Opposition Alliance Creates Ripples in Sudan

06 July 2009

The ruling party in Sudan has denounced a formal accord signed between a Darfur rebel group and a northern opposition party that says the current government will be illegitimate beginning July 9. 

The accord signed on Friday between Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement group and northern opposition party Umma has enraged senior ruling party officials, according to reports.

Senior officials for the ruling National Congress Party decried the joint declaration of principles as nothing more than base political maneuvering and expressed surprise a political party would align with an armed rebel group.

According to the landmark 2005 peace agreement signed between north and south Sudan, democratic elections were to take place this week.  But that date has been postponed twice.  The election is now set for April 2010.

The agreement between the Justice and Equality Movement and Umma declares that on July 9 the current government is unconstitutional and demands the installation of an interim government until national elections can take place.

The joint declaration also rejects the official government census results released in May and supports the U.N. decision to refer Darfur crimes to the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

The census results are also being criticized by the semi-autonomous south Sudanese government in Juba, led by the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement.  The census results are crucial for fragile power-sharing agreements between the north and the south and for organizing the upcoming national elections in April 2010.

Juba government officials decided to formally reject the census results Friday, following the south Sudanese parliament's rejection of the results a few days earlier.  The Juba leaders have sent a letter to the National Elections Commission asking that the census not be used for determining constituencies in the elections.

Fouad Hikmat, an analyst on Sudanese affairs for the International Crisis Group, says the widening split between the northern NCP and southern SPLM makes the prospects for smooth elections look slim.  He sees the new accord between JEM and Umma as a key turning point as opposition groups decide how to best take advantage of the deteriorating political situation.

"The agreement signed between JEM and Umma is very very significant, and I think it indicates a new direction in Sudan, having an opposition party signing this sort of a communiqué with somebody who is carrying a gun," said Fouad Hikmat. "And that maybe is going to draw a bigger alliance given that all the opposition parties are now discussing together what they are going to do.  And so this is very very significant and I am sure is going to raise very serious concern from the NCP and the SPLM itself."

The talks in Doha, Qatar, between JEM and Khartoum have collapsed in recent months.  Last year JEM led a failed armed attack against Sudan's capital city, Khartoum.

Umma is led by former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.  President al-Bashir ousted al-Mahdi in a bloodless coup 20 years ago.