SUDAN NEWS & VIEWS - 25
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
In this issue:
Our guest writer for this issue is Alkhatim Adlan, who is a political
activist and thinker, who studied philosophy at the University of Khartoum.
He spent 8 years in prison during Numairi's 16 years rule. Alkhatim
emerged after the Intifada in 1984 as one the prominent spokesmen of
the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP). He practiced journalism in Almidan
and became editor-in-chief of the youth paper, Alshabiba. He went
underground immediately after the NIF takeover on June 1989, and worked
clandestinely against the regime for more than four years. At the time,
he was described as the 'most wanted' politician by Sudanese security
forces. He left Sudan incognito in October 1993. He resigned from the
SCP in October 1994, denouncing the party for its bankruptcy and the
obsolescence of Marxism. He formed, with others, the New Forces
Democratic Movement (NFDM), of which he is now president. He authored
numerous political and analysis articles.
Please note that articles by guest writers express the writer's views
which do not necessarily coincide with the editor's.
TWO EVENTS OF LASTING SIGNIFICANCE
By Alkhatim Adlan
During the last three months, the Sudanese political scene has been
dominated by two events:
Both events may prove to be of lasting significance for the future of
Sudan, and that was why they gained very wide coverage in Sudanese and
- The sudden arrival of Sadig Almahdi in Asmara, Eritrea in December 96.
- The escalation of military confrontation between the National Democratic
Alliance (NDA) and government forces along the eastern borders with
Eritrea and Ethiopia in January this year.
Some points may still be relevant:
A warm welcome and some questions for Sadig
Having been subjected to continual harassment by the regime for more
than seven years; detained five times; held hostage and seriously
threatened; the arrival of Sadig was met with universal jubilation from
Sudanese across the whole political spectrum. His unwavering defiance of
the government; his outspoken and earnest call for the restoration of
democracy; his readiness for military confrontation to guard his
uncharted route out of Sudan; helped him regain some of the support he
had lost through the despicable failure of his previous five governments.
Despite the euphoria inspired by his arrival, however, some important
questions lingered in the air, and still do. Some of them are the following:
It might still be too early to provide any definitive answers to these
and other questions. It is possible, however, to mention some indicators.
- Sharing the same ideological base with the National Islamic Front (NIF),
and calling for an Islamic alternative of some sort, to be implemented
democratically, has Sadig made any significant shift from his previous
- Is he going to endorse the NDA documents signed by other leaders of his
party? or is he going to insist on rewriting them, or at least trying
to make some 'clarifications' of his own?
- Is he going to subordinate himself to the NDA or will he choose to
continue to be a pole apart from it?
- Now that he is personally out of harm's way, are his tactics for the
confrontation with the regime going to vary? And if yes, in what way
and to what extent?
In a public statement to the Sudanese community in Cairo, Sadig expressed
his full support for the Nairobi Declaration 93, in which NDA parties
agreed to base civil rights on citizenship, regardless of race or religion
and declared that international conventions on human rights would be part
and parcel of the future Sudanese constitution. This, of course, is
a secular position, but nobody is inclined to call it by that name,
because the S word has fallen into disrepute due to the heavy
bombardment of the fundamentalists who have succeeded in equating
secularism with atheism, thanks to the lowly ceiling of political
and philosophical discourse in the area.
But Sadig never tires of simultaneously repeating that the NIF government
has deformed the 'Islamic slogan' through dogmatism and short sightedness;
implying that an enlightened Islamic alternative is still possible in Sudan.
He vaguely hinted, of late, in an interview with the Gezira Satellite
Channel (GSC), that the Moslem majority in Sudan can satisfy its
'aspirations', i.e.: implementing Islam, democratically, without
jeopardizing the 'rights' of non-Moslems - (Those rights presumably
fall short of implementing Christianity).
These are familiar themes. They represent the basic flaw in Sadig's
thought and deed. They are a trade mark for his tendency to have his cake
and eat it. Sudanese have always expressed a tendency to look at the
luminous side of things and a readiness to engage in wishful thinking.
Whether they would rest, content with these contradictions, or whether
they would demand of Sadig to spell out very clearly his position on
the relation between religion and politics, depends largely on the
extent to which they have drawn the right conclusions from their previous
experience with him.
Asked about his relationship to the NDA, in the first press conference
he held in Asmara, Sadig said he would confer with (them) and seek their
advice. The impression he left was that the NDA wan not an 'institution'
into which he would fit; but an 'organisation' with which he would deal.
Further practice would shed more light on this issue.
Taking his son, Abdulrahman, to Asmara with him, Sadig seems to have left
behind, with his other siblings, his seven-year old brain child
'Aljihad Almadani' (Civil Resistance). He significantly asked the armed
forces to violently overthrow the government, reminding them that he
happened to be the elected Prime Minister and representative of
He coupled that with a national call for 'hijra' in which he summoned
all Sudanese youth to join the fight immediately. This is viewed by all
as an extremely positive attitude, putting Sadig in the heart of the
on-going military confrontation with the regime. His wide ranging
diplomatic initiatives have gained enormous weight to the opposition
and has put Sudan in the spotlight again.
There is a danger, however, that Sadig may become the victim of his
own success and try to achieve a consensus around his person instead of
being part of a national consensus on principles and issues. His
not-too-distant history makes that danger real. It is in the best
interests of Sudan, and of Sadig himself, if he would treat the NDA
as an institution and try to fit into it. This will be highly welcome
for all the parties of the opposition. A co-presidentship of the NDA
with his friend and long-time ally, Mohamed Osman Almirghani, is
something to think about.
Confrontation on the Eastern Border: Has the knell tolled?
The importance of the NDA's military victories on the eastern border
can hardly be exaggerated. In a sweeping movement across the border,
Kurmuk, Gissan, Menza, Yagora, Yabacher, Gadamayeb and others have
been captured. The death toll among the government forces exceeded
one thousand, others were arrested and almost a thousand of the
People's Defence Forces (PDF), suddenly awakening to the real
connotations of their name, joined the ranks of the opposition.
The Five-Stars-Hotel's opposition proved to be at home in the rough
terrain of eastern Sudan; the appointment of Dr. John Garang as
military leader proved to be anything else but an empty gesture; and
the assistance from sisterly countries was shown to have gone to the
On the other side, and from the southern-most part of Sudan, the SPLA
has been on the move. The capture of Kaya and Yei is actually opening
all the gates for Juba.
The government characteristically alleged that a foreign invasion, led
by Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda, encouraged by the US and Israel, was
taking place. Nobody believed the flagrant lie. Many, however, were
mystified and confused. The government has previously boasted of divine
support; armies of angels were said to fight side by side with the
government forces. The flora and fauna of the south were declared
government-friendly; trees shouting Allahu Akbar in unison; monkeys
self-sacrificially treading on land mines and detonating them. Isn't
it strange of such a government to complain and become hysterical when
her enemies seek 'human' assistance from their neighbours?!
These developments have made two points clear:
1. The viability of the 'military alternative' has been confirmed
2. Waging war on two fronts will progressively prove too enormous
a burden for the government to pursue for a long time.
Still, important questions loom very large.
The space available can only allow of a few remarks.
- What are the real aims of this war: to capture Khartoum in an
Eritrean-Ethiopian style long walk, or to prepare the pre-requisites
of the Intifada?
- Should we, the Sudanese, accept the destruction to be wrought by
a total war?
- What if the NIF accepted peaceful settlement?
The aims of the war should be the destruction of the enemy. Any
ambiguity about this might prove disastrous to the opposition. The
government with its crystal clear aim of destroying the opposition will
have the whole advantage. The Intifada is nothing else but what is
happening all over Sudan taken together. The fighters in the south and
the east are not preparing for the Intifada; they are making it. Urban
masses will follow later.
The destruction of Sudan has been going on, by an unprecedented pace,
since June 1989. Tens of thousands have been killed; hundreds of thousands
injured, forcefully removed; turned in refugees, their homes destroyed;
their means of livelihood wiped out. Million others are subjected to
a cruel process of gradual death through hunger, poverty, epidemics,
insanity and depression. Infant mortality is one of the highest in
How can we afford to ignore real destruction to talk about a hypothetical
one. If such logic were to prevail, the Hitlers, Chouchescos, Mengistos
of the world would have been allowed to have their way. Fortunately it
didn't. The Turabis and Bashirs should never be allowed to fair better
than their predecessors. As forces of pure negativity, they are
destroying our people and country. Standing up to them will, at least,
provide some chances for it to rise from the ruins.
The acceptance of a peaceful settlement by the NIF can only be dealt
with as a highly hypothetical issue. Their past attitudes do not indicate
such an inclination. Dealing with the miraculous and waiting for the
improbable, the moment of truth is sure to elude them. If they choose,
however, and contrary to all expectations, to dismantle their regime,
and hand power over to the NDA, and face a fair trial, nobody will
refuse the offer. The priority, however, is for the army officers to
disengage themselves from the NIF regime and join the opposition, to
preserve the reputation of the armed forces and their own personal dignity.
Although the opposition is now living one of its best moments, and has
enormous chances before it, it is equally faced with serious challenges:
the restructuring of the NDA and opening it to non-partisan and
professional participation; the reformulation of previous party documents
and positions in the light of what has been agreed upon in Asmara; the
devising of proper tactics to facilitate disengagement between the NIF
and the armed forces. Is the NDA capable and willing to exert efforts
required for the solution of those problems and others?.
That is the question.
MAJOR SPLA OFFENSIVE IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
After several weeks of relative calm on the war fronts in eastern and
southern Sudan, renewed fighting had erupted along the
Sudanese-Ugandan-Zairean borders in recent days.
The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) led by John Garang, had
launched an attack against government forces in southern Sudan, thus
opening yet another front, as part of the opposition's overall strategy
of its wide-scale offensive, started on Jan. 12 , against Khartoum.
The attacks across the southern border came as no surprise, as it had
been widely anticipated in light of NDA statements and promise of opening
other fronts in southern and western Sudan, and the government media
repeated outcries of a massive military build-up on the southern border
and of an impending Ugandan invasion.
The SPLA forces of about 12,000 fighters, backed by tanks and heavy
artillery, launched a simultaneous attack, which started at 5 am on
Sunday March 9, on Kaya and the Yei-Juba road. In three days of fierce
fighting, the SPLA managed to capture the key army garrisons of Kaya,
30 km from the border, Basi, Morobo and Gumuni on the Yei-Juba road,
Loka, Lainya and five other military outposts. The headquarters of the
National Tobacco Company near Gumuni is also now in SPLA hands.
Yei, the second largest town on Bahr el-Jebel state and a
strategically-important garrison town, fell to the SPLA after 2 days
of siege. The government tried to parachute supplies to the besieged
forces at Yei, but most of it landed into SPLA hands.
With the capture of Yei and Morobo, the SPLA is in control of most of
Bahr el-Jebel state, except for Juba, the capital, and Kajo Kaji, in
the west bank of the Nile. This leaves Juba in a vulnerable situation
as the 100 km stretch of road, from Yei to Juba, is now open to the
advancing SPLA forces.
The SPLA said it had destroyed in Kaya, Basi, Morobo and Yei, an army
division of about 5 to 6 thousand soldiers, including a Major General and
More than 2,000 government soldiers who were fleeing to Juba, were ordered by their HQ in Khartoum and Juba to go to Yei
(although the HQ knew it had already been captured by the SPLA)
to help the situation there. They ran into SPLA hands and half of them were captured or surrendered and the other half killed or fled. This incident is bound to create a lot of discontent within the army.
The SPLA also said it
had captured a huge amount of arms including 15 T-55 tanks, six
long-range artillery pieces, anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank cannons.
Sudan immediately accused Uganda of launching the attack. The Minister
of Culture and Information, al-Tayeb Ibram Khair, however, told state
television that the rebels used sophisticated weaponry which indicated
foreign involvement. 'Uganda does not posses these sophisticated weapons,
nor does it have the ability to launch the attack.' he said. The army
spokesman, Lt. Gen. Mohamed al-Sanousi, on the other hand, said 'the
military equipment used is definitely America's, so are the rations'.
Although Khartoum denied it had lost any towns to the SPLA and said the
army had crushed an attack by Uganda, destroying tanks and causing a large
number of casualties, the army spokesman said 'our fighters are
courageously fighting the aggressors on all the battle fronts'.
Information Minister, El-Tayeb Mohamed Khair denied that Yei fell to
the SPLA, but said they had lost contact with its units. President
Bashir, on the other hand, told a meeting of retired army officers
in Khartoum that the two commanders of Kaya and Lainya were killed
defending the towns and that six other senior officers were also killed
at Lainya, Loka and Yei. He vowed to recapture 'in the next few days'
all areas held by the SPLA and foreign forces.
Uganda denied the charge by Khartoum and in return accused it of
violating its air space and bombing northern Uganda. However, Uganda said
its troops had sealed the border with Sudan and its senior army commander
is in the area to monitor the situation. There are also reports that
Ugandan and Sudanese forces had exchanged artillery fire across the
tense border on Monday March 10. The loud crossfires were heard in
the northeastern Ugandan city of Arua, 80 km south of the border.
Despite the heightened tension and hostilities, Iran's Foreign Minister,
Ali Akbar Valayati, visited Khartoum to follow up on the Iranian
mediation between the two countries. While Sudan's foreign minister,
Ali Osman Taha, said that the aggression by Uganda have rendered the
talks, due to start in Kampala March 13, impossible, the meeting did
take place with Sudan represented by First Under-Secretary at the Foreign
Ministry, Ali Abdel Rahman al-Numeiri. The meeting ended into
a deadlock, with both parties trading accusations.
 Sudan has signed a $7.6 million contract with the British firm Balfour
Kilpatrick to supply raw materials to build four bridges. The bridges
are part of the 1,205 km Western Salvation Highway which will run
southwards from Khartoum and also connect Sudan with its neighbour Chad.
The cost of the highway is estimated at $120 million; most of the
funds would be contributions by the six states in the Kordofan and
It was reported that workers at the Ministry of Roads and
Communications pledged they would donate more than $17,000
from their salaries for the project.
 Sudatel, the privatised Sudanese telecommunication company, had
announced that it had introduced mobile telephone service. The service
will only cover Khartoum area, and the equipment cost, annual
connection fees and call costs will be paid for in US dollars.
The marketing manager of the company advised customers not to use
their mobile phones in public places and mosques, so as not to provoke
jealously from those who cannot afford it.
SHORT NEWS ITEMS
- Sudan said, on March 16, it had grounded a relief plane it said was
masquerading as a supply aircraft for the SPLA. Army spokesman Mohammed
el-Senoussi said that officials grounded the plane after it landed
without a permit at the airport in Bor town in the southern Jonglei state.
Senoussi did not give any details about the identity of the plane and
the passengers or when the incident took place but said that all the
people on board the plane were detained. 'The plane was working under
the guise of relief and humanitarian work to serve the aims of the
outlaws and regional plots seeking to undermine the country and its
national sovereignty,' Senoussi said.
'The pilot was interrogated whereby some important documents he was
intending to hand over to other circles were found,' he added.
- Leaders of the NDA started a four-day conference in the Eritrean
capital, Asmara, on March 17.
The meeting had been delayed several times since January, and had opened
in the absence of SPLA leader John Garang, who is expected to reach
Asmara from the southern Sudan garrison of Yei.
NDA president Mohamed Osman Al-Mirghani said: 'This meeting has
a special status as the struggle against the regime in Sudan is
reaching its climax. The aim of this meeting is to unify all our
efforts in the popular uprising against the regime'.
- President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said in a speech to the third session
of Sudan's parliament that he wanted to maintain contacts with the
United States so the two countries could resolve their differences.
'We would like to stress that Islam, our faith, forbids us from
resorting to violence, aggression or terrorism,' Bashir said.
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar