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On April 24th the SPLM-North delegation met the Khartoum government delegation in Addis-Abeba for talks supposed to unblock the conflict between this revolutionary movement and the Sudanese regime .

Did you see how I used the word “revolutionary” in that title ? This shows how rude and politically incorrect this blog can be . Nothing is “revolutionary” in our smooth , converging , globalized world (except for new cars and men’s perfumes) . Come to think of it , I am not sure the SPLM-North is “revolutionary” either . They fight , they die , they take towns , they retreat , they advance and they try to overthrow a government . In the old days this would have been enough to qualify for the “R” word . But today , who knows ? They might be too timid and handle their victory with kid’s gloves . And this in spite of fighting in a country where revolution is a basic necessity , just like bread . Back in 1986 , after visiting the Sudan in the wake of Nimeiry’s overthrow , I went back to Cairo and gave , at the French Cultural Centre , a lecture called “al-La Thawra fi’l Sudan”. The gist of my presentation was that the Sudan was a lopsided country which, having been partly arabized between the XIIth and XVIth century (CE) , had been later politically structured by the Ottomans and the British for the benefit of that “Arab” minority. And that independence in 1956 , far from re-balancing the scene , had on the contrary added the benefits of western modernity to an already slanted political situation , making it unbearable for the losers in that giant poker game . I insisted on the fact that the conflict was not religious but was cultural/ racial and that , sooner or later , the “African” Muslims would revolt too against Arab domination . This view was thought to be “original”. But with the independence of the Christian South it has now turned into a painful reality . 

Colonel John Garang had never wanted an independent South       Sudan because he was too keenly aware of the fact that , in such a mixture of competing identities , this would simply displace the problem . The North would be unstable and so would be the South . Which is exactly the present situation.  The SPLM-North is the heir to Garang’s great dream , that of a multinational and multicultural polity . And it contains , within its own leadership , a summary of the national cocktail : Yasser Arman is an Arab , Abd-el-Azziz al-Hilew is a Ta’aisha who has been “Nubaized” through his long stay in South Kordofan and Malik Agar is half-Arab / half-Ingessana . They are all arabized to some degree . But they are also all keenly aware of the economic and cultural dysfunctions and injustices that have been fostered by the “traditional” Sudanese social system . In other words , willy-nilly , they are revolutionaries if by that word we mean more than people who are simply trying to acquire power but people who do so in the hope of changing some basic social and political structures which they deem unjust and oppressive . As a “northern” party they took part in the July 2010 election and lost in a most confused way (Yasser Arman was a presidential candidate , he withdrew unexpectedly and still got 17% of the vote as non-candidate) . The war re-started in the so-called “New South” in the following months and when Malik Agar managed to broker a cease-fire agreement with the regime on June 28th 2011 , Beshir tore it up and banned the SPLM-North , once the largest party in the North .

What had happened ? Beshir , who had been on a state visit to China, came back to find his top Army officers in a state of quasi-mutiny . Ismat abd-er-Rahim and even that old faithful Abd-er-Rahman Mohamed Hussein told him that it was out of the question to negotiate with the “khawarij” . In their eyes SPLM-North was nothing but a tool of the Southern abid and the C.I.A. and dealing with it meant the end of the Sudan as they had known it , the Arab-dominated Sudan . As a result , the war just escalated . And today it is that same torn agreement of June 2011 which is brought back to the fore as the basis for a new negotiation !! The Generals are still here , their outlook is unlikely to have changed and we are told that this (and UN Resolution 2046) are going to be the foundation stones for a new successful agreement to be signed between conservative reactionary Arabs and left-oriented “African” revolutionaries.  Good luck , gentlemen !

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