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SUDAN: Political developments raise concern, analysts say

11/15/2005 6:57pm

© Derk Segaar/IRIN

Celebrating the inaugration of the southern parliament in Juba, September 2005

NAIROBI, 15 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - The creation of a government of national unity was meant to unite war-torn Sudan following the January signing of the southern peace agreement, but analysts have cautioned that recent political developments could jeopardise national unity.

Among other challenges, these events show that Sudan's ruling elite still seem reluctant to share power with the former southern rebels as stipulated under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), one analyst said.

On 9 January, the northern National Congress Party (NCP) and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed a peace deal in Nairobi, Kenya, which ended a 21-year civil war that claimed two million lives.

The accord provided for a six-year period of interim rule headed by a government of national unity (GNU). After this interim period, the south would hold a referendum to decide whether to remain part of a united Sudan or to break away.

On 22 September, the GNU was established in Khartoum. It will remain in place until elections are organised in three to four years.

"The SPLM is a junior partner in this government, but according to the CPA, they were supposed to share power and resources in a more equitable manner," said Alfred Taban, editor of the Khartoum Monitor, an independent newspaper.

"In terms of political power and the economic sector, the NCP kept full control over the key ministries, and this is creating a credibility problem," he added. "The SPLM and many southerners were very disappointed and lost faith in the intensions of the NCP."

Distribution of power

Salva Kiir Mayardit at a news conference in Khartoum on 22 September 2005.

In the new government, the NCP retained the key ministries of energy and mining, defence, interior, finance and justice. The SPLM took the foreign affairs ministry, under senior SPLM official Lam Akol, as well as the foreign trade, education and scientific-research, and health ministries.

"The dispute on the ministry of energy and mining really tested the relationship between the NCP and the SPLM and showed how delicate this relation is," said Hafiz Mohamed, Sudan programme director for the London-based advocacy group Justice Africa.

Other observers claim that the lack of SPLM/A senior officials, who are considered to be unionist, in the national unity government reflects a lack of trust between both parties of the peace agreement.

Nhial Deng Nhial, who headed the SPLM team in talks over the sharing of national ministries, reportedly took the loss of the ministry of energy and mining as a personal defeat but accepted a position in the southern government, one observer noted. Pagan Amum, another senior SPLM official who helped negotiating the CPA, refused to be considered for any post in the north, he added.

A senior political analyst who declined to be named said he had not met "anybody who knows the NCP well who thinks they are serious about implementing the CPA".

Another observer in the region said the NCP was still firmly in charge. Besides retaining the key ministries, the party dominated the presidency and its advisory council. The NCP was also able to exert a degree of control over ministries they had handed over to the SPLM through so-called "shadow bureaucracies". In some cases, newly appointed SPLM ministers saw their authority undermined.

"The responsibility for civil aviation was recently taken away from the SPLM minister of transport [Kuol Manyang Ajok] by presidential decree," he noted.

Potential flash points

The issues of money, military instability and political diversity are also potential flash points within the implementation of the CPA.

According to the political analyst, reports indicated that the southern government has received only US $60 million in advance oil revenues, which represented about one-tenth of what was commonly expected.

The NCP’s continued control over both the ministry of finance as well as the ministry of energy and mining had resulted in a lack of external oversight or verification of oil revenues. "The south will receive only what the north is willing to share," the analyst observed.

"The south will be given its share, but as there is no official auditing of the oil revenues, the exact amount will be kept very secret. The challenge is to try and expose these issues in order to force the system to open up and become more transparent," Mohamed noted.

On the military front, the analyst added, continued rumours about northern support for the Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army and other militias in southern Sudan and the lack of progress in formally agreed troop withdrawals from the southern capital of Juba were other reasons for concern.

Mohamed pointed out that the composition of the GNU did not reflect the important groups in the political spectrum, such as the Ummah Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Popular National Congress.

"The main parties of the GNU are the NCP and the SPLM [which together hold 80 percent of the seats]. The rest are fringe parties, split factions of existing parties or even just individuals," he noted.

"The challenge facing the GNU is to deliver real changes, to transform Sudanese policies towards democracy and human rights and to address poverty and marginalisation," Mohamed maintained. "But nothing has really changed. The status quo is still there. People haven't seen tangible changes in their lives. The main media - radio and television - are still controlled by the same people."

In the end, Mohamed observed, it was not about the ministry of energy or the individuals involved, but about opening up the whole political system itself.

"The NCP is not going to compromise on its 52 percent share in the GNU because they are afraid to lose the majority. Genuinely free and fair elections are crucial. In an open election they will loose their grip on power and the ideological direction and the system of government will change," he said.

The political analyst observed that the NCP had done little to make the idea of unity attractive to the southern groups. "It is clearer than ever that the south will go for independence," he said. "But the north will not allow that to happen, so there is a deadlock."

The new southern gov't

Several observers, however, agree that the establishment of the first autonomous southern cabinet - announced by Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of the new government of southern Sudan, on 23 October - is a milestone in the implementation of the CPA.

According to the agreement, 70 percent of the seats in the government of southern Sudan (GoSS) were to be allocated to members of the SPLM, 15 percent to president Umar al-Bashir’s NCP and 15 percent to other southern political parties.

The new cabinet includes many SPLM officials, such as the GoSS vice-president Riek Machar as minister of housing and lands, Nhial Deng Nhial as minister of regional cooperation and Daniel Awet Akol as the head of the interior ministry.

Rebecca de Mabior, the widow of John Garang - the SPLM chairman and former first vice-president of Sudan who died in a helicopter crash on 30 July - was named minister of roads and transportation. Pagan Amum was appointed diplomatic adviser to the president of the southern government.

"When the government of southern Sudan was announced, it made most southerners very unhappy," Taban said.

"The SPLM promised 25 percent of the seats to women, but only two ministers out of 20 were female. And there is not a single Muslim in the cabinet," he added.

The new cabinet consists of 20 ministers and seven advisers, while another two portfolios - army affairs and rural cooperation and development - still have to be filled pending further consultations.

"Also, although the CPA reserves 15 percent of the posts for other southern political parties, only one of the six southern parties - the South Sudan Democratic Front - was awarded a ministry [Martin Elia Lomuro became the minister of agriculture and forestry]," Taban noted.

"All six southern parties were represented in the government of national unity and in the parliaments in Khartoum and Juba,” he said, "but apart from this one minister, they are not represented in the southern government."

Adding that the GoSS was not properly balanced, he said members of the Dinka community, which accounts for no more than 25 percent of the southern population, took almost 45 percent of the seats.

"This is going to haunt the southern government for a long time. In the south, people look to their ethnic group for political support," Taban explained. "Apart from the Dinka and the Zande [an ethnic group from Equatoria], all the tribes are complaining."

The SPLM Nuer caucus in the southern Sudan legislative assembly recently sent an open letter to southern president Kiir, complaining about the "ongoing marginalisation" of the Nuer community, which is the second largest ethic group in the south.

The caucus noted that there was only one Nuer in the GNU among SPLM ministers: Timothy Tot Chol as state minister of industry. In the GoSS there were two Nuer ministers: vice-president Riek Machar and John Luk Jok, who was appointed minister of culture, youth and sports.

The Nuer MPs said the distribution of power did not relate to the SPLM's vision and goals, which advocated for justice and equal representation for all ethnic groups.

Taban added that many important positions had gone to people close to Kiir at the expense of former allies of Garang.

Chrino Hitan, Garang's chief of staff; Stephan Wondu, former SPLM representative in Washington; and David Mayo, who used to be in charge of civil services, had been bypassed for jobs in the GoSS, he noted.

Amum and Deng Nhial, who helped negotiate the CPA, were appointed adviser for diplomatic affairs and minister of regional cooperation, respectively. According to Taban, however, these were "redundant positions", as the key responsibility lay with the ministry of foreign affairs in Khartoum.

"All tribes should be part of the southern government. If the current government does not implement inclusiveness, the government will alienate a lot of people in the south," he warned.

Hafiz Mohamed of Justice Africa, however, did not expect that the complaints about the lack of representation would seriously affect the southern government.

"The real test for the [southern] government is whether they will deliver on their promises: to repatriate the millions of IDPs that are returning to the south, share the resources that soon will be released [50 percent of the southern oil revenues] and rebuild the south in terms of infrastructure and institutions," he said.

A senior analyst who declined to be named said the new southern government was "not wildly biased" towards one political group.

"The group is technically sound and politically expeditious. It is a difficult balancing act, trying to reconcile ethnic groups, gender and old guard-new guard considerations," he noted. "People are still relatively united and the challenge is to contain the level of discontentment."

Mohammed, however, said that following Garang’s death the SPLM had been relatively passive.

"The problem is that the SPLM has not really formulated their strategy for the post-Garang era. Many people close to Garang don't play an important role in Sudanese politics now - they have been sidelined - and most people in the current SPLM leadership favour secession," he observed.

The SPLM was still recovering from the shock of Garang's death, and the movement needed time to overcome this tragedy, Mohamed added.

"Garang had a very autocratic leadership style, he often didn't even consult his deputy, which got him in trouble with Salva Kiir in the past," he continued.

"The other factor is that Kiir has not really taken part in the details of negotiating the CPA," Mohamed noted. "He should have kept the senior leadership around Garang intact to guarantee political continuation. In their absence, the SPLM political direction has become more vague."


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