Sudan’s opposition: Same faces, same broken promises

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an op-ed I wrote for Al Jazeera on Sudan’s opposition

“Sudan’s opposition was once able to serve as a balance to the ruling National Congress Party and President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since leading a coup in 1989.

But today, the country’s opposition is a shadow of itself, seen by many as merely a group of parties, politicians and others seeking to further their own causes and personal gain, rather than those of the country and its people.

Sudan’s opposition ranges from traditional political parties resistant to sweeping change, to youth organisations and civic movements, to armed groups intent on overthrowing the government.

Each focuses on its own agenda, at times joining forces but with little success.

The traditional opposition parties, such as the Umma led by former Prime Minister Saddig al-Mahdi and Mohamed Osman al-Merghani’s Democratic Unionist Party still have a large support base.

But they’re being eclipsed by newer, fresher movements. In December 2013, Ghazi Salahuddin, a former stalwart of the ruling National Congress Party, defected to establish the Reform Party. And youth movements such as Sudan Change Now and Girifna are popular and growing.

And yet the traditional opposition has refused to take a hard line against the government.

After last September’s mass protests against austerity measures and price hikes, Bashir reshuffled his cabinet and declared that it was time for national reconciliation. He highlighted four issues on which to focus: “Peace, building a free political society, eliminating poverty and reviving Sudan’s national identity.”

This is a bit rich coming from the same leader who was instrumental in destroying all four during his 25-year tenure.

“Peace is the top priority, no development, political or economic, can be achieved without peace,” Bashir pledged. “We will not exclude any party from this dialogue, even the armed movements, [and] the freedom of people has to be respected.”

All fine and dandy – but did his words hold sway with the parties concerned? That’s a resounding no. The coalition of opposition groups presented a number of pre-conditions to participating in talks: Confidence rebuilding in the government, repealing the civil liberties laws, ending all armed conflicts and forming a transitional government that would establish a conference to draft a constitution, leading eventually to fair elections.

But the Umma and Hassan al-Turabi’s People’s Congress Party (PCP) – the two largest parties in the opposition – agreed to participate in the dialogue with no preconditions. So much for a united opposition.

This month, a coalition made up of 17 political parties, under the umbrella of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), announced their intent to boycott the talks. The chairman of the NCF, old-guard politician Farouk Abo Issa, reiterated in a press conference that the opposition was determined to overthrow the government, and refused to engage in talks unless they led to the dismantling of the regime.

On paper, all this back-and-forth between the opposition and the government might suggest that there could be a foundation from which change might be possible. But in reality, that’s so far from ever bearing fruit that one is forced to wonder: Why the continuing farce of talks and dialogues?

The Sudanese political scene is such a myriad of egos, personality clashes, political tanglings, personal friendships and adversaries that one wonders how in the past these groups played a significant role in two successful popular revolts.

Abdelwahab el-Affendi recently touched on this aspect of Sudanese politics, recalling how “former US President Jimmy Carter… at the opening of Sudanese talks… watched in amazement as SPLA rebels and government representatives warmly greeted each [other] like old friends, leaving him to wonder, as he said, why these people were fighting in the first place”.

This familiarity is more a curse than a blessing. All the main protagonists know each other – and yet continue to play the same cat-and-mouse game. Talks, dialogues – call it what you will – the result is always the same: stalemate. Since 1989, nothing has changed: the same faces, the same unfulfilled and broken promises, the same political lies and fabricated half-truths. It’s no wonder that many aren’t holding out much hope over the national reconciliation talks. Add to that the hesitance of the main opposition parties to take a unified stance against Bashir’s NCP, and their unwillingness to give up personal goals for the good of the country, and progress appears unlikely indeed.

Meanwhile, the arbitrary arrests and detention of activists and youth continue, while the press freedomspromised by the government have been belied by more clampdowns. In March, 11 issues of newspapers were confiscated by authorities, with no reasons given. The situation in Darfur has escalated, with the number of those internally displaced estimated at more than 200,000 since the beginning of the year, with the government renewing its ground and air attacks on the civilian population.

All this is nothing new. In fact, it’s expected of the Khartoum regime. But the old-school opposition’s empty words and non-action is sounding like a broken record. Is it any wonder, then, that armed resistance is (unfortunately) being seen as a viable tool by which the government can be brought to the negotiating table on equal terms? Or that new youth movements are gaining widespread, grass-roots support?

Until the old guard realises that their methods are no longer effective against a regime that has perfected the art of using brutality, violence, corruption and degradation to remain in power, there is no future for Sudan.

To be completely rid of the traditional political parties is unrealistic, and will never happen due to their sheer size and history.

But at the same time, the traditional opposition is not allowing a viable alternative to have a place at the negotiating table. The growing and more popular youth movements need to be part of the change, and older opposition parties need to include their own youth members in the decision-making process.

After all, it was the youth who were behind the protests in the past two years, and the government clampdown on their “leaders” was the clearest signal yet that the regime saw them as the bigger threat.

Sudan’s opposition has been running on the same political hamster wheel since 1989. Now, it’s time for a change.”

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/sudan-opposition-same-faces-2014424111940222670.html

 

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Change up – the beauty of Sudan

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Figured it was time for a change up from the usual despondent posts on Sudan & celebrate the natural beauty of my country. There’s so much to do & see – Sudan is a hidden treasure, and though many prefer it to remain that hard to find gem a little publicity can do wonders… Am ashamed to say there are a lot of places and areas I’ve yet to visit but that’s my plan now am back.

**All the pictures are via the Support the Tourism in Sudan page on FB.

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rehabilitated child soldiers (via child-soldier.org)

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Sanganeb lighthouse, Port Sudan

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Aroos Resort, Port Sudan

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Dindir National Park, other wildlife found include: “giraffe, hartebeest, reedbuck, roan antelope, bushbuck, oribi, waterbuck, greater kudu, gazelle, dik-dik, buffalo, lion, and ostrich. Black rhinoceros, leopard, cheetah, elephant, hyena, and jackal are also occasionally found.”

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Valley, Nyala City – South Darfur

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Sabaloga

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South Kordofan

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Kutum Town, North Darfur

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Baladna… بلدنا

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Road to Qadarif City

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Darfur, western Sudan

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Qala Al- Nahal Secondary School, Al-Qadaref State, Eastern Sudan

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Zalengy City Valley, Central Darfur State, Western Sudan

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Sabaloka/Sabaloga, Northern Khartoum

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Kassala, East Sudan

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Alba Mountain, Halayib, North Sudan

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The Nile

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Sunset on the Nile, Khartoum

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El Butana plain (eastern/central Sudan)

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Kassala City, East Sudan

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Begrawiya Pyramids

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Suakin City Cornishe, East Sudan

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tranquility, east Sudan

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Sudanese beauty

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Spices at Souq Omdurman

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Forest Road, Dilling CIty, South Kordofan

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Suakin City, East Sudan

Lest we forget…

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Lest we forget : those who killed 170 Sudanese, mainly youth protesting in anti-government demonstrations against the economic austerity measures, have yet to face justice. They walked away without being held accountable for their despicable actions.

Human Rights Watch 32 page report “‘We Stood, They Opened Fire’: Killings and Arrests by Sudan’s Security Forces during the September Protests, describes unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture of detainees, and other serious abuses committed by government security forces.”

The longer we stay silent, the more violations and atrocities this government will commit. Lets not forget Darfur (a decade ago and ongoing today) the Nuba Mountains, North Kordofan, the detention and torture of activists and outspoken opponents of the regime – the list is endless.

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/21/sudan-no-justice-protest-killings

Men pray over the body of Salah Sanhouri, 26, who was killed during last years protests  by the infamous NISS forces. 10245330_10152333134474354_5722881406117080518_n

Moyes definitely out

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Bye bye Moyes, can’t say thank you for anything but Glazers treatment of the situation is shambolic & low…

Giggs takes over ’til the end of the season

Ps. Thanks for Mata though

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Moyes Out??

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First things first: I support Manchester United, have done since 1995 when one of the greatest footballers ever to wear the infamous red of the club kung-fu kicked a supporter of Crystal Palace for racially abusing him – that was the one and only Eric Cantona. Watch his chipped goal against Sunderland to get a glimpse of his talent (and his very cool celebration): he was arrogant, he was philosophical, he was enigmatic – he was Cantona.

David Moyes replaced the legend that is Sir Alex Ferguson as the club manager at the end of the 2012/13 season. Safe to say its been nothing less of a disaster. The team’s played with no style, no slickness, no attacking skills – we’ve been turgid, spineless, gutless and clueless. We lie 7th in the league table with little chance of playing in either European club competition – this is the very same team made up of the same players who romped to the title last season and are now getting beaten by the likes of Everton and Stoke City (no disrespect to them but c’mon).

Anyway, twitter this afternoon went into overload/meltdown with the news that Moyes  was to get the sack! Hallelujah! both #MoyesOut and #MoyesIn hashtags were trending. I’m not a fan of sacking managers mid-season but the way we’ve played, not even managing to attain the simplest of goals (such as qualifying for the Champions League or even fighting for the title) shows how far we’ve fallen under the leadership of Moyes. When even a local lad, a die-hard United fan like Danny Wellbeck is reported to be considering his future at the club and someone like the legend that is Ryan Giggs is also said to be thinking of severing all ties with the club due to the manager you know the end is nigh…

If Moyes does get the boot, then goodbye and good luck somewhere else. You’re a decent guy Moyes, but you’re not Manchester United material.

loved this tweet posted earlier:

 

“Meanwhile on Merseyside news filters through that Moyes has been given the boot”  Blv6rsVCIAAOjQX

Classic Sudan pictures

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I was sent the link to this blog post featuring classic Sudanese pictures via twitter. Its funny and scary to think how we & where we were a mere 4 decades ago to where we are now Omar El Bashir (and the NCP as a whole) Sadig El Mahdi, El Merghani et al – they all have a lot to answer to for the failure, degradation, killings and total collapse of our country.

 

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Pic 1: Wisal Moussa Hassan, Sudanese filmmaker

Pic 2: The orchestra & choral of the Sudanese Theatre & Music Institute, during the 1970s

Pic 3:  Sudanese women were a major force and presence in the Sudanese Army

Pic 4: A Sudanese wedding in the city of Kosti back in 1984

Pic 5: Students of Khartoum’s infamous Unity High School in the 1960s. The school was established in 1928

Pic 6: Miss Khartoum 1958 – Aziza Adam Mandeel

Pic 7: The women and men who took part in the first popular revolt in Sudan in 1964 against the rule of General Aboud. (and no popular revolts in the Arab countries did not take place in 2011. We’ve had 2!)

Pic 8:  Art students in the 1960s Sudan.

all pics and info via http://jedarya.tumblr.com/post/83020403062

 

 

 

the dust, the dust and the dust

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10155962_10154026140775648_6277948066594982616_n 10271512_10154026149985648_2679628668832508797_nWe don’t get gold dust in Sudan but we do get grainy, sandy dust that alternates fm being a ‘kata7a’ to a ‘haboub’ or just plain ‘El dunia mutaraba’. Wearing black is not an option. The original and photoshopped pics (it’s not just celebrities who get a touch up you know).

Our sand storms are silky smooth, with a few rough granules here and there. It covers everything like a dusting of icing sugar when its in a good mood but most times opts for the Mother Nature wreaking hell on everything. Visibility is close to non-existent, asthma attacks are common place, if you’re a contact lens wearer you’re better off fumbling around then wearing them….its a horrible time to be in Sudan. 496143363_79bc1f8171

this last pic was taken by an expat a few years back and no the pic is most definitely not doctored… (https://www.flickr.com/photos/50454450@N00/496143363/?rb=1)