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Sudan: New Violence, Uncertain Future

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jun 22, 2011 (110622)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The remainder of [Sudan] remains saddled with the 'Sudan Problem', where power, resources and development continue to be overly concentrated in the centre, at the expense of and to the exasperation of the peripheries. A 'new south' is emerging in the hitherto transitional areas of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that -- along with Darfur, the East and other marginal areas -- continues to chafe under the domination of the NCP. Unless their grievances are addressed by a more inclusive government, Sudan risks more violence and disintegration." - International Crisis Group

In the last two months, fighting in the disputed border region of Abyei and in South Kordofan province of North Sudan, where the Nuba Mountains are located, has produced an unknown number of casualties and, according to United Nations estimates, displaced some 113,000 people in Abyei and over 60,000 in South Kordofan. Reports indicate that while there have been some instances of provocation by Southern forces, the overwhelming responsibility for the use of extreme force against civilians has been on the part of Northern Sudanese troops and militia. In South Kordofan, the hard-line governor was previously responsible for similar actions in Darfur, and is under indictment by the International Criminal Court.

With news this week of an African Union agreement for Ethiopian troops to separate the parties in Abyei (see, and the South's reluctance to return to war only weeks before its scheduled independence, it may be that a ceasefire can be established in South Kordofan as well, albeit at the price of high levels of human suffering that has already taken place. Both the international community and South Sudan are focusing on preventing a return to all-out war before the scheduled independence data of July 9. But past experience indicates the high probability of an even greater toll from the scorched earth policies of the Khartoum regime, with consequences similar to those in Darfur. The people of the Nuba Mountains, whose status was left undetermined by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, may well be the principal casualties.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains links to additional sources for commentary on the current crisis, but the material included in the Bulletin, excerpts of analyses from commentator Ahmed Hussain Adam and from a recent report by the International Crisis Group, focuses instead on the issues posed for the Sudan as a whole. The fundamental issue of a highly centralized and undemocratic regime, dedicated to suppressing the rights of marginalized and peripheral populations, will not be resolved by the independence of the largest such region as South Sudan. The same dynamics of inequality, lack of representation, and brutal violence to repress revolt are present and likely to revive even if temporarily suppressed, with the truncated state of North Sudan.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, not sent out by email but available on the web at, contains the full text of the United Nations summary of the UN Security Council meeting on Sudan of June 20, 2001. This includes the briefing by African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki and by Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sudan, as well as of comments made during the debate.

Despite the limitations of diplomatic language, the summary gives a good sense of the approach being taken by the African Union, the United Nations, and the "international community" more generally to the current crisis.

Additional useful sources with additional commentary as well as background on the current crisis, include:

(1) Recent Human Rights Watch reports and statements

(2) Articles by Julie Flint on the situation in the Nuba Mountains
June 18, 2011 in The Guardian ( June 21, 2011 in the Daily Star (

(3) Samuel Totten, "Fear Pervades Nuba Mountains that Sudan Government Intent on Genocide," June 11, 2011

(4) Critique of U.S. response by the Enough Project Sudan: Obama Overstates Role of 'Both Sides' in Conflict Enough Project Blog, June 16, 2011 / direct URL:

For ongoing updates on the humanitarian situation as well as news, commentary and analysis on the broader context of conflict in Sudan, see and Relief Web's Sudan page at

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Sudan: The depth of the crises and the scenarios of regime change

By Ahmed Hussain Adam

Sudan Tribune

[Article also available at]

The author is a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, Institute for Human Rights, New York, can be reached at: or

[Ahmed Hussain Adam was formerly spokesperson for the Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur.]

June 19, 2011 -- Change is a universal phenomenon; it is coming to Sudan. The question is; how, when and who is going to lead and manage the forthcoming change in Sudan? The conditions in Sudan are ripe for change. The political, economic, social and security situation is deteriorating, day by day. For example, when the South Sudan officially declares its independence, the budget of the North Sudan will lose more than 70 percent of its revenue. Such fiscal crisis will implode the economic growth in the North Sudan, and make possible a popular uprising against the regime in Khartoum.

There are certain ingredients that set the stage for change. The first ingredient is the corruption of the inner circles of the regime, including Al Bashir's family, which has become a central issue of the youth in the ruling party and the public as well. The family misappropriated public funds for private gains and they have become as notorious as Al Trabulsy family in Tunisia. It is no surprise; the government of Sudan is now in the top list of the most corrupt country in the world, according to the recent index of Transparency International.

The second ingredient, the separation of the South, has created a political and constitutional vacuum. In this respect, there are many fundamental questions that needed to be answered, such as: will this political and constitutional new reality, which resulted from the separation of the South, open a new window of opportunity for the restructure of the rest of Sudan? Will the peoples of the remaining Sudan succeed in establishing a new, democratic, free and just Sudan? Sadly, the regime is still stubborn about opening serious national political dialogue to address any of these unprecedented challenges. In fact, the ruling clique is exploiting this constitutional and political vacuum to tighten its grip on power and starting a new era of a fascism, and racism in context of cultural superiority.

The third ingredient, the division among the ruling clique has become obvious. This month Shura (consultative) Council of the ruling (NCP) marked a new phase of divisions and power-struggle between Al Bashir and Nafie Ali Nafie on the one hand, and ALi Osman Taha, the Vice President, and his group on the other. Certainly, Taha was the real loser of the NCP Shura Council meeting. This division is not based on any philosophical issues, but it is merely a personality conflict and political opportunism. Moreover, beneath the surface, is a manifestation of tribal animosity and power mongering. Given their narrow racial, ideological agendas and fanaticism; a confrontation is inevitable.

The forth ingredient for change is, the current ethnic cleansing in the Nuba Mountains, Abyei and the ongoing genocide in Darfur which has been orchestrated by Al Bashir, it is further evidence of the war for survival led by Al Bashir and his ruling clique. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is in the heart of this battle; Al Bashir is spreading terror and violence everywhere in Sudan, to use it as bargaining chip in his personal battle with the ICC. Al Bashir is now fighting his last battle of survival; the international community should not bail him out of his self inflicted wounds. No bad behaviour shall be rewarded, that is a message Al Bashir needs to hear from the free world.

The last ingredient, the regional news and the popular sentiment is for change, resulting in overthrow all of despotic regimes. Al Basher is receiving dismal news from Libya, Yemen and Syria; his fellow dictators are losing legitimacy and power to the prodemocratic change masses. The slogan of the hour is: it is time for twins Al Bashir of Sudan and Bashar of Syria to go. When Abdelaziz Al Hillu called for regime change, it was resonate well to the other political forces in the country. It is music to the ear of any freedom fighter; soon the signals of freedom will vibrate through the walls of tyranny.

Thus, the crises in Sudan are even more horrendous than the crises that have led to the revolutionary changes in some Middle Eastern countries. Undeniably, the Sudanese people have proven in the past 60 years that they can lead democratic change against dictatorship. Again the history is calling on the people of Sudan to reclaim the promise of their ancestors and rise up one more time to save the country from the war mongers and the bigots. The people of Sudan did it in October 1964 and in April 1985, they will do it again.

The Possible Scenarios of Change in Sudan:

This section will explore four possible scenarios of change in Sudan.

First Scenario

Scenario one suggests that, the forces from the marginalised majority of Sudan may attempt to change the regime in Khartoum by force. The crisis in Darfur and in South Kurdofan could develop into an agenda of regime change by the forces and peoples of marginalized regions. Certainly, there is a common ground, shared history of struggle and aspirations among all the peoples of the marginalised regions of Sudan. This common trait could help them to unite and organise their efforts to break the national deadlock and attempt changing the regime militarily. However, the challenge before the movements from the marginalised regions of Sudan is to develop an inclusive political program to bring the peoples of the north, including the traditional political parties and civil society in the North, on board. It is imperative that the marginalized forces to be inclusive and accommodate the Riverains of the North. They have to be convinced that, they are part of the change, and they aren't the target. Any promise of change should be based on a detailed and comprehensive political program which could transform the country to a new dawn, based on democratic system of government that enshrines human dignity, respect for the rule of law, and equality of opportunity for all. In this context, we are sensing the opportunity for change. The discussion has already started among the marginalized forces at some level to join efforts which could lead for a forging of a broad base political alliance for change.

Second Scenario:

The current National deadlock in Sudan can be broken by a popular uprising, similar to the two previous Sudanese uprisings which occurred in October 1964 and April 1985. Furthermore, the Sudanese people in the North are also looking with admiration and hope to the two successful uprisings which took place recently in Tunisia and Egypt. The revolutionary atmosphere in the Middle East could inspire and provide the necessary momentum for the youth, pro-democracy activists and masses in Sudan, to repeat history and launch their own model of revolution against the regime in Khartoum. It is true that the hardliners of the regime have been threatening; to crush any move dares to challenge them. Such threats will never halt the struggle and the march for democracy, peace and freedom.

One of the main concerns, however, in this respect is the nature of the possible position of the Sudanese Army. In the previous uprisings in particular, during the April uprising in 1985, the army sided with the people against former President Nimeri. Today, however, the army is no longer what it used to be, "a traditional and national army".

The current top ranks of the Army are based on one or two tribal and ethnic affiliation. It has been evident that, since the 1989 Coup, there have been more than 42 groups of the Islamist and predominantly northern officers who were graduated from the Military College. These officers managed to transform the national military institution to become unprofessional and racist to its core. It is worth stating that, hundreds of officers and thousands of soldiers from the marginalised regions were dismissed from the army recently. The aim of the regime has been to maintain the domination of the ruling racial group from the North. Hence, to whom this army resets its loyalty and support in a time of change is unclear. Is it going to side with Al Bashir? Or is the army going to stand up for its' own interests and the interests of the people? It is also important to differentiate between the high ranking officers of the army who are for many reasons closer to the political leadership, and the mid and low ranking officers who are not necessarily supporting the regime's political leadership.

Third Scenario:

This scenario suggests that change can be realised from within the regime. It is obvious that, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, there has been undeclared division within the regime, there are two camps: one camp is under the leadership of Al Bashir and the other is under the leadership of Taha, the Vice President. In the recent convention of the NCP Shura Council, Taha was openly criticised by the hardliners for the problems created by the CPA and for making too much concessions to the SPLM. This convention marked a new era of division within the NCP; Taha lost the battle to Nafie, the later is now the strong man of the regime and has Al Basher's ear.

Some optimists suggest that the current power-struggle within the regime, could lead for a change from within. However, the current internal power-struggle within the regime isn't about real reform with an agenda of genuine change; it is over power, wealth and manipulation. This scenario has very limited chances of success, because the hardliners such as Nafie and AL Bashir's are in full control of the regime's power structure, including the security forces and militias.


Therefore, it isn't likely that there will be a change from within the regime, however the regime's power-struggle could weaken it, and consequently, help the masses, the armed and civil opposition to over-throw it and realise the democratic change in the North.

Fourth Scenario:

Peaceful and democratic change can be realised through an inclusive, political and constitutional conference. Such conference should address the Darfur, Kordofan, and Blue Nile Conflicts. There is also a need for advancing concrete measures for writing a new democratic constitution, the basis for the future peaceful relations between the South and North as well as the practical steps towards a new democratic transition in Sudan. However, this proposed conference can only be successfully convened inside the Country, when the ruling party concedes to allow a smooth transition for the Country. Otherwise, it should be convened outside the Country. The International community can play a constructive role in facilitating such a conference. The peoples of Sudan as well as the international community have a real interest in peaceful democratic change in Sudan.

To conclude, there is undisputed fact that, Sudan is on the brink of failure as nation state. Hence, the people of Sudan are in an urgent need to launch a real, democratic and peaceful change before it is too late. It is evident that under the current regime, Sudan will descend into state of total war or more disintegration. The current regime has no constructive vision and strategy. It is a known fact; the extremist ruling clique is very frightened of losing power, as they aren't courageous enough to face the people, or justice for the crime they have committed in Darfur and elsewhere. They are fighting for their survival, by unleashing chaos and terror everywhere in the country. They are using the entire people of Sudan as human shields. No doubt, the regime is sending a message: the people of Sudan must choose between the regime continuing in power, else they unleash anarchy and total war. Thus, it is clear that, if this regime continues in power, Sudan would never enjoy peace, democracy and stability. This regime will never allow any strategic relationship with a new nation in the South to flourish; instead it will continue its destabilisation strategy and war by proxy in the South.

There are many scenarios of change in Sudan; however, one would advocate the peaceful and democratic scenario of change. This scenario is still possible under a broad democratic alliance which includes all the peoples and democratic forces from east, west north, and the centre. Of course the forceful change by the marginalized forces is viable alternative, if the peaceful change is not materialized. History can repeat itself; Sudan isn't an exception in this wave of democratic change in the region.

Divisions in Sudan's Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country's Stability

Africa Report No. 174 4 May 2011

Executive Summary / direct URL:

When the South officially secedes, on 9 July 2011, the North's problems will change little. The National Congress Party (NCP) has not addressed the root causes of Sudan's chronic conflicts and has exacerbated ethnic and regional divisions. Facing multiple security, political, social and economic challenges, it is deeply divided over the way forward. Its security hardliners see these as minor issues, not imminent threats to their survival, and remain committed to a military solution to chronic instability. Others call for internal party reform -- a "second republic" -- to address the NCP's problems but are giving little thought to resolving those of the country. The party has mobilised its security apparatus to suppress any revolts, has decided to end the debate about Sudan's diversity and identity, remains committed to an Arab-Islamic identity for all Sudanese and keeping Sharia and is ready to sub-divide key states to accommodate political barons. These are ad-hoc decisions that set the stage for continued violence that may not be containable and could lead to further fragmentation of the country.

Power is now increasingly centralised in a small clique around President Bashir. However, this centralisation is not reflected in the armed forces. Concerned about a possible coup, he and close associates have fragmented the security services and have come to rely increasingly on personal loyalty and tribal allegiances to remain in power. Meanwhile, their party has been allowed to flounder, having long ago lost its strategic vision and policy coherence. Deeply divided and more concerned with staying in power, the leadership more often reacts to events rather than implements a well-thought-out national program. This is best illustrated by the protracted, very public dispute between Nafie Ali Nafie (NCP deputy chairman for organisational affairs and presidential adviser) and Ali Osman Taha (second vice president of Sudan) and the wildly diverging statements made by party leaders in the run-up to the South's selfdetermination referendum. The recent dismissal from his posts of the formerly powerful Salah Gosh reflects divisions within the NCP that have the potential to lead to the party's collapse or a coup.

Bashir, Nafie and the security hardliners have concluded that the opposition parties are very weak and reject their call for a more inclusive constitutional conference to draft a permanent constitution after the South secedes in July. They think they have the situation in Darfur under control and discount the possibility of conflict in the transitional areas of Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, believing that those regions are divided, and their military forces are not an imminent threat to Khartoum now that the South is focused on other issues. They continue to pursue divide and rule tactics to prevent the emergence of a unified counterweight to NCP dominance of the centre. Taha and more pragmatic allies are willing to negotiate with other political forces but are undermined by the security hardliners. They also seemingly remain committed to the party's goal of imposing an Arab-Islamic identify on all of what remains of Sudan -- an extremely divisive issue in a country that still includes hundreds of ethnic and linguistic groups.

In the absence of accountability, the leadership enjoys absolute freedom and has institutionalised corruption to its benefit, in the process rewarding political barons who can deliver their constituencies by giving them lucrative government positions to maintain their loyalty. The governors of each state run their own patronage network within their respective regions.

Despite the seemingly successful conclusion of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the accord has failed to resolve the issues that drive chronic conflict in Sudan. It was intended to lead to the "democratic transformation" of the country. However, during its six year interim period (to end formally in July), the NCP resisted meaningful implementation of many provisions, because they would seriously threaten its grip on power. The opportunity to maintain Sudan's unity and to establish a stable, democratic state was lost. Not surprisingly, Southerners chose separation when they voted in January 2011.

The remainder of the country thus remains saddled with the "Sudan Problem", where power, resources and development continue to be overly concentrated in the centre, at the expense of and to the exasperation of the peripheries. A "new south" is emerging in the hitherto transitional areas of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that -- along with Darfur, the East and other marginal areas -- continues to chafe under the domination of the NCP. Unless their grievances are addressed by a more inclusive government, Sudan risks more violence and disintegration.

The call by the opposition parties for a wider constitutional review conference suggests a way forward. Such a conference should be seen as a more extensive national consultative process, to accommodate the popular consultations in the transitional areas and the Darfur people-to-people dialogue. Those latter two processes, if run separately, will not lead to political stability and lasting peace in the whole country. The cardinal issue of governance must be addressed nationally. To encourage this, a united international community, particularly the African Union (AU), Arab League and the UN, should put pressure on the NCP to accept a free and unhindered national dialogue to create a national stabilisation program that includes defined principles for establishing an inclusive constitutional arrangement accepted by all.

Khartoum/Nairobi/Brussels, 4 May 2011

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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