Sudan's Independence Day marked by mourning not celebration

Asmaa el Husseini, Monday 3 Jan 2011

This year's Independence Day was an occasion for Sudanese opposition parties to regret what has passed and fear what will come for their country with the South's expected secession seen as the beginning of a trend

Guests arrive to attend celebrations for the 55th anniversary of Sudan's independence at the Palace in Khartoum 31 December 2010. (Reuters)

The leaders and members of Sudan's opposition parties gathered at the home of the late Ismail Al-Azhari, Sudan's first president, to mark the country's Independence Day on Saturday.

The tone was one of sorrow, however, with attendees forced to reflect and agree on the jeopardy their country is in. The common view was that the South will not be the last region to tear away.

They called on Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and his party, the National Congress Party (NCP), to submit to the will of the Sudanese people.

Galaa Al-Azhari, leader of the DUP, said that the outcome of the referendum in the South is known before hand, the only question is whether Darfur will also go down that path as the same conditions can also be found there.

She believes Sudan's future is fraught with danger and that the country will break up into separate states. To counter this possibility, she called for a strong national front encompassing all the democratic forces to maintain the unity and integrity of the country.

What is happening now, according to Ali El-Sanhouri, the secretary general of the Arab Socialist Baath Party in Sudan, is a consequence of the Nifasha peace treaty. El-Sanhouri believes the terms of the treaty, which ended two decades of civil war in 2005 and stipulated a referendum on the South's future, was against the will of the nation.

"The people of the South have suffered, but the people in the North were also victims," El-Sanhouri asserted, strongly criticizing the NCP which he blamed for Sudan's current predicament.

He called on Bashir to resign for squandering the country's unity, sovereignty and independence, which has left the people of Sudan humiliated.

Yasser Orman, the deputy secretary general of the popular movement, described Sudan's January 1 Independence Day as an opportunity for all of the country to mark and remember its history, something the referendum cannot erase.

Orman called for maintaining the common heritage between North and South, stating that what is taking place in Sudan today is the outcome of a complex history where the South's early demands were ignored until they became demands for secession.

"They (the NCP) had plenty of opportunities, and today we are reaping the results of his jihad against the South," he asserted.

Southern secession will not be the end, he warned, but will lead to another South in the Blue Nile and White Nile regions, as well as north Kordofan and south Darfur.

"The mistaken policies of the centralized authority resulted in the collapse of rural areas in Sudan because of high fees and protection money imposed by the state," he explained. "If the South separates, this will not be the end of the troubles of the North because North Sudan will remain a multi-ethnic state."

Orman urged for protecting the lives and rights of 13 million people living on the border between North and South, and the northerners living in the South and the southerners in the North.

"Bashir's statements about applying Sharia are akin to totalitarianism," he said, adding that if the South secedes, there will be a need for new constitutional arrangements.

Orman warned that the NCP cannot continue to force the hand of political forces forever, and it will choose other alternatives if the NCP does not listen to dialogue and recognise others.

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