Is SPLM's Northern Sector marginalized? (Finale)

Dr. Wathig Kameir asks in this final installment in the series (I, II), if the SPLM is "on the verge of a split into two movements, one “southern” and the other “northern?"

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Seen here in April during the elections is the former SPLM presidential candidate and SPLM Northern Sector deputy secretary general, Mr. Yasir Arman. Photograph: Abd Raouf/AP
(Kuwait City) - The correct approach is to give the opportunity to these new SPLM leaders/members from the North to prove themselves and demonstrate the abilities that would qualify them to eventually assume leadership responsibilities in the leading executive organ of the SPLM. The NLC, for this matter, avails both the opportunity and the forum for acquiring the necessary leadership qualities and skills. The NLC is the grooming and testing ground for promotion to leadership positions in the SPLM top policy making body entrusted with articulating the concerns of the Movement’s various constituencies all over the Sudan into national programs and policies. Otherwise, the inevitable result is that the Political Bureau, contrary to its main mandate, will turn into a platform for power struggle and for endorsing the agenda of the prevailing group(s) in the south, at the expense of the Movement’s higher goals enshrined in the Manifesto and the Constitution. Indeed, this is what really happened on the pretext of the “token” (or mock) representation of the Northern Sector and its leaders, whose role has been restricted to bless the decisions in a top-down fashion as instructions to the grassroots, without any deep dialogues or serious discussions.

On the one hand, we have to admit that there have been glitches and shortcomings in the organization of the Northern sector, as well as in the Southern sector, but the Northern sector shouldn’t be singularly punished by allowing its division along regional lines on the pretext of better management and organization. Equally, the tremendous efforts that have been expended on restructuring and organizing the Northern sector should equally be recognized and applauded. On the other hand, however, this should not absolve the Sector’s leadership of the failure to reach and engage important segments of the society in the north, especially among the professionals, employees, workers, farmers, the intellectuals groups, these groups constituting the longstanding supporters and followers, and enthusiasts and fans of the New Sudan Vision. Thus, the leadership of the Sector has failed to expand the membership base and building popular and syndicated organizations, supportive of the political body of the Movement in northern Sudan. Besides, the Sector did not take the general elections seriously, the only mechanism for change as provided for by the CPA, or put it in the forefront of its priorities in terms of the required keenness and preparedness since the onset of the interim period in 2005. The leadership of the Sector, however, opted to boycott the elections in the north a few days prior to their commencement on the pretext of arguments that are short of credibility. Meanwhile, the late Chairman of the Movement, Dr. John Garang, had counted very much on these elections, thus in his own words “the SPLM clearly has the potential to become the majority party in the coming national elections at all levels – local, state and national”. In addition, the decision to boycott the elections was taken outside the established institutional frameworks of the Movement, including the institutions of the Northern Sector itself, which caused bewilderment and confusion in the midst of the Sector’s membership. This ultimately led to the isolation of the Sector’s leaders from their grassroots, and created an anomalous situation, reflected in the representation of the Southern Sector in the legislative and executive institutions of the State, while the Northern Sector has found itself outside these institutions. Therefore, what is the ultimate role of the Sector in this critical historical phase prior to the referendum on self-determination, and what are its objectives and goals? Will the Sector turn into a self-standing and full-fledged opposition party?

Again, what is the position of the Sector regarding the statements, uttered in a strident and strong-worded language, of some of the SPLM leaders at various levels, within and outside the Sudan, in favor of separation and the independence of the south? Or are we this time on the verge of a split into two movements, one “southern” and the other “northern”?

I mentioned in an earlier paper, published two years before the elections that “the outcome of those elections would be disastrous for the SPLM, as well as for the cause of the “southern nationalists”, in case it decided to politically decamp from the north, or if it failed to secure a comfortable representation in the national parliament” (Enduring the Hazards of “Attractive Unity”: The John Garang Calling, Khartoum Monitor, August 2007). In reality, boycotting the elections fuelled the secessionist tendencies by providing strong arguments to the separatists, as they would say “did we not warn you that the SPLM lacks a credible base in the north, and that the claim of the Northern Sector of registering over two million members is by no means reflective of reality, for how would an organization that wields such sizeable support dare to boycott the elections, whether fair or fraudulent? Therefore, why should we stay in the north when we lack the necessary public support and popular mandate? Even if the decision to boycott is interpreted as emanating from the reluctance of the SPLM leadership in providing the necessary support and requirements, this in itself reflects that the Movement’s leadership is no longer enthusiastic about the cause of the Northern Sector, and may be perceived as the culmination of the attempts that aimed at weakening it, revealed by the deliberations and the events of the Second National Convention. This means that the Sector, and for that matter the north itself, is no longer on the list of priorities of the Movement's leadership, and even completely outside the sphere of its interest! Perhaps, what underlines this attitude was the shocking leadership’s decision to withdraw the SPLM candidate from the electoral race for the presidency, which resulted in frustration and disappointment among the supporters of the Movement, especially since the stated reasons for the decision were not convincing or satisfactory, giving credence to the widely circulated story of a secret "deal" between the two ruling partners. The withdrawal occurred despite the impetus provided by the dynamic and vigorous electoral campaign of the candidate, which was well responded to by wide sectors in the north, including even those who already lost hope in the SPLM to lead the process of change that the Movement has preached, especially following the sudden and tragic departure of its historical leader. Also, perhaps the reluctance to call for the convening of the NLC is intended to reinforce the fading voice of the northerners in the SPLM, and the unionists at large, by depriving them of the opportunity to express their opinion and clarify their position on the equation of unity and separation, as well as on the Movement’s stand on the referendum on self-determination, and to make their contributions to the future of the SPLM, in the context of an open and transparent dialogue.

Adding insult to injury, the representation of northerners in the Government of National Unity was weak and marginal (a State Minster and a Presidential Adviser “without a portfolio”), on the pretext that the Power Sharing protocol of the CPA assigned to them only 7% out of the 28%, which is the share of the SPLM. However, had the heart of the Movement’s leadership been on unity, this text would have not acted as an impediment to an equitable representation of northerners in the government. This is especially when the assigned percentage did not restrict their representation in the Committees of the Interim National Assembly where the north was represented by 40% of the SPLM total share in the parliament. Even if we disregarded that, what would be the argument for excluding them entirely from the government that was formed following the general elections? Is it because the Northern Sector boycotted the elections? Or is it a sort of collective “blanket” punishment and an excuse to absolve the leadership of the burden of unity and unionists, in lieu of the Sector’s leadership defiance of the decision of the Political Bureau? (the resolution was to: a) withdraw the SPLM presidential candidate, and b) participation in elections in the north at all levels, except in Darfur). Did the SPLM leadership not give the green light, albeit un-institutionally, to the Sector’s decision to boycott the elections, which was publicly declared by the Movement’s Secretary General? So, if the non-participation in the elections is the culprit, are there not appointed ministers in both the federal and regional governments, who failed in the same elections or even did not participate to start with? It is obvious that allocation of ministerial portfolios firmly rests on regional, ethnic and tribal considerations, which equally calls for the representation of the Northern Sector in proportion to its due weight in the National Convention and the NLC. Otherwise, wouldn’t the token representation of northerners be reminiscent of the southerners’ representation in all the successive northerners-dominated central governments, an approach and attitude that Southerners themselves strongly detested and used repeatedly as glaring evidence of marginalization and oppression. Indeed, it is an irony for the NCP, depicted by the SPLM, and southerners at large, as a party that breaches charters and dishonors agreements, to be more keen on the participation of its southern members and allies in the government, while the SPLM (supposedly national in character and membership) dump and dispose of those who stood firmly with Movement and behind its leadership during all the phases of armed political struggle.


Conclusion 

Sudanese from all parts of Northern Sudan were agitated and captivated by the Vision of the New Sudan, or the united Sudan on new bases, witnessed by the unprecedented turnout for the reception of the late SPLM leader in Khartoum on July 8, 2005, and in the rush of large numbers to join the Movement following the conclusion of the CPA. However, their lack of a base in the ranks of the SPLA, like their counterparts in Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile, deprived them of having an important influence on the decision-making process within the SPLM, especially with the growing separatist inclinations amongst the Movement's leadership after the sudden and tragic death of its leader. After the completion of the organizational structure of the Northern Sector, in the first phase, it was hoped that the Second National Convention would allow genuine representation for the Sector and northerners in the leading institutions of the SPLM organizations, and effective participation in the formulation of strategies, programs, and policies of the Movement, particularly with respect of reconciling the objectives of unity and self-determination. However, the Convention turned into a political “demonstration” as its deliberations did not go beyond endorsing only the two documents, the Constitution and the Manifesto, which were presented to the delegates, while northerners were faintly represented in the leading organ of the party, in light of an observed onslaught against the Northern Sector. On its part, the leadership of the Sector did not disappoint its adversaries by squandering the opportunity of harvesting votes in the general elections, in particular since the northerners do not have a constituency within the ranks of the SPLA! Thus, they were left lurking outside the legislative and executive institutions of the state, a predicament that has weakened the position of the Sector in the structure of the SPLM, and completely undermined its influence.

The leaders of the Northern Sector are accountable to their membership, and supporters of the movement in general, to conduct a comprehensive review of the Sector’s political and organizational work experience, and identify the gaps, shortcomings, and constraints, and build on the successes and achievements. It is also imperative to further take two important steps: 1) a call for a general Sector-wide meeting for dialogue and discussion about the equation of unity and separation, and the position of the Movement on the two options of the referendum on self-determination. This, is in addition to a wide ranging brainstorming and deliberation over the future and the fate of the Sector in case of separation of the south, which is strongly imminent, and 2) perseverance in the demand for convening of the NLC with the objective of holding a serious and frank dialogue about the Movement’s position on the referendum on self-determination, and unity of the country. If brainstorming has taken place on the future of Southern Sudan in the post 2011 period, through convening many seminars and symposia for this purpose both within and outside Sudan, it is equally pertinent to commence a deep dialogue and frank discussion on the present status of the SPLM and future scenarios. The SPLM, as we have come to know it, was founded and launched in southern Sudan as one body that has gradually embraced various nationalities and political trends, firmly committed to the Vision of the New Sudan. Thus, if it is abandoned by its founding entity, or any of its other components, the Movement will fall apart as the country is split into two parts or spirals towards disintegration and fragmentation. Realizing the New Sudan vision on the ground is contingent on keeping the country united on new bases, and only a dreamer would think that it is feasible for the SPLM to continue being viable in “multiple Sudans”!

*Dr. Elwathig Kameir is a member of the SPLM National Liberation Council. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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