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.

 

Ansar al-Sharia denies killing of Abu Iyadh in US air strike

Egypt President in Sinai after jihadist attacks on security forces

Hezbollah backs Syria army in major assault on border city

No guarantee of success as Iran nuclear talks inch closer to lasting deal

Lawlessness in Libya poses real danger for Tunisia

Erdogan moots possibility of snap election

Coalitions of Syria rebels battle regime forces in Aleppo

Syria mosque explosion kills at least 25 Nusra fighters

Yemen Huthi rebels ‘attack’ various areas in Saudi Arabia

Egypt ‘in state of war’ on second anniversary of Islamist ouster

Rockets from Sinai strike Israel

Palestinians arrest 100 Hamas members in West Bank

Erdogan inaugurates public mosque in palace

Islamists form alliance in battle for Aleppo

Top Tunisian jihadist reportedly killed by US strike in Libya

Emir attends joint Shiite, Sunni prayers in Kuwait

Hamas denies involvement in Sinai attacks

4 Qaeda suspects killed in US drone attack in Yemen

'Series of errors' behind Air Algerie crash in Mali

Ankara has no plans for imminent intervention in Syria

21 killed in clashes, strikes in Yemen's Aden

GCC states vow united stand against IS mosque bombings

Palestinians protest one year after teenager burned alive

Egypt vows to wipe out 'dens of terror'

Tunisia arrests eight in connection with beach massacre

Youth in Tunisia 'ripe for radicalisation'

UN sends mission to 'assess' South Sudan atrocities

Syria urges citizens to enlist

AQAP step up campaign to eradicate qat

Iraq Christians train for jihad against IS

British FM: 'No breakthrough yet' in Iran nuclear talks

UN imposes first sanctions on six South Sudan generals

Libya rival governments will not return to peace talks

Fighting rages in Yemen’s Aden

Egypt government adopts anti-terror law

Kurds warn Turkey against any ‘aggression’ in Syria

Kuwait makes DNA tests mandatory after suicide bombing

Kuwait parliament approves deficit budget on oil slide

Pro-Erdogan candidate becomes new speaker of Turkey parliament

‘War’ in Sinai Peninsula as clashes with ISIS fighters rage on

All 38 victims of Tunisia beach massacre identified

36 killed in wave of IS attack on Egyptian soldiers

Iran vs. Israel gets cartoon treatment

IAEA chief to fly to Iran for nuclear talks

Saudi prince pledges fortune to charity