Dissidents bid for new Sudan to end rebellion

2013-11-28 16:13
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Khartoum - Sudan needs to give real power to all its ethnic groups to end regional rebellions that still plague it two years after South Sudan broke away, a new opposition movement says.

The founders of the National Movement for Change, themselves all Islamists, want to reach out to secularists and leftists in their campaign for an inclusive democracy to replace the Arab-dominated regime of President Omar al-Bashir.

He seized power in a 1989 military coup and his rule is symptomatic of a political system which has failed since independence, the new movement says.

"We are very concerned about designing a new political system for Sudan," said Khalid Tigani, one of the group's founders and chief editor of the weekly economic newspaper Elaff.

Since independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has experienced only three periods of democracy lasting about 12 years in all, and endured more than 40 years of military rule.

Each of these regimes tried to "impose their own views" on the vast African nation without effectively addressing its ethnic diversity, Tigani said.

"Sudan is multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-racial," he said.

Prominent political scientist Al-Tayib Zainalabdin Mohammed, a co-founder of the new movement, said the group must reflect that diversity.

"It has to represent other people: secularists, Islamists, leftists, and from different regions, women and young people and old people," he said.

The movement is currently a "forum for dialogue" about how to govern the country, but Mohammed hopes it will become a political party in two or three years.

South Sudan break away

In 2011, South Sudan, which has a mostly Christian or animist population, voted overwhelmingly to break away after successive civil wars lasting for most of Sudan's independent existence.

Tigani said the problem in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where rebellion has continued for a decade, is similarly rooted in marginalisation.

"There is some sort of elite from the centre of Sudan which is controlling everything, the power and wealth, and they are denying the other parts of Sudan equal rights," he said.

Uprisings against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government also erupted two years ago among non-Arab groups in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

In a report on Tuesday, the International Crisis Group of analysts spoke of "the elites' decades-long failure to achieve national consensus on how the country should be governed and to build an inclusive and peaceful state”.

Most Sudanese are Muslim but millions are non-Arab, and the country is home to a small Christian minority.

The Movement for Change suggests that Sudan needs a "strongly federal government" with proportional representation that would ensure parliamentary and executive seats for all the country's groups.

Mohammed pointed to Lebanon, where an unwritten but rigorously followed tradition provides that the president be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi’ite.

Rising poverty

Other countries including Canada also offer potential models, Mohammed said.

In the Canadian Senate, seats are distributed to give each major region equal representation. The chamber also has a duty to represent the interests of minority groups.

Government critics in Sudan have become increasingly vocal since September when dozens of people died in protests against a fuel-price rise of more than 60%, adding to two years of rising prices in the poverty-stricken nation.

The Movement for Change emerged a few days after more than 30 prominent reformers in the ruling National Congress Party announced in late October that they would form a breakaway party.

It was the most serious split in years within the ruling party and left Bashir talking of "reform" and a wide-ranging government shakeup.

The breakaway group is led by former presidential adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, who told AFP on Saturday that his party has not been officially registered yet.

Mohammed said Atabani wants to establish a "modified Islamic party”.

But the Movement for Change says the "Islamic" model in Sudan has failed at the hands of the Bashir government, which they regard as a corrupt military regime that has denied people's rights.

Read more on:    omar al- bashir  |  sudan  |  south sudan  |  north africa

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