Analysis - Last shot in the dark- the aftermath of the Sudanese elections: How would the two elected presidents deliver to their citizens?

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Published on Tuesday, 18 May 2010 18:47
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Dr. Wathig Kameir
The Interim Period: A Crisis on the Heels of a Crisis 

  1. Successive political crises have remained the hallmark of the interim period since its inception in July 2005, following the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Sudan Government, represented by the National Congress Party (NCP), and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in January 2005. Thus, it seems as if we are moving from one crisis to another, rather than shifting from one-party rule into the folds of democracy and political pluralism! The CPA has been severely criticized since its conclusion, even since the signing of the Machakos Protocol in 2002, as being a bilateral Agreement that excluded the rest of the Sudanese political forces. The bilateral nature of the deal, however, has failed from day one to reign in emerging differences between the two partners, or ease the mutual accusations and continuous tensions between them. Besides that, the political scene has been riddled by noticeable hostility in the relationship between the ruling partners and the disgruntled opposition political forces (of course except the “succession” small parties in alliance with the NCP, which stand with a single heart and mind behind their benefactor), on the one hand, and between them and each partner separately, on the other. These multi-faceted push and pull and accompanying frictions resulted in the creation of a strained political situation that escalated further, especially in the wake of the announcement of the electoral timetable.

The Electoral Scene: Aggravation of Political Polarization  

    1. The dispute over the census outcome contributed to the exacerbation of the already tense political situation following the SPLM refusal to recognize the declared results, together with the majority of the other political forces, because the population census is closely linked to the distribution of the geographical constituencies and its impact on the south's share of power and wealth. Perhaps (the straw that broke the camel's back) was the meeting of the "coalition” of the opposition political parties, which called for the formation of a “national” transitional government to oversee the upcoming elections, on the assumption that the current Government of National Unity (GONU) will lose its legitimacy in July 2009 by virtue of the CPA that determined this date for holding general elections. These forces, therefore, demanded the abolition of all laws restricting freedom in order to ensure free and fair competition, otherwise they might choose to boycott these elections. Perhaps what led to a worsening of the situation was the participation of the SPLM, as partner in power, in the meeting of the opposition, coupled with its call for an expanded conference in Juba (to which the NCP itself was invited) to discuss all national issues facing the country. This development was vehemently attacked by a number of the NCP leading figures, who branded the endeavor (especially the call to form a national government ) as a plot intended to topple the regime before the elections, and the implementation of a scenario drawn by European countries to postpone these elections, while describing the skeptics of the census outcome as "not knowing what they are talking about” and that such talk is evidence of the unwillingness of the opposition forces to participate in the electoral competition, considering the participation of the SPLM in a meeting of the opposition as contrary to the spirit of partnership in the implementation of the CPA.

    1. The meeting was followed by a series of dramatic events that intensified tension and political polarization, to the extent of conflict and violent confrontation between supporters of the "Juba forces of national consensus”, and the police and security forces (Monday, 7, December 14, 2009). However, these forces themselves were not immune from internal disputes, triggered by a mutual understanding reached between the two ruling partners through a final agreement on Draft Laws for the Southern Sudan and Abyei referendum, the law of Popular Consultation for the two transitional areas of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, which were eventually tabled at the National Assembly (NA) and were passed unanimously. This arrangement was considered by the opposition forces as a deal struck at night between the two partners in exchange for passing the National Security Act and the Trade Unions Act, reflecting the deliberate intention of the SPLM to ensure the adoption of laws concerning the right of self-determination (more precisely separation) without the slightest interest in democratic transformation, as if it is the business of the northerners alone. However, despite that, coordination between the components of the national consensus forces has not stopped and their meetings continued, but cracks began to surface among their ranks. Thus, notwithstanding the escalation of their stance against what was considered as rigging of the voters’ registry, and embarking on preparing a memorandum to the institution of the Presidency with requests to put an end to "rigging" the elections and stop the "bias" of the National Elections Commission (NEC) in favor of the NCP, and its refusal to respond to the demands of the opposition, to the extent of completely losing confidence in the neutrality of the NEC, the opposition forces have failed in taking a final position on whether to participate in, or boycott the elections. Although these forces started to nominate candidates for all legislative and executive levels and engage in campaigns across the country, but they equally failed, in the end, to reach a unified decision to boycott or participate in the elections. The hesitation in taking a decision resulted in observable confusion within the ranks of the forces of national consensus, as each party took their own decision of either to participate in, or boycott the elections, whether in whole or partially . 

The Elections Results: Do they Augur Well?  

  1. On the backdrop of these tensions, confusion, and hesitation in the decision-making process within the opposition forces, on the one hand, and between them and the ENC and the NCP, on the other hand, started the electoral process. Thus, despite the peaceful environment that has accompanied this process, the accusation of the political forces of the NEC of negligence, fraud, ignoring the violations and irregularities, and the menacing and intimidation of voters by the NCP, was the main feature of the situation throughout the five days of voting. The NEC’s recognition of the existence of logistical and technical errors in the voting process, and the actions taken to address the acknowledged mistakes, did not succeed in slackening the call of the opposition forces for stopping the elections in all parts of Sudan, until the NEC has improved its work, thus threatening to boycott the process if their demands were not responded to.

  1. Immediately after the announcement of some preliminary results, the forces of the Juba coalition, both those who participated or boycotted the elections, hastened to declare their consolidated and categorical rejection of these results (forged from A to Z), with which they would only deal with de facto, while calling for new fair and free elections, following the referendum, and the settlement of the crisis in Darfur. The sweeping victory of the NCP at all levels of the elections, and the vast difference between the votes obtained by candidates of the ruling party and those acquired by rivals, particularly in the stronghold of the traditional parties, confirmed in peoples’ minds the occurrence of widespread rigging.

  1. On the other hand, there was a clear divergence in the position of the elections observers regarding the transparency and fairness of the voting process. The Arab League and African Union missions, for instance, considered the Sudanese elections a step forward towards democratic transformation, albeit both acknowledged some violations and logistical irregularities that marred the polling process, but, however, did not impact the integrity and freedom of the elections or their final results. While two international missions (the EU, Carter Center) announced that the elections did not meet international standards or all of Sudan’s obligations as regards organizing a genuine process in many respects, however, they admitted at the same time, that the elections will pave the way for instituting democracy in the country, and that their outcome would most probably be acceptable to the international community. However, a group of Sudanese civil society organizations has issued a statement in which it recorded a number of excesses and irregularities that were considered as a natural outcome of the lack of credibility, which accompanied the NEC’s performance since its formation, thus called for repeating the elections.

  1. Although, the elections page has been turned over, we live in a vulnerable political climate characterized by discord and polarization between all the political forces, one that is susceptible to further escalation if we added to it some more burning issues, including the referendum on self-determination for the south, the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the crisis in Darfur. In fact, this is the current scene whose features will fail to elude the eyes of any prudent observer, and is not subject to denial or obstinacy. 
  2. Against the backdrop of this scene, this paper aims to modestly contribute to the ensuing debate on the conditions of the elections and their results, in an attempt to advance a road map that would assist in surmounting the unfortunate outcome of the whole process, manifested in the observed tension and political polarization that have cast dark shadows over the path of the transition process towards democracy and political pluralism. All this at a time when the country is heading towards the referendum on self-determination for the south, as the most perilous constitutional obligation in its contemporary history, while it faces other equally dangerous challenges, exhibited in the Abyei referendum, the popular consultation for the transitional areas, the crisis in Darfur, and the plight of the ICC.

Elections and the Unity of Sudan: The Nation above the Party 

    1. Both the NCP (and the SPLM as well) have the right to be happy and celebrate the outcome of the elections, as a result of which they have come to monopolize the twin executive and legislative powers, but without underestimating or holding in contempt those who lost the elections, whether through participation or boycott. Equally, the opposition has the right to express its fears and doubts, and to challenge the election results as far as possession of evidence and proof allows, without abuse and restrictions on their freedom of movement by the government or its silencing of the opposition voices, as long as their activities and political practice fall within the framework of the Constitution and the law. For what the elections, are in essence, is only a means or a mechanism for handling peaceful transfer of power, which can only occur in the absence of any exclusion or removal of any of the other parties from participating and contributing to finding solutions to the crucial national issues that confront us all. However, the matter of concern here is the bitter controversy and acute polarization over the election results and the mutual accusations between the opposition and the ruling party, making the citizens perplexed as to who to believe, while they do not talk of anything in their social gatherings except this festering political scene, future scenarios and fears embodied in approaching days. It is probable that what is feeding these worries is the talk by some opponents of appealing to the street and the masses, and hinting at the possibility of an armed coup détat. Some leaders of the NCP did not brace themselves, instead they have reacted angrily, warning of even thinking of a popular revolution, or going out into the streets with the objective of creating chaos and intimidating citizens. Thus, the head of the Foreign Relations sector of the ruling party made a statement to the effect that “they would monitor the movements of opposition leaders who traveled abroad for broadcasting false information to tamper with election results and distort the external image of the country” (Alrayaam, 22 April 2010)

    1. Therefore, this critical political situation, and the need to overcome it, places a heavy burden and great responsibility on the elected national President and elected President of the South, especially as the country approaches a decisive challenge to its unity, whereas the crisis in Darfur remains at a standstill, and the decision of the ICC against the president still casts a dark shadow over Sudan at large. The absolute monopoly of power by the two ruling partners, in both north and south, should not entice them into narrow partisan entrenchment, and a rush into removing their opponents, and undermining them without due regard to higher national interests. The responsibility is incumbent upon the two presidents, each in his respective sphere of authority, to “deliver the goods” (peace, stability, and development), and to satisfy all citizens, those who voted in their favor, against them, or even decided to boycott the ballot (6 million people who represent approximately 40% of those registered), and to persevere in achieving their ambitions to live in dignity, peace and aspirations for a bright future. It is imperative for the two Presidents, as the main guarantors of the CPA, to place the “nation above party," through agreement on a national program that meets the challenges facing the country, and activation of a serious dialogue with other political forces on the elements of this program, and working together to achieve voluntary unity in the remaining short time that separates us from the referendum. And why not? For the President, and as he stated right after the elections, while addressing the National Authority for his Election, "achieving unity is one of the priorities of the next government," and "the tree of Sudan has its roots in the south, if it is cut then Sudan is gone!" In tandem, the first Vice President and President of the South told Egyptian television that "Unity is strength for all parties, but in the event of separation, everybody will lose a lot," and that "the South is witnessing an era that calls for unity more than before!" This is the single and most correct entry for overcoming the legacy of the elections crisis and resultant political polarization in the direction of focusing on how to handle these challenges. The question, however, is how?

How Would the President of Sudan gratify his citizens?  

    1. Following the Memorandum of the ICC prosecutor in July 2008 (before the issuance of the arrest warrant in March 2009), I wrote a lengthy article entitled "A Shot in the Dark" in which I called for standing behind the President on the basis of a national program agreed upon by all political forces that puts the "nation above party" (Alahdath and Alrayaam, July 2008). This program would serve as the electoral manifesto of the President, as a candidate for the presidency, so that the other political forces, led by the SPLM, the main partner in government, would lend their support on the basis of this program, whose primary objective would be to complete the task of peaceful transition to democracy and political pluralism. This is especially since there was no other political party, which had at that early juncture decided on nominating a candidate for the Presidential elections. I had stressed that it was obvious that this arrangement had nothing at all to do with election alliances and competing on the basis of party platforms, to win seats in the legislative bodies at both national and state levels, or state governors, unless we sought  to defeat the idea of "democracy", and uproot the concept of "political pluralism"!  (I was sure at the time that the overall objective and subjective circumstances did not allow for removing the head of state, while the NCP was clearly sparing no effort towards maintaining the president in power. I was also convinced that the ICC decision was instrumental in urging the NCP to intensify its efforts to prepare itself and get poised for the elections, despite its emission of some signals that were mistakenly understood by the opposition to convey an impression that they were not interested in electoral competition, as long as it had a monopoly over power without the headache of elections)  Anyway, all Sudanese political forces, those in government or the opposition, supported the president in the face of this crisis reflecting their utmost concern over the danger posed by the ICC memorandum on the country's sovereignty, calling attention to its damaging impact on the CPA and the reality of the conflict in Darfur, and on the totality of the constitutional setup in the country. The essence of what I had called for was an expansion of the interim government to incorporate the historical political forces in its ranks, so that it becomes a genuine "government of national unity", and not a misnomer or a metaphor! This on the condition that the new government would agree on a national program, which would include efforts to resolve the crisis in Darfur, adopt a unified position viz a viz the ICC, and activate the mechanisms for national reconciliation and achieving social justice.

    1. All these political forces supportive of the president's position, especially those that had been partners in government before the “Ingaz” regime, were keen and aspiring to contest for power as any political party within the constitutional framework of a real pluralist democracy. I had warned in that article that the NCP, being the dominant partner in power due to its continued control over government institutions and the state executive apparatus for many years, shouldered the greater burden of achieving the conditions of the transition towards democracy and political pluralism as dictated by the Interim National Constitution INC) and commitment to an honest implementation of the CPA. Besides, the ruling party is obliged to meet these conditions in response to the support and national alignment of Sudanese political forces behind the President. The NCP is required to morally and politically, in view of the various agreements and charters signed with these forces, to bear the cost of democratic transition.

    1. However, as reviewed in the introduction to this article, the elections came and went, and these same forces (including those who participated and boycotted) unanimously claimed that these requirements were not met. Though about two years have passed since that date (July 2008), relative relaxation of freedoms available to the political opposition, the endorsement of the Political Party Organization Act and the establishments of the NEC, despite reservations by other political forces, are the only concrete measures taken by the government. Whereas other requirements related to amending of laws restricting freedoms (especially the National Security Act which was approved in the shadow of the withdrawal of opponents, and the voting of the SPLM parliamentarians against it), the formation of the Human Rights Commission, and reactivation of the remaining Commissions, remain pending.

    1. The leaders of the NCP do not refrain from categorically declaring that these parties are suffering from dementia, and that they have misread the political map, and the wide ranging changes that have occurred during two decades of “Ingaz” rule. Or alternately, the opposition parties are under the illusion that elections would not take place, thus they disregarded communication and interaction with their grassroots, and so squandered precious time calling for their postponement, rather than preparing for the contest, whereas the NCP wasted no time in early preparations, since the signing of the CPA, while intensifying its planning following the issuing of the ICC memorandum in July 2008.

      1. The President, in this particular situation, is not only the President of the Republic or of the ruling party. Indeed, he was president of the country even before the formation and declaration of the NCP itself. Similarly, he is not the head of “Ingaz” regime, but he is the primary figure responsible for the most important political transition and constitutional transformation after the country's independence in 1956. The president is the main guarantor of the integrity of the constitutional arrangements based on the CPA, and primarily responsible for removing the specter of partition and fragmentation of the country and the achievement of voluntary unity of Sudan, assigned priority by the same Agreement. In his capacity, the President must remove the narrow robes of the party and drape himself in a wider cloak of the entire Sudan, through the adoption of a program that responds not only to the wishes of his electorate, but goes beyond it to meet the expectations of the other political forces, which, in fact, are originally constitutional demands based on agreements with these same forces. As such, the President should satisfy his citizens from across political shades, and preserve the gains of the Sudanese people and their aspiration to a permanent peace and secure livelihood. In fact, the president himself, in his address to the Sudanese people, in the wake of his victory in the elections, stressed that "our thanks on this day include all those who stood with us and supported us from the sectors of all Sudanese people, and also include those who did not, whose choice of not supporting us will in no way devalue their citizenship. The President of the Republic exercises his powers as a President for all and he is responsible for all citizens. This is a fact I confirm and a commitment I declare”. In turn, this presidential assurance of responding to the aspirations of all citizens dictates evolving a package of measures that can guarantee our safe exit from the tunnel of political polarization, consequent on the electoral process and its declared results, between the party headed by the President and the opposition forces. These measures include:
  1. Embarking on a direct and serious dialogue between the NCP and its ruling partner (SPLM), on the one hand, and the opposing political forces on the other, in order to reach a national consensus and political agreement on the basic elements of a national program, whose honest implementation would allow facing the tremendous challenges that plague the country in this critical and decisive juncture of its modern history. This is the view of the President himself, as reflected in his speech on the occasion of his victory in the elections, "our hands and our minds are open to all forces operating in the framework of the Constitution, to communicate and engage in dialogue and consultation to institute a national partnership with which we can meet the challenges."
  1. Broadening the Governance Base: this requires the formation of a "government of national participation" (at the federal and state levels) to implement the program agreed to politically, without paying heed to whether it is dubbed a "national" or "broad-based government". This means engaging the political forces that have political weight and a popular base of support, regardless of whether they participated in or boycotted the elections. Such participation in the executive should not instigate any conflict over quotas and shares, as long as the government is based on an agreed national program and does not take its decisions through voting. For instance, the refusal of the National Alliance and Umma Party to participate in the GONU (formed in line with the ratios stipulated in the CPA) was not due to the size of the quota, but due to the absence of a program that is based on commonalities and national consensus.

  1. Initiate and agree on the creation of a national civil platform (Sudan Future Forum), involving all political forces, credible personalities known for their genuine unionist inclinations, civil society organizations (modern and traditional), as a mechanism to review challenges, identify obstacles to the implementation of the remaining provisions of the CPA, and contribute to proposing programs, which might tempt southerners to vote for the option of unity. Although the responsibility for implementing the CPA lies squarely with the two partners, it is crucial to involve and engage other players, especially on the eve of a critical phase that might keep the country united or split into two or more parts! The correct approach for handling the question of unity, and rendering it an attractive option, is the opening of a dialogue on unity and separation in the context of the future of Sudan, in the short time remaining. In addition, it is necessary to exert all efforts to undertake the needed transformation that would change stereotypes and reform traditional beliefs around identity. This initiative should be built on the basis of ensuring the right to, and practice of the people of southern Sudan, for self determination, in addition to the popular consultation of the two transitional areas, since the unity we are talking about is essentially a “voluntary” unity premised on the free will of peoples. The objectives and results of the proposed forum are: dialogue on the advantages and disadvantages of unity, discussion of alternative scenarios, and reinforcing of peace and stability in the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. With all due respect to the members of the National Authority for the Election of Al Bashir, yet turning it into a National Committee to support the Unity option might not be the optimum approach to achieve the intended objective. Most of the Committee’s members are either among those affiliated to the ruling party or those supporting it. More so, it includes those known for their secessionist beliefs and animosity towards the late SPLM leader and his unionist vision, which reduces their credibility in the eyes of Southerners, who are the intended target of the initiative.

The features of the National Program of the “Government of National Participation”  

    1. Exert all efforts to focus on the close follow-up of implementing programs and plans that would persuade southerners to vote for unity in the referendum on self-determination. Such an objective does not contradict the objective of working towards preparing and arranging for the Southern referendum, that of Abyei and popular consultations in the two transitional areas, in addition to discussion of post referendum issues, whether its result comes to reinforce current constitutional arrangements or in favor of secession.
    2. Supervision and follow-up of the completion of the remaining requirements of democratic transformation, through the implementation of all related provisions of the CPA, and the Cairo agreement. Many, mistakenly, believe that the CPA only means ending of the war between north and south, while overlooking that the Agreement has two twin objectives, which are: ending the war and achieving peace and democratic transformation, whose main conditions are: 1) amend all existing laws  by eliminating provisions that are incompatible with freedom of association and expression and the press, and all basic rights, to ensure their consistency with the provisions of the CPA, the INC, and ratified international treaties , 2) the formation of the Human Rights Commission in accordance with a law that guarantees its independence, national character, and determine its operational mechanisms in conformity with international standards, and 3) examine and review the civil service laws, structures, councils, and specialized organs, with the purpose of its development and effectiveness, in order to ensure its national character, impartiality, efficiency and independence.
    3. Perseverance in resolving the conflict in Darfur and achieving justice, reconciliation and lasting peace, by building on the outcomes of the Doha negotiations (particularly, in light of complications emanating in the aftermath of the elections where the Justice and Equality Movement has accused the government of targeting their military bases, prompting them to unilaterally freeze negotiations, and the resumption of heavy fighting in some parts of the troubled region). The principles enunciated in the Report of the AU High-Level Panel on Darfur (whose recommendations have been adopted by the Government of National Unity) provide guidance for resolving the conflict.
    4. Immediately commence the formulation of mechanisms and means for comprehensive national reconciliation and healing, not only in Darfur, but throughout the country, as part of a peace-building process, in accordance with the Machakos Protocol, involving media, educational institutions, political parties, civil society organizations, religious and tribal leaders.
    5. Articulating the general features of a road map that aims at the realization of social justice, which actually is no less important than criminal justice. The economic, social and demographic developments that have occurred in the country during the previous two decades, resulting in unprecedented migration and displacement to the national capital has led to two divergent societies, that of the rich who own everything, and the poor who own nothing, accompanied by a continuous erosion of the middle class, which augurs a severe schism that could lead to civil unrest and a generalized chaos.  Our search for criminal justice horizontally in the context of armed conflicts between the centre and the regions, with the background of marginalization of certain national and ethnic groups, should not distract us from the economic and social injustices in the center itself, which threatens to destroy the social peace. Although the achievement of social justice horizontally requires a reconsideration of the distribution of national income, in itself a long-term measure, a correct entry point in the short–term requires seeking a reduction in poverty levels, ensuring employment and training opportunities, especially for youth and graduates, firmly combating corruption, as a basis to lay the foundations of good governance.  
    6. Monitoring the performance of commissions, particularly the Human Rights Commission (after its establishment), the Commission of the Judiciary, the Commission for the Referendum, and the Civil Service Commission, ensuring their national character, impartiality and implementation of its recommendations on reform of government institutions in conformity with the prerequisites of the transition to democracy and political pluralism. In addition the Commission for the Protection of Non-Muslims must play its role as defined by the CPA.

    1. Reorganizing the services and means of communications and public information with the intent of formulating plans, programs, and policies, which reflect the national agenda for peace building and democracy.

On the Meaning of the “Government of National Participation”

  1. I am well aware that the proposal of a "broad-based government" is a controversial endeavor amongst all political forces, including the NCP. Indeed, the opposition political forces had called for the formation of a “national government” before the elections, in order to ensure an enabling environment and leveling of the playground for the conduct of free and fair elections. The opposition’s demand was forthrightly dismissed on the pretext of its incompatibility with the provisions of the CPA. In the aftermath of the elections, however, the call came, this time, from the NCP itself inviting the same opposition forces to participate in the new government, despite conflicting statements of the party’s leaders. Thus, some of them called for the inclusion of all parties, notwithstanding their participation in the elections, while others confined the invitation to those forces that secured a parliamentary representation, each according to their weight in the National Assembly.

  1. The overwhelming majority of the forces of political opposition, however, declined the offer of the "national" or "broad-based" government, whatever its form,  preferring to dialogue and reach a national consensus on the fundamental challenges facing the country prior to the acceptance or refusal to participate in this government, while other parties (e.g. the Popular Congress) categorically rebuffed the idea. The opposition forces have provided a number of reasons  justifying their position: 1) such participation deprives the opposition of the exercise of its natural role in upholding good governance, and gives rise to a peculiar situation where the opposition finds itself with the government in one boat, contrary to practice in established democracies, 2) the real purpose of bringing the opposition on board, after its initiative had been ridiculed and snubbed by the NCP in the pre-elections phase, is the ruling party’s apprehension  of facing the obligations of the referendum, and bearing the consequences of separation on its own, 3) such a government will be reminiscent of totalitarian rule in light of the monopoly of the NCP over all legislative seats at the national and state levels. It is, therefore, preferable to leave the ruling party alone to bear the brunt of its actions and harvest what it planted, and for the opposition leaders to turn their attention to interaction with their grass roots, and reorganize and restructure their respective parties, 4) why would the opposition participate in the government, as long as there are two parties that have an absolute majority in the national parliament? So, they are entitled to form the government, while the other forces should remain in the opposition, following the logic of electoral competition, and 5) it is most likely that the participation of opposition parties will be a mere “decor" or an “additive”, without any real powers in the decision-making process, citing the experience of the outgoing "GONU". No doubt, the opposition has produced plausible arguments in support of its caution, and suspicion, of risking all other options by accepting the invitation of their foe!

  1. Yet, let us look at the meaning of participation in the "government of national participation" from the perspective of the higher national interests, and the imperative of engaging all political forces in facing the historic challenges of the country, and in taking the fundamental decisions, regardless of the outcomes of the elections, “rigged’ as they were in the eyes of the bulk of the Sudanese political forces. This endeavor, however, is contingent on the sincerity and seriousness of the NCP; otherwise the ruling party’s invitation to share power with these forces will merely be seen as an "interval" for achieving partisan interests until the time is opportune for it to turn against the opposition. Certainly, these forces have had enough experiences with the NCP in this regard, and as the Sudanese axiom goes “you cannot teach crying to an orphan”! Now, following the unrivaled hegemony of the NCP over both the executive and legislature in northern Sudan, is the party geared up to face the impending challenges alone, and deal with the consequences of unity or the partition of the country and on its own terms? Or how do the “radicals” of the NCP expect the rest of the political forces to lend them support if these forces feel that no one is genuinely "listening" to them, or paying serious attention to their diagnosis of the country’s crises and recommendations for treatment, or involving them in the national decision-making process, instead of excluding these forces on the pretext of failing in the elections? Is it not time for recognizing the existence of the opposition forces as legitimate entities and acknowledging their social bases, and their role and contribution in finding solutions to our national problems! In a nutshell, it is not feasible for the NCP single-handedly, let alone the "radicals” and “militants” of the party," to confront and address these problems in light of the prevailing polarization and overwrought political climate, especially the impact on the process of peaceful transition of power and the preservation of the current constitutional arrangements, which have put an end to the evils of war. The exclusion of these forces, and taking them lightly, will eventually lead to the isolation of the ruling party from broad sectors of the Sudanese people, which may bring us back to the old square of violent struggle over power. There is no doubt that pursuing this approach will generate cracks in the national alignment, greatly needed at this critical juncture in the history of the country. Equally, it stands as a sort of “adding insult to injury” for some leaders in the ruling party to consider their invitation to the opposition parties for participation in the government as a "noble" gesture or merely as a matter of "good faith", and that the party is not “begging” or “resolute” for their participation (NCP Head of Foreign Relations, Alahdath 3 May 2010). Or is the NCP adamant in standing alone against all and everyone? 

  1. There is no doubt that this absolute hegemony is not only harmful to the nation, but also to the NCP itself, as the National Assembly (NA), which is supposed to reflect our political diversity, will turn into  another Shura Council, in parallel to that of the party itself. This is a recipe for compromising and jeopardizing the essence of accountability,   without which the party will slide into internal squabbles over positions and material gains, resulting in rampant corruption! History attests that infinite control never lasts forever, and its consequences have always been grave, as "absolute power corrupts absolutely". So, is the NCP intent on working against itself, thus leading the country on the path of destruction? Again, since the elected NA will be in charge of drafting and approving the Permanent Constitution of the Sudan, is it palatable  for a single political party to carry out this enormous task, particularly in the case of the separation of the south? This will take us steps back and will only enhance one-party rule, which has always been the source of wars and violent struggle over power.

      1. On the other hand, leaders of the political opposition subjected themselves to self-criticism regarding their position on and performance in the elections, particularly the confusion that accompanied the decision of whether to participate or boycott these elections (Farouq Abu-Eissa, Alahdath, 30 April 2010). The opposition also admitted its mistakes at the various stages of the electoral process, such as during the registration phase, the poor follow-up of its own observers at the stages of polling and votes counting, and the failure of intensifying its campaigns amidst the groups of women and youth (Farouk Abu-Eissa, Alahdath 4 May 2010). Perhaps this self-criticism would provide an opportunity for the opposition forces to learn lessons from their experience. This, in turn, entails focusing on how to positively respond to the current challenges, and contribute to resolving the issues that plague the country as a whole, instead of wasting energy in protesting and settling of scores, and indulging in the gamble of a power struggle. It is also necessary for the opposition political forces to identify the weaknesses in their policies, their electoral programs, and organizational shortcomings within their respective party structures, and to seriously take into account the lessons learned in addressing all these inadequacies, in the context of the preparation for the following elections. Such experience might also alert the splintering factions to the importance of resolving differences within their respective parties, and prompt them to unite and rally around a unified leadership. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for interaction that might lead to the emergence of new alliances, creating political dynamism and energizing the political situation, especially the agenda of unity. Besides, it helps these parties to discover the defects of the electoral process in its various stages, and how to overcome them, even if in anticipation of the next elections.

  1. Otherwise, what are the feasible alternatives in front of the opposition forces, following their rejection of the elections results? The remaining options are limited to either resorting to arms or preparing for a popular uprising, both of which will result, under the prevailing political circumstances, in escalation of violence and lead to chaos, while leaving the door open wide to a new civil war? Some of these forces make reference to the experiences of political opposition in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Iran, or Thailand. However, the question is: are the objective and subjective conditions in these countries similar to or identical to the current situation in Sudan? Thus, it is pertinent to note that the final outcome in most of these cases was a political settlement reached between the power contenders, as the elections results were not revoked in any of them? So, instead of comparing our predicament with what occurred in these countries, why not look at other contemporary experiences that suggest the possibility of removing a dominant party from power, in an authoritarian political system, through elections, as happened in Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Cape Verde, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Nicaragua? In neighboring Kenya, for instance, an opposition coalition has succeeded in defeating the ruling party (KANU), which entertained absolute power for about four decades!

  1. The political and social forces in the north, notably unity supporters and enthusiasts, are facing an enormous challenge regarding their capacity to mobilize and coordinate their efforts, in a comprehensive and an effective manner, in order to move the agenda of unity and push it forward, thus averting the split into two independent states, at best, or the disintegration and the complete collapse of the country, in the worst of scenarios. It is, therefore, the time for these forces to reconsider their strategies and forms of organization, and to conduct an objective assessment of the progress made towards achieving their stated objectives. Political entities are not only judged by their articulate well-written programs, but by their capacity to effectively mobilize and organize their respective bases, and the realistic impact of such programs on the ground.
  1. It is important to note that a " government of national participation” is not measured by the number of parties participating in it, and also does not mean in any way to reward the “small” or “dissident” parties, which I am inclined to describe as the "network" parties. In fact, these parties are no more than “interest groups", whether they are in the north or the south, having a short history in Sudanese politics, relying on a “network "of economic and social relations, and surviving on the historical legacy of their political or sectarian leadership, or spoils accruing from formerly concluded “peace from within” agreements with the “Inqaz” regime. Thus, these “network" parties are, in mind and heart, fully with the NCP in terms of lending absolute support to the programs, plans, and policies, of the ruling party. If the participation of these parties in the government is deemed to add value, or that some of their leaders have a unique contribution that is indispensable, then they should come on board as part of the NCP! Why not? In fact, the leaders of these parties have won a number of parliamentary seats, after the NCP had resolved not to present any candidate in the respective electoral constituencies, and urged its supporters to vote for them.

Government of National Participation: A Footnote 

24. According to the Interim Constitution, the mandate of the President of the Republic, and for both houses of the National Legislature is five years (Articles 57 and 90). In the event of a vote for secession by the people of Southern Sudan, the seats of the members and representatives of Southern Sudan in the National Legislature shall be deemed to have fallen vacant and the National Legislature, being so reconstituted, shall complete its tenure to the next elections. (Article 118-2). It is probably common knowledge that should a separation occur, the Sudanese population would awake to a new reality whereby there is a state in northern Sudan with, on its southern borders, a new state whose people were, until recently, part of the political, social, cultural and economic fabric of the Sudanese state with its current borders since the country's independence in 1956. This new and unprecedented reality in Sudan's history requires that the President call for early elections, and not simply a repeat of them, for the NA and for legislative councils at state level and the state governors at the end of the second year of their mandate. At that time the (proposed) Government of National Participation will have accomplished its mission as regards completing the implementation of the remaining requirements for democratic transformation and creation of the enabling environment for the conduct of these elections. At the same time the arrangements for secession and the formation of an independent state in the South would have been completed. This is a necessary step that has no relation with the disputed results of the previous elections, but is dictated by objective considerations, the most important among them being: First, the period of two years gives ample opportunity of reaching a political settlement in Darfur allowing it to participate in early elections as a common aim of all political forces and especially the armed movements. This period will allow space for these movements to rehabilitate themselves politically and to address their grass roots in preparation for entering the electoral contest.  Secondly, one of the most important and significant roles of the elected NA is the formulation and approval of the permanent constitution for the state of North Sudan, a matter which, by necessity, requires that the Assembly be representative of all active political forces in the country to participate in determining its destiny. Otherwise, the NA, after vacating of the Southern members seats, will turn into a one party parliament which will cast doubt on the credibility of whatever legislation it approves, especially the country's permanent constitution, which will then become an issue for conflict and disagreement instead of becoming a reference document that lays the foundations of governance and regulates political participation, which will take us several steps backward as if we were still living in 1998! Thirdly, this parliament will become an extension of the executive branch as long as its members are restricted only to the ruling party, which deprives it of its basic function of oversight of the performance of this branch, so how can the government oversee and be accountable for itself by itself? It is also politically unacceptable that the government of national participation remain until the end of the five year mandate of the NA in the shadow of participation of political parties that have no parliamentary representation. 

And How Would the President of South Sudan Reward his Citizens? 

    1.   Expanding the Base of Governance Regionally and at the State Level                                                                                                   
  2. The electoral scene in the south is not different from that in the north, where there seems to be a clear split between the political forces of the opposition and the SPLM, whose Chairman won the Presidential elections by a 93% majority, as well as the vast majority of state governors and the seats of the legislature at all levels. All the southern opposition parties have expressed indignation and deep regret as to the malpractices carried out by elements of the SPLA during the voting and counting. These parties hold the SPLM responsible for all the violations and abuses of the security forces. Thus, nine southern opposition political parties immediately declared their rejection of the announced elections results, which were considered “rigged”. The exceptionally high percentage of votes acquired by the candidates of the SPLM were cited as evidence for the alleged rigging, a harbinger of exacerbating political hostility and polarization, over and above  the security hazards and tribal conflicts that the south is already witnessing. This in addition, to a number of independents who nominated themselves in defiance of their party’s decision (the SPLM) and insisted on continuing the electoral race, which has led to an explosive situation and violent clashes in a number of states.

  1. The Chairman of the SPLM has on more than one hat, which qualifies him to play a pivotal role at both the federal and regional levels (southern Sudan) to transcend the impasse over the elections results, not only in the South, but in the Sudan at large. The leader of the SPLM is the President of the South Sudan Government. and is also the First Vice-President of the Republic, thus his responsibilities are not restricted  to responding to the people of the South only, but extend to include the Sudanese people all over the country. The Movement’s membership is not limited to southerners only, neither are its supporters and followers. Rather, the SPLM accommodates enthusiasts and embraces fans from all over the country, as reflected in the composition of its institutional structures both at the national and sector levels. Equally, the President of the south is responsible for his citizens, regardless of their political and party affiliation. At the level of the South, the president is obliged to form a “broad-based” regional Government of the South, and state governments, by bringing on board the opposition forces on the basis of a common program to address the security, economic, development, and service challenges, and to prepare for the referendum. At the national level, his position as the First Vice President, with extensive powers, urges him to prevail on the President of the Republic to form the "government of national participation", at both the federal and state levels, and the involvement of opposition forces, irrespective of their participation in the elections, including the SPLM (Northern Sector), on the basis of the "nation above the party" program. This was already confirmed by the Secretary-General of the Movement, who stated in his own words "we will form a government of national unity, a coalition of political parties, including those who participated, and even those who boycotted the elections, leading to the formation of “national” governments based on Sudanese national consensus, both at the regional and federal levels” (Rofayda Yassen, Alhura, Juba, 29 April 2010).
    1. Clarifying the Movement’s Position on Unity and the Referendum

      1. National duty binds both partners in power, the NCP and SPLM, by virtue of their leadership of this most critical phase in the history of modern Sudan, as well as all the rest of the political forces, to initiate serious, sincere, and open dialogue regarding the equation of unity and separation. It is equally pertinent for the ruling partners to undertake an objective inventory and assessment of where each party had succeeded, or failed, in the implementation of programs and policies in order to render unity “attractive” as obligated by both the CPA and the Interim Constitution. It is imperative for each partner to clearly define its position on the unity of the country, earnestly discuss the obstacles and impediments standing in the way, and ensure the required guarantees are in place. Otherwise, both partners will be held responsible for pushing southerners to vote in favor of separation, and thus should be prepared to endure the implications of their respective policies on the fate of the Sudan and its people! This is why I strongly believe that both the NCP and SPLM are in dire need of serious dialogue and candid discussion within their respective institutions, and amongst the grassroots, in order to make the interaction between them more constructive and effective, and produce fruitful results that would spare our country the evils of wars and disintegration!

      1. I cannot resist repeating what I underlined in a previous article regarding the urgent need for diligent study, painstaking research, and meaningful dialogue on the position of the Movement regarding the country's unity on new bases, and the deleterious impact of separation on both the south and north Sudan (“The Imperatives of Internal Dialogue: The SPLM and Returning to the Drawing Board”, Sudan Tribune, 24 December 2010). Such a dialogue denotes a profound challenge, in particular for the SPLM as it prepares itself to face impending momentous events: the self-determination referendum for the south, the Abeyi referendum and popular consultations for Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Dialogue, therefore, remains the most appropriate and only approach for clarifying the Movement’s position on the unity of the country through articulating an unambiguous strategy and political program based on the Manifesto that was approved by the Second National Convention in May 2008. 

  1. Reconciling the two objectives, of unity and self-determination, represents the major challenge faced by the SPLM, by virtue of its vision and the nature of its membership. The success in advocating a policy that assigned priority to the unity of Sudan since its foundation in 1983 and up to the signing of the CPA in 2005, calls for the leadership of the Movement to follow an unambiguous strategy that reconciles the two seemingly contradictory objectives and reflects the aspirations of its grassroots spread all over the Sudan, including those who yearn for unity in the South. Therefore, the question becomes: is the right of self determination synonymous with separation or is it a mechanism to achieve either unity or separation? If self determination is synonymous or tantamount to separation it would appear that the SPLM is striving to achieve two contradictory objectives: separation and unity of Sudan! However, if self determination is a mechanism, how it is used in favor of either objective remains in the hands of the political forces that had originally called for the exercise of the right. In this regard, has the Movement endeavored to undertake a feasibility study on the impact of each of the two options (unity and separation) on the future of the political, security and economic situations in the South and on the life of the Southern citizen, or managed a dialogue on the content and substance of the separatist cause? For instance, the CPA bestows on the South unprecedented constitutional and institutional powers and authority in the political and economic domains, and ensures the participation of Southerners, proportional to the population of the South, in the federal system of rule. Moreover, perhaps more importantly, the CPA constitutionally endorses citizenship rights for all Sudanese, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, as the basis for public office eligibility, including the presidency of the Republic.
  1. Though some of these hard-won gains and rights sanctioned by the Interim Constitution have not seen the light of day, in the shadow of a reality dominated by political and institutional roadblocks, cultural prejudices, and social barriers, yet the political struggle for making citizenship rights a living reality will continue and will not be consummated with the end of the interim period. This struggle will endure even after the general elections and the ratification of the permanent constitution. Thus, we should not allow despair to take its grip and stand in the way of continuing the political struggle towards building the Sudanese citizenship state, based on equal rights and duties. Americans of African origin waited for their turn to reach the Presidency for more than two centuries until finally it came to fruition with the election of the forty fourth President. They did not allow the bitter conflict and protracted struggle for their civil rights to lead them to abandoning the cloak of the American Union. Indeed, the late Dr. John Garang counted on the dynamic nature of the SPLM and its capacity of interaction, including the building of alliances with the rest of the political forces in the North, to realize the long-cherished goal of change and transformation and to achieve full equality in rights and obligations. In turn, this leads me to discussing the Movement’s position on the Self-determination Referendum!
  1. Position on the Referendum: I also repeat what I stressed in my paper (The Imperatives of Internal Dialogue: The SPLM and Returning to the Drawing Board), that the “mundane" response that unity constitutes the Movement's preferred option, whereas it is the people of the South who will decide on this in the upcoming referendum, as an answer provided by the SPLM leadership to any question in this regard, is hardly convincing and remains unsatisfactory. In all contemporary experiences where the right to self determination has been demanded (Quebec in Canada, Eritrea, East Timor, Eastern Europe), movements or political parties championing the cause of this right started from a separatist perspective calling for the establishment of independent states for the peoples that these forces represent. In other words, these forces used the referendum for the right to self determination as a mechanism or tool to achieve the objective of separation, but more so to advertise for it through organized publicity campaigns, as is the case in any competitive electoral process with each party proselytizing for its position. Such practice is not in contradiction with the fact that people and citizens are the ones who in the end decide the outcome of the referendum or election. In contrast, the SPLM is a movement with a national character, which has spearheaded the struggle for the unity of the country (albeit on new bases), and its membership embraces different nationalities and peoples of Sudan. It is curious therefore, that if only Southerners have the right to participate in the Referendum, should the remaining membership of the Movement be deprived of even advocating for unity among their comrades, let alone amongst the non-SPLM members in the south? Besides, will the SPLM as a political organization, accommodating all nationalities, adopt a neutral position without pronouncing its stance, at least to make people aware of the pros and cons that each of the options (unity and separation) entails for southerners? Is not adopting a neutral position in itself a declared position in support of separation, albeit covertly, for a movement that has continued to promote and struggle, for over two decades, to achieve voluntary unity.
  1. On the other hand, Southerners have carried arms and have fought and sacrificed tremendously for over twenty years under the banner of the New Sudan, but did the people of the south decide, on their own volition, to pay such a high price and make all these sacrifices for the sake of this Vision? Or did the leadership of the SPLM lead them in this direction? It is the political leadership that shapes the minds of ordinary individuals and influences their thinking and behavior. Thus, it behooves on the leadership to create awareness of the option that is in the interest, and to the advantage of southerners. Separatists themselves remain accountable and responsible in front of their peoples to explain their point of view concerning the independent Southern state and how separation will serve their interests and meet their expectations. Hopefully they will reflect and learn the lessons from what the late leader Dr. Jon Garang said, namely that Sudan belongs to all Sudanese and, therefore, it is the responsibility of southerners to play their part as necessary for bringing about change in the entire Sudan as he stated “we cannot allow ourselves to be reduced to a mere fossilized regional sub-species”.
  1. Some people in the SPLM (and beyond) tend to believe the southerners’ vote in the upcoming referendum in favor of unity is contingent on the victory of a candidate from the "South" in the presidential elections. Thus, immediately after the declaration of the SPLM's political bureau in late July 2008 of the nomination of its Chairman, Comrade Salva Kiir, for the Presidency of the Republic, prior to the inconsistent statements on the announcement, and the eventual denial of the Movement’s leadership of such a decision, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, Head of the Government of Southern Sudan   (GOSS) Mission to USA, wrote an article in which he enumerated many of the SPLM Chairman’s objective qualities and personal capabilities, which make him eligible for the post, as the first southern to be the President of the country. As such, his candidacy will draw the support of all the aspirants to change in the north, especially in marginalized areas in the west, east, and far north, which in turn augments the chances of achieving the unity of the country. In Gatkouth own words, however, “If we the SPLM fail the election and we are not going to rule Sudan, then there will also be a chance for the SPLM to say that we have tried and it didn’t work. The southerners will also have a justification that the northerners are not ready to be governed by non other than an Arab Muslim Northerner. So we will secede and have our own Nation. All in all, we are in a win-win situation. This move should be welcomed by all of the marginalized people all over the World” (Sudan Tribune, 1st August 2008). Such an argument oversimplifies the problematic question of unity, which is intricately complex, historically, socially and culturally, as it implies that if the northerners did not vote for the presidential candidate of the South, then they should bear the responsibility for breaking up the country. This runs contrary to the thesis of the late SPLM leader, Dr. John Garang, who neither wanted nor wished to achieve the unity of the country along the lines of Gadkouth’s “rough and ready” fashion, thus predetermining the outcome of the referendum!
  1. Conversely, the late Chairman of the Movement counted on the dynamism and vitality of the SPLM and its capacity to interact, including entering into an alliance with the other political forces in the north to effect a change in the balance of power at the centre, without making it a precondition that the next president should be from the south. In any case, the SPLM has opted not to nominate its Chairman or any other southern leader for the presidency of the Republic, but preferred the nomination of one of the Movement’s leaders from the north, who took the matter seriously and assiduously embarked on the elections campaign before he was suddenly withdrawn from the race only ten days prior to the start of the polling! Thus, the opportunity was denied for appreciating the proclivity of the northerners as to whether they would or wouldn’t elect a president from the south, or even a northerner from the movement's leadership, who has spent over 23 years with the SPLM and is committed to its cause and vision The move might be read (theoretically, at least) as a premeditated intention of separation, albeit covertly, on the part of the Movement’s leadership, whether the President of Sudan is from the south or the north of the country. Indeed, the finance minister of the GOSS unambiguously stated, in his address of the southern Sudanese community in Washington, that "the independence of the South is coming, and those are present should tell those who are absent" (Sudanile, April 26, 2010). Above all, what precludes a southern from being the President of the Sudan, since all northerners have accepted the President of GOSS to be the First Vice President of the Republic?
  1. In other words, what is the objective of the SPLM in contesting the elections? Is it the mere adherence to the CPA provisions, while impatiently waiting for the self-determination referendum and ultimately the secession of the south, or the genuine participation in the process of democratic transformation towards building the Sudanese citizenship-state, thus fulfilling the expectations and aspirations of the Movement’s grassroots and supporters? On the other hand, has the SPLM ever initiated serious and open dialogue or brainstorming over the true meaning of “attractive” unity, or attempted to define its own responsibilities and what it could really do in this respect? Has the SPLM devised any plan or policy for making unity attractive? The Movement, therefore, can be accused of half-heartedly supporting unity, thus, covertly harboring separatist inclinations. Thus, it seems to the membership and supporters of the SPLM, especially in the north, as if the Movement has replaced the New Sudan vision and the Manifesto with the CPA and has withdrawn into a cocoon, waiting for secession of the South, instead of using the Agreement as a launching pad, which in reality that is all that it is, to achieve its grand objective: the united New Sudan. Thus, if unity is unattractive in the eyes of some, what is attractive about separation?
  1. Responding to the Voice of the Voters in the South and Boycotters in the North:  
    Drawing Attention to the Hazards of Separation 
    1. It seems that almost all of the opinion writers , concerned with the unity of the country, tend to construe what has transpired from the results of the elections in the south, where (the withdrawn) SPLM candidate obtained a high percentage of the votes against a small percentage harvested by the candidate (President) of the NCP, as an early show of the upcoming referendum outcome, indicating that separation of the South would most probably be the southerners’ preferable choice (Khalid Eltigani, Al-Sahafa, April 29, 2010). In contrast to this inference, I tend to read these results in a different light and from a different perspective. Thus, casting over two million votes in the south in favor of the SPLM candidate, even after the Movement’s political bureau had resolved to withdraw him from the competition, suggests that the SPLM grassroots defied their leadership’s decision and were determined to elect the “withdrawn” candidate, while their eyes, hearts, and minds, were attentive to his "campaign of hope and change," derived from the vision of “New Sudan” or unity on new bases, without underrating the southerners’ allegiance to a comrade, who struggled together with them in the bush, as a motive for their support. Therefore, had Southerners been intent on separation, in line of statements of some leaders, or the published results of opinion polls, they would have respected their leadership’s choice and refrained from voting. This was confirmed by the Chairman of the SPLM, as he put it, "that the chance of Yasser Arman, the withdrawn candidate of the SPLM, to win was better that that of Elbashir. However, though Bashir obtained a small percentage of the votes in the south (8%), this does not necessarily mean southerners are intent on secession through the forthcoming referendum "(Ajraas Alhurriya, 5 May 2010). Paradoxically, in case it were expected that the SPLM (northern) candidate would attain this large number of votes in the south, in addition to the votes he could gain in the north if he continued his elections campaign, particularly in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Khartoum, save for the SPLM Northern Sector’s to boycott the elections in the north, then, why was he withdrawn from the race at the last minute? The Attempt to answer this question has opened the door too wide for speculation, which made the pervasive tale of a “deal” between the NCP and the SPLM most plausible and convincing,
    1. My interpretation of the SPLM position in this regard is that it might be an expression of an emerging strategic thinking that, even if it is still a whisper, preserving the unity of the Movement calls for agreeing on an approach for managing differences within its ranks through "decentralization" or "confederation" of political practice. This means allowing a measure of freedom for each of the Movement’s components “nationalities”, or constituencies, to respond to the aspirations of their peoples, based on the respective defined priorities, without excluding coordination or alliance with each other, in the overall context of seeking to achieve the common grand objective of defeating the ruling party and the realization of the "New Sudan", even after the secession of the south. While the proponents of this view agree "partly" with my reading that the voting pattern in the south, for presidential elections, is supportive of the "New Sudan" vision that calls for "voluntary" unity, they argue that, at the same time, this reflects the reality of southerners’ renunciation to live under oppression and persecution perpetuated by the "salvation" regime, and their want for liberation from a state that deprives them of freedom, justice, and equality in citizenship rights. In other words, irrespective of the southerners trust bestowed on the withdrawing candidate, they would most likely vote in the referendum by more than 90% in favor of secession. According to this line of thinking, the SPLM will have to deal with four levels or interrelated circles or rings; each has its own priorities in the context of the struggle for democracy and political pluralism. The first ring is at the level of the South, where the southerners’ top priority lies in the referendum on self-determination as an opportunity for independence from the “Salvation” regime. The second is the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and in this circle the priority is the issue of “popular consultation”. The third ring is Darfur, whose first priority is to end the war and achieve lasting peace by putting an end to marginalization, achieving justice, and ending the state of displacement. While the fourth level is for the North, where priorities are focused on the abolition of laws restricting freedoms in order to achieve democratic transformation and the implementation of the Cairo Agreement and the remainder of the CPA (Interview with the Secretary-General of the SPLM, Rofayda Yassen, Alhurra, 2 May 2010).

  1. However, such thinking may lead us into a precarious and mine-planted path, given that it is based on a division of labor among these four levels and rests on the assumption of the country’s partition and the departure of the SPLM leaders to their independent state, even if the logic of the argument finds the consent and acceptance of all components of the Movement. This situation will, thus, destabilize and undermine the components of the SPLM in the “geographical” north at the remaining three levels or circles.  Not only that, but it might put an end to the SPLM in its current organizational structure, which was approved by the Second National Convention (May 2008) and enshrined in the Movement’s Constitution, which in turn calls for rebuilding and restructuring the party in correspondence with the new realities. The retreat of the SPLM to the south, might ostensibly look as if the Movement has turned its back on the north or deserted its northern membership, while the correct analysis reveals that by taking this step, the SPLM will have abandoned the "struggle" to build the “New Sudan” that embraces all of the four levels, including the south. Moreover, this division of roles, following the separation of the south, might result in tempting the other entities or “nationalities” to take advantage of any opportune opening for the independence from the centre of the Sudanese state, which will therefore be weakened and destabilized, if not fragmented and disintegrated. Since the North will be the backyard of the South, this situation will negatively impact the nascent state of southern Sudan. Thus, secession will inflame the situation in the north economically and politically, and will build strong pressures on the regime in Khartoum, causing turmoil and instability, which will pose a direct threat to the new State in the South, which in turn will be vulnerable to collapse and breakdown. On another score, how will the SPLM, in the State of Southern Sudan, interact with its former components (residues) in the northern Sudan, which would be considered as a flagrant interference in political affairs of an independent state? Therefore, is such thinking realistic at all?
  1. On top of that, undoubtedly the expected secession of the South will precipitate potentially explosive situations in the two areas of Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Southern Blue Nile (Ingessana), especially if we take into consideration the two partners’ conflicting interpretation of the meaning and substance of "popular consultation"" as stipulated in the special protocol for these areas in the CPA (Protocol on the Resolution of Conflict in Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states). These two areas hold exceptional significance for the SPLM:  not only are they are bordering the south, but in addition large numbers of their population were the first in the geographical north to initiate joining the SPLM/A since the beginning, and have dearly sacrificed a lot throughout the liberation war, besides constituting two of the five liberated areas which fell within the administration of the New Sudan in the pre-CPA era. Moreover, separation of the south would diminish the chances of achieving a New Sudan, where all citizens are equal in rights and duties, or even of preserving the old or the present version of Sudan. This predicament relegates the grassroots of the SPLM in these two (transitional) areas into a state of flux and disillusionment. This is exactly what urged the Deputy Chairman of the SPLM, following his inauguration as Governor for the Blue Nile State, to describe the "political advocates of separation as burying their heads in the sand until, in the end, they come to recognize that the separation process is painful and will result in countless problems. These politicians do not realize the gravity of the situation and its deleterious consequences”. The Governor promised to devote his efforts in order to achieve unity despite the little time left for the referendum, regardless of where is the geographical location of the Blue Nile state, and underlined the need to examine the hazards of separation and compare them with the virtues of unity balance between them and the virtues of unity, in order to inform the citizens of what is the best option for them. The SPLM Deputy Chairman denounced secession, which he considers as a great threat to the security of the country that would eventually break up into antagonistic centers of power (Alsahafa, 4 May 2010)
  1. If the primary motive of separation is to bring about a change in the balance of power in the centre, and put an end to the hegemony of one party rule and its prejudiced  policies, and the transition to genuine political pluralism, why wouldn’t the SPLM step up its political activity in all parts of Sudan and become politically more active within the framework of the constitutional arrangements consequent on the CPA, which has granted southern Sudan unprecedented constitutional and institutional powers in the political and economic domains, drove the late leader of the Movement, Dr. John Garang, to depict the post-CPA situation as a "Mini New Sudan"? This framework provides a large space for the interaction of the SPLM with the political forces in the north to bring about the desired change and achieve unity on new bases. However, if the South felt that the current wealth sharing arrangements are no longer equitable, in light of the large oil reserves located in the south, there should not be any obstacle standing in the way of renegotiating these arrangements. Again, if southerners are concerned about their status regarding citizenship rights in the context of the “one country-two systems” environment, the reconciliation of full rights of citizenship and the Islamic laws is an issue open to dialogue, provided that there is trust, seriousness, and genuine intention. Indeed, the Deputy Chairman of the SPLM and the governor of the Blue Nile state, proposed to "prepare a draft memorandum of understanding to discuss and remove all the underlying reasons that lead to secession. Building confidence is important and the crisis between the two ruling partners is lack of confidence. This is why we must arrive at a strong charter amenable to implementation” (Alsharq Alawsat, 5 May 2010). As noted in previous articles, mutual understanding and more than one breakthrough were realized on the most contentious issues of citizenship, on the one hand, and the relation between the state and religion, on the other, between the SPLM and the religion-based forces in the north, with the exception of the NCP (the National Islamic Front in the previous version). However, the movement's leadership chose not to broach or raise the issue until the interim period has approached its end, when some of the SPLM leaders brought up the matter by stressing that the Islamic laws are the culprit, as they stand as a barrier to the unity of the country. The belated mention of a purportedly fundamental issue in the equation of unity and separation has not been taken seriously by many observers, including SPLM supporters, who considered it a sort of political expediency (Deng Alor, UNMIS and the Future Trends Foundation Symposium, Khartoum, November 2009, Pagan Amum, Al-Ahram Centre for Middle East Studies, Cairo, February 2010).
  1. On another front, both the NCP and the SPLM should not applaud, or be overexcited, about the position of the United States (and the Troika) that deem the elections as an important step on the way to democratic transformation and peaceful secession, or civil divorce, in the words of the American president's envoy Scott Gration. Putting all one’s eggs a single basket of such a promise is a dangerous gamble with unpredictable consequences. The US strategy for Sudan dictated by its own interests, and can be changed in response to these very interests, as well as the fact that the approach followed by the U.S. envoy has come under heavy criticism within the United States. Thus, there are those who believe that “The U.S. interests are severely undermined with the SPLM so completely abandoning Garang's vision of unity and handing al-Bashir an easy victory, The Obama Administration will need a new strategy for the democratic transformation of Sudan with our traditional SPLM allies out, and the NCP so firmly entrenched”. (Jendayi Frazer, The Huffington Post, 5 May 2010). Also, the Republican Congressman, Frank Wolf, renowned for his animosity towards the “Inqaz” regime, wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to change the "lenient" policy stance pursued by his Special Envoy for Sudan, and warned against accepting the results of the Sudan’s “rigged” elections (Sudanile, 6 May 2010). On the other hand, the NCP’s euphoria with the position of the American envoy may raise some doubt that the ruling party, contrary to statements uttered by some of its leaders, harbors the intention to let go of the south, unless the US is selling secession to the south, while at the same time, selling unity to the north? Without playing down the impact of the international community, unity of the country will primarily remain, in any case, a Sudanese concern and the decision to keep the Sudan united, will be determined through the self-determination referendum for the south.


This "last shot in the dark", hoping it will hit the target, aims at providing a modest contribution to the unfolding debate over the circumstances of the April general elections and their results, and how to transcend the post-elections hostile environment ridden with tensions and political polarization, which cast a heavy shadow over the course of the democratization process as a whole. All this at a time, when the country is predisposed for the referendum on self-determination for the south, as the most perilous constitutional obligation in its contemporary history, as well as facing other equally profound challenges, on top of which are: the Abyei referendum, the popular consultation in the transitional areas of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the crisis in Darfur, and the plight of the ICC. First: Certainly, the two partners are well aware that the exclusion of opposition political forces in the north and south, and the failure to reach common understandings with them about these critical challenges, and involving them in decision-making on such fundamental issues, will inevitably lead to the aggravation of the already explosive situation in the country. Both the elected President of the Sudan and President of the ruling party, and the President of the South and Chairman of the SPLM, shoulder the responsibility, each in his respective spheres of influence, for delivering the goods (peace, stability, and development) to all the citizens, those who voted for, or against them, or even those decided to boycott the ballot. The two presidents are, thus, accountable for the perseverance to achieve the aspirations of all the Sudanese people to live in dignity, peace, and their aspirations for a bright and prosperous future. The two Presidents, by virtue of their status as guarantors of the cornerstones of the CPA to "put the nation above the party" by agreeing on a “national program”, and embarking on a serious dialogue with the rest of the political forces with the objective of reaching a consensus on the basic elements of this program, in order to meet the challenges facing the country. This would, in turn, call for broadening the base of governance both in the north and the south to follow up the implementation of this program.

Second: national duty binds both partners in power, the NCP and SPLM, by virtue of their leadership of this historically most critical phase in the history of modern Sudan, as well as all the rest of the political forces, to initiate serious, sincere, and open dialogue regarding the equation of unity and separation. It is equally pertinent for the ruling partners to undertake an objective inventory and assessment of where each party had succeeded, or failed, in the implementation  of programs and polices in order to render unity “attractive” as obligated by both the CPA and the Interim Constitution. It is imperative for each partner to clearly define its position on the unity of the country, earnestly discuss the obstacles and impediments standing in the way, and ensure the required guarantees are in place. Otherwise, both partners will be held responsible for pushing southerners to vote in favor of separation, and thus should be prepared to endure the implications of their respective policies on the fate of the Sudan and its people! Such a dialogue denotes a profound challenge, in particular for the SPLM as it prepares itself to face up to two impending momentous events: elections and the self-determination referendum. There are also other objective and subjective factors that make this internal dialogue an imperative for the SPLM, on top of which is the fact that it is the Movement that has originally called for the right of self determination at a certain phase in its historical evolution. Dialogue, therefore, remains the most appropriate and only approach for clarifying the Movement’s position on the unity of the country through articulating an unambiguous strategy and political program based on the Manifesto that was approved by the Second National Convention in May 2008. In a nutshell, if the two partners have failed to achieve the peaceful coexistence of their citizens in one country, how would they be able to coexist in peace as neighbors in two separate countries?

 *Dr. Elwathig M Kameir holds degrees from universities of Khartoum, Sudan and Hull, England. He was lecturer and associate Professor of Sociology, University of Khartoum between 1980 and 1990 and worked as consultant for several regional and international organisations, including the ECA, ADB, Arab League, ILO, UNICEF, and UNESCO. He has actively participated in both the Arab and African research communities and held leading professional and academic positions in them. He is currently Senior Programme Officer, IDRC Regional Development Research Centre of Canada. He was responsible for the project: The African Perspectives on Structural Adjustment which has led to this volume. He is currently, the Executive Director of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS). The writer is also a member of the SPLM Political Bureau.

He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.