Al-Bashir and the opposition leaders
Sudan, Analysis, 8/23/1997
Northern and southern Sudanese opposition parties, united under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance, agreed to disregard the so-called peace offers made recently by President Omar Al-Bashir, describing them as an attempt to fool the Sudanese people and ease the isolation of Khartoum's government on the international level.
While war raged in southern and eastern Sudan, the Asmara meeting took place between government's army troops and the opposition rebels, that meeting also came shortly before another meeting in Nairobi of the Africa body known as the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, which includes Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Djibouti. At this meeting, African leaders forced Al-Bashir to accept the principle of sitting down with the opposition and negotiating a settlement using the framework of a declaration of principles agreed upon by the two sides in 1994.
But a statement made by Al-Bashir, shortly after the meeting made clear that his
understanding of the so-called "settlement" remains far from that of the opposition. In his understanding, the 1994 African-sponsored declaration of principles is not binding and can only be reviewed as a basis for negotiations.
The opposition leader Al-Mahdi told reporters: "We decided to escalate the war efforts on all fronts: military, political and diplomatic, to manage power on the Khartoum government to sign a political agreement that would solve the problem on the eastern southern fronts."
Al-Mahdi's statements matched those of John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and his troops bear the main responsibility for the ongoing struggle between the government and opposition in southern Sudan.
Garang insisted that "a comprehensive framework of negotiations is necessary" and rejected Al Bashir's call for a ceasefire in southern Sudan. He even threatened to put the Sudanese capital under siege should the government pursue its delaying tactics in reaching an agreement.
So, Al-Bashir's government does search to reconcile with Arab countries angered by its support of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the 1990 Gulf War and its attempts to export a fundamentalist Islamic model. The opposition leaders Al-Mahdi and Garang do not think that the reconciliatoin will be attained, because Khartoum's militant Islamic ideas have already alienated most of its neighbors.
In addition to the strong opposition, Al-Bashir faces a Sudanese public suffering from rising living costs and deteriorating services. Considering the contradictory signals coming from Sudan, it is premature to predict the outcome of the war. Analysts see three scenarios: the collapse of the regime, the eruption of a national uprising, or the realization of the opposition's goals through a peaceful agreement.
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