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Splinter upon splinter in Sudanese politics

By Ahmed Kodouda in Khartoum
Posted on Monday, 27 June 2016 14:47

Sudan’s cacophonous political forces – Islamists and secularists, heads of sectarian parties and commanders of armed groups alike – showed a rare moment of unity when they uniformly eulogised Sudan’s leading Islamist, Hassan Abdallah al-Turabi, who died in March.

After coming to power in the 1989 National Salvation Revolution as one of the most organised and fervent political forces in Sudan, the Islamists have lost their mastermind. Indeed, few people have dominated Sudanese political life like the sheikh who, at 84, was orchestrating his last act: unifying Sudan’s Islamists.

Since coming to power over a quarter century ago, the regime in Khartoum has employed a divide-and-rule strategy to weaken the opposition, wooing and splitting parties.

Ironically, Turabi, who brought President Omar al-Bashir to power, fell victim to these same tactics.

Islamists in Sudan, like all the other political forces, are divided, with the two largest factions being al Bashir’s National Congress Party and Turabi’s Popular Congress Party, which were created after a 1999 split between the two men.

Turabi’s death is likely to galvanise his party and other Islamist factions that are outside government. It could also increase their urgency to unify with the ruling party. They could seek to cooperate with the regime because Tourabi Party and Turabi’s Popular Congress Party, which were created after a 1999 split between the two men.

Turabi’s death is likely to galvanise his party and other Islamist factions that are outside government. It could also increase their urgency to unify with the ruling party. They could seek to cooperate with the regime because Tourabi failed in his effort to distance himself, his party and other Islamists from the regime.

Paradoxically, a unified Islamist movement poses a greater threat to Bashir than any other political force in the country. If the Islamists were to turn outright against him, the regime would tremble, as disciples of political Islam populate the officer corps.

The most serious coup attempt was orchestrated in 2012 by frustrated Islamists in the group known as the Sa’ihoon.

Today, like the Islamists, almost every political party or armed group is in factions. This is especially true of the two traditional sectarian parties that dominated Sudan’s politics for most of Sudan’s history: the Umma and Democratic Unionist parties.

Run as a family business, these two parties are now shells of their former selves. For example, besides the main National Umma Party led by former prime minister Sadig al-Mahdi, there is Umma-Reform and Renewal, the Umma-Federal Party, the Umma Party-Unity, and the Umma Party-General Leadership, often led by disgruntled relatives.

The myriad armed groups fighting in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile suffer from fractures, too. The groups opposed to Bashir have been unable to shift the balance of power because they are unable to develop a basic consensus on how to deal with the regime.●

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