In-Focus:When Sudan is left to its own devices

Galal Nassar
Saturday 13 Jan 2018

Egypt has always supported the Sudanese people, but the regime in Khartoum under Al-Bashir has other plans

Egypt’s foreign policy towards Sudan is one of containment and self-restraint in response to any provocations by those in power in this neighbouring state, and not allowing any disputes to escalate into serious tensions between the two peoples. It also strictly separates the actions, attitudes and alliances of Sudan’s rulers and the interests of the people and good neighbourly relations, history and joint destiny they have shared since they were one people and one land before the southern region decided to secede and hold a referendum, wholeheartedly approved by Egypt, and accepting the people’s decision for self-determination and secession in 1956. This was the position of governments preceding Gamal Abdel-Nasser that did not view themselves as occupiers of Sudan, but for years strove to prepare and assist the people of Sudan to rule themselves.

Based on historic facts, after World War II Egypt agreed to Sudan’s self-determination. On 25 October 1946, then prime minister Ismail Sedki signed the Sedki-Bevin agreement granting Sudan the right to self-determination after a period of self-rule. On 22 August 1947, then prime minister Mahmoud Fahmi Al-Nokrashi told the Security Council that the Sudanese will speak for themselves and the future of Sudan will be decided in consultation with the Sudanese, and that the Sudanese people are in charge of their country.

During the Khashaba-Campbell talks with Nokrashi’s cabinet in May 1948, Khashaba implicitly agreed to self-determination since he agreed on creating an Executive Council for Sudan and the Legislative Association to include Egyptians and Britons to assist Sudan to prepare for self-rule and self-determination.

On 26 August 1950, Foreign Minister Mohamed Salaheddin of the Wafd government suggested scheduling a transitional rule phase until 1953 to prepare Sudan for self-rule, after which they have a right to self-determination within the Salaheddin-Bevin talks. On 7 December 1950, Salaheddin approved the “Sudanisation” of Sudan by handing over all jobs to the Sudanese people and withdrawing Egyptian civil servants from there. On 16 November 1951, at the UN, Egypt agreed to withdraw all Egyptian civil servants and forces on the condition that Britain also withdraw all its staff and forces, followed by a transitional phase to Sudanise the country, then self-rule, and finally self-determination.

On 8 October 1951, a decree by Mustafa Al-Nahhas Pacha determined that by 16 and 17 October Sudan will have a constitution separate from Egypt, drawn by an elected Sudanese constituent assembly in which Egypt will not intervene. This is a clear indicator that Sudan is separate from Egypt’s political administration. In 1922, King Fouad wanted to bestow upon himself the title of King of Egypt and Sudan, but on 2 February 1922 High Commissioner Allenby warned him not to include this in the constitution because it conflicts with British interests. Fouad obeyed and did not include it in the 1923 constitution.

Here, we can clearly see admission of self-rule and right to self-determination by the Egyptian monarchy through the governments of Sedki, Nokrashi and Bevin. These cabinets also insisted on adding the phrase “unity of the Nile Valley under the Egyptian crown”, as confirmed in a memo by General Mohamed Naguib, then chairman of the Revolutionary Council, on 2 November 1952 to Britain stating all of the above as part of the unity of the Nile Valley, right to self-determination, and a period of self-rule. The memo was signed by all Sudanese politicians, without exception.

Relations between the two countries continued to be close and friendly until incumbent President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir came to power on 30 June 1989 after a military coup against the elected government of Al-Sadek Al-Mahdi. Quickly, the true face of this regime was revealed including its radical outlook and alliances with armed terrorist groups by providing logistical support, harbouring their leaders, training camps, and safe passage to attack destinations that target friends and foes. Under Al-Bashir, Sudan became the headquarters for the Jihad group, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. It also harboured Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahri for years. There is evidence by international organisations documenting these practices; they are not fiction.

The regime’s hatred towards Egypt culminated in June 1995 when Al-Bashir’s close aides, Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and head of General Security Services Nafie Ali Nafie plotted to assassinate then President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa for $1 million, intelligence support by the US, and using members of Jihad and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya. Egypt decided to rise above the incident and contain the situation to protect neighbouring relations between the people, and not harm six million Sudanese living in Egypt and millions of Egyptians who consider Sudan their second home. However, actions by Al-Bashir’s government confirmed this was a Muslim Brotherhood regime that adopts the ideology of Muslim Brotherhood International, and many of its policies do not necessarily serve the interests of Sudan but the goals and strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It began with Halayeb and Shalateen, which have been designated as Egyptian by law and history. Also, Khartoum’s alliances with Egypt’s enemies, whether individuals or groups — most recently gifting the strategic island of Suakin on the Red Sea to Turkey’s Muslim Brotherhood president. Suakin is 200 kilometres from the Egyptian border and such a move threatens Egypt’s security, navigation in the Red Sea and ergo the Suez Canal, if any armed conflict erupts due to Turkey’s ambitions in the region. Turkey wants to destabilise Egypt to avenge the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in a popular revolution on 30 June 2013.

A more imminent threat, however, is the alliance against Egypt’s interests regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Khartoum supports Ethiopia’s demands and policies that harm Egypt’s historic and legal right to its quota of Nile water through the construction of a dam that violates technical requirements approved by the three capitals.

History, common destiny and bloodlines guide towards continuing a policy of containment and non-provocation with this Muslim Brotherhood regime, rising above its petty actions, utterances and policies, and leaving the Sudanese people to decide the fate of this regime. This complies with our positions across time, and the Sudanese people should work on preventing further deterioration in relations and conditions. They must stop the bloodshed in Sudan, their disintegrating unity, continued squandering of territories and sovereignty as seen in South Sudan, Darfur, and gifting Suakin.

Khartoum must stop conspiring against the neighbour closest to the hearts of the Sudanese people.

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