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Al-Turabi: Bashir is to blame for Sudan partition

In exclusive interview held prior to his arrest, opposition leader Al-Turabi warned that Sudan will break into eight mini-states ― or disintegrate completely ― if current conditions are allowed to continue

Asmaa El-Husseini in Khartoum, Wednesday 19 Jan 2011
Hassan Al-Toraby
(Photo: AP)
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Speaking to Al-Ahram  hours before his arrest on Monday with five leaders of his party, Hassan Al-Turabi, leader of the Popular Congress Party said that the opposition would take action against the regime after the outcome of the referendum is announced. He blamed the regime for dismembering the country.

Al-Turabi said: “A popular uprising similar to the one that took place in Tunisia is a possibility in Sudan.” He added: “The opposition in Sudan ― political and military and across the political spectrum ― is unanimously in agreement that the current regime, which is using Islamic slogans to justify its presence, must go.”

Al-Turabi continued: “Sudan, the entire country, is now living in a state of tension. It is being dismembered and its people are hungry. It is subject to great dangers. After the secession of the south, other parts will follow suit, in Darfur and east Sudan and elsewhere.”

Al-Turabi believes that Sudan is weakened when its traditional parties are weakened. He adds that the danger of disintegration in Sudan is no longer a geographical: it has spread to society itself. In Sudan, every individual now identifies with his own clan and people.

Al-Turabi blames President Omar Al-Bashir and his government for the loss of the south. “They didn’t build one metre of roads to the south. They didn’t facilitate the flow of shipping between north and south,” Al-Turabi said. “The secession of the south wasn’t inevitable. Had efforts been made to keep the south [from seceding], the unity of Sudan could have been preserved,” he added.

Al-Turabi predicts an escalation of fighting in Darfur, saying Darfur will follow in the footsteps of the south. The situation is equally disturbing in Nubia, and Abyei could flare up at a moment’s notice. If the current situation in Sudan continues, Al-Turabi says, Sudan will disintegrate. And should war break out between north and south, it would be a war between two regular armies.

According to Al-Turabi, the economic situation is bound to deteriorate further once 80 per cent of oil revenues go to the south following secession. Two-thirds of Khartoum’s budget will be lost prompting the government to increase taxes, while the gap between the rich and poor is already considerable.

Al-Turabi says the Sudanese despair of achieving political change through peaceful means. “The only way left is popular revolt.” It is not necessary for party leaders to take part in the uprising, for the masses are not waiting for leaders. This was the case in the two previous uprisings in Sudan, and also in Tunisia, he pointed out.

Commenting on the disdain some leaders of the ruling party held for the opposition, al-Turabi said: “All tyrants are like the naked king who doesn’t know he is naked. The Socialist Union was in control of the country in Numeiri’s days but once he disappeared, his party disappeared overnight, as if it never was.”

Al-Turabi added that all dictatorial governments underestimate their opponents, believing that none can take their power away. “All tyrants are like the naked king who doesn’t know he is naked.” Denouncing the National Congress Party, Al-Turabi said they were like the son and wife of Noah who refused to get into the ark.

Al-Turabi expects the International Criminal Court to continue pursuing its case against Al-Bashir, who stands accused of committing war crimes in Darfur. He said that international sanctions would stiffen against Sudan, both by the US and the international community, after the secession of the south.

“No one is going to sympathise with the Arab-Muslim North Sudan,” he stated.

Al-Bashir is a hunted man, Al-Turabi says. “We cannot protect al-Bashir or give him immunity. There is no sense in doing so, although some Arab rulers still stand by him,” he said.

Al-Bashir’s statements about implementing Sharia law and the creation of a racially homogeneous Arab state in the north are misguided, Al-Turabi says. Al-Bashir spoke about Arabism as if it were a race, which it is not, he added. Most Sudanese are Arabs by culture, not ethnicity, according to Al-Turabi.

The Sharia law propagated by Al-Bashir is distorted, Al-Turabi adds. Whipping women because of the clothes they wear is untenable, Al-Turabi says. The clothes of women and men were things for society to judge, not the state. Ridiculing the implementation of Sharia law in Sudan, Al-Turabi said: “For them, Sharia is all about beating up girls.”

Al-Turabi added: “Sudan is getting a lot of bad publicity because of its president, who’s under an international arrest warrant, and because girls who are being flogged.” Yearning for the past, Al-Turabi said: “Sudan used to have the respect of its neighbours. A lot of the presidents of neighbouring countries were educated and lived in Sudan. Now most of the country’s problems are being resolved outside of it.”

Commenting on the future state in South Sudan, Al-Turabi said: “The southern parties have been busy with self-determination and now they need to come up with programmes and a clear view of the future.” Asked if the south has what it takes to be a viable country, Al-Turabi said: “The south is more viable than Eritrea was at the time of its independence, but it will need outside support ― financial and technical ― and it will need foreign investment.”

Responding to a question on Israel’s presence in the south, Al-Turabi said: “Such are the illusions of the Arabs. It is to justify their weakness and inefficacy that they blame external conspiracies and Zionism. They forget that one gets sick only when one’s immunity is down.”

According to Al-Turabi, Israel’s presence and influence in the south will depend on the Arabs themselves and no on anyone else. Al-Turabi pointed out that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the government of the south have no relations with Israel at present. He recalled that Israel used to have relations with the first movement of rebellion in the south, Ananya, and its leader, Joseph Lagu.

“I have often told Arab [agencies] to come to the south and work there,” Al-Turabi stated. “The spread of Salafi currents in Sudan, with the government’s encouragement, was engineered to frighten the southerners and the West,” he added.

Al-Turabi expressed disgust at the remark of the Sudanese information minister who said that southerners would be deprived of their rights in the north ― even of vaccines ― if they were to vote for secession. “We give injections to dogs and cats; would we deny our brothers in country and humanity?” he wondered.

“I don’t know from which religion they get their ideas,” he said.

Al-Turabi pointed out that, “Sudanese law allows citizens to bear dual nationality. This can go for the southerners in North Sudan and the northerners in South Sudan.” He added: “There are 200,000 northerners in the south who own big commercial ventures, while the southerners in the north lead impoverished lives.”

Al-Turabi voiced surprise at Al-Bashir’s claim that the south was a burden for Sudan. “Why then do we call for Arab unity?” he asked. If Al-Bashir was right, then perhaps he should expel all the poor people from Sudan, as a burden on the rich, Al-Turabi said. He added that such remarks were against religion, humanity, and the country’s interests as well.

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