26 March 2017

Sudan: Eyes On Khartoum


Little over a week has passed since it was confirmed that Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu, SPLA-N leader has tendered his resignation, but information are scarce and sketchy so far on what is going actually on in the field.

However, from what has been leaked so far it seems there is great possibility that the SPLA-N is moving towards split, if it had not already. Al-Hilu's resignation letter was addressed not to the leadership council that included Malik Agar, the chairman and Yasir Arman, the secretary general, in addition to Al-Hilu himself, nor to the SPLA-N Liberation Council, which is supposed to be the highest authority that includes other members from other regions like the Blue Nile, where the movement is fighting there too.

Rather it was addressed to the Nuba Mountains Liberation Council. Moreover, the resignation letter spoke on the need to call for self-determination for the Nuba Mountains in addition to allowing the SPLA-N to keep its army for a 20-year period to ensure that any agreement reached with the Sudanese government will be honored. In short a replicating of Naivasha Accord that led to the CPA, where the South was given the right of self-determination and was allowed to keep its independent army.

Agar in his statement that confirmed the resignation of Al-Hilu pointed out that they will deal with it within the SPLA-N institutions, which Al-Hilu was not addressing in the first place, but with a very clear emphasis on the ethnicity his resignation was addressed to the Nuba Liberation Council, where Agar has no control. And that raises the strong possibility that the rebel movement has already split or in its way to take that route.

The missing reaction so far is that of Khartoum: how it views what is going on and how it is going to deal with it? After all SPLA-N is the main rebel group that has been fighting the regime for the past six years and whatever the outcome be it split, maintaining unity or call for self-determination will have an impact on the whole Sudanese scene.

However, some history lessons may be of use here. Back in August 1991and under the pressure resulting from the collapse of Mengistu regime in Ethiopia, which has been the main backer of the mother movement, SPLA, some commanders led by Riek Machar and Lam Akol found the chance to challenge the leadership of John Garang and called for focussing the fight of the southerners on getting self-determination and forget about what they saw as an unachievable goal for building a New Sudan.

The government, which saw Garang as the main obstacle before peace thought of extending a helping hand to the new group as a way to undermine Granag. That was a clear strategic miscalculation since advancing self-determination managed to corner Garang, who was forced two weeks later after the Machar/Akol breakaway was announced to adopt self-determination as one of the goals to be pursued by his movement in addition to the original goal of New Sudan.

The rest is history. Self-determination moved up the ladder till the separation of South Sudan became a reality in 2011.

Nuba Mountains is not South Sudan. There is too much ethnic diversity, while Islam is the dominant religion. Moreover, Nubians living in other parts of Sudan probably exceed those living in Nuba Mountains.

However, the biggest question posed is the outcome of the self-determination experienced by South Sudan and whether it worth following.

Yet still the question is whether Khartoum will try to mediate in a way that helps the opponents of Arman, who is being portrayed as the main obstacle to peace, or make use of the previous lessons and make some strategic moves that will add to the stability and sustainability of the political system in the country.

The civil war raging currently in South Sudan has denied the SPLA-N of its rear base and that is became clear with the pressing issue of extending aid to areas under rebel control. This situation is reminiscent of what happened to the mother SPLA movement when Megistu regime collapsed.

A move towards involving Nuba into a more affirmative actions in various areas with their participation will help improve and ease the tension and create a more conducive environment, but more important is to work towards a wider and bigger margin of freedom of association and expression to reduce the need for resorting to arms to be heard.


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