Sudan’s sinking feeling
The discovery of putrefying bodies of an undisclosed number of Darfur students enrolled at Al-Gezeira University in a canal in the city of Wad Madani corroborate petrifying portents for Sudan. Whether this grizzly incidence dooms Sudan’s peace prospects depends on how officials in the Sudanese capital Khartoum handle the tragic incident.
There was barely time for the overflowing Blue Nile waters to wash away the blood before the bloated bodies were discovered. And, it was not lost on the protesters that the victims were young promising students from Darfur. This could have grave political consequences for Sudanese national unity and territorial integrity.
By the same token, the student demonstrations are growing apace with Sudanese security forces reportedly shooting at students in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities. The student protests in Sudan are fast gathering momentum. And, are guaranteed to allow the ailing Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir many restless nights in the days ahead.
Sudan’s students protests and the subsequent massacre of demonstrating students by the police spells disaster for the faltering Sudanese peace process. Sudan and South Sudan agreed on Monday to move their floundering security talks from Khartoum to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Failure to strike a deal on the disarmament of the forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North in the war-torn frontier provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile is poisoning relations between Sudan and its 17-month old neighbour South Sudan.
Sudanese Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hassan and his South Sudan counterpart John Kung Nyuon attended an African Union Implementation Panel (AUHIP) designed to iron out differences between Khartoum and Juba. Heading the AU team is former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
The South Sudan Chief Negotiator Pagan Amum expressed hopes that the negotiations will prove fruitful, if and only if the Sudanese authorities offered meaningful compromises. “I had frank tete-a-tete with Deputy Chairman of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party Nafie Ali Nafie and I told him that it is impossible to control the SPLM-N fighters in South Kordofan and Blue Nile because that would be tantamount to gross interference in the affairs of another country,” Amum told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Amum also said that: “South Sudan intends to construct alternative pipeline routes through neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia because it is untenable to rely on a single route to export South Sudanese oil through Sudan alone. We must break that dependency,” Amum stressed.
The export of oil by pipelines through Sudanese territory has been a perennial bone of contention between Juba and Khartoum. “There are strong indication that South Sudan territories are rich with oil reserves and that is no secret to investors. We need the capital and technical expertise. It is therefore imperative that we in South Sudan construct more pipelines to diversify our options for exporting our oil,” Amum told the Weekly.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir corroborated Amum’s statements emphasising that it is “impossible” to force the SPLM-N fighters in South Kordofan and Blue Nile to lay down their arms.
To compound the country’s problems, Sudanese women declared a “Day of Action against Gender-based Violence”. While the two incidents are not necessarily connected, the women’s protest would presumably be music to the ears of those Sudanese activists and opposition forces, hitherto predominantly peaceful, but who are set on provoking an “Arab Spring” Sudanese-style and a confrontation and bloodshed with the Sudanese authorities.