Elf mabrouk to the newest country in the world!
I’ve been in Juba for the celebrations, coming up from Kampala on a bus packed to the roof with returning Southerners travelling from Nairobi. Passports of all colours – predominantly USA blue – were produced at the border, but everyone was excited about becoming, finally, South Sudanese.
The week has been relatively tense in Juba, as concrete and tarmac sets slowly in the baking heat, huge numbers of police and soldiers set up road blocks and machine-gun posts all over town in four rings of security, and public transport shut down. Several arrests of foreign journalists meant I persuaded the Ministry of Information to give me a press pass to try to avoid problems with photography.
The Republic of South Sudan flag being raised
A long, hot day at Juba’s Garang mausoleum, listening to the reading of the independence act, the swearing-in of Salva Kiir Mayardit as President, and the raising of the flag.
I’ll write a longer post tomorrow about what’s been going on here.
OMG!! Bashir won’t run for re-election! In 2015 (which is a bit of a Yemeni-esque get-out clause.) He also, more interestingly, has said he has offered to step down as head of the NCP, and has offered a package of reforms (optimistically called democratic by the Guardian, but then they’re probably all a bit sleep-deprived from the Tunisia-Egypt-Libya-Bahrain late-night live blogging).
This isn’t just about the fear of protests by youth in Sudan: the attempted protests in early February were comprehensively put down, with large-scale arrests, one death and a more general lack of will for the scale and type of protests seen in previous periods of economic crisis and political anger. That isn’t to say there isn’t a need for this kind of announcement. While I don’t think the various factions of the NCP are as nervous as the SPLM about their position, they also know they have real issues with their support base, particularly with the middle and upper classes that were their primary support base in the 1980s.
As Magdi says, the social and economic forces that brought the NCP to power have also restructured both urban and rural society. There are significant frustrations in town and countryside with different aspects of the NCP rule, as well as the medium-term issues facing the economy – partly to do with how much the North can get out of GoSS for oil transit – and probably the changed international situation, particularly if Gaddafi goes.
There is an international trend towards younger leaders – whether or not they have the experience, or even the power. There’s also more practical considerations: the NCP are handicapped by Bashir’s ICC status, regardless of the charge’s actual weight or implications. The NCP are failing, and their elite sponsors and support base know that some changes are necessary, at least for appearances’ sake. This also potentially would undermine the opposition parties’ refusal to enter talks with the NCP. I don’t know – I’m just watching, and I would love to see a good analysis of this. I’m still learning about northern politics.
Filed under Politics, Sudan
Most of the talk of political instability, economic insecurity and potential for future violence is about the South at the moment. In international news, the situation in Khartoum is mostly only picked up on from the perspective of US policy and the ‘rehabilitation’ or not of Bashir’s regime on the international stage. This doesn’t make sense to me: in the middle of huge price rises and economic problems, Bashir’s government is in real trouble, trying to deal a complicated political balancing act between appeasing moderates and knocking back more violent opponents.
There are three days left on Al-Mahdi’s December ultimatum to the NCP to make a national government, redraw the constitution, call new general elections, resolve the Darfur conflict and the economic crisis, deal with the ICC, and make a sensible agreement with the South: whether or not Bashir properly responds to what sounds more like a rhetorical challenge than a real ultimatum, it’s a good summary of the problem the north faces at the moment. There is potential for serious political change, or at the very least a change in how the game is played, in the north this year.
So while a lot of the commentary revolves around the future of the South, I think it’sprobably a good idea to keep an eye on the opposition in Khartoum, who are becoming increasingly militant, and some voicing frustration with the quieter negotiations of al-Mahdi and Turabi. Magdi el Gizouli at StillSudan runs a fabulous commentary on the intricacies of the northern opposition versus the NCP and Bashir, and it’s worth a read.
Nobody can give any definite idea of what will happen after the vote. The more I look for commentary from what I think of as solid political or academic sources, the more I wonder how large the difference really is at the moment between considered opinion and speculative rumours.
This sounds obvious, but it’s rare that there’s such a historical turning point that you really feel that there’s no clear idea of what will happen. This is definitely reflected in the rumours that I’ve heard and read in circulation.