First Published: 2012-11-13

 

What’s on agenda for Sudan Islamist meet?

 

Analysts say reform hopes in Sudan will be dashed at meeting of government-linked Islamist Movement.

 

Middle East Online

By Ian Timberlake - KHARTOUM

Calls for change by Arab Spring-inspired reformers in Sudan will likely be ignored when thousands of government-linked Islamists begin meeting on Thursday, analysts say.

The Islamic Movement, a social group at the heart of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP), is holding its first national conference since uprisings and civil war drove out authoritarian leaders around the region in 2011.

While Islamists gained power through democratic elections in Egypt and Tunisia this year, a coup installed Sudan's Islamist regime 23 years ago -- and it is still there.

Reformers charge that corruption and other problems have left the vast African nation's government Islamic only in name and question how much longer President Omar al-Bashir should remain in power.

Potential candidates to replace Bashir are jostling for influence within the Islamic Movement, said Khalid Tigani, an analyst and chief editor of the weekly economic newspaper Elaff.

"I think this is because we are approaching a change in power," said Tigani, a former activist in the National Islamic Front party which engineered the 1989 coup. Tigani now calls himself an independent Islamist.

The Islamic Movement is "one of the tools used by those who are in power to give themselves legitimacy among the Islamists, to continue controlling the government, the National Congress, in the name of Islam," he said.

Ali Osman Taha, a government vice president, has been the Islamic Movement's secretary general for two terms and is not eligible to run again.

Analysts say he is a possible successor to Bashir, who has announced he will step down as ruling party leader at an NCP congress late next year.

"A lot of people are saying 23 years is too long a time, and what's the difference between him and Mubarak and Assad?" said a Sudan analyst who asked for anonymity.

He was referring to ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Syria's beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court

Questions over Bashir's future were reinforced when, according to official media, he had his second minor operation in less than four months last week after an infection to his vocal cords.

He then appeared on television looking tired but healthy, and gave a typically fiery speech.

Hassan al-Turabi, a key figure behind the 1989 coup, sees a rivalry between Bashir and Taha.

"So both of them are competing" for control, along with others in the NCP, said Turabi, who believes Bashir wants to remain president to protect himself from arrest by the International Criminal Court.

The Hague-based court has indicted Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Sudan's far-western Darfur region, where a rebellion erupted in 2003.

Turabi broke with Bashir in a power struggle about a decade after the coup and formed his Islamist opposition party, the Popular Congress.

While only about 12 percent of NCP members come from the Islamic Movement, most of the party leadership belongs to the movement, said Islamic Movement senior member Amin Hassan Omer.

But "nothing specific" about succession will emerge from the conference, he predicted.

"I don't feel that there is a real power struggle in the Islamic Movement," said Omer, a state minister in the presidency.

But Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, publisher of the independent Al-Ayaam newspaper, said the conference would highlight a split between grassroots Islamists and NCP loyalists.

Some Islamists are now saying openly to the NCP: "You are just using Islam as a rationalisation for things which are un-Islamic," Salih said.

Turabi, the founder of the breakaway Popular Congress, calls it a "corrupt dictatorship, cruel dictatorship", which he does not want associated with Islam.

State minister in the presidency Omer said he expects such comments from critics but that it is "nonsense" to suggest there is widespread dissatisfaction among younger Islamists over corruption.

However, Sudan's Islamic regime has been linked to "so many bad things," leading to calls for reform from NCP youth and others, said self-described independent Islamist Tigani.

"So I think to some extent (the) Arab uprising is reflected here in the hopes for change in Sudan," he said.

Such hopes will be dashed, Tigani and Salih predicted, while Omer admitted reformers would be disappointed, despite "a general sense of urgency for change" in the Islamic Movement, including the need for a younger leadership.

 

Horse-trading begins as Tunisia awaits formation of new government

Jihadists flock to fight on ‘unprecedented scale’

UK court says Libyan Abdul-Hakim Belhaj can sue over rendition

Syria accuses Turkey of ‘flagrant violation of sovereignty’

Global campaign to end female genital mutilation kicks off

US to examine troops exposed to chemicals in Iraq

African Union hits back at Somalia rape claims

New scare in Turkey as ‘suspect packages’ found

‘Insults against Netanyahu’ cause embarrassment to US

Kuwait online activist gets four years in jail for insulting judges

Heavy fighting in South Sudan sparks fears of humanitarian catastrophe

Sweden officially recognises State of Palestine

Egypt jails retired general for damaging national security

Israel closes al-Aqsa mosque to worshipers in rare move

Gaza civil servants receive delayed salaries

After US criticism, Israel vows no concessions to Palestinians

Libya internationally recognised PM opens doors of dialogue with rivals

Huthi rebels seize stronghold of Muslim Brotherhood in central Yemen

Will Nidaa Tounes shun Islamists in Tunisia government formation?

Egypt starts work on buffer zone along border with Gaza

Turkey Sultan unveils new palace: Another break with symbols of secular state

Heavy toll as ‘Islamic State’ fights for control of Syria oil field

Iran President suffers fresh setback with rejection of Science Minister

Nuclear deal or no deal: ‘Red lines’ lay bare internal divisions in Iran

Heavy security in Mogadishu as UN chief meets Somalia president

Fighters from Free Syrian Army leave Turkey to join Kobane battle

Israel denies banning Palestinians sharing buses

Kurd fighters leave northern Iraq base for Syria deployment

Jordan requests UN emergency meeting over Israel settler expansion

Jerusalem Mayor visits Al-Aqsa mosque prompting anger

Tunisia reinforces commitment to democracy with ‘transparent’ elections

Turkey ‘decides’ for Kobane future: No Kurds, no Assad... Only Free Syrian Army!

Bahrain suspends Al-Wefaq weeks before parliamentary elections

Huge game changer in Tunisia: ‘In-credible’ failure of Islamist Ennahda Party

Libya PM in Khartoum for talks with Bashir

PKK hijack truck seizing explosive substance

Saudi lawyers get jail time for offensive tweets

Ennahda concedes defeat in Tunisia parliamentary elections

Syria rebels launch assault on regime-held city of Idlib

Iraq peshmerga wait for Turkey stance to depart for Syria

Sisi enacts military trials decree to cover ‘existential threat’

US calls for online war against ‘Islamic State’

Donors pledge $8 billion for Horn of Africa

Acid attacks in Iran: Deputy of Judiciary Chief to lead investigation

Lebanon army enters Islamist stronghold in Tripoli