Afrique : histoire, economie, politique

EN 1999

Sudan: a political and military history

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, was ruled jointly by Britain and Egypt from 1899 until achieving independence as a parliamentary republic at the beginning of 1956.
Since then Sudan has been ruled by a succession of unstable civilian and military governments. The country has been in a state of civil war for many years, and human rights abuses are widespread.

In the 1990s government forces have repeatedly launched aerial bombardments on civilian targets in southern Sudan.

War and crop failure has resulted in starvation
Since 1983 over 1.2m people have been killed, and the civil war has devastated the Sudanese economy.

It costs the government an estimated $1.5m a day.

Peace talks have broken down repeatedly

A peace agreement in 1972 ended the first civil war after independence, and made some movement towards federalism.

However, tensions between the authorities in Khartoum and those in the Southern region, and divisions between different groups of southerners, led to further outbreaks of violence in the early 1980s.

Sudan has experienced a long-running conflict between the Arab Muslim northerners of Sudan, (the base of the Government), and the black Africans of the south, who practise mainly Christian or animist beliefs.

This conflict worsened following the imposition of strict Muslim - Shari'a - law in 1983 under then-President Nimeri.

Two years later Nimeri was deposed in a bloodless coup and the new regime relaxed of the application of Shari'a law to non-Muslims in 1986.

Nonetheless the Sudan's People's Liberation Army increased its attacks on the north to the level of full-scale civil war in the mid-1980s.

General Omar al-Bashir, the country's leader
Negotiations between the government and the political wing of the SPLA - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - occurred in 1988 and 1989, but they were overtaken by events, when General Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir took power in a military coup in June 1989, banning all political parties in the country.

In January 1991 his government gave the southern states a non-Shari'a legal system, and considerable autonomy in internal affairs. However, non-Muslims living in the north of the country were still subject to Shari'a law.

Country could face disintegration

The last round of peace negotiations between the government and the SPLA broke down in September 1994 over this issue.

The government pulled out of the talks after accusing the non-Muslim regional states who were sponsoring the talks of bias against the Islamist regime.

In April 1997 the Sudanese government signed a peace agreement with five other southern leaders. It agreed to hold a referendum on the self-determination of the South in three years' time.

It is hoping to sign a similar peace agreement with the SPLA and held talks with them in October 1997.

The opposition in Sudan is so divided that some opposition leaders talk of a complete disintegration of Sudan - in the manner of Somalia.

This would have serious consequences for Africa as a whole: Sudan borders nine other countries.

On March 12, Sudan offered the SPLA rebels a ceasefire.

The Egyptian Government announced in early March that it intended to launch an initiative to promote peace in Sudan, and avoid the partition of the country.

Rebels gained ground in fighting

During 1996 the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) began military activity close to the Eritrean border.

In January 1997 the rebels launched a major offensive from Eritrea, which considerably disconcerted the government in Khartoum, capturing a huge area in the south.

The Sudan famine brought a ceasefire in the worst-hit areas in 1998, in particular the Bahr al Ghazal region. But while the truce - extended in October and again in January 1999 - brought some respite for civilians, other areas were not covered.

The Khartoum government was accused by international aid agencies of bombing hospitals in the southern town Kajo Kaji in January this year.

Sudanese opposition struggles for unity

SUDANESE opposition leaders met last week in an attempt to bolster their alliance, but unity is also eluding some of their men based in what rebels term "liberated territory" in eastern Sudan.
In one such base near the Eritrean border, 400 soldiers lined up for morning drill wearing yellow tee-shirts marked NSB: New Sudan Brigade.

Fighters from the seven groups that make up the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are meant to mingle here, but at this base and every other visited by AFP, only men from the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the largest of the NDA factions, led by John Garang, were present.

NDA officer Wong Chayng pointed out a building earmarked for a Joint Military Command (JMC). It was half-completed.

JMC coordinator Commander Pa'gan Amom described the alliance as "a strange cohabitation" put together more from necessity than from unity of thinking.

"Our motives and incentives are clear. We will overthrow the (Khartoum) government, form a transitional government based on national reconciliation and consensus. Then we will break apart," he predicted.

"None of us can overthrow the (ruling) National Islamic Forces alone. We are merging our armies. It will be completed in four to five months. We are building a second and third brigade which will be called the Unified Military Command," said the commander.

The NDA was formed in 1995 when seven northern opposition groups forged an alliance with the southern SPLA, engaged over the last 16 years in a war fuelled by battles for natural resources and by tension between the Islamic, Arabised north and the mainly animist and Christian south.

The NDA's other members are the Umma Liberation Army, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Sudan Alliance Forces, Beja Congress from the Beja ethnic group, Free Lion's Forces and the Sudan Federal Democratic Army.

Recently the NDA admitted an eighth member, the communist Sudan Democratic Front Fighters. "We have all shades of Sudanese thinking. All the dimensions are there for creating change," said Pa'gan.

That unity appeared extremely precarious last week as opposition leaders pressured Sadek al Mahdi, ousted premier and leader of the Umma Party, to cancel a proposed meeting with Sudan's president, Omar el-Beshir, in Addis Ababa.

The opposition press in Khartoum reported on Tuesday that the pair would meet later this week in Djibouti.

Mahdi headed a mainly moderate Muslim coalition government ousted in a 1989 coup which installed the current regime, backed by the army and Islamic fundamentalists.

The friction within the NDA comes at a time when an open power struggle between Beshir and parliamentary speaker Hassan al-Turabi is reported to be threatening the Islamic military regime's timid steps towards democracy, according to diplomats in Khartoum.

By the end of the week, it appeared that Umma had been kept in the fold, but diplomats in Asmara said the coalition was weakened as members suspect Mahdi tried to cut a deal to join the government.

"Some in our new club have been in power before. They have been obsessed by power and want to get back into power. They have very limited programs outside of returning to power," said Pa'gan when asked about the Umma Party.

"We were enemies before. We are allies now, and we may be enemies tomorrow. It's difficult, but it's an education. When you come together, you see you can work together. We talk frankly. We say, 'You tried to destroy our country.' They say, 'You were too rebellious,'" Pa'gan explained.

Being together has helped both sides, he commented. "The alliance gives them an added element. On our side, they tame us. We were too wild, too revolutionary. They make us more pragmatic," noted the commander.

The commander said the coalition only enhances their fight, as politically and militarily each group can still work towards its own objectives.

"We are working on a minimum program as the basis of our unity: democratic rule, redistribution of wealth, and people's participation in government. Each of us can still work on our maximum program on our own," he said.

Sudan's oil riches frozen by civil war

SUDAN'S future as a petroleum exporting country is on hold -- despite sitting on an "oil goldmine" -- pending a resolution of its 16-year civil war in the south where most of its oilfields are situated.
Sudan, one of the poorest countries in Africa, started exporting oil in August from the specially-built Beshair terminal near

Port Sudan, and sold its first 600 000 barrel shipment to Shell.

But less than a month later, an explosion claimed by the armed opposition blew up the pipeline supplying the port, highlighting the continuing volatility of the situation.

Sudan's two active oilfields currently produce just 160 000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, but that figure is expected to rise to 250 000 bpd within 18 months, Sudan's Energy Minister Awad Ahmed Eljaz told AFP.

With domestic consumption at only 65 000 bpd, most of the increases will be bound for export via the pipeline which is capable of pumping up to 450 000 bpd from the Higleig and Unity wells in southwest Sudan to the terminal 1 600 kilometres away on the Red Sea coast.

The two fields are being exploited by a consortium grouping China's CNPC, Malaysia's Petronas, and Talisman of Canada with minimal participation from Sudan's Sudapet oil company.

But they represent only a small part of the oil riches of a country that holds officially estimated reserves of more than two billion barrels.

Vast "blocks" of land have been conceded to the Canadian, Chinese and Malaysian companies as well as Qatar's Gulf Petroleum Company and Total of France which has 120 000 square kilometres around the southern city of Bor.

"Everything suggests that this region is an oil goldmine," a western diplomat said about the Bor region.

The energy minister added that other oil companies from Britain, India, Italy, New Zealand and Pakistan are competing for other blocks that have not yet been assigned.

But in Bor, as elsewhere, prospection and drilling have long been suspended by the civil war between mainly Christian and animist rebels in the south, led by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and the northern Islamic regime.

"Total came to see us two months ago, wanting assurances that they could work," Eljaz said, noting that a follow-up committee had been established to study the situation.

He gave assurances that the army-protected oilfields in Higleig and Unity are not suffering from the situation in the south.

But clashes in the region between rival southern factions at the beginning of November have left several dozen dead.

And in September the opposition bomb attack damaged a section of the newly-opened export pipeline north of Khartoum, although it was repaired swiftly.

"The SPLA claims Higleig as a historical part of the south," a western diplomat said, adding that there can be no peaceful extraction of oil without a solution in the south.

Another attack on Saturday destroyed two metres of a pipeline carrying imported oil derivatives from Port Sudan to Khartoum.

Two peace initiatives for Sudan are currently on the table. One, proposed by the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), involves Khartoum and the SPLA while another presented earlier this year by Libya and Egypt would involve a broader representation of the opposition.

The United States, which indirectly supports the SPLA, is actively supporting the long-standing IGAD initiative and has expressed its opposition to the Egyptian-Libyan plan.

In an interview with AFP, Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail accused the United States of wanting to "hijack" the IGAD peace initiative and "topple" the Sudanese government.

He also charged that Washington is planning to host a conference with Sudanese opposition groups from the north and south to forge a reconciliation that would oust President Omar al-Beshir's government from Khartoum.

Source :
BBC Africa
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Afrique : histoire, economie, politique

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