Divisions in Sudan’s Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country’s Future Stability

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Khartoum/Nairobi/Brussels, 4 May 2011: Unless Sudan’s grievances are addressed by a more inclusive government, the country risks further violence and disintegration even after the South’s independence becomes official in July.

Sudan’s Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country’s Future Stability, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns that the National Congress Party (NCP) has not addressed the root causes of chronic conflicts; instead it has exacerbated ethnic and regional divisions and deepened their contradictions. Losing acceptance, facing multiple security, political, social and economic challenges, it is deeply divided over the way forward. The party has mobilised its security apparatus to hold back any internal change or uprising, has stifled the debate about Sudan’s diversity and identity, still wants to impose an Arab-Islamic identity for all Sudanese and to keep misusing Sharia (Islamic law) and is ready to sub-divide key states to accommodate political barons.

“President Bashir and his close associates are concerned their party may disintegrate. Worried about a possible coup, they have come to rely increasingly on personal and tribal loyalty to remain in power”, says Fouad Hikmat, Crisis Group’s African Union and Sudan Senior Adviser. “Power is now increasingly centralised in a small clique around the president”.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended the long North-South civil war but has failed to resolve the issues that continue to drive the country’s multiple other conflicts. During that agreement’s six-year run (to end formally in July), the NCP squandered the opportunity to preserve national unity and to establish a stable and democratic state. It resisted serious execution of many CPA provisions because they would critically weaken its grip on power. Consequently, the Darfur conflict escalated and Southerners chose separation when they voted in their January 2011 self-determination referendum.

In the highly militarised periphery - including not only Darfur but also Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, the East and other marginal areas - a new sector of discontent with NCP domination is forming, akin to the South’s disgruntlement. Political and military opposition continues, and many Sudanese are calling for wider constitutional arrangements that would distribute power, resources and development equitably among the regions. These issues must be addressed through genuine national dialogue and managed by an inclusive and acceptable government if Sudan is to avoid more violence and division.

A united international community, with the African Union, the Arab League and the UN in the forefront, should press the NCP to engage the opposition in such a national dialogue in order to foster the basis for a national stabilisation program that includes clear principles for establishing a comprehensive, collectively constructed and agreed constitutional pact.

“With the South’s secession but months away, the situation in the remainder of the country requires review as a whole”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “The NCP intends to continue the status quo - to maintain the political system as is, make isolated peace deals with whomever raises the gun and mobilise Islamist constituencies against their fellow citizens. This is a prescription for more troubles in a long-suffering land”.