Charles K Deng
The aftermath of 1968 elections was not only manifested in the defeat of al-Sadig, or the murder of William Deng in the South, but also in the fact that the political players in the second democratic period further descended into chaos. Not surprisingly, the elections did not produce a clear winner, but a coalition between the NUP and the Umma Party (Mahjoub faction) had to be formed. Many issues concerning national unity, economic advancement of the country, the writing of a permanent constitution for the country etc., remained in the doldrums. The army in the South continued to commit horrendous human rights abuses, with impunity, and the Arab-Islamic elite continued to turn a blind eye to issues where elite is known over the world to take the lead.
The 1968 elections were also accompanied with the resurrection of the constitutional committee that was dissolved with the dissolution of parliament. In other countries, proposed constitutions do attempt to resolve or find common ground over issues of national concern. In the Sudan, the Islamic nature of the constitution became more important than resolving the decentralization of government southerners had been calling for, and were now joined by the rest of the non-Arab Sudan (east, west and other minorities). The call for an Islamic constitution propelled that issue to center stage because of the willingness of the traditional sectarian parties to be intimidated by the Muslim Brothers. Further, the issue of the representation of the educated class in graduate constituencies, which were abolished by the sectarian coalition government before the 1968 elections, was more important the issues of national unity and economic progress. So the non-religious Arab-Islamic, led by the Sudan Communist Party, put up a tenacious fight to have these constituencies reinstated.
Consequently, southerners, supported by the west and the east, put up a gallant fight for the inclusion in the draft constitution, the resolutions of the Twelve-Men Committee, which now provided, not for federation, but for a regional self-government on the basis of one region for the three southern provinces, plus other six regions for the north. Despite the soundness of the southern, Beja, and Nuba demand for regionalism, the ruling sectarian parties and the non-ruling Arab-Islamic elite rejected these proposals, and the sectarian parties and Khartoum media began to describe the regional grouping as “racist”. It is, therefore, evident in this equation, who is a racist? Definitely, not Philip Abbass Ghaboush who called for a separate region for the Nuba Mountains, or Mohammed Abdel-Gadir Osheik, who called for a separate region for the Beja, but the racists were surely the ruling Arab-Islamic elite.
In early 1969, the main features of the draft constitution became clear. Regionalism was rejected; the representation of the educated class in graduate constituencies was discarded; Islam and Arabic language became the official religion and language respectively. A presidential system was adopted against the parliamentary system southerners proposed. To please southerners, the sectarian parties included in the draft constitution vice-presidential positions
With the main provisions of the draft constitution agreed, particularly the adoption of a presidential system, the sectarian parties turned to who would be the possible contestants for the presidency. The obvious contestants in the ranks of the ruling sectarian parties were al-Imam al-Hadi al-Mahdi of the Ansars and Umma Party and al-Azhari of the NUP. However, the pervasive splits in the sectarian parties had continued unabated. The 1957 split in the Khatmiya sect that gave birth to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had dragged on into the second democratic period, while the ambition of the young al-Sadig al-Mahdi had racked the Umma Party and the Ansar Movement in 1966. The sectarian parties therefore found it necessary to unite its ranks for the big fight—the presidency.
Ideologically, there were no differences between both al-Imam al-Hadi al-Mahdi and his ambitious cousin al-Sadig al-Mahdi; both considered the Umma Party their property. Equally, there were no differences between al-Azhari and the leader of the Khatmiya sect Sayed Ali al-Mirghani. All of them were calling for an Islamic constitution and ignoring the real issues of the Sudan, such as that of national unity and economic progress of the country. Realizing that none would support the other during the elections for the presidency, each sought to unite the splinters in the rank of its party. Reconciliation between al-Sadig and his uncle al-Hadi al-Mahdi was concluded, allowing al-Sadig to support the quest of his uncle for the presidency, while he (al-Sadig) would become the prime minister, if al-Hadi won. This arrangement did not auger well with al-Mahjoub, because he was the first victim of that reconciliation, but had to agree with new arrangement. A similar arrangement was reached between Sayed Ali al-Mirghani and al-Azhari and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was born from the merger of the NUP and PDP.
While this unproductive activity was going on in the circles of the sectarian parties, the Sudan military had other ideas. A young colonel of the name Ga’afar al-Nimeiri staged a coup in the early morning hours of May 25, 1969, after only six years from the overthrow of the military dictatorship of General Abboud in October 1964. Nimeiri began as a pan-Arabist and a left leaning ruler; he packed his cabinet with Pan-Arabists and communists, promising the Sudanese people to make Khartoum the “ Havana of Africa” A former Chief Justice of the Sudan, Babiker Awadalla, a well known Arab nationalist, became prime minister. The so-called “Southern Problem” was given prominence, and late Joseph Garang, a southerner and a prominent member of the Sudan Communist Party, was appointed as minister for Southern Affairs. The sectarian parties and the right leaning politicians were condemned as “anti-revolutionary elements”.
Late Joseph Garang began his era, as Minister of Southern Affairs, with a communist dogma that wanted to create “socialist anti-imperialist leadership”, instead of tribalism and elite leadership that had always represented the South vis-à-vis the North. True to his Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist ideology, Joseph Garang also believed that the problem of the south was not cultural and religious but economic. In fact, his communist party mixed Arabism and Islam with Marxism and Leninism to an extent that it lost appeal among the educated southerners. The prominence of Arab national ideology, in the real practice of the communist party, made southerners to be hostile to the party. Being the only party in the Sudan, not inhibited by Islam, South should have been its natural recruiting ground. Because of its Leninist nature, mixed with Pan-Arabism, the SCP failed to attract southerners, and southerners therefore shunned belonging to it.
From day one, there was an unspoken conflict between the members of the Sudan Communist Party and Nimeiri. At the inception of the coup, the coup leadership had suspended the constitution, dissolved all democratic institutions and parties, including the Sudan Communist Party. However, the communists were oblivious of this fact, or ignored it and continued to function as a party. Things came to a head, when the communist members of the coup Revolutionary Command Council staged a counter coup on July 19, 1971. The communist coup did not survive for two days, and Nimeiri came back to power with vengeance. The communist leadership bore the brunt of that failure. Nimeiri hanged the SCP secretary –general, Abdel-Khalig Mahjoub, al-Shafie Ahmed al-Sheikh and Joseph Garang. Execution by fire squads was also carried against the coup perpetrators, Major Hashim Mohammed al-Ata, Major Faroug Hamadalla, Lieutenant Colonel Babiker al-Nur and many others. Widespread arrests and detentions affected the rest of SCP membership.
With communists out of the way, Nimeiri embarked on an effort for resolution of the so-called “Southern Problem”. His first step was the appointment of three southern governors for the three southern provinces. For the first time in the history of the independent Sudan, South had its own sons at the head of its administration. Since independence, northern governors, including their deputies and the necessary civil, military, and police administrations, had ruled the South. Southerners were pleased with what they saw, and Nimeiri was hailed as the only northern ruler that ever did justice to the South. However, these appointments were not enough to make the Anyanya Movement embraced him. Much remained to be done, particularly after alienating the communists, Nimeiri found himself without much support in the North. He therefore planned to appease the south in order to neutralize northern opposition.
Prior to 1971 coup, the SCP had coined the Ninth-of-June Declaration that made: first, the resolution of the so-called “Southern Problem” a number one priority; and second, the recognition of cultural and ethnic differences between the south and the north. Nimeiri and his men had this Declaration, the Round Table, the Twelve-Men Committee, and the All Parties Conference resolutions before them. Moreover, Nimeiri was no longer pulling along the heavy baggage of communist ideology. The policy of creating “socialist anti-imperialist” was buried with communist party.
Furthermore, he knew that Anyanya was now better organized and armed than ever, under the leadership of Joseph Lagu, an ex-Sudan Army officer. Nimeiri was therefore not ready for another round of firefight with south. His communist rhetoric has alienated the west. After slaughtering the strongest communist party in the Middle East and Africa, the Soviets were apparently not ready to bankroll him. So the lack of sources of armament ultimately forced Nimeiri to the negations table.
Nimeiri, at that time, had surrounded himself with the best technocrats and pragmatists, like Dr. Mansour Khalid, the then foreign minister. Dr. Khalid and Dr Ga’afar Mohammed Ali Bhakeit took charge of the southern file, and embarked on contacts outside the Sudan, including the Anyanya leadership. In early 1972, negotiations were underway in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, and an agreement was reached and declared by Nimeiri in Khartoum. Perhaps, with the exception of the negotiators, nobody saw the original text of what was agreed. What Nimeiri declared in 1972, was a law making the three southern provinces an autonomous region.
The so-called Addis Ababa Agreement suffered from so many drawbacks: first, it was south-south negotiations. Abel Alier led the government delegation, while the Anyanya delegation had Joseph Lagu as its leader, making it appear like south-south dialogue. Second, the agreement itself lacked basic powers, which would have made the Southern region exercise some reasonable independence. For instance, financial provisions were skewed against the south. South had to wait for the North to approve budgetary allocation. Third, the areas, in which a referendum should have been held for its people to decide where they would belong, were ignored. Fourth, the implementation of the agreement was entrusted to one man, Dr. Ga’afar Ali Bakheit, a career administrator, whose colleagues had been historically anti-regionalism, because they thought the posts of governors in the south were their birthright. Finally, Nimeiri never, in good faith, accepted the agreement, but considered it as an instrument for buying time, enabling him to continue in power.
Addis Ababa Agreement, though short in the manner just described, it was however peace, which gave Nimeiri a new lease of life to continue the rule of Sudan. In the South, he became a hero in the eyes of the southerners. In the north he faced considerable opposition from the northern sectarian parties, Muslim Brothers, and now from the communists. In 1976, he was almost overthrown by an invasion organized by al-Sadig, Al-Shrief al-Hindi and al-Trubi, with the support of Libyan strongman, Colonel al-Ghadafi. He survived because of southern support, and the invasion was defeated with the help of the southern officers in the Sudanese Army. Nevertheless, Nimeiri went out of his way and began to seek reconciliation with the sectarian parties. One of the conditions of the sectarian parties for reconciling was for Nimeiri to scrap the Addis Ababa agreement. Another condition put forward by the sectarian parties, particularly by the Muslim Brothers, was the harmonization of the existing laws with the shari’a.
Al-Turabi was entrusted with the task of harmonization. Although they had already been consumed by south south in fighting for power—Abel Alier and Bona Malwal against Joseph Lagu and Samuel Aru, Equatorians against the Dinka, and finally Equatorians against the whole South—southerners watched with dismay and trepidation. Each team was attempting to gain the support of Nimeiri. Nimeiri was, therefore, pleased with what he saw and heard, the abid were clamoring for power, and the best strategy—in the opinion of Nimeiri—was to deepen their quarrels. The sectarian parties and the Muslims Brothers were also congratulating themselves for the effectiveness of their strategy; they had succeeded in making Nimeiri tear apart his only legacy—peace in the Sudan.
Against all the legal provisions in the 1973 constitution, which made the Addis Ababa Agreement an organic law to be amended in accordance with its provisions, Nimeiri took the bold step in 1981 and dissolved the Regional Assembly; he therefore appointed a caretaker president of the High Executive Council (HEC); and also against the provisions of the Addis Accord, he asked the newly appointed president of HEC, General Gismalla Abdalla Rasas, to divide the South. Gismalla, however, understood the historical responsibility that went with such a decision. Although Nimeiri was furious, Mr. Gismalla Abdalla Rasas diplomatically refused to divide the South into three regions as Joseph Lagu and his Equatorian kokora supporters had demanded. The veteran politician Clement Mboro and others opposed the redivision scheme. Gismalla, therefore, decided to conduct free and fair elections for a new Regional Assembly to choose a new president for the HEC, and take charge of the issue of division of the Southern Region. Nimeiri could not forgive Gismalla for what he considered as an affront by the man he had hand picked. As he was a serving General in the Sudanese Army, Nimeiri immediately retired Gismalla from the active service in the Army.
Since 1975, there had been turmoil in the ranks of the absorbed Anyanya in Sudanese Army. Under the Addis Ababa Accord, it was understood that the absorbed Anyanya unites would remain in the South and were not liable for transfer to any other part of Sudan. Nimeiri and his generals in the Army General Command had been attempting to affect the transfer of Anyanya units to the north, which resulted in several mutinies, such as in Akobo in 1975, Aweil and Wau in 1976, and Juba in 1977.
By now and as long as he had appeased the sectarian parties and the Muslim Brothers, Nimeri came to the conclusion that he could dispense with the southern support. In as much as the Addis Ababa was, in his opinion, a temporary arrangement to neutralize the north opposition to his rule, there was no need for the south, after all he had regained the north. On June 5, 1983, Nimeiri began actually to implement his new policies in the South: he decreed the division of the south into three regions, each with its legislature and executive; he did not even bother to ask himself, as to how he would finance this new bureaucratic machine. When Mr. Mboro wrote him protesting the illegality of his decisions, he ordered the arrest of Mboro and other southern politicians objecting to these ill-informed decisions.
Nimeiri was such a man who could not see any correlation between his decisions and their consequences; by dividing the south, he lost sight of a long history. Earlier, for instance, it was the insistence of the northern political elite to accept the desire of the South to be treated as one region that racked the constitutional process that was underway before coming to power. Nimeiri further alienated the South when he began arresting southern leaders like Mboro, Bona Malwal and Joseph Oduho. At that time Anyanya II had appeared on the scene.
On May 16, 1983, Battalions 105 and 104 had, under the respective command of Major Karubino Kwanyin Bol and Major William Nyoun Beny, rebelled in both Bor and Ayod. Before the mutiny of the two battalions, Kwanyin Bol had come under attack by Sudan Army in Juba, and Colonel John Garang de Mabior, who was on leave in Bor, joined the two battalions after taking command, as the most senior officer. The two battalions, with all available Sudan military equipment under their possession, headed for the Sudan-Ethiopian borders. A war that lasted until January 9, 2005, had just began.
At that time Nimeiri had not only decimated the Addis Ababa Accord and the reconciliation between him and the traditional parties, but had gone further to empty the Sudan Armed Forces of its most senior and competent officers in 1981. Nimeiri retired his most senior officers in the Army because they had dared to face him with evidence of rampant corruption surrounding him. Consequently, 22 senior officers were retired, including Nimeiri’s First Vice, Minister of Defense and Commander-General of the Sudan Armed Forces, General Abdel-Majid Hamid Khalil. The command of the Armed Forces devolved on generals who did not have the guts to stand-up to Nimeiri such as General Abdel-Rhaman Swar el-Dahab, as we shall see later.
With the illegal abrogation of the Addis Ababa accord in June 1983, Nimeiri had now lost the South forever. Failure to faithfully and honestly implement the reconciliation pact between him and the traditional sectarian parties, Nimeiri had, as well, lost the north—with the exception of the Muslim Brothers, who wanted to use their alliance with Dictator Nimeiri to rebuild their organization, politically and economically.
As the battalions 105 and 104 under the command of Colonel John Garang were moving to the Sudan-Ethiopian borders, and we have also mentioned that some disgruntled Anyanya absorbed units having rebelled earlier and formed Anyanya II, there was bound to be friction between the two forces. Although both armed groups had one aim fighting the Nimeiri regime and getting rid of the northern political dominance, both had different approaches to the same issue. The Anyanya II, under the leadership of Samuel Gai Tut and Akout Atem, declared its avowed aim to be the separation of the South as its ultimate goal for the southern struggle, while battalions 105 and 104—joined by students, government officials, and the peasantry—under the command of Colonel John Garang, Major Karubino Kwanyin Bol, Major William Nyoun Beny, and Major Arok Thon Arok, had other ideas. Now the two battalions had transformed itself into the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA).
The newly born Movement had analyzed the Sudanese political scene and came to the conclusion that it must fight for a pluralistic, united, democratic and secular Sudan, “a new Sudanese political dispensation that is based on the realities of the Sudan, both historical and contemporary diversities”. Southern politicians, who had run the South under the Addis Accord and were still clinging to Nimeiri, were now largely discredited and played no role in the new movement. Addis Ababa Accord had failed to satisfy the aspiration of the people of Southern Sudan. Power remained in the north, and it had continued with its project of arabization and islamaization of the country.
The two visions of the SPLM/A and Anyanya II were bound to clash. Anyanya II wanted the old fashion methods and approaches to the issues of struggle, while SPLM/A wanted a novel enlightened approach to the same issues. Indeed, the SPLM/A membership was mostly composed of young ex-Sudanese army officers, students and government officials, while Anyanya II was mostly composed of the uneducated ex-Anyanya I officers and NCOs. Unfortunately, the differences were resolved by resort to violence, which had pervaded the relationship of the two movements throughout the struggle. In that struggle of the two visions, SPLM/A came on the top, and Anyanya II had to resort to the help of the same enemy (the Old Sudan), and later and substantial part of Anyanya II joined SPLM/A, while the remaining part degenerated into becoming part of the Sudan Armed Forces, and dubbed by the successive governments of the Old Sudan as the “Friendly Forces”.
After alienating the South and the northern religious sectarian parties, coupled with the resumption of armed struggle in the South, Nimeiri was in search of new allies. The nearest political group he could turn to was the Muslim Brothers. But that choice was not without its dangers and costs. Nimeiri decided to resort to Islamic religion, oblivion of the fact that religion, in the opinion of Benjamin Franklin—one of the Founding Fathers of American Independence struggle—is the last resort for the scoundrels. In September 1983, Nimeiri declared Shari’a law. As a result of so doing, he wanted to pull the rug under the feet of the religious sectarian parties, neutralized them, and secured automatic support of the Muslim Brothers. Nimeiri therefore relied on three untested young lawyers in drafting the new shari’a laws, while Dr. Al-Turabi, the leader of the Muslim Brothers, languished in the next office as his legal adviser. Nimeiri was sending a message to the Muslim Brothers that they must be the supporters of the new Islamic legislation, and not the leaders or initiators. Indeed, the Muslim Brothers were willing supporters of the new shari’a laws, despite their lack of proper legal and canonical content.
With the support of the Muslim Brothers, Nimeiri was now ready to take on those who criticized the religious laws as deviation from Islam, and declared them as apostates (murted and/or zindiegh). Opposition to him became equal opposition to Islam, and the Muslim Brothers, especially their leader Dr. al-Turabi, were behind Nimeiri, justifying and finding fetawi, for his actions as true Islam. All the trade unions that were under the control of Muslim Brother were called upon to render the Islamic oath of allegiance to Imam Field-Marshal Ga’afar Mohammed Nimeiri. Those pledging allegiance included Dr. a-l Turabi, Nimeiri’s first vice president, Omar al-Tayib, General Abdel-Rhman Sawar el-Dahab, on behalf of the Sudan Armed Forces—which he never consulted— Dr. al-Gizouli Dafalla, the president of the medical association (subsequently the April uprising prime minister), and Joseph Lagu (a Christian and the second vice president); he thought the opportunity should not pass him by to express his loyalty to the man who decreed division of the South.
The economy was going from bad to worst; the war in the South had begun disastrously for Nimeiri’s generals. SPLA was scoring victory after victory. To top his woes, in 1984 draught had set in Darfur and Kordofan, and was pushing hundreds of thousands of people who had lost out to the harsh nature towards Khartoum. By late 1984 and early 1985, Nimeiri became desperate. He ordered the hanging of the non-violent visionary Islamic scholar, Mahmoud Mohammed Taha. The hanging of a peaceful non-violent Islamic scholar was the straw that broke the bake of the camel. In the traditionally tolerant Sudan, the execution of a peaceful man like Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, just because he criticized the new shari’a legislation as un-Islamic sent enormous shivers among Sudanese. In April 1984, Nimeiri regime was overthrown by the combination of popular uprising led by the trade unions and mutiny in the lower ranks of the officers’ corps in the Sudan Armed Forces.
After sixteen years of one-man rule, Sudan was once more knocking at the doors of liberal democracy. However, the Arab-Islamic elite, civilian and the military, who was the force behind April 6 uprising or intifada abril, found itself with no say in running the government of the uprising. Why was that? The answer was and is still simple: the generals in the Sudan Armed Forces had stolen the show. The Transitional Military Council (TMC), which was formed to lead the transitional period, consisted entirely of Nimeiri appointed 15 generals. On the top of the TMC was General Abdel-Rhaman Sawar el-Dahab, a conservative Arab-Islamist general, closer to the Muslim Brothers than to the lower rank of the army officers. The second most powerful man in the TMC was General Osman Abdalla, chameleon-like character, who became the minister of defense and who strongly advocated, just before the morning of April 6, that the riot police should use life ammunition on the demonstrating masses. The Council of Ministers of the April uprising was no better than the TMC. The prime minister, Dr. al-Gizouli Dafalla and the minister of Health, Dr. Hussein Abu Saleh, both came directly from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Under these circumstances, it was impossible for the April uprising to achieve its declared intentions. On the top of the Trade Union Alliance for National Salvation’s agenda was the repeal of the September laws (the shari’a laws, as they became known in the Sudanese political literature), and the raging war in the South. Unsurprisingly, the Trade Union Alliance discovered, sooner than later, the intifada leadership it had chosen belonged to the Muslim Brothers and the maverick Islamic leader, Dr Hassan al-Turabi. Not only that, the traditional sectarian parties were not ready to go along with the Alliance’s demand for the repeal of the September laws. DUP immediately froze its membership in the Alliance, complaining that the minority left in the Alliance was imposing its views on the majority. The other party, the Umma, spoke from both sides of its mouth; al-Sadig al-Mahdi talked about alternative Islamic laws to that of September laws. The Trade Union Alliance for National Salvation had nobody to blame but itself. It knew that the leadership they had chosen was true to its political ideology. Both General Sawar e-l-Dahab, the Chairman of the TMC, and Dr. al-Gizouli Dafalla were Muslims Brothers who supported the September laws by deeds and words during the Nimeiri regime. Both were the first who supported the September laws and paid the Islamic oath of allegiance, mubai’ia, to Imam Nimeiri, and each and every member of the Alliance knew pretty well where they stood vis-à-vis the September laws.
On the second issue in the Alliance’s agenda, i.e., the bloodletting war in the South, it was evident that the Alliance perceived the war in the normal traditional sense, when its charter simply provided for the resolution of the “southern problem” within the framework of the regional self-government rule, on democratic basis, allowing true participation by all political forces representing the South. While the armed rebellion in the South (SPLM/A) had reached a conclusion, in its Manifesto 1983, that the characterization of the war in the South as “southern problem” was fundamentally flout, and had led the successive civilian and military governments in Khartoum to incorrectly characterized the war as a north-south war. Thus, SPLM/A held the view that the problem was that of Sudan, that required the Sudanese to look into the unbalanced political, economic and social structures since independence and to adopt a new Sudanese political dispensation that is based on the realities of the Sudan, on both historical and contemporary diversities. This could be done in a national constitutional conference.
The SPLM/A vision and approach called of a national constitutional conference in which the Sudanese would deliberate, discuss and reach a new Sudanese dispensation that would correct the historical imbalances created by the governments that had come and gone in Khartoum since independence in 1956. The reaction of the Alliance was negative, because it incorrectly thought the SPLM/A was objecting to the military per se in its statement, which it made immediately after the uprising. The SPLM/A, in that statement, made it abundantly clear that it was not ready to deal with Nimeiri’s 15 generals of the TMC, but was ready to engage with the real forces at the lower ranks in the Sudan Armed Forces and the Trade Union Alliance that ignited the uprising, not the general who stole the people’s revolution.
As usual, the Arab-Islamic elite could not believe that the SPLM/A characterization of the problem of the Sudan was correct and that it pointed the way to the resolution of Sudan’s many problems. Hence, the TMC and the Trade Union Alliance for National Salvation resolved the resurrection of the Addis Ababa Agreement, the abrogation of the division of the South into three regions, the appointment of military governors for the three southern provinces, and the convention of a national conference in which northern, southern politicians and scientists would participate to suggest a general framework acceptable to the Sudanese for governance of the South.
Two conflicting visions, putting forward two conflicting approaches. To attain that vision, SPLM/A had engaged in peace initiatives with the government of the day in Khartoum, beginning with the Koka Dam Declaration (1985), the Sudan Peace Agreement (1988) and the IGAD Peace Initiatives (1993-2005). In and between these much-publicized initiatives there were others: (I) the nine-hour dialogue between Dr. John Garang and al-Sadig al-Mahdi at the beginning of his premiership in 1986, (II) the Union of Sudan African Parties (USAP), (III) the Sudan Armed Forces (1988), and (IV) Abuja I and II (1992-1993).
The transitional period came to an end in the first quarter of 1986, without resolving the issue of war in the Sudan. However, towards the end of the that period, a meaningless debate ensued, as to whether to extend the transitional period, as one of the members of the TMC, General Taj el-Din Abdalla, suggested, or to go ahead with the elections. The trade unions and the political parties dismissed that suggestion as a tactical reason for the military to stay in power. In addition, the SPLM/A proposal to postpone the elections, until the after the national constitutional conference, was also rejected. As such, a meaningless debate ensued, as a preface to the Arab-Islamic elite fond of repeating history. The lessons of 1965 were forgotten, when elections were held in the North, without the South with human tragic consequences that followed. Once more the graduate constituencies were reinstated in their old form.
Elections were held in the northern and graduate constituencies in April 1986, without the South. The results were shocking to the traditional sectarian parties and the trade unions. The National Islamic Front (NIF), the new name for the Muslim Brothers, became the third larges party, with 51 constituencies, after the Umma party and the DUP. The Umma Party, under the leadership of al-Sadig al-Mahdi, became the largest political party in the new parliament, with 101 constituencies, but with no overall majority. So, al-Sadig al-Mahdi became the prime minister of the coalition government between his party and the DUP, under the leadership of Mawlana Mohammed Osman Ali al-Mirghni.
This time round, the new coalition government of third democratic period faced many crisis, which no sensible politician could hope to face: there was the old parties’ conflict, which brought Nimeiri to power in 1969; there was the war in the South, which was going extremely badly for the traditional rulers of the Sudan; there was the destruction the Nimeiri regime had inflicted on the Sudan—the September laws; and finally, the changed international balance of power.
The first crises, namely, the old parties’ conflict reared its ugly head at the naming of the various individuals to fill the posts of the main three institutions, the presidency, the executive and the judiciary. In this regard, the two parties decided to share these institutions. The Arab-Islamic elite arrogated to itself the presidency of the Council of the State, the Speaker of parliament, the premiership—of course—and position of the chief justice. There was not even the thinking of making these institutions representative of the whole country. Regrettably, al-Sadig took an unprecedented step when filling the only position reserved for the South in the Council of the State. Because of the usual squabbles among southern political parties for the crump, squabbles that are invariably fueled by the northern parties, the southern parties could not agree on one candidate to fill the post in the Council of State. So, al-Sadig handpicked Dr. Pacifico Lado Lolik to be the member representing the South in the Council of State, provided that he signed a letter of resignation deposited with the prime minister, to use it when appropriate. As Dr. Monsur Khalid ably described it: “The man who disrespected himself, accepted this ‘honor’.” This is just a specimen of how Imam al-Sadig, the man the Arab-Islamic elite is fascinated with these days, would lead the Sudan for a third time.
As soon as he had finished putting together his government and after two or three months from the Koka Dam Declaration, al-Sadig, boarded a plane to meet Dr. John Garang, the SPLM/A leader. I guess al-Sadig must have been thinking about the lightweight southern politicians that sleep at his door, and of whom he had been accustomed to in Khartoum. That meeting lasted for nine hours, leaving people with the impression that a meeting of minds about the most important issue, the issue of peace and war, might have occurred. Arriving back to Khartoum, al-Sadig issued a statement that Dr. Garang was a daydreamer; he refused to expand or elaborate on what went on during the meeting. As Mansour Khalid reported, later on, there was an agreement to the effect that he (al-Sadig) would implement the Koka Dam Declaration and Garang would order immediate seize-fire. However, al-Sadig’s refusal to explain to the Sudanese people about what issues were discussed in the meeting meant he found Dr. Garang not to be what he had hoped for. He accompanied his refusal to explain to the Sudanese people about what went on between him and Garang, with call for rewriting the Koka Dam Declaration. This is the man the Arab-Islamic elite has, these days, rallied on his call for a constitutional conference, when, some twenty years ago, the idea of the national constitutional conference had been the SPLM/A idea since Koka Dam Declaration.
Al-Sadig al-Mahdi ultimately rejected the Koka Dam Declaration, which laid out the procedures for the convention of the national constitutional conference, he is now desperately in need for. His main reason for repudiating the only document that gave hope for stopping war and attaining peace was that Mawlana al-Mirghani and his brother-in-law, Dr. al-Turabi, the NIF leader, did not participate in the deliberations that led to Koka Dam Declaration.
At this point in time, Mawlana Mohammed Osman Ali al-Mirghani finally woke-up from his long slumbers. In fact, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had not taken seriously the issues of war and peace. It had relied on the “expertise” of some northern traders in the South, who declared themselves as experts in the so-called “southern problem”. Majority of these traders were either illiterate or half-educated and their experience with the South had never gone beyond dealing with chiefs in the villages, where they made some money. Consequently, the DUP had no contact with the SPLM/A, whether before the fall of the dictator Nimeiri, or thereafter. Its highest representative in the coalition government was the lethargic incompetent foreign minister al-Sharif Zein al-A’abidin al-Hindi. Mr. al-Hindi did not occur to him that the issue of war and peace was a number-one priority to his coalition government, and never made a single attempt to meet those who led the war. The only effort in this respect came from the veteran politicians in the DUP, Sid-Ahmed al-Hussein and Mohammed Towfig Ahmed. Mr. Sid-Ahmed al-Hussein, the minister of interior in the coalition government had been in contact with SPLM/A, but without the support of the president of the party, Mawlana al-Mirghani, nor that of the secretary-general of the party, al-Hindi
In late 1988, Mawlana Mohammed Osman Ali al-Mirghani took a giant step and met in Addis Ababa with the SPLM/A leader, John Garang. Indeed, the SPLM/A had correctly judged that the DUP was an important junior partner in al-Sadig’s government, and wanted the DUP on board and joined the Koka Dam Declaration. The dialogue was positive and the historic Sudan Peace Agreement was concluded, modifying the Koka Dam Declaration. Instead of the repeal provided under the Koka Dam Declaration, the agreement called for the freeze of September laws. On his return to Khartoum, Mawlana al-Mirghani was given a hero welcome by the Sudanese masses, which came out in hundreds of thousands.
Prior and before al-Mirghani peace initiative, al-Sadig had managed to include in his government a third party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), under the leadership of the Islamic ideologue, Dr. Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi. Between 1985 and 1987, al-Sadig al-Mahdi had categorically ruled out the possibility of cooperation between him and al-Turabi’s party. His logic was that the NIF was an organization for the remnants of Nimeiri dictatorship, and that the leader of the NIF, Dr. al-Turabi, being the legal adviser to Nimeiri government, was responsible for all its decisions, which included the September laws. Most importantly, he (al-Sadig) had promised his allies in the Trade Union Alliance for National Salvation that the destiny of the September was the “dustbin of history”. Now, al-Sadig did not only repudiate that categorical rejection of the September laws, but he did begin to talk about the “alternative Islamic laws”. In fact, he had jumped the ship and was, for all intent and purpose, on the side of the Islamist al-Turabi, and finally included him in his government in 1987.
Over the years, al-Turabi had been essentially against peace in the Sudan, and consistently condemned, as anti-Islamic, any peaceful negotiations or contact with the SPLM/A by other political forces. During al-Turabi’s alliance with Nimeiri, he had the opportunity to rebuild the Muslim Brothers movement politically and economically. As soon as the Faisal and Baraka Banks appeared in the Sudan, al Turabi made sure that his “brothers” got the top jobs and total control of those Islamic banks. In the years of the devastating draught in Africa, the emirs of the Gulf region thought of creating Islamic relief agencies to help Africa out of its hard times. There was no other country fit to do this humanitarian duty on their behalf but the Sudan. Immediately, the Muslim Brothers took charge of those relief agencies, not directing the funds of those Islamic agencies for the intended purposes, but used it to build their political power inside the Sudan.
The Muslim Brothers—which had change their name as the National Islamic Front—used that ill-gotten funds to finance and enlarge it membership, through bribery and extortion, particularly in the ranks of the Sudan Armed Forces and among its retried officers. The financial affluence of the NIF was reflected in the elections of 1986 and the number of seats it was able to capture in parliament, compared to its tiny membership base. During this period, the NIF beat the drums of war and projected Arab-Islamic ideology, amounting to racial and religious apartheid. Essentially, al-Turabi wanted an all-out war with the SPLM/A, accompanied by an intensive program of islamization and arabization of the South.
When Mawlana al-Mirghani returned from Addis Ababa in the fashion described above, there was the failure of the official media from even mentioning what Mawlana had achieved in Addis Ababa. The prime minister al-Sadig al-Mahdi was now in the pocket of his brother-in-law, the NIF leader, and Dr. al-Turabi. The general public began to speculate as to why the prime minister was silent: first that the prime minister had become a hostage of the NIF and therefore would not accept any agreement not acceptable to the NIF; second that al-Sadig was griped by political jealousy, in the sense he should have been the peacemaker, especially after his Umma Party was a part of the Koka Dam Declaration. When he finally came out, he asked the parliament for delegation of power to renegotiate or ask questions about the agreement from the SPLM/A. The DUP and the SPLM/A rejected that approach, saying either the Prime Minister accepted the agreement en to to or reject it en to to. The prime minister, with the active help of the NIF, voted down, in parliament, the Sudan Peace Agreement on December 21, 1988, embarrassing the position of the DUP, which consequently withdrew from the coalition government.
With the burial of the Sudan Peace Agreement at the hands of al-Sadig and his brother-in-law, the Sudan Armed Forces began to show dissatisfaction in its ranks. It saw the Umma party of the prime minister and the NIF of his brother-in-law and the people’s representatives in parliament voting down the only peace agreement that could have brought the war to an end. The Armed Forces further saw al-Sadig and al-Turabi forming a new government, after withdrawal of the DUP from the coalition, and calling for general mobilization for war and the outlawing of any contact with the SPLM/A.
Under these circumstances, the prime minister had misjudged the readiness of any soldier to die in war, when such war could be peacefully resolved, particularly seeing the historic reception the Sudanese masses gave to Mawlana al-Mirghani. The Army correctly read that reception by the people of Sudan to Mawlana al-Mirghani as a sign of the thirst of Sudanese for peace, which, unfortunately, al-Sadig, the prime minister, failed to see. Al-Sadig failed to see that people’s reception, not because he could not understand it, but because he was implementing the NIF’s agenda of war.
On February 20,1989, the Sudan Armed Forces took the unprecedented step of petitioning the prime minister. For those who thought that the military should not have acted in the way the Sudan Armed Forces did, it was a sure sign of insubordination. However, for those who thought the military was right to react in the manner it did, argued that it would be suicidal for the military to fight a war that could be resolved peacefully by the politicians. The petition itself consisted of twenty points, including the unstable political front, the lack of armament, the issue of militias that were recruited by al-Sadig al-Mahdi from the ranks of his ansars, and the lack of a coherent foreign policy that would attract the sources of armament.
Meanwhile and after the withdrawal of the DUP from the coalition government and the formation of al-Sadig/al-Turabi government, the SPLM/A went on to score a series of spectacular victories, taking town after town. With the military petition, these victories forced al-Sadig al-Mahdi to look back on DUP for help, and accepted to form a new coalition that would implement the Sudan Peace Agreement. The two largest parties in the parliament (Umma & DUP), therefore, agreed to form a national unity government that would include everyone. The government of national unity was formed, and the NIF, that was planning it coup by that time, refused to join the government on the pretext that the Sudan Peace Agreement repealed the shari’a laws. Sid Ahmed al-Hussein, the deputy prime minister and minister of interior in the government of national unity, led a delegation to meet the SPLM/A, and September 18, 1989, was agreed as the date of the national constitutional conference (to be continued).