|Africa News Digest
U.S. Envoys at Garang Funeral Hope for Southern Secession
Bush Administration representatives attending the Aug. 6 funeral of SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) leader and Sudanese Vice President John Garang in Juba, Sudan, did not mourn his passing, instead, they expressed satisfaction with the prospects for secession of southern Sudan. Constance Newman, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and Roger Winter, newly appointed Special Envoy to Sudan, attended the funeral. According to Voice of America, Newman told reporters Aug. 7, in reference to Garang, that, "There is always a danger in the world of depending on one person. We always need to relieve that one person of having the sole responsibility of saving us all." (Did someone "relieve" Garang?) Winter claimed to share Garang's vision, but, according to Reuters Aug. 7, "Winter said he was not worried by [Garang's successor Salva] Kiir's separatist tendencies, while Garang was vocal in support for unity, because Kiir represented the majority view in the South. 'Something like 96% of the people of the South don't support unity,' he said." He was citing the result of a recent USAID survey, carried out to prove his point.
It is apparently true that "popular opinion" in the South is separatist ("the northerners hate us, we hate them"), but Winter did not address the fact that the South was willing to follow Garang, nonetheless. More than a million people turned out for Garang's inauguration in Khartoum (there is a huge number of southerners in shantytowns there) and several hundred thousand turned out for his funeral in Juba, despite the difficulty of travel in the South.
U.S. policy makers repeatedly state their support for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 2005, which does not require that Sudan remain unified. They were generally silent on the question of unity while Garang lived.
Garang Successor, Other SPLM Leaders, Oppose Secession
Salva Kiir Mayardit, John Garang's successor, told the BBC Aug. 11 that he and other leaders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement are firmly opposed to secession of the South. Kiir, the new head of the SPLM, after being sworn in as First Vice President of Sudan in Khartoum Aug. 11, told the BBC's World Today program, "This is the last chance for Sudanese unity, and it is incumbent upon us to work towards realizing it," BBC News reported Aug. 12. The BBC News article reported that Kiir "said he is firmly opposed to independence for the country's South," and that "he was fully committed to Mr. Garang's vision of Sudan as one country." It added, "Mr. Kiir said the dominant group in the SPLM had always wanted to fight for a 'united country on a new basis,' rather than independence for the South."
This is something of a shift for Kiir, who had previously not been so clear on the subject of Sudanese unity. Lyndon LaRouche noted that the death of a political leader, in this case Garang, often produces such a patriotic change in an angered population.
The report on Kiir's approach was confirmed by Sudanese official sources in Cairo, who told the Middle East News Agency (MENA) that Kiir is about to undertake a foreign tour, of which Egypt will be the main leg, and that he will "emphasize adherence to Sudan's unity, achieving peace, and commitment to [the Comprehensive Peace Agreement]," according to the Sudan Tribune account of the MENA wire Aug. 9. Because of its dependence on the waters of the Nile, Egypt has a strong interest in Sudanese unity.
UN Envoy Wants Probe of Garang's Death
UN Special Envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk wants the UN involved in the probe of Sudanese leader John Garang's death, the purpose of which, he said, is 'to take away all suspicion' of foul play. Pronk, in Khartoum, told Reuters Aug. 2 that, "There will be an investigation.... [W]e have offered our assistance.... Uganda, the SPLM, the government [of Sudan], the UN, we need to group all our expertise.... [I]t is necessary in order to take away all suspicion...."
There are multiple investigations into Garang's death, including one by the government of Uganda. Five members of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board are in Kampala, at the invitation of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in whose helicopter Garang was travelling when it crashed.
Mahdi-Turabi Opposition Bloc Takes Shape in Sudan
In Sudan, an opposition bloc is taking shape to help the Anglo-American powers keep the Bashir-SPLM government under control. Sudan's Umma Party, led by the al-Mahdi family, has made clear for several months now that it will not participate in the Bashir-SPLM government. Umma is the party with the strongest orientation toward the Anglo-American powers, historically. The Anglo-American press reports that Umma is the party with the largest popular base.
The surprise is that Hassan al-Turabi, the Islamist leader of the People's Congress Party, finally released from house arrest June 30, is aligning his party with Umma. (Turabi's party never had much of a popular base, but has had strong support among the elite.)
An AP wire of July 17, that is complimentary to Turabi, reports: "He said closer relations with the United States and the West would benefit Sudan. 'I'm partly a product of these places,' said Turabi. [He has law degrees from the University of London and the Sorbonne in Paris.] 'Of course I want close relations.'... Now he has allied with the Umma Party in demanding what he calls 'the basics of democracy'freedom of the press, freedom to form political parties, free elections." Turabi is quoted, "Now for the first few days [of the Bashir-SPLM transitional government] they are allowed, because journalists and the UN were watching. But after a while I know the police will say, 'Sorry, no rights.'" These issues were not at the top of his agenda when he shared power with Bashir.
Cheney-Allied Mauritanian President Overthrown in Coup
Mauritanian President Maaouyia Ould Taya, who had cooperated with the policies of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was removed by a military coup Aug. 3. The coup followed warnings of the consequences of those policies in North Africa and the Sahel by the liberal-imperialist International Crisis Group (ICG) in March. Mauritania has recently been found to have 1 billion barrels of oil and 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Oil pumping may begin within six to eight months.
Troops led by members of the Presidential guard took over armed forces headquarters and state TV and radio Aug. 3 and blocked access to the Presidential palace and government ministries with heavy weapons. President Ould Taya was in Saudi Arabia for the funeral of King Fahd at the time.
Ould Taya had been cracking down on Mauritania's Islamists, accusing them of links to terrorist and extremist groups in adjoining Algeria. But in March, the ICG issued a report entitled "Understanding Islamism," attacking the policies of Cheney and Rumsfeld, and a second report specifically attacking the Cheney/Rumsfeld claim that the Sahel is a hotbed of terrorism. This second report said that Ould Taya's government was using the war on terrorism as a tool to lock up and torture his opponents, and this could be a "very costly mistake." These warnings are mentioned in some of the wire stories on the coup.
Ould Taya had supported Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, but switched to a U.S. alliance later in the 1990s, broke relations with Iraq, and established full diplomatic relations with Israel.