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Sudan Tribune - December 27, 2010

The semi-official top newspaper in Egypt launched a rare attack on Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir saying that his policies over the years have made people in South yearn for their own state rather than desire to stay united with the rest of the country.

"The truth is that the government of Sudan bears alone the largest part of the tragedy lurking in Sudan now. Although it is too early to evaluate the mistakes which led Sudan to this fate, the government of Sudan has committed a series of blunders since assuming power in the country. They emphasized to the southerners that the concept of self-determination rather than integration with the North’s ideological policies, made the coexistence between them difficult and impossible," said Osama Saraya, editor in chief of Al-Ahram newspaper in his op-ed published Friday.

"The Government promoted the sin that the adoption of the right to self-determination will make the unity of Sudan a correct choice for the South, but it did not do anything over the years that have elapsed since the adoption of this right. The successive governments did not comprehend very well the elements the Southern issue nor did it realize the surrounding international situation indicating that they [international powers] were keen in their quest for the dismemberment of this great country " he added.

Saraya said that Khartoum brushed aside advices by Cairo in the lead-up to the signing of the Machakos protocols in 2002 which he said resulted in the current situation. He hinted that the Egyptian government wanted the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the North to abandon the imposition of Islamic Sharia’a law to make unity attractive to the Southerners.

Al-Ahram’s top guy said that the NCP wanted to trade self-determination right for implementation of Sharia’a law in the North. Some observers say that this enforced the mental lines dividing the North and South.

"Egypt was never far from the evolution of the situation in Sudan. It did not desist from giving warnings and advices to those who are in power in the south and the north and cooperating with them. Egypt interacted with the situation to the extent of its internal dimensions with a problem in a sovereign state. [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarak visited Juba in southern Sudan, while Southerners wondered where is the Sudanese president from visiting Juba?"

"But the situation caused by repeated mistakes led to what we are in today" Saraya said.

He noted the mini-summit held in Khartoum this week that was attended by Mubarak and other regional leaders including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. They all met with Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir to discuss progress on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the North and South in 2005.

The two sides have been discussing without success since July the key sticking points of future citizenship arrangements, the sharing out of natural resources — particularly oil — security and compliance with international accords, notably on water allocation from the Nile.

They have also yet to find common ground on the disputed oil district of Abyei which had supposed to be holding a simultaneous vote on its own future that has been delayed by disagreements over who should have a ballot.

Saraya said that the North now needs to adopt a "new way of thinking" that will help it face the new post-secession challenges "to maintain stability, and to develop radical solutions to the problems that will likely get more complex".

He criticized Bashir’s speech last week that pledged to transform constitution in North Sudan to a fully Islamic one after the South secedes.

"Not included in this new way of thinking is for the Sudanese president to stand in the midst of the current crisis to announce a few days ago that the constitution would be amended and that the Sharia’a [law] will be the source of legislation in the event of secession of the south".

"This means that the Sudanese president continues to believe that the Caliphate state in the Sudan is more important than unity, and that with the secession of the south he got rid of the force which hindered the establishment of a religious state in the Sudan. Not only does [this speech] makes unity hopeless but pushes southerners further toward secession, and deepens the rifts between the two countries after the referendum".

Saraya said that Bashir’s defense of the video showing a Sudanese woman being lashed further encourages division and weakens Sudan’s international standing.

Egyptian officials in the past have shyly blamed Bashir’s NCP party for the breakup of Sudan. Last February, Egyptian president reportedly criticized Khartoum for lacking the will to preserve the unity.

The Egyptian media which is mostly controlled by the government, have omitted any reference to this portion of Mubarak’s speech but a Kuwaiti newspaper disclosed it.

This month a senior Libyan official shared same sentiments and said that the North failed to make the unity attractive to the South.

“Our brothers in Khartoum have a responsibility to bear, this responsibility is represented in actions such as Shari’a law, the civilization project of [Hassan] Al-Turabi, the fighting and the declaration of Jihad on the south” Abdel Rahman Shalgam, Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said in an interview with the UAE-based Al-Bayan newspaper.

The referendum on independence for south Sudan was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the south, where most follow traditional beliefs and Christianity.

A successful referendum could bring a conclusion to one of Africa’s most bitter conflicts, which has rumbled on since around the time of Sudan’s independence in the 1950s.

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