By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
This article comes against the backdrop the ruins of the thick dust raised by the long-awaited controversial speech in which the Sudanese President Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir addressed the Sudanese nation on Monday, January 20th , 2014 through a televised message described by the mass media as an official document for a ’ Comprehensive Reform’.
Although two weeks have passed since al-Bashir delivered his speech nicknamed ‘Wathba”, Arabic meaning Prance and Leap’ by the Sudanese, its repercussions remain echoing loud. It remains another Moral maze in this country plagued by disasters and poor governance and the failure of successive ruling political elites.
The speech comes amid plethora of speculations. In that al-Bashir , would make ground breaking decisions that include declaration of dissolution of the cabinet and the parliament, abrogation of the constitution, one-sided unconditional ceasefire, release of all political detainees and Prisoners of War and call for serious dialogue with the political opposition which includes the rebel groups and the cancellation of the Security laws that restrict public freedoms. However, according to political observers, it was “a mountain that went into Labour and gave birth to a dead mouse ‘rat’ ”, as the famous popular adage goes.
Furthermore, the statements attributed to the former President of the United States (USA) Mr. Jimmy Carter, who is reported to have said that al-Bashir told him a secret that would surprise Sudan. Speculations of very important decisions in the contents of the speech were made. However, now and even after the television discourse there remains some dust stuck in the sky of Khartoum. Nevertheless, the components of the opposition political parties might catch the wind racing behind the mirage of the speech! The speech turned out to be devoid of substance and failing to offer any concessions or clarify the roadmap for a clear dialogue, which the NCP cliques brag about it. To show good will and confidence-building, the NCP regime could have offered concessions such as the abolition of the laws that restrict freedoms, release detainees and political prisoners and Prisoners of War (POWs), investigation into the deaths in the September 2013 Uprising and Declaration of ceasefire to stop the war in the conflict zones followed by delving in Dialogue with the armed movements (SRF) and the alliance of political Parties under the umbrella of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) without preconditions.
Political analysts indicate that al-Bashir’s speech at this particular time necessitated by formidable problems facing the NCP establishment. On top of the problems that precipitated the delivery of the speech include:
• Splits within the Islamic Movement establishment making the NCP to be in it weakest situation
• Successive defeats suffered by the al-Bashir’s army and allied militias and mercenaries at the hands of SRF forces
• Failure to eradicate insurgency by the end of 2013 as declared by the head of the NCP regime
• The NCP’s strong desire to delve and win the 2015 general elections
• Economic deterioration resulting from corruption, lavish expenditure on the military and Security apparatus as well as the loss of most of the oil revenue with the secession of the south and the deliberate sabotage of the national productivity institutions such as Agriculture and ridding off of the skilled public civil service officials thought as not loyal to the regime
• Above all, fear of al-Bashir for the repercussions of the fate he faces and the predicaments of the crimes he committed in Darfur for which the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted him.
There are four pillars in the speech Omar al-Bashir presented to the people of Sudan. They included:
• Poverty because of economic failure
• Lack of peace because of the ongoing wars waged by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and allied militias of different names such as rapid support troops against the civilian populations
• Lack of fundamental freedoms as a result of dictatorship clutch through National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS)
• Racism and regionalism as a result of unilateral imposition of Arab-Islamic identity by ruling (NCP) regime, without considering pluralism and diversity and regardless of the multiple identities in Sudan.
These four pillars are of undisputable importance unless presented for the sake of buying time and for political maneuvering and prevarication. Sudanese people and the opposition demanding the NCP to take practical steps to prove its seriousness in the dialogue suggested to start. Likewise, Darfur armed movements demanding the government announcement for an immediate ceasefire as a prelude for dialogue. It seems clearly that the dialogue announced sounds as a barefaced big lie and will not even convince the public, the real stakeholders. Liberation movements in Sudan want sweeping political leadership reforms to oversee vast changes the country longs to. The Sudanese want to seize the opportunity at this point in time to have an unprecedented model permanent Constitution, pluralistic holistic changes and resourced advances for Sudan. In the present political environment, the people are sick and tired of half-hearted political rhetoric alluded to by the NCP regime for the mere purpose for gaining more time, tactical end at the helm. Solidarity of the opposition alliances is paramount for the purpose of the public good goals. The country requires moving to the direly needed new direction. The Sudanese opposition groups need digging out Sudan from the abyss it is driven into by the NCP regime over the quarter of a century. We the people of Sudan want to make the year 2014 as a tipping point and a landmark for groundbreaking change. Now, it is time for the wayward, contentious, cantankerous allies to work together to get back their people’s rights from the National Islamic Front’s (NIF) clutches by all means whether by peaceful dialogue or through the barrel of the gun. Bearing in mind and taking into account the convergence starting to happen between the Popular Congress Party (POP), led by Dr. Hassan al-Turabi and the National Umma Party (NUP), led by his brother-in-law Sadiq al-Mahdi and the National Congress Party (NCP) government led by Omar al-Bashir.
On the other hand, the speech came at a time when the Sudanese armed Forces (SAF) and its allied Militias are preparing for a massive assault on the rebel forces and the eradication of rebellion in Sudan by 2014, as promised by al-Bashir himself not long ago. Under such intimidating atmosphere of war mongering the head of the of the National Congress Party (NCP) regime Field Marshal Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir is addressing the Sudanese public, the political forces and the rebels – as he designated them- for a serious dialogue without offering any real compromises. The compromises to tally what his speech called the document of comprehensive reform. Political analysts found the position of the NCP in this respect, appeared to be as a clear contradiction, ambiguity and if not absurd. Thus, the Sudanese people considered al-Bashir’s speech as controversial, continuation of the old political game for the NCP regime and meant to feel the pulse of the political spectrum in the street and evaluate the responses and reactions of the political oppositions. No viable solutions are expected to the problems of Sudan to come at the hands of al-Bashir and his vassals. Expecting political solution to the Sudanese issues by al-Bashir’s regime is like a thirsty being behind the mist and mirage thinking it water but won’t find anything. People spoke and commented extensively about the pedantic flowery language used in the speech, uncharacteristic of the usual al-Bashir’s Arabic vernacular. The latter used to become decadent vulgar, at the occasions when al-Bashir gets into his bouts of emotional upheavals and anger; language not fitting of States or one who respects himself and others.
Although the redundant verbosity in the language of the speech has missed the opportunity for both the listeners and the viewers to understand its content or the intended purpose. Nevertheless, putting peace at the top of the list of the four pillars of priorities for a dialogue is a good step in the right path. The history of independent Sudan is characterised by civil wars that only stop to catch a breath to wage again. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) remained in a continuous state of war since independence and even now , knowing that he did not give one battle against a foreign army , but they are all Sudanese -Sudanese wars against the components of the marginalized people in the former South Sudan, in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan.
Nevertheless, if we ignored the negative aspects of the Speech that associated with the personality of President Omar al-Bashir and his poorly worded reading, grammatical errors, the armed opposition (SRF) can attempt entering to the dialogue initiative for the sake of comprehensive sustainable peace; as peace is the stated desire in advance and their choice. There is no need for more wars that claimed lives and destroyed the green and dry.
The never-ending wars waged by the NCP regime against the peoples of Sudan in the length and breadth of the country claimed lives and destroyed livelihood for people of Sudan in Darfur particularly and elsewhere. Reports quoted a-Bashir recently as saying, “even the armed rebels can participate in the Dialogue provided they abandon violence! Al-Bashir needs to practice what he preaches and stop his absurd lethal catastrophic wars. Furthermore, he ought to make concessions mentioned in the previous paragraphs of this article. Then, all the opposition forces both armed and civilian will engage in the Dialogue, without other preconditions to resolve the piled up Crises that have delayed the Country’s progress and subjected its people to woes of never-ending wars.
Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org