What’s after John Garang?

In Salon Ibn Rushd by CIHRS

Analysts and experts have agreed that the death of the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, John Garang, is a huge loss to the various parties that care about the future of the peace process in Sudan, whether on the inside or the outside. They disagreed, however, in their evaluations of the movement’s expected performance after Garang’s death. They also warned that this may lead to the return of various political powers and the peace process to square one.

In a symposium organized by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies titled “The future of Peace and Harmony in Sudan after Garang’s Death”, Dr. Haydar Ibrahim, director of the Sudanese Studies Center, pointed out that Garang was not buried alone, but with – as he called it – a whole era of history which started in 1983 with all its policies, programs and relationships to various political powers. He noted that Garang had a charismatic personality, and had a visible radiance and many groups were accepted in Sudan due to his work. Ibrahim said that there were many people who would lose a lot due to Garang’s death and that all of them must rearrange themselves to suit the new situation, he also described the peace process in Sudan as having been “widowed” after Garang’s death.

Ibrahim counted five losers from Garang’s death, considering the Sudanese regime to be the greatest loser, explaining this by saying that the Sudanese regime and the ruling Congress party in Sudan wanted to use the partnership with Garang as a safety net and shock-absorber against any problems that may arise from other opposition parties. He added that the Congress party benefited from the fact that Garang was greatly interested in balancing the relationship with the ruling regime and the opposing body at the same time.

The other loser in Dr. Ibrahim’s opinion was the opposing National Democratic Alliance, whose loss is that Garang was the only guarantee for the fulfillment of the Cairo pact between the Alliance and the Sudanese government. This was especially true since the ruling regime is known for its maneuvering techniques and could not be trusted, while Garang was able to force it to fulfill the Cairo pact especially that he – Garang – considered himself a genuine part of society’s various groups.

The third loser is embodied in neighboring countries, especially Egypt. Dr. Ibrahim pointed out that Egypt was hesitant and suspicious for a long time about Garang until it accepted it as a unionist who was not looking to separate the south from the north. Egypt however, put all its faith in Garang and treated the People’s Liberation Movement as Garang individually.

Ibrahim also added the Libyan regime also lost from Garang’s death especially that Colonel Qadhafi had started to deal with Garang easily as a revolutionary. Ethiopia, on the other hand, lost in Garang a friend. The fourth loser in Dr. Ibrahim’s list came as the northerners who joined the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. He said that these northerners related to Garang more than they related to the movement itself, which would oblige them to adapt to the new situation and deal with the movement as a program and political power with its position in Sudan.

Dr. Ibrahim ended his list of people who lost with Garang’s death with the US and Western Europe, saying that Garang was a “globalizationer” to a certain extent and was capable of dealing with the needs of democratic change and the market of war.

Dr. Ibrahim saw that the future should not be dealt with as dark and ominous according to this data, but should be dealt with as the borderline between “before and after Garang” by committing to the organization and dealing with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement as an entity with membership and structure and, more importantly, a program and vision. This means that testing and judging the movement should depend on the way it applies its program and vision, and therefore its stance on peace and its reception of the north.

Ibrahim also stressed the necessity of ending the personalization of the movement and not starting another one since other political powers in Sudan benefit from this personalization. He also said that the northern separatists want to create a stereotypical image of Salva Kiir – the movement’s new leader – as a separatist person, and by making the north fear this image by repeating that there is a danger from Kiir the separatist which requires that the north stand up against him. He pointed out that the separatist current is strong in Sudan, with the religious organization at its head.

Ibrahim assured that what is said about Kiir has a lot of falsity, considering that Kiir’s circumstances now resemble the circumstances of Sadat taking over the rule in Egypt after Jamal Abdul Nasser’s death, where everyone believed that Sadat would not be able to move the country one step forward, while he proved to have very high leadership and organizational skills. Ibrahim said that Salva will lean more towards group work because he lacks the unanimity and union that were there around Garang’s character.

Dr. Ibrahim noticed that the organizations of the civil community and the political powers in Sudan were very negligent over the last period in trying to find a way of daily public work to support the peace agreement. He pointed out that Sudan now is going through a crossroads which requires that the political powers and civil community organizations rise to the level of the challenges they are facing.

He assured the importance of the political powers making use of the emptiness happening in Sudan and make the peace agreement an actual start for a democratic conversion and a developmental process. He stressed that the Sudanese regime as ell should stop maneuvering and start working honestly with the other powers.

A Devastating War

Molonek Mordoyel Kawm, the representative of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in the Middle East and the Gulf started his speech by assuring that the future is what will prove or disprove what was presented in the talks, pointing out that Sudan stayed for almost half a century in a war that depleted its resources, whether physical or human.

Kawm said that Garang’s personality carries many dimensions, the first of which was a political thinker, and that he was the first person to talk about unifying Sudan and made this the slogan for himself and his movement. He also created an organization and gave it a vision and crowded people around him and laid down a standard for political work which was followed by the people who gathered around him.

Kawm assured that Garang’s ideas and fight will not die but will continue as long as his banner is carried by people from his school of thought, pointing out that Garang’s influence and base spread from the south of Sudan to many areas in its north.

He added that Garang had a thought and vision that turned into a program then into a peace treaty that became a part of Sudan’s constitution, pointing out that although this treaty solves a minimum range of problems, that it carries hope to the people of Sudan and guarantees a peaceful living and the end of the long wars.

Kawm said that the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement is now in the process of turning into a political party and that any party starts with ideas and principles that continue if they find acceptance. He pointed out that there is hope that the movement will continue with Garang’s ideas as long as there are people who believe in them and as long as there is a structure which is unified academically, culturally and in thought inside the movement. He pointed out that the peace treaty has a lot that guarantees its application and that it has clarified the relationship between the center and the ends as well as the power-sharing cases, besides the fact that it solves a crisis and “pumps blood” in the sense that it is capable of convincing the Sudanese people that it is irreplaceable, especially that there is almost no Sudanese family which has not lost a member or has an member who was injured in the war that has lasted a long time and was really devastating to Sudan.

Kawm added that, in terms of Sudan’s neighboring countries, the treaty has sections that make the current Sudanese regime change its exterior policy which, for a long time, has been based on enmity and the neighboring countries’ interference. He pointed out that these segments make the Sudanese exterior policy lean towards creating a neutral relationship with its neighboring countries, despite Garang’s presence or absence.

Kawm then moved to talking about the internal affairs of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. He pointed out that a lot of observers gave a lot of expectations on Garang’s successor, Salva Kiir. He pointed out that the observers were correct about a lot of what they said since Kiir has not yet been tester and that it was too early to judge his ideas especially concerning the cases of unity and peace.

He also assured that Kiir has confirmed his adherence to Garang’s course and his call for a united Sudan on new terms, assuring that there is nothing that draws concern from Kiir’s personality and the only focus is on his being interested in the military side alone of the movement. He said that Kiir has remained a founder and fighter in the movement and its ideas which require unity and refusing marginalization.

Kawm considered that many of the movement’s leaders have the field open to appear demanding that the movement be dealt with as a political organization with its own ideas and opinions.

Dr. Iglal Ra’fat, the professor of political sciences at the faculty of economics and political sciences- Cairo University, focused on the wrong dealings of the Egyptian government with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement as simply John Garang. She traced this back to being a part of the political culture of the Egyptian government. She also said that the Egyptian government does that with all other Sudanese political powers and not only the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement.

She pointed out that if Egypt wanted to do something about its relationship with Sudan, that it should start dealing with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement as a movement and not a person.

She said that she didn’t consider the Sudanese government to have lost with Garang’s death, and that even if it did lost in the coming three years, that it would then seek the benefits of the movement not having a leader like Garang.

Magdy Al-Naim, member of the executive committee of CIHRS, said that at the moment of the negotiations about the peace treaty, it seemed as if the Sudanese elite had reached a dead end concerning suggesting solutions to the crisis, which is what showed in the great international role in writing the treaty and providing different suggestions, pointing out that the international monitoring is not enough to execute the treaty.

He continued by saying that, in the 1924 revolution in Sudan, a political leader appeared who was different than those of previous decades, Ali Abd-El-Lateef whose revolution, decades later, has become important to everyone who seeks a democratic Sudan. Al-Naim wondered whether Garang too would form in the future one of the sources of inspiration for the rebuilding of the Sudanese nation, pointing out that Garang did not leave many writings, and never came to power or laid laws, but practice politics for a long time, and framed slogans and public lines which were a work course for many marginalized Sudanese people. He also pointed out that Gandhi did not leave a written legacy but was, in a way, one of the factors of the Indian nation, as was Saad Zaghloul, whose legacy is one of the factors of Egyptian nationalism.

In the commentaries on the symposium, Ragaa Abassy, the journalist for the Emirates newspaper Al-Bayan pointed out that the Sudanese peace treaty is only documents, expressing her belief that there will be no practical application for it. She pointed out that if there was any real intention to fulfill the treaty that some of its terms would have been executed a long time ago, at least the ones concerning public freedoms, human rights, and changing the media disposition.

She considered that the day Garang died uncovered the truth about the presence of the national movement in power, since it was proved that rescue is still the actual government. This was proved by the fact that the Eritrean president’s plane was refused landing to offer condolences in Garang’s death. This is besides the fact that all the members of riot control were only members of the security rescue.

Atef Ismail requested the continuation of pressure to investigate Garang’s death and not stopping at putting the issue under the title of “fate”, pointing out that the record of comprehensive regimes is full of assassination incidences.

Ismail assured that the recent events such as the events of the Gazira University and the confiscation of Al-Watan and Al-Anwar newspapers proved that the national movement can not perform its role as a primary member in ruling in Khartoum and that it is still on the margin of this power. Ismail Rahma, the attorney, pointed out that the Sudanese regime is a benefactor not a loser from Garang’s death since Garang’s death means the loss of a vital partner in the peace treaty, giving the regime room to pass its own agenda.

Dr. Haydar Ibrahim went back to the commentary to warn from the political emptiness in Sudan. He said that the coming phase doesn’t require “bird’s dreams” but connects to the ability to move the Sudanese street, pointing out that the rescue front system succeeded in planting the seeds of negligence in the public and currently works as if there is no Sudanese people.

He added that the system will find the parties absent and will find no actual obstacle before it and the greatest party will become the security system which owns the media and has the money and power over the different areas of the country.

Ibrahim criticized what he described as the change of the civil society organizations in Sudan into what resembles charities and their interest in issues such as female circumcision mire that their interest in human rights cases, as well as the absence of any role on their part in the emptiness happening in Sudan, which he described as shameful.

He confirmed the need for a stir of the parties in the civil society organizations, as well as a stir in the average citizen, pointing out that accomplishing this needs great visions and unspent political leaderships.

He said that, concerning Egypt, it is a central country looking for little “pharaohs” to deal with, pointing out that the Sudanese government is a temporary loser in the matter of Garang’s death and that bringing up the matter of gain in Garang’s death now carries a danger of going back to the conspiracy theory and leading to the conclusion that the benefactor is responsible for Garang’s death, clarifying that the gain will be in the extent of the use of this event in the future.

Mordoyel Kawm added that it was still too early to talk about the reasons behind Garang’s death and that any talk about this issue would be getting ahead of events and investigations. He stressed the fact that bout the north and the south need each other and the necessity of rising above the narrow party view and racial urge to reach unity and democratic reform.

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