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memri
December 10, 2010 No.
3438

'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id Warns of Anarchy in Sudan

In advance of the referendum on South Sudan's independence, set for January 9, 2011, Arab states, and in particular Egypt, have expressed deep concern about the possibility of Sudan's partition into two sovereign states. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit explained that Egypt's main worry was that this outcome might lead to the partition of other Arab states.[1] On another occasion, he pointed out that Egypt had suggested various solutions to the crisis, such as establishing a confederation.[2]

The Egyptian press likewise expressed apprehension about the possible implications of the referendum. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, board chairman of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote that the situation in Sudan could have negative repercussions both within Sudan and elsewhere in the region. [3]

Following are excerpts from Sa'id's article:

The Situation in Sudan Is More Dangerous Than That in Iraq

"It is not easy to predict the onset of a political and strategic storm, because there are many factors that are difficult to take into account, and may ease the tension... Is it possible that the partition or unification of Sudan will take place smoothly, that the referendum will be held on schedule, and that the Sudanese people will decide their fate peacefully? [Concern] is growing because wishful thinking has never [been enough] to turn storms into gentle breezes.

"While the first decade of the 21st century in the Middle East belonged to Iraq, the second decade will belong to Sudan. If [we look] at history, what happened in Iraq [seems] similar to [the current situation] in Sudan... Iraq will never go back to how it was, and its story will stay with us over the coming decades.

"But Sudan's situation is even more dangerous. The first signs of a storm appeared a long time ago, in the middle of the last century. But in the 1970s, after the South was granted autonomy,[4] it seemed like a window for salvation had been opened. However, it appears that happiness is impossible in our region, [because] suddenly [former Sudanese] president [Ga'afar] Nimeiry felt the need to implement shari'a law... And the result was another civil war."

The Democratic Experiment in Sudan Failed

"The democratic experiment in Sudan failed... and by the end of the '80s there was a military coup, as is customary [in our region]. This time, the military did not just... confront the anarchy among the [people] and fight corruption, but an Islamic state was established. The Muslim Brotherhood came to power and rendered partition inevitable, because [Sudan] as a civil state was lost for good.

"Over the last 20 years, much water has flowed down the Nile. During this time, Khartoum tried to [establish itself] as the center of world revolution. It became the destination [of choice] for extremist Islamist rebels like Osama bin Laden, [as well as for] Marxist, communist, anarchist, and terrorist rebels like Ilich Ramírez [Sanches, aka] Carlos...

"Whoever knows [anything] about life and history knows that every action has its price... and Sudan has paid a high price. The separatist movement [i.e. the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)] grew stronger, to the point where it reached an agreement [with the Sudanese government] that allowed the South to separate [from the North]. Sudan was attacked by planes over an unfounded suspicion;[5] the [Muslim] Brotherhood was ousted from power, though their ideology remained; the rebels were exiled and extradited to whoever wanted [them]; rebel movements emerged in Darfur; and the international community interfered [in Sudan], to the extent that the International Criminal Court issued an indictment against [Sudanese] president ['Omar Al-Bashir]."

The Naivasha Agreement Rendered Partition Sudan's Only Option

"The extent to which all of this was just or moral is not the issue. What is important is that the first decade of the current century was, for Sudan, a decade of preparation, of raising the curtain on the opening act of the end of the Sudanese state, at least as we know it. Sudan was established as a state that united numerous races under the flag of a single citizenship. But with custom, tradition, and political leadership [left] in the hands of one group, [Sudan as] a [united] country did not pass the test. The same thing happened in Iraq...

"In both cases, the country collapsed when [the principle of equality among] citizens failed. While the Iraqis, after much bloodshed, found a way to divide the leadership [among the various ethnic groups, albeit one that] greatly weakened the [central] government, the Sudanese reached an agreement in Naivasha[6] that rendered partition the only option, especially in light of North [Sudan's] devotion to its religious and racial character.

"Now that the curtain has gone up on the first act [of Sudan's dissolution as a state], the question will be raised regarding the legitimacy of two states – North [Sudan] and South [Sudan] – each with a government lacking any democratic tradition... More important than this is the [issue of] Sudanese identity: what [will it] mean to be Sudanese? What [will it] mean to live in South Sudan?..."

Partition Will Lead To Both Internal and External Strife

"As in several similar cases in history, the situation will change when a group of people succeeds in establishing a new legitimacy and identity, and exploits the fear of anarchy in order to consolidate its rule and establish a state – or when it fails to do so. And [the latter] is an entirely plausible option, [one which can certainly] occur in a storm, [and] which will manifest itself in both internal and external strife. [The North Sudanese] will come out against [their state] for losing the south, and [the South Sudanese] will come out against the South [Sudanese state] both for [its] corruption and because their situation will deteriorate even more [as a result of their] self-determination...

"[But] logic dictates that the external conflict will erupt first, with the brothers in the erstwhile united country. In Abyei[7] alone, there are enough [reasons] to take up arms... It is no coincidence that the Sudanese government has suddenly, in the midst of the tragedy it is [now] experiencing, raised the issue of the Egyptian Hala'ib–Shalateen region.[8] It is no coincidence that South Sudan has begun complaining about Uganda and Eritrea's behavior... This is the start of the second chapter of the Sudanese [story], which is no longer Sudanese. It will be followed by additional chapters which are not unfamiliar to us in the least."[9]

 

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), October 31, 2010.

[2] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), November 4, 2010.

[3] Also, an Al-Ahram editorial expressed concern regarding South Sudan's future policy on the allocation of the waters of the Nile, should it become an independent state (Al-Ahram, Egypt, December 10, 2010).

[4] The Addis Ababa Agreement, also known as the Addis Ababa Accord, signed in 1972 following Sudan's first civil war, granted partial autonomy to rebels in the south, and heralded in a decade of relative calm.

[5] This is apparently a reference to Operation Infinite Reach (August 1998), in which the U.S. launched cruise missiles at targets in Sudan, in retaliation for the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. One of the targets was a pharmaceutical plant that was suspected of involvement in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

[6] The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, also known as the Naivasha Agreement, was signed in Khartoum in 2005 between the SPLM and the Sudanese government.

[7] An oil-rich region contested between North and South Sudan; its borders have yet to be demarcated.

[8] A region along the Egypt-Sudan border that has been contested between the two countries since Sudan's independence in 1956.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 27, 2010.