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Friday, Oct 31st, 2014

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A federal system of government will not divide people of South Sudan

By Jacob K. Lupai

October 26, 2014 (SSNA) -- Fears have been expressed that adoption of a federal system of government will surely divide up the people of South Sudan into hostile sectarian or reactionary groups along ethnic or regional lines, each trying to finish off the other. The question to ask, though, is the fear genuine, unfounded or both. One may tend to answer that the fear at best is both genuine and unfounded.

The fear is genuine as it is the fear of the unknown. People are simply not sure of what is in store for them in a federal system. However, those with genuine fears may easily be persuaded when the facts about federalism are laid bare for an informed decision. On the other hand the fear is unfounded because it is based on illusion and erroneous assumption that some people are targeted for special treatment and that the proponents of federalism have a hidden agenda of their own.

Those with unfounded fears of federalism may be stubborn because they themselves might have a hidden agenda of their own. However, it seems that many South Sudanese have now been persuaded of and seen the merit of federalism. Immediately after independence of South Sudan the governors of the ten states called on the national government to implement fully a decentralized system. The governors called for a more federal system during presentations to the First Governors Forum after independence.

Since September 2014 the national government has agreed to the installation of a federal system of governance in South Sudan. This all suggests that it is not now a matter of if but of when a federal system will be adopted in South Sudan. The unfounded fears are fast disappearing into thin air, giving way to genuine fears that can easily be managed.

Federalism

Many people may need to know why there is a need for federalism in South Sudan. It must be underlined that the present system is not federalism. After the opponents of federalism had come out with all their guns blazing against federalism there now should be a time for calm and reflection on federalism. South Sudan will not be the first in the world to ponder over federalism or centralization of power and neither will it be the last.

The people of South Sudan are dynamic and will always be searching for a better way forward for development and unity. The present conflict is precisely a search for how best South Sudan should be governed for prosperity for its entire people. This is evidenced by the peace talks in Ethiopia. The problem seems to be that there is lack of culture of dialogue for consensus but violence. In addition there are people who are inherently fearful of change and those include the diehard opponents of federalism who would do anything to maintain the status quo at all cost.

One important question to ask is what do people know about federalism. Perhaps, we may need to look at the United States of America (USA) as a model of federalism with principles such as the separation of powers, an independent judiciary and individual rights.

In the federal system in the USA a state has established tripartite division of governmental power, legislative, executive and judicial. The federal government cannot intervene to protect states against internal violence without a request from the state legislature or the governor, something contrary to what is happening in South Sudan where an elected governor can be unceremoniously removed on an allegation of insecurity in the state.

In the USA there is a commitment to state autonomy. In the federal system in the USA there is no provision for revenue sharing and it does not require the federal government or the states to cooperate or coordinate with each other on tax matters. The USA federal constitution does not require the federal or state governments to balance their budgets. In contrast, in South Sudan the national government dictates a ceiling within which the states should develop their budgets, a limiting factor indeed for the states to develop according to their needs.

With the brief highlights of principles of federalism as in the USA, it is hoped that people would have a glimpse of what federalism may all be about to appreciate the contribution of federalism to development.

Unity of people of South Sudan

South Sudan was created not by a voluntary union of its diverse ethnic groups but by the work of the British in their colonial administration of the old Sudan. According to the British the administration of South Sudan was to be developed along African rather than Arab lines. The British were not therefore committed to administering South Sudan as part of the old Sudan but believing that South Sudan might eventually be linked to the British East African colonies.

South Sudanese were not part of the concept of linking them to the British East African colonies. They had no power to choose voluntarily where to belong. Like most people of diverse ethnic groups in Africa before the British colonial rule, South Sudanese were of various ethnic groups occupying the geographical area the British called Southern Sudan with no common agenda.

South Sudanese were never united in modern sense. They saw themselves as people of different ethnic groups, each with its distinct language and ways of life. South Sudanese only became united in the face of harsh treatment by the Arabs of old Sudan. It was then when South Sudanese realized they were people of one destiny thanks to the Arabs’ arrogance and insensitivity which helped to consolidate southern unity for a protracted struggle for freedom.

After having attained independence it is not clear whether the unity during the period of the protracted struggle for freedom still exists. Independence brought with it challenges and responsibilities for which South Sudanese seemed not to have been prepared. There was nothing to motivate in the form of a common agenda for unity as people of one destiny. Southerners seemed to have resorted to tribalism and nepotism instead of nationalism.

After independence tribalism and nepotism seem to have surfaced with vengeance and this is likely to wreck havoc on unity of the people of South Sudan. The current conflict cannot only be claimed to be a contest for leadership. It has become something on ethnic lines although it is now a search for an appropriate system of governance as shown by the talks in Ethiopia between the protagonists.

Some people would like to be neutral because of the ethnic nature of the conflict. The question, though, is not who is either right or wrong. It is purely a conflict for ethnic hegemony that is threatening to tear apart the unity in diversity of people of South Sudan. The giant ethnic groups want to be rulers by all means and whether this is at the expense of unity of the country or not, is yet to be seen.

Acceptance of reality

Acceptance of the reality will be the second liberation of people of South Sudan. South Sudanese are obsessed with the propaganda that they are one people. The propaganda seems to be borne out of the fear that unity in diversity will deprive others of their self-adored hegemonic tendencies. People are simply preoccupied with a strong belief that they have to be the rulers instead of promoting unity in diversity.

The reality is that there are about or more than 64 ethnic groups in South Sudan. This confirms that there are diversities. In addition the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan confirms those diversities that South Sudan is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-racial entity where such diversities peacefully co-exist.

One observation is that the phrase “where such diversities peacefully co-exist” is arguable. In the current conflict many are seeing it as it is on ethnic lines and, clans’ revenge killings are taking place with impunity. One may wonder whether all this confirms that there is peaceful co-existence in South Sudan. If there was peaceful co-existence with law abiding citizens, insecurity wouldn’t have been so rampant.  

One other reality is that a centralized power is not suitable to address the problem of diversities as in South Sudan. Devolution of powers is appropriate. In South Sudan the purported decentralization system is in reality centralized power where, for example, an elected governor can be removed and, the judiciary and taxes are centralized. Acceptance of reality opens a wider avenue for dialogue in exploring a better way forward. It also brings people closer for unity.

Factors dividing people

It can be asserted that it is not diversities that divide people but it is how those diversities are managed that divide people. In brief South Sudanese are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. The two factors of ethnic and cultural diversities are well pronounced and when they are poorly managed will most likely lead to disunity.

It is indicated above that South Sudan has many ethnic groups and for cultural diversities there are two main cultures, namely pastoralism and sedentary farming. The two cultures clash frequently both formally and informally. The clash can be a source of ill-feelings hence disinclination to unity. Relationship between pastoralists and sedentary farmers needs a special management approach in promoting peaceful co-existence.

Along Professor Taban Loleyong road, Juba-Kajo Keji main shortcut, some pastoralists led loose their animals that destroyed completely food crops in a total area of 4 feddans. The pastoralists carried guns and were a menace, being arrogant and uncooperative.

The destruction of food crops not only causes household food insecurity but armed and arrogant pastoralists are a security threat to local farming communities. In such circumstances how can there be peaceful co-existence for a strong untied South Sudan. The government must wake up in the interest of national unity.  

The factor of ethnic dimension in dividing up people cannot be overexaggerated. There are about 64 ethnic groups is South Sudan as already mention above. For only one ethnic group to take upon themselves to dominate in every aspect of state affairs is a sure recipe for disunity as had happened in the old Sudan when the South broke away because of intolerable marginalization.

When South Sudanese struggled for independence as people of one destiny it was not for fun. People were very serious to put an end to marginalization so that it was history. Now to revive the Arab style system of marginalization of fellow citizens is totally unacceptable. Those who are inclined to copy the Arab style of marginalizing others are surely digging a deeper grave for themselves that they would have difficulty in resurrecting because disunity would have been total.

Other factors that are causing disunity is poverty, poor enforcement of the rule of law where victims do not get justice and insecurity perceived to be perpetrated by other fellow citizens.

Federalism unites

One is hoping to see the emergence of a Federal Republic of South Sudan where power is granted to the states to handle economic affairs and implement national policies instead of the national government turning around to be another implementer in the states. Handling economic affairs and implementing national policies, and with adequate capacity and resources this can only accelerate tremendously socio-economic development in the country.

Federalism is a measure to handle ethnic conflict because of the adequate power granted to the states. In federalism the state has power to have the three arms of government, namely the executive, legislature and the judiciary which can only be good in enforcing the rule of law where one ethnic group with hegemonic tendencies is unlikely to dominate and be biased as in a centralized system.

In federalism each state will have its police, prisons, wildlife and fire brigade that serve the needs of the citizens of the state including those from the other states without fear or favor. In contrast centralized law enforcement agencies are likely to be dominated by only one ethnic group and this can be disturbing to other ethnic groups because of the perceived favoritism being openly displayed.

Federalism provides for fair representation of ethnic minorities of the public service systems of the states and regions. This is in contrast to the domination of such public service systems by one ethnic group.

After the bloody war for the would be independent Republic of Biafra in Nigeria, the Nigerian government reorganized the country by creating 12 states in the place of the previous four regions to foster stability and reduce ethnic tension to realize unity. This was intended to undermine monopolization of power as well as to increase the political influence and safety of minority ethnic groups. This was to hold Nigeria together as a united country.

One may wonder why a federal system cannot be of service to South Sudan with its ethnic and cultural diversities as Nigeria. I am not suggesting copy and paste the Nigerian constitution. Surely the states in South Sudan will welcome the power to have the control over their own affairs and also to see that the central government does not interfere in state affairs, for example, in removing an elected governor on flimsy accusation and interfering with the appointments of ministers and commissioners.

One finds it strange that a system that is likely to accelerate development in the states is being resisted in contrast to the billions of dollars being squandered at the centre as in the case of the dura saga and 4 billion stolen without any recovery. How much that would have contributed to paved roads, clean drinking water, improved health and education services, availability of electricity and increased agricultural production for food security in the states for high standards of living of the people.

A federal system of government will not divide the people of South Sudan because there will be freedom of movement, residence and employment in any part of the Republic of South Sudan for all law abiding citizens. As a matter of fact federalism unites as in Switzerland where the Italian, French and the German ethnic groups peacefully co-exist as citizens of the Swiss federation.

Conclusion

Since after independence on the 9th July 2011 South Sudanese seem to have moved on because the conflict that started on the 15th December2013 has become an eye opener. Some may be wondering why to become independent in the first place only to slaughter each other. Others may be hopeful that after a storm there will be calm after the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) internal contradictions have plunged the country into turmoil and unnecessary violent confrontation that should have been replaced with internal dialogue for a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues.

The main problem here is that people seem not to understand the difference between the government and the SPLM, the dominant party in government. When one disagrees with the SPLM as a matter of policy it is likely to be interpreted that one may be against the government and vice versa. 

The government represents the country in its entirety while the SPLM represents nobody except its membership just like any other political party representing its membership of different ideology to the SPLM. On the other hand when an SPLM member dares to criticize the SPLM for whatever reason the member may be construed to have left and abandoned the SPLM as a party.

A party that has confidence will not be defensive but welcoming of criticism that carries everybody forward. Only a party deficient in abstract understanding of issues may be inclined to have robots or parrots as yes-man-sir members. This is nothing but the stifling of innovativeness in transforming a party into a modern strong party capable of being flexible enough to face challenges different from the pre-independence era of the liberation struggle.

When the government does not perform as expected it is not the fault of the SPLM but the fault of the SPLM individual members given assignments in government. This may seem contradictory. However, the only fault of the SPLM one can think of is its absolute weakness in applying the SPLM Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, Draft February 2013 which is very clear on members performing poorly in assignments.

The SPLM is too weak to discipline its members in government who are underperforming and very corrupt. It may need to learn from the Chinese Communist Party how it is disciplining its corrupt members.

In conclusion, a federal system will unite South Sudanese as people of one destiny who are struggling vigorously to eradicate poverty, ethno-centricism, nepotism, corruption, injustice and inequality for a strong vibrant and highly developed South Sudan that will be a paradise for its entire population regardless of their ethnicity, language, culture, religion, educational background and political affiliation.

Jacob K. Lupai is the author of the book, South Sudan: issues in perspective, launched on Friday 24 October 2014 in Aaron International Hotel in Juba, South Sudan. The Special Guest of Honor was HE Manasse Lomole Waya, the Acting Governor and Deputy Governor of Central Equatoria State. The Book Reviewer was Professor Scopas Dima Jibi, the Minister of Cabinet and Parliamentary Affairs, and the Master of Ceremony was Hon Suba Samuel, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. The audience included Advisors to the Government of Central Equatloria State, Cabinet Ministers and members of the public.

Sudan, Iran, the Obama Administration, and Khartoum's Political Vision

More about what we learn from the leaked minutes of the August 31 meeting bringing together Khartoum's most senior military and security officials

By Eric Reeves

October 15, 2014 (SSNA) -- The document containing minutes of the 31 August 2014 meeting of the most senior military and security officials of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NCP) ("Minutes of the Military and Security Committee Meeting held in the National Defense College" [Khartoum]) has been assessed at considerable length over the past three weeks. The overwhelming consensus is that the document is authentic and reveals in powerful detail how determined these ruthless men are to hold onto power in Sudan at all costs. I have seen to date no credible account of how such a document could have been fabricated and passed through the channels it has without being detected as a hoax. As one astute and longtime student of Sudan observed to me, "It is hard to believe such a record was made...but even harder to imagine anyone forging it."

Africa Confidential began its recent brief overview of the issue by observing:

Most of the Sudanese activists and officials (serving or former) that we have contacted believe the leaked reports of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) meeting on 31 August are an authentic account. Indeed, one former official has confirmed the NISS meeting took place and a serving official said the documents were genuine.

And in a different section of the issue:

The first question is whether the minutes are authentic (see Khartoum in fact and fiction). Most of the Sudanese politicians, and serving and former officials that Africa Confidential has spoken to reckon they are and that there have been serious security breaches in Khartoum. (10 October 2014, Vol 55 No 20)

For a more extensive survey of opinion about the authenticity of the document, see this compendium. Absent compelling evidence that the document was forged, there is simply too much within it that demands recognition as the actual thinking and decision-making of the men who now constitute what is essentially a junta in Khartoum, with merely the trappings of civilian rule.

A "Strategic Relationship" with Iran

Moreover, subsequent events have in some cases unfolded as if scripted by the decisions and recommendations recorded at this meeting. For example, President Omar al-Bashir's trip to Saudi Arabia had less to do with the hajj than with the need to reassure Saudi leaders about the nature of Khartoum's relationship with Tehran. In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat (11 October 2014) al-Bashir declares that, despite recent tensions in the relationship between Khartoum and Riyadh, this has had nothing to do with Khartoum's relationship with Tehran, the great regional menace in Saudi eyes:

"There are no strategic ties between [Sudan] and Iran. Our ties with Iran are very normal."

Desperate for Saudi economic and financial assistance (noted frequently in the leaked document), and given also the repeated references in the leaked document to deceiving the Saudis about the nature of the relationship with Tehran, al-Bashir had no choice but to publicly disavow any strategic relationship with Iran, however unpersuasively.

In fact, however, in a dozen places in the minutes these most senior security, political, and military officials declare just the opposite:

  • "In the open let us maintain good relations with the Gulf States, but strategically with Iran and to be managed secretly by the Military Intelligence and the security organs."

"In my personal view our relation with Iran is a strategic one in the areas of defense and security."

"...we can improve our relations with the Gulf States [and Saudi Arabia] without affecting our strategic alliance with Iran. (Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the National Congress Party)

[Because a much-improved translation into English of the Arabic will soon be available, I have been more liberal in editorial clarification of the available English translation where there are clearly problems with word choices, idiom, syntax, punctuation, and other grammatical matters. In two places, because of the opacity of the formulation, I have attempted a reconstruction of what seems to be intended; they are not of central importance—ER]

  • "My comment is on our relation with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates on one side and Iran on the other side.... Our relation with Iran is strategic." (Lt.-General Hashim Abdalla Mohammed, Chief of Joint General Staff)
  • "Our relation with Iran is strategic." (Lt.-General Yahya Mohammed Kher, State Minister of Defense)
  • "Our relation with Iran is beneficial to us, because Iran is our biggest ally in the region, in terms of the cooperation in the areas of intelligence and military industrial production. This is due to our web-like relations with all the Islamic Movements world-wide. The importance of this relation comes from the fact that we constitute [a connection?] for Iran to all the Islamic groups." (Lt.-General Siddiig Aamir, Director of Military Intelligence and Security) (I will return in a subsequent analysis to the claim that Khartoum has "... web-like relations with all the Islamic Movements world-wide."—ER]
  • "So let us separate between the two issues, the strategic relation [with Iran] and the Shite Cultural Centers." [Recently shut down as the regime faced various domestic pressures; the idea of a "separation" of the religious and the strategic is a sentiment shared by several officials at the meeting; Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite and Sudan is overwhelmingly Sunni—ER] (First Lt.-General Mohammed Atta, Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Services)
  • "Whatever the case, our relation with Iran is a red line: without the support of Iran, the Ingaz ["National Salvation Revolution," the name given to the coup of June 1989] would have been defeated." (First Lt.-General Hashim Abdalla Mohammed, Chief of Joint General Staff)

Most emphatic is Defense Minister First Lt.-General Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein:"

I start with our relation with Iran and say it is strategic and everlasting. We cannot compromise or lose it. All the advancement in our military industry is from Iran. They opened the doors of their stores of weapons for us, at a time the Arabs stood against us. The Iranian support came at a time we were fighting a rebellion that spread in all the directions including the National Democratic Alliance. The Iranians provided us with experts and they trained our Military Intelligence and security cadres. Also they trained us in weapons production and transferred to us modern technology in military production."

Finally, and most consequentially, First Lt.-General and Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh declared decisively:

  • "Our relation with Iran is strategic one and unchangeable. [They] who want to assist us can do that without conditions. Once in Saudi Arabia Abdal-Hafiz Ibrahim [Khartoum's ambassador to Saudi Arabia—ER] [came to me and said] that the Kingdom's foreign minister wanted to support [us], [but] the problem is our relation with Iran. That [the Saudi] leadership will not accept.... I realized that [Abdal-Hafiz Ibrahim] [had been] infiltrated [by Saudi security agents]. I told Mohammed Atta to put him under surveillance."

Al-Bashir's claim that Khartoum does not have a strategic relationship with Iran is a feeble effort at damage control following the leaking of a document that reveals all too clearly that the relationship is indeed "strategic." Ironically, al-Bashir indirectly confirms the leak with his belabored insistence:

  • "Relations would not have reached this stage were it not for false information being leaked about the situation in Sudan and the country’s foreign ties, particularly with Iran. This information was exaggerated,” Bashir said. “All of the information that reached the Saudi leadership within this context was false, fabricated, and exaggerated." (Asharq al-Awsat [Medina, Saudi Arabia], 11 October 2014)

No reading of the minutes as a whole can lead to any conclusion but that Iran is critical to Khartoum's view of itself in the region and to the continuing militarization of the Sudanese economy. Tehran's role in supporting international Islamist movements and terrorist organizations is intimated or discussed explicitly at several junctures in the minutes; this should be seen in the context of the well-established use of Sudan by Iran to funnel weapons to Hamas in Gaza. "Wiki-leaked" State Department cables show clearly that the U.S. has long been aware of this partnership.

At the same time, the need to convince Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that the relationship is something else comes up again and again in the minutes: these countries must be deceived about the depth of the strategic relationship (something made a good deal more difficult my virtue of these leaked minutes) in order to preserve Sudan's standing in the Sunni world and to gain access to Saudi wealth:

  • "We need to strike a balance in the relation between Gulf States and Iran. Our diplomacy must work here. In the open let us maintain good relations with the Gulf States, but strategically with Iran and to be managed secretly by the Military Intelligence and security organs."

"Let us win the hearts and minds of the Gulf States and work closely with them also in order to read their minds and plans. We can find out whether they are intending to support us or just conspiring to spoil our relation with Iran and expose our back to the enemy."

"But Iran may object to the idea that we improve our relation with the Gulf States, meanwhile our economy relies very much on the Saudi Kingdom in terms of investments and expatriates money transfers. Saudis are scared from the Iranian military presence in Sudan and may not allow their banks to resume transactions with Sudan banks in terms of letters of credits for export/import traders plus expatriate transfers to their relatives. (Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the National Congress Party) [This is one of the very few realistic comments about the state of the Sudanese economy; for the realities ignored, see my 17 September 2014 overview—ER]

  • Mustafa Osman Ismail, Secretary General of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NCP)
  • " ... you know that our relation with Iran is part and parcel of our relation with the Muslim Brotherhood International Islamic Organization. Accordingly, we must consult with Iran and our Islamist group before taking any step in this regard [re-positioning Khartoum diplomatically vis-à-vis Saudi Arabic—ER]. This is, because the Kingdom [Saudi Arabia] cannot be trusted, despite their knowledge that we are in a position to threaten their rule." (Lt.-General Abdal-Gadir Mohammed Zeen, National Service Coordinator)
  • "My comment is on our relation with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates on one side and Iran on the other side. We are capable and also know how to mislead the Gulf States by taking open, declared steps and procedures towards improving diplomatic relations with them, while knowing that they are backed by the Americans and Israel." (Lt.-General Siddiig Aamir, Director of Military Intelligence and Security)
  • "I agree with what brother Mustafa said, that our military and security relations with Iran should not contradict our brotherly and diplomatic relation with Saudi and Emirates countries, especially at this moment, when axis policies, polarization and alliances has surfaced at the level of the region. Currently, there are three million Sudanese employees working in the Gulf States and especially in the Saudi Kingdom. (Lt.-General Salah Al-Tayib, Commissioner of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration)
  • "The secret of the strength of the Ingaz (NCP) government lies in the smooth management of the alliance with Shite’ Iran on one side and the alliance with the Sunni Islamic groups on the other side. Any negligence or failure to maintain this fragile relation between the Sunni and Shite’, will be disastrous and we shall be the biggest losers." (Lt.-General Siddiig Aamir, Director of Military Intelligence and Security)
  • "We must explain to Iranian Military Intelligence the threats we expect and they should understand, so that we keep the relation with both parties [Iran on the one hand, Saudi Arabia and he Gulf States on the other—ER]. At the same time we tell the Saudis that we are taking your side." (Lt.-General Siddiig Aamir, Director of Military Intelligence and Security)

The Obama Administration's Dissimulation

Unlike al-Bashir, some come to dissimulate by habit or by virtue of position in office. My October 9 inquiry about the authenticity of the document at issue, sent to the Director of the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Lucy Tamlyn, yielded only an ambiguous grammatical solecism in response: "The U.S. government would not speculate on the authenticity of the document." This artful or instinctual misuse of the auxiliary modal verb "would" leaves a reader unsure what is meant: that "The U.S. government will not speculate on the authenticity of the document"? or that "The U.S. government does not speculate on the authenticity of [documents like this one]"? or that "The U.S. government would not be speculat[ing] on the authenticity of the document [in some indeterminate future]"?

But of course all such parsings yield only nonsense: the U.S. government, whatever it chooses to say or not say publicly, has certainly made an intensive, thorough and comprehensive investigation of the document, and has just as certainly reached a "non-speculative" conclusion about its authenticity. The issues addressed in the document are far too important for the Obama administration to tolerate any sort of agnosticism. And given the consensus that I have watched build since initial publication of substantial elements of the document (24 September 2014), it is exceedingly difficult to believe that the U.S has concluded that the document has been fabricated. We will be told publicly of this decision, however, only if the administration finds if useful to do so.

But if this is so, there are any number of moments in the minutes that must be thoroughly discomfiting to U.S. policy-makers, including statements revealing very strong opposition to Special Envoy Donald Booth's making a trip to Khartoum anytime soon. Moreover, given the views revealed in the minutes, even if such a trip were to occur, its meaning would lie only in the fact that it occurred, generating useful "optics" for the regime as it pushes hard towards its overarching political goal: holding national elections in April 2015 so as to give—in the words of Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the NCP—this ruthless and tyrannical regime "another five years of legitimacy." But again, there is not a shred of evidence in the documented minutes that those who now wield real power in Khartoum are inclined to see a visit by the American special envoy occur. First Lt.-General Bakri Hassan Saleh, Vice President and the man most likely to have greatest power in a regime following the death, medical incapacitation, or political sidelining of al-Bashir (there are many who oppose his re-nomination for President at the NCP convention later this month), declares:

  • "The greatest security and social threat is coming from South Sudan ([and the foreign presence of] Uganda, America, France and Israel), the Armed Movements, South Sudanese, and the two areas [South Kordofan and Blue Nile] where people have been displaced and [become] refugees due to war (diseases, social crimes, children missing education, and some converted to Christianity)." [This passage has been poorly translated and I have with the bracketed phrasing attempted to make sense of what appears to be the intended meaning; in general I have only made minor editorial clarifications, mechanical emendations, and idiomatic renderings of the English translation of the Arabic text; I have no reading Arabic skills—ER]

America is viewed as part of the "greatest security and social threat [to Khartoum]." Thus it is hardly surprising that Bakri goes on to declare:

  • "America deceived us in regards to the separation of the South. They did not lift our name from the list of the States sponsoring terrorism or relieve our debts. So the Envoy should not come."

Ironically, Bakri had just declared that "nobody is paying us and we are indebted to nobody." In fact, Sudan has massive external debt now exceeding US$46 billion—and while the U.S. is not a major creditor, it is the most powerful member of the Paris Club that would have to reach consensus on debt relief for Sudan, something extremely unlikely even with U.S. support. But the feeling of having been deceived by the U.S. is evidently real and clearly has a bearing on whether Special Envoy Booth will make a trip to Khartoum anytime soon.

First Lt.-General Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Minister of Defense, was also adamant about such a visit:

  • "Look at the statement [Paris Declaration] of the [Sudan Revolutionary Front] rebels which they want to execute with the help of France and the American Envoy. [The Paris Declaration of principles was also signed by Sadiq el-Mahdi, representing the National Umma Party; the minutes reveal this to be a particular political concern of the participants—ER]
  • "This is meddling in our internal affairs. Accordingly the American envoy should not be permitted to enter Sudan."

Publicly these sentiments emerge with a rather different tone, even suggesting the possibility of a meeting that senior officials have explicitly ruled out in private:

Sudanese foreign ministry undersecretary, Abdallah Azrak, told al-Youm Altali newspaper that Khartoum and Washington needed to repair the broken trust, stressing that his government no longer believes what American officials say. "We had received multiple pledges on many occasions, but the USA has not fulfilled its promises," he said. He went further to welcome [sic] Booth’s visit to Sudan, stressing, "We need assurances of the sincerity of American statements, especially they did not fulfill previous promises." (Sudan Tribune, 11 October 2011)

The irony of Khartoum complaining about "unfulfilled promises" is of course simply grotesque: for the complaint comes from a regime that has never abided by any promise or agreement signed with any Sudanese party during its 25 years in power—not one, not ever. Implicit in Abdallah Azrak's statement is a claim that Khartoum abided by the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005), the primary demand of the U.S. under both the Bush and Obama administrations. But whether we look to the military seizure of Abyei (May 2011) that replaced the self-determination referendum guaranteed in the Abyei Protocol of the CPA; or to the military assaults on the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile that took the place of the "popular consultations" guaranteed by the CPA; or to the refusal to negotiate a final delineation of the North/South border as stipulated by the CPA; or to the ground and aerial military assaults on sovereign South Sudanese territory, Khartoum is far, far from having kept the "promise" implicit in the signing of the CPA.

So while Special Envoy Donald Booth waits for a response to his recently reiterated offer to visit Khartoum, he apparently fails to see that the electoral strategy articulated on every page of the minutes of the August 31 meeting in Khartoum has no place for such a visit. The Sudan Tribune provides the public explanation coming from Khartoum:

In reaction to [Washington's efforts to secure humanitarian access to affected civilians in war-affected areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile] Khartoum decided to not cooperate with the US special envoy who [has not visited] the Sudanese capital since December 2013. During [this] visit he was received only at the Parliament [i.e., not by any senior official—ER].

Azrak also rejected what Booth statements about the national dialogue process considering it as interference in Sudan’s internal affairs. “The government is not ready to receive lessons in this regard,” he said.

Booth welcomed the national dialogue process but urged the Sudanese government to take the necessary measures to create a conducive environment in the country and to reach a framework agreement with the opposition parties. “But to date, realisation of the promised National Dialogue remains uncertain. In the intervening months, details of the purported dialogue were few, and actions taken by the government appeared to run contrary to its stated intent,” he said. (Sudan Tribune, 11 October 2014)

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that the racist views of Defense Minister Hussein are not his alone, and work to define the regime's attitude toward Western nations:

  • "Whatever the case, the White People will never give you enough support or fight along with [you]. The greatest liars are the White People; they are concerned about their own interest only."

That Hussein himself has a gargantuan capacity for mendacity, and has shamelessly pursued self-enrichment, as have all the men whose views are recorded, make of this statement an utterly perverse irony.

Khartoum's Political Vision

Throughout the minutes, the "National Dialogue" (as it is called) is clearly nothing more than a political ploy, a means of giving merely the impression of pluralism and broad national involvement in discussing the governance of Sudan. A series of comments make clear the factitious nature of the "dialogue," which in fact is a monologue dominated by the threat of action by the security and military forces in the event of true popular demonstrations: "The national dialogue is to take place in Khartoum and under the chairmanship of President Bashir. No dialogue to take place abroad [with expatriate Sudanese]" (Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the National Congress Party).

The events of September 2013, in which hundreds of unarmed and largely peaceful demonstrators were killed by security forces operating under "shoot to kill orders," are constantly invoked in the minutes:

  • " ... this year we have already trained [teams] to protect the elections and assist the police to suppress any such activities that may be carried out by the rebellion or the supporters of the New Sudan Project." (Lt.-General Abdal-Gadir Mohammed Zeen, National Service Coordinator)
  • "Let us go and prepare a force to protect the elections. Secondly, if the peace talks are necessary let them take place after the elections, and the internal national dialogue can continue after we hold the elections. There must be strict control over the freedom of the press, political statements of the party leaders, and the national security should remain a red line.... Let us criminalize anybody who support the rebellion or criticize the regular armed forces." (First Lt.-General Hashim Osman Hisen, Director General of Police)
  • "First our preparation for the elections is going according to plan.... We want our security organs to inform us about the opinion of all political parties, loyal or detractors on the elections before time to enable us influence things earlier." (Ibrahim Ghandur, Deputy Chairman of the NCP)

And the key recommendation of Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh is characteristically blunt:

  • "Preparation of the necessary force for the protection of the elections."

All this is by way ensuring the NCP's primary goal: that an election occurs without any delay in April 2015, a goal that is constantly reiterated:

  • "No way for postponement of the elections whatever the case." (Mustafa Osman Ismail, Political Secretary of the National Congress Party)
  • "The elections must take place on time. Holding the elections constitutes a psychological war against the armed movements and may frustrate them and lead to the end of the project of the New Sudan Project." (Lt. General Salah Al-Tayib, Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration Commissioner) [The "New Sudan Project" is governance in Sudan guided by the principle, most forcefully articulated by the late Southern leader John Garang, that neither race nor ethnicity nor religion should be the basis for citizenship in a truly multi-party, democratic Sudan. The terms is repeatedly invoked as the great enemy of the regime's political goals—ER]
  • "[We have teams ready] to protect the elections and assist the police to suppress any such activities that may be carried out by the rebellion or the supporters of the New Sudan Project." (Lt. General Abdal-Gadir Mohammed Zeen, National Service Coordinator)
  • "... if the peace talks are necessarylet them take place after the elections, and the internal national dialogue can continue after we hold the elections." (First Lt.-General Hashim Osman Hisen, Director General of Police) ["... if the peace talks are necessary": this may seem an extraordinary conditional statement, given the multiple wars ongoing in Sudan, but in fact is entirely consistent with the regime's determination to avoid all peace forums if possible: the wish is to determine events militarily, again a sentiment that echoes and re-echoes throughout the minutes—ER)

A summary by security chief Mohammed Atta captures the broader strategic sense of the regime;

  • "We said the national dialogue must be held inside the country, elections to take place on time, the decisive summer [military] campaign must continue. We should step-up the recruitment to increase the Rapid Response Forces" [i.e., re-constituted Janjaweed militia—ER]. (First Lt.-General Mohammed Atta, Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Services)

A more impressive and much more insightful summary, however, is offered by Osman Mirghani (Asharq Al-Awsat, 4 October 2014):

That Sudan’s Islamist regime is using trickery and prevarication is not strange for a group that has made deceit and pretense a key part of its political culture. But a recently-leaked document highlighting what happened during a meeting between military, political and security leaders in Khartoum in late August reveals how far the regime is willing to go in order to maintain its grip on power...

On the domestic level, the document [i.e., the minutes of the August 31 meeting of senior military and security officials] confirms what every wise observer already knows—that the regime is manipulating the opposition and employing talk about dialogue and reconciliation to gain time and fragment its political opponents. In fact, the regime desires to use talk about dialogue to legitimize the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for next year.

Precisely.

What then would be the purpose of a visit to Khartoum by U.S. Special Envoy Donald Booth? What could he expect to accomplish in pushing this now fully revealed regime toward a true democratic election? Booth's predecessor as Special Envoy, Princeton Lyman, remains notorious for having declared of U.S. Sudan policy:

"We do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (3 December 2011 interview with Asharq Al-Awsat)

Special Envoy Booth has done far too little to move the Obama administration away from this utterly preposterous vision of political change in Sudan. Indeed, I am not aware that he has distanced U.S. policy at all from the truly bizarre notion that the current regime, as revealed by the men speaking in the minutes of this recent meeting, might preside over meaningful reform or commit in any way to "constitutional democratic measures."

[The next analysis will be a detailed accounting of the various political machinations, bribery efforts, deceptions, and security preparations detailed by various participants at the 31 August 2014 meeting. With elections upcoming in April 2015, these hardliners are determined that there will be at most the semblance of a democratic election—desirable for international "public relations"—even as they make fully clear that they intend to ensure the NCP candidate for president will win easily. Because their plans are so elaborate and well-developed, they are determined that the election will not be delayed for any reason whatsoever, a point made repeatedly and emphatically by all speaking about the elections.]

Eric Reeves' book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012; www.CompromisingWithEvil.org; review commentary at: http://wp.me/p45rOG-15S)

Khartoum Announces a Campaign to Starve the People of the Nuba Mountains

By Eric Reeves

October 7, 2014 (SSNA) -- On 22 September 2014 I received from a source within Sudan, whom I trust implicitly, a truly extraordinary, indeed explosive document, containing "Minutes of the Military and Security Committee Meeting held in the National Defense College [Khartoum]"; the meeting referred to took place on August 31, 2014; the date of the minutes for the document is September 1, 2014 (Sunday).

What makes the document so extraordinary—beyond the extreme danger individuals put themselves in to ensure I received a copy—is that it reveals the participation of the regime's most senior military and security officials, expressing themselves freely, and in the process disclosing numerous highly consequential policy decisions, internal and external. We learn also of the appalling cruelty and destructiveness of these decisions. Allowing for the very different historical contexts, it's as though we were reading minutes from the Wannsee Conference of 1942, in which the destruction of European Jewry was confirmed and extended throughout the German governing apparatus.

If the comparison seems too extreme, bear in mind that during the twenty-five years of rule by the current National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, more than three million people have been killed in Darfur, South Sudan, as well as the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, and Blue Nile State. Most have died not directly from violence but rather from the consequences of that violence, which has been consistently marked by a decided racial and ethnic inflection. Khartoum's view has always been that the African populations of greater Sudan (Sudan as well as the newly independent South Sudan) are lower forms of human life—worthy only of being abid. The Arabic word is translated literally as slave(s) but carries with it many of the connotations of the hateful English word "nigger." And slavery has in fact been a means of conducting war, as the distinguished South Sudanese academic Jok Madut Jok argues in his terrifying account, War and Slavery in Sudan (2001).

The rape and gang-rape of women and girls is also a weapon of war, particularly in Darfur where Khartoum's militia forces have sexually assaulted many tens of thousands; we will never have an adequate figure for how many—or how many eventually lost their lives or their will to live because of the savagery of gang-rape, especially of young girls. The rapes are typically the occasion for expressing a ghastly "Arab supremacism"; for what is striking about these assaults is that they have typically been accompanied by racial epithets, including abid, but also zurga (dirty or blue-black), and "Nuba"—a broadly derogatory for African people, growing out of the assumption that all the people of the Nuba Mountains are African.

Notably, it was the Nuba people who were subject to a campaign of near total ethnic destruction in the 1990s: assaulted militarily—with no distinction between combatants and civilians—they were also subject to a total humanitarian embargo: no international relief supplies or personnel were allowed in, even as people were starving.

Which brings us back to the present and the minutes of the August 31 meeting. Two military officials of the regime speak explicitly of accelerating a bombing campaign directed against the agricultural production of the Nuba people, a campaign that has been underway for more than three years.

Moreover, the international community has again acquiesced before Khartoum's total embargo on humanitarian relief to rebel-controlled areas. In the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and in Blue Nile State to the east, perhaps 1.5 million people have been displaced and have acute humanitarian needs: food, primary medical care, and above all, an end to the aerial bombardment that has terrified people to the point that they can no longer work their fields. They live in caves and ravines; villages are relentlessly attacked on the ground, with foodstocks the primary target for destruction. Many thousands have died.

If this seems too indirect or abstract an account, not getting sufficiently at the vexed issue of "genocidal intent," then consider the words of two senior generals at the August 31 meeting (only two of those present did not have the most senior generals at the August 31 meeting (only two of those present did not have the most senior military rank). Lt. General Siddiig Aamir, Director of Military Intelligence and Security, was blunt:

"This year the Sudan People's Army (SPLA-N) managed to cultivate large areas in South Kordofan State. We must not allow them to harvest these crops. We should prevent them. Good harvest means supplies to the war effort. We must starve them, so that, commanders and civilians desert them and we recruit the deserters to use them in the war to defeat the rebels" (page 10 of English translation of minutes).

What "starving" people look like: photograph by the incomparable James Nachtwey, from an earlier Khartoum-engineered famine in South Sudan

"We must starve them."  He is speaking of hundreds of thousands of civilians, for of course this ruthless assessment neglects to point out that the vast majority of agricultural production is a civilian undertaking, and that it will be Nuba civilians--primarily children, women, and the elderly—who will suffer most from this destruction of food supplies, not the rebels.  Even more blunt are the words of Lt. General Imadadiin Adaw, Chief of Joint Operations: "We should attack them before the harvest and bombard their food stores and block them completely" (page 14).

People have fled their homes, their villages, their lands in the face of relentless aerial bombardment by Khartoum's forces; agricultural production in many areas has fallen precipitously over the past three years

More civilian destruction planned

The minutes of the meeting also make clear Khartoum's intention to supply strategically significant military supplies, equipment, and training to one side of the bloody civil war in South Sudan, ensuring that this enormously destructive conflict is protracted and that peace negotiations will falter as the newly equipped rebel group fights on against the government in Juba. It is a page out of Khartoum's standard genocidal playbook: "divide and conquer." Southerners killing Southerners still serves what these men consider to be in Sudan's (i.e., their) national interest, especially given the location of the very large oil reserves in the South's Upper Nile State, where fighting is increasingly intense.

There is much, much more in this terrifying document. Especially significant is Khartoum's relationship to militant Islam and its readiness to use Islamic terrorism as a strategic element of foreign policy: First Lt. Gen. Hashim Abdalla Mohammed, Chief of Joint General Staff, declares with confidence: "We can create them a problem with the Islamic radicals, but we are not going to use this card now" (page 17). But certainly the "card" is there to play.

The U.S. intelligence community assumes in its shady relationship with Khartoum that it is getting valuable regional information about terrorism; what this document reveals is that the regime is highly selective in what it provides, and exacts a shameful price from its partners in the U.S. intelligence community, namely betrayal of the rebel movements seeking to overthrow Khartoum's tyranny of 25 years. This is the only way to interpret what First Lt. General and Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein bluntly declares: "We release only limited information to the Americans [and are guided by their specific requests], and the price is the armed movements file" (page 24). Some of those leading the "armed movements" are among the most honorable, principled, and determined Sudanese I know.

Yet another victim of Khartoum's bombing campaigns; thee have been tens of thousands

Anyone reading this document, whose authenticity has been established beyond reasonable doubt, will find some hard questions about Obama administration policies toward Khartoum. First and foremost, are we really prepared to accept the deliberate aerial destruction of the Nuba people? Aerial attacks on civilians have been a mainstay of Khartoum's war against peripheral and marginalized groups—in what is now South Sudan, in Darfur, in Blue Nile, and most conspicuously in the Nuba Mountains. Will anything be done to stop this explicitly declared campaign of "starvation"? Although well aware of its existence, the Obama administration has so far said not a word about the document announcing this campaign. The administration has been assisted by news media silence. How long will this silence persist? How many children must starve to death before the President, Western allies, and news organizations respond meaningfully?

That such a plea should be necessary...

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than fifteen years. He is author of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012 (September 2012).

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