JUBA, Southern Sudan – Speaking to Enough this week in Juba during a break from the SPLM politburo meetings, Yasir Arman, the SPLM’s recently-announced candidate for Sudan’s upcoming presidential elections, had a clear message for the people of Sudan and the international community:
"Sudan is passing a critical year – the end game of Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The National Congress Party does not mean business. They are not ready to complete the fundamental exercises of the CPA, namely the [national] elections and the [southern self-determination] referendum….the technical and political environment is not well set for free and fair elections, and international pressure is needed so that the NCP is not permitted to rig the elections."
Arman discussed the ways in which the ruling National Congress Party, led by President Omar al-Bashir, is attempting to “destroy the CPA.” Arman alleged that the NCP is pursuing a policy of recruiting and enlisting militias to stoke the inter-communal violence occurring in the South, blocking political progress toward peace in Darfur, and preventing demarcation of the borders of the contested Abyei region. Arman said that he looks forward to campaigning and then leading the “peace-loving and democracy-loving people of Sudan” in “full implementation of the CPA, a just resolution for the people of Darfur, and full democratization of the country.”
The campaign period for the nation-wide elections set to occur in April begins in mid-February. Arman and senior members of the SPLM say they are optimistic about their chances of beating out President Bashir in the national presidential contest. But the general sentiment here in Juba is that with current Government of Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir running for the southern presidency and not contesting Bashir at the national level, it is clear that the SPLM has its eyes on secession.
When I asked a senior SPLM member about the party’s "best case" scenario in 2011, he looked at me although I was a bit slow. He explained that of course, with Arman as president in Khartoum, secession of the South would proceed very easily. This politician has a point, but to be honest, these utopian views of how the elections and referendum will transpire may not serve the leaders of the South well in this crucial year, when painstaking, strategic negotiations with Khartoum will determine the post-referendum reality of Sudan, whether it remains one country or splits into two.
Photo: SPLM Deputy Secretary General and candidate for president, Yasir Arman (AFP)