the school competitions scheduled to take place in Wau town the capital city of Western Bahar Ghazal State and it is there that the north hopes to make its final move. However those promises that al Bashir made towards the referendum in the run off for the elections and then instantly backed from as soon as he put his head back in the Republican Palace will always remain a scar to his credibility which anyway wasn’t even that much to start with.
Maybe somebody can help us with this - if the current cabinet that represents the GoNU was formed and sworn in by none but Omer al Bashir himself and yet it has failed the test of time, how on earth does he expect to come up with some kind of a last minute committee that would possibly offer the magical solutions for fore gone issues like the maintenance of Unity of the Sudan? Anyway let us give it the benefit of the doubt, maybe this ‘last minute’ committee – thank God it has not been named the Ingaz [Redemption – or Salvation} Committee for Unity & Referendum in keeping with the NIF/NCP traditions for the fact that the term has suffered over-use. Could it still mean a sincere adherence to the timely conduct of the South Sudan and Abyei referenda? Let’s hope it happens in the coming days!
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. He can be reached at either [email protected] or [email protected]