Political tug-of-war in Sudan over Egyptian candidate for Arab League

Asmaa El-Husseini , Thursday 12 May 2011

Sudanese opposition leaders declare to Ahram Online their support for El-Fiqi for secretary-general of Arab League, calling the Bashir government’s quick rejection undiplomatic and unsound

Mustafa El-Fiqi
Mustafa El-Fiqi

Contrary to Sudan’s official position, which hastily and repeatedly rejected Mustafa El-Fiqi as the Egyptian candidate for secretary-general of the Arab League, describing him as hostile towards Sudan, other leading Sudanese figures declared their support and respect for El-Fiqi’s candidacy.

A number of Sudanese politicians that spoke with Ahram Online agree that El-Fiqi understands Sudanese issues well, knows what is needed in the coming phase and could help make the Arab League more representative of the people instead of governments.

Why then, did Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party reject El-Fiqi as a good candidate for secretary-general of the Arab League?

The politicians claim that the NCP’s position towards El-Fiqi was solely because he opposed policies that resulted in the secession of South Sudan. Qatari money also played a factor. The Sudanese opposition politicians not only expressed their regret for the NCP’s enunciations, but also asserted that the Sudanese people and all Sudanese groups support him, blasting the NCP’s reasons for rejecting El-Fiqi as unsound and provocative.

“Dr Mustafa El-Fiqi is a prominent and enlightened Egyptian and Arab intellectual who speaks his mind,” asserted Mubarak Al-Fadel Al-Mahdi, a leading figure in the Umma Party and former presidential adviser.

“His statement where he laid the blame on the NCP, headed by Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, for the division of Sudan was on-target and courageous. The position of the ruling NCP - led by a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood - towards El-Fiqi is based on political ideology, which has nothing to do with Sudan, the state of Sudan or its people. The Sudanese regime didn’t support the Egyptian candidate because it has ties and interests with Qatar, which it seeks for economic and financial assistance during crises. In fact, Khartoum recently received aid packages from Doha and, therefore, cannot overlook the Qatari candidate.”

Al-Mahdi added that the people of Sudan, the Umma Party, and political forces, in general, support El-Fiqi’s candidacy, his courageous positions and qualifications. They view El-Fiqi as someone who could help evolve the AL from an entity which is currently a mere supporter and voice for governments, to an organisation which represents the people and reforms these governments to respect and develop their rights.

Hassan Al-Turabi, leader of Sudan’s Popular Congress Party (PCP), described El-Fiqi as a valued and influential thinker. Al-Mahgoub Abdel-Salam, Turabi’s deputy, said that the Sudanese government rejected El-Fiqi’s candidacy because Khartoum is obligated to vote for the Qatari candidate. Abdel-Salam also described El-Fiqi as an intellectual who freely expresses his opinion, a tendency that the Sudanese government treats as a crime, since they are intolerant of opposing views.

He continued that El-Fiqi understands the demands of being AL secretary-general and that the official Sudanese rejection of his candidacy is unfortunate because El-Fiqi would raise the stature of the AL because he is a thinker, politician and writer, and can deal with the demands of the coming phase because of his open-mindedness and high regard and is certain to serve the Sudanese cause.

Ali Mahmoud Hassanein, the leader of the opposition Broad Sudanese Front, said that El-Fiqi is a very enlightened intellectual, one of the best-versed Egyptian officials on Sudanese issues and courageously states his opinion. Hassanein said that the statements that Khartoum scolded him over – essentially, that the incumbent regime is the worst that has ever ruled Sudan, which led the South to secede – demonstrates El-Fiqi’s knowledge. Hassanein did, however, fault El-Fiqi for his recent apology to the Sudanese government and hoped that these reports were inaccurate.

“Mustafa El-Fiqi is the secretary general that the Arab League has long-awaited,” opined Hatem Al-Serr, a leading figure in Al-Ittihad Party and the party’s presidential candidate in the last elections. Al-Serr described El-Fiqi as a nationalist thinker, an Arab intellectual, prominent diplomat and experienced politician.

Al-Serr believes that El-Fiqi’s leadership in Arab diplomacy will raise the esteem of the AL, who would then be able to play a pioneer role at this stage of democratic transformation in Arab states. He is also capable of working to guarantee rights and freedoms, promote Arab-Arab relations, eradicate poverty and unemployment and fight schemes to divide Arab states, which started in Sudan and has been seen in Iraq, Libya and Yemen. According to Al-Serr, Dr El-Fiqi is the best candidate to lead the Arab League at this point, to stay in step with new developments in the Arab region and seizethe winds of Arab uprisings and revolutions, revive the Arab League, revamp its detestable image in Arab eyes and help it overcome its slump.

He continues “Khartoum’s position towards El-Fiqi is contrary to well-established Sudanese norms and contradicts historic positions by Sudan, which is known to be biased towards our sister, Egypt and always support it,” Al-Serr stated.

“What is surprising is the speed by which the Sudanese government issued provocative statements and hostile declarations against the Egyptian candidate and how they repeatedly and undiplomatically rejected his candidacy. It requires careful consideration before issuing statements and publicising such positions, especially on issues important to the entire people. Haste can harm an entire nation and exact a high price when trying to clean up the negative repercussions.”

He added that “this is a regretful and shameful position and is yet another example of hasty improvisations, which Sudan has been adopting of late. The quick pronunciation of their unstudied position against the Egyptian candidate is a clear sign of failed diplomacy and political superficiality. Our government – God help them – shamefully branded El-Fiqi hostile to “all of Sudan,” simply because he made some statements against the government that they disagree with. His only fault is that as an Arab thinker, nationalist writer and Egyptian intellectual, he held the Sudanese government responsible for the partition of the South and expressed an opinion in support of the unity of Sudan and opposed its division.

“The pressing issue now is: Does Dr Mustafa El-Fiqi deserve praise and gratitude for his honest, clear and bold statements regarding the unity of Sudan, out of love for Sudan and concern over its unity; or does he deserve a cold shoulder, hostility and attacks? We sincerely ask the Sudanese government to stop meddling in this sensitive issue for the sake of joint interests of the people of the great Nile Valley and out of respect for geographic and historic ties between the sister nations.”

Al-Serr asserted that Khartoum’s excuse for their knee-jerk rejection of El-Fiqi reveals the ignorance of those in charge and their lack of knowledge about the basics of foreign policy.

“They said he was hostile to Sudan, as if Sudan is the same as the NCP,” he brought the point home. “If the people chose the candidates instead of governments, which stifle the freedom of their people and silence their voice, the people of Sudan would have been the first to support Dr El-Fiqi.

“I am certain that the man knows that the people of Sudan who honour scholars and thinkers would not have hesitated to give him their vote and confidence, which he genuinely deserves. The man is connected to Sudanese political forces and has warm ties with their leaders. With his academic, professional, skilled and courageous background he deserves praise and respect; not the spite, hostility and bad feelings that Sudan’s diplomacy is projecting without rhyme or reason. We hope that Dr El-Fiqi will travel to Sudan to meet his people and admirers and all other forces, including the NCP. When this happens, it will be obvious who rejected Dr El-Fiqi.”

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