“How can Ethiopia, with a 45 per cent Muslim population, engage in holy anti-Islamic war against the Sudan, as Clinton’s special envoys urge us to do? Why is America so off-beam these days?” Ethiopian Prime Minister’s aide speaking to former US diplomats, Jonathan Clarke and James Clad. (International Herald Tribune, 20 June 1995)
ONE year to date the American journal Foreign Affairs (May/June 1995) took a look at `The Islamic Cauldron’, Iran, Algeria and `Sudan’s dismal experiment’. The developments in Sudan looked all the more `dismal’, and the writer, Milton Viorst, had come to the conclusion that despite `all the popular dissatisfaction with the Islamic state’ which, he believed, ran deep, `Turabi and his followers have entrenched themselves so skilfully - far more than any previous regime - that it may be impossible to get them out.’ (Viorst is author of Sandcastles: The Arabs in Search of the Modern World, Cape, 1994. Therein he told Arabs in so many words that they will not be able to find their place in the modern world as long as they do not make peace with Israel.)
Not that the US and its allies had left the ‘democratic’ duty of changing the regime to the Sudanese themselves; they have been engaged in an escalating war of subversion, intimidation and even attempted assassination against Sudan and its Islamic leadership. This they embarked upon as soon as they came to realise that in Sudan they were dealing with a new kind of liberation movement which, if allowed to succeed, might lead to an eventual liberation of Africa, the richest and most exploited continent of the world. Besides, Islam has always posed a problem for the ethno-centric colonial psyche.
The conflict in the South has always provided a good lever for dealing with Sudan, whether ruled by Unionist or Umma, Abboud or Nimeiri. Omar Hasan al-Bashir declared very soon after taking power that they believed in living within their means and they would eat and consume from what they produced. That sounded dangerous, but were the Sudanese simply talking big, as revolutions always do? Did they really have the mettle to withstand ‘fear and hunger’ that was going to descend upon them? And doesn’t anybody want to open a numbered account in Switzerland and be credited with an agreed percentage of ‘aid’ money? The necessary insurance for almost all kings and presidents and prime ministers for their future days out of office!
Therefore, while John Garang was left to rave and rant and to threaten to march on Khartoum, the job of bringing the new regime down to earth was given to the World Bank and IMF who began to turn off their foreign aid taps and recall their loans. With 70% of its budget coming from ‘foreign aid’, an economy wrecked by mismanagement and high place corruption and a long-running insurgency in the South, the economic weapon seemed to be the right one. However, if Sudan looked eminently vulnerable, its leadership was not. These ‘fundamentalists’ were saying that they did not mind living a little meagrely than compromise their freedom.
Policy of Tawakkul
The policies of the new regime were said to be founded on Tawakkul. Tawakkul means doing one’s best and leaving the rest to God. The Qur’an says (in translation of the meaning): ‘And put thy trust in God, and enough is God as a Disposer of Affairs. (Al-Ahzab 33:3) Al-wakeel is one of the 99 Attributes of God which means One Who takes upon Himself all responsibility on behalf of anyone who places his trust in Him. It was soon evident that the Shylockian knife alone was not enough either to make the regime change its course or to bring about its fall by creating an economic unrest among the people.
The old game of keeping the South on the boil was still useful, but only half as needed. The insurgency was bleeding the economy all right and blocking the pace of normalisation, yet it had little effect on the political will of Sudan. The Sudanese leadership had from the Day One embarked on a pro-active Southern policy of addressing the genuine needs and grievances of the population and to find an intra-Sudanese solution to problem imposed from the outside.
The policy sought to reconcile and welcome back the foreign-armed rebel groups, but, unlike in the past, neither to submit to their political blackmail nor to appease them at the cost of the great majority of the Southern leadership which has remained loyal to its people and to its country and refused to serve as a tool of outside powers. This meant simultaneous containment of insurgency as well as devolution of powers and allocation of more resources for the rehabilitation and development of a devastated South. Although there were more Muslims than Christians in the South, the federal system of government gave the states autonomy to legislate either according to Islamic Shari’ah or local customs. This took the wind out of the sail of the international missionary constituency which had worked itself up in a state of ‘anti-Christian’ crusade despite the fact that the values which the Shari’ah laws were seeking to implement were exactly also the values of the Bible with respect to personal, social, economic and political morality.
Denied the very bases of their insurrection, the rebel groups had begun to wither away and were to be found more in foreign capitals than in their native South. The fall of Mengistu and his replacement by a leadership, which was deeply obliged to Sudan for its moral and political support during the long years of its struggle against the Marxist dictatorship in Addis Ababa, also deprived the rebels of their strategic and operational base in Ethiopia (now two countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea). However, Sudan’s problems lay not with the so-called rebels: they lay with their principals. The masters could not allow other African states to be inspired by the Sudanese striving for freedom and dignity, independence and self-reliance, because if Sudan was successful, the black continent too could slip out of their net.
Therefore, lest before Africa and other exploited countries began to see an example in Sudan, Sudan had to be demonised. Turned into a pariah state! Word was spread that Sudan was not only a ‘fundamentalist’ but also a ‘terrorist’ regime, which was sheltering and training terrorists of all hue and colour and sending them out to spread terror in the neighbourhood and beyond. In order to confirm the propaganda of terrorism, the US State Department declared Sudan a ‘terrorist’ state, adding another Arab name to its all Muslim list of ‘terrorist states.
One problem they did not know how to deal with was Hasan Abdullah al-Turabi whom they saw as the intellectual force behind the `terrorist’ regime Sorbonne and London-educated, polite and articulate and suave and urbane, Turabi did not photofit the `fundamentalist’ stereotype. He wasn’t the hollow demagogue who is ever so ready to play the surrogate. In 1992, Turabi was invited to speak to a Congressional African affairs subcommittee in Washington. He was rudely questioned.
From the US, Turabi went on a short visit to Canada, met external affairs officials in Ottawa and as he arrived at the airport to fly to Montreal, he was set upon by a ready and waiting Karate black belt. The man battered him for close to half an hour, within the sight of the policemen on duty, before they could travel a distance of 10 meters to arrive at the scene. The ambulance took another 40 minutes to take an unconscious and bleeding Turabi to hospital. Everyone was surprised when after weeks of unconsciousness, he `suddenly’ recovered his faculties and returned home to face the `bigger’ jihad.
The would-be assassin, Hashim Badr Eldin, had been a twice dismissed Sudanese teacher who had come to the US in 1988, one year before the present regime had assumed power. But he had been given political asylum in Canada. He said he was ‘a communist, a Ba’athist, an Umma and a supporter of John Garang’, and that he had attacked al-Turabi because he was responsible for what had happened in Kuwait - the Iraqi occupation etc. Hashim Badr Eldin was let off after a nominal prosecution. But presumably someone seems to have had come to conclusion there was no point arguing with this intellectual ‘terrorist’, Hasan Abdullah al-Turabi.
Economic squeeze, Political pressures, Inflaming the Southern insurgency, Attempted assassination, Human rights propaganda, Co-opting the churches in order to give it all the colour of a `holy war’, Organising the political opposition, Ostracising Sudan as a `terrorist’ state, but nothing seemed to be able to intimidate and make the Sudanese change their course. What then?
The Somalia adventure had shown the US that any kind of direct military involvement was fraught with risks which American public opinion may not accept. Even otherwise post-Cold War American political strategy is structured upon employing third parties, especially weak, vulnerable and dependent countries, to fight its wars.
The Mubarak regime in Egypt has little political will of its own. It is also wholly dependent for its existence on US political and financial support. So no-one needed to recruit the regime in the crusade against Sudan. In fact no sooner it came to realise that Sudan’s was no mill of the run military coup staged by some adventurous military officers and that Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir and his colleagues were serious and committed people, than the Egyptian regime embarked on its own plots against Sudan. The new regime was serious about taking the country out of decades of corruption, misrule and foreign subservience and determined to pursue the course of dignity and self-reliance.
Shared dislike of Islam
There was so much of shared dislike of Islam between Egypt and the US that there was no need for Washington to tell Cairo what to do. The Egyptian regime was a mercenary volunteer. Egypt attacked and occupied Halaib, a Sudanese border district, which has always enjoyed Sudanese sovereignty. The regime also took to hosting and funding not only political exiles from the traditional parties made redundant by the new Salvation order, it was also openly backing John Garang who made no secret of his main political agenda: to abolish Islamic Shari’ah and establish a secular regime or else to secede from Sudan.
Recruiting Uganda and Eritrea
But as Egyptian provocations and subversions were not able to shake Sudan’s Salvation regime, a brand new anti-Sudanese alliance had to be forged. The fall of the Mengistu regime had adversely affected the anti-Sudanese equation. Therefore, the immediate task was to recruit Uganda as the new rebel base against Sudan. It didn’t prove difficult because the Ugandan regime had already been involved with Sudanese rebels. President Yoweri Musaveni was lavished with generous foreign aid and his autocratic regime given blanket political support, including connivance at Musaveni’s (believed to be a Tutsi himself) involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi. However, Uganda was now required to play a more than mere support role, it was required also to fight on behalf of the demoralised and dispirited rebels and open a new military front against Sudan.
After Uganda, Eritrea followed suit, although like the Ethiopians, the Eritrean Liberation Front, at present in power in Asmara, too had spent years of sympathetic exile in Sudan. But there being no abiding loyalties in secular relations, it was only a matter of time before Eritrea first - and Ethiopia later - yielded to political pressures and economic incentives and joined the anti-Islamic alliance against Sudan.
Eritrea’s defection came about in an interesting way. The attempt to drive a wedge between Eritrea and Sudan began with the appearance of an ‘Eritrean Jihad Movement’ in the Saudi press. The Jihad Movement’ accused the Sudanese regime of being friendly with Eritrea and betraying the cause of Islamic jihad in Eritrea. The Sudanese were not upstaged by such ‘jihad talk, but when Eritrea’s Afewerki regime decided subsequently to break its ties with Khartoum, it said Sudan was supporting ‘jihad’ groups to establish a ‘fundamentalist’ Islamic state (Eritrea has an over 60% Muslim majority) in Eritrea.
Some American ideas
Ethiopia’s recruitment came rather late, because even as late mid June last year, Ethiopian officials were not prepared to buy wholesale American ideas about the Horn of Africa. `Some American ideas, let’s say Clinton’s Horn of Africa initiative, are good - even if not backed by any muscle in the World Bank,’ Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s US-educated aide told former US diplomats, Jonathan Clarke and James Clad, after they had met Zenawi. `But others are just plain nuts,’ she went on to add.
“How can Ethiopia, with a 45 per cent Muslim population, engage in holy anti-Islamic war against the Sudan, as Clinton’s special envoys urge us to do? Why is America so off-beam these days?’ (International Herald Tribune, 20 June 1995).
Then came the 26 June 1995 attempt to assassinate President Mubarak while he was on the way from Addis Ababa’s Bole airport to the OAU summit conference hall. Mubarak claimed Sudan was behind the attempt. He also blamed Ethiopia for not preventing the attack and implied Ethiopian complicity. Ethiopia asked Egypt to stop its `campaign of lies’ about the `involvement of Ethiopian security forces’ in the attempt to assassinate Mubarak. This calmed down Mubarak, but down the line somewhere Zenawi had begun to have second thoughts about the economics of refusing America’s invitation to join its `holy anti-Islamic war against the Sudan’.
Still probably half-heartedly, more than a month after the incident, on 28 July, al-Bashir received a letter from Zenawi asking Sudan to ‘hand over to us three men who we have indisputable evidence were deeply involved in the afore-mentioned crime and who are now in Sudan’. The letter gave only vague and general information about the suspects and their presumed whereabouts.
Ask the first suspect!: For example, the first suspect was an Egyptian, aged 30, leader of the Islamic group, with a record of terrorist act and was wanted in Egypt. Where does one look for him? ‘In one of Khartoum’s neighbourhood’. Second suspect: ditto Egyptian, ‘wearing a Cassio watch’. Where to look for him? Ask the first suspect! Third suspect: ditto Egyptian, in 1991 had fled to a foreign country, and entered Sudan by Sudan Airways on the day of the incident.
Although the information provided to them was obscure, without any lead and 32 days late, the Sudanese took all those measures which any government anywhere in the world would take viz. circulating the information to all police stations and immigration checkpoints, sifting the passenger arrival lists, and checking with taxi services and hotels, inquiring with landlords and searching the likely hideouts. The Ethiopians were probably thinking that not only had the suspects gone to Sudan, they had also gone to their presumed places of residence.
Later Addis came up with more ‘proof’ that they had intercepted a box brought by Sudan Airways marked in Arabic, ‘Al- Mukhabarat al-’Ammah’. The wordings of the markings were confirmed to Sudanese foreign minister Ali Usman, by both Zenawi and his foreign minister. Credulity apart, Ali Usman pointed to Zenawi that in Sudan the security agencies were called `Al Amn al-Dakhili’ (Internal Security) and `Al Amn al-Khariji’ (External Security), and Al-Mukhabarat al-’Ammah happened to be the proper name of the Egyptian intelligence agency.
Obviously the case against Sudan was not about evidence, much less about any proof, it was about proving that America had not gone `off-beam’. The way the new international order worked had little to do with morality or legality. The State Department only has to let UN officials know what is expected of them and it is DONE.
On 11 January 1996, the UN Security Council, presided over by its British chairman of the month, passed a resolution calling upon Sudan `to undertake immediate action to extradite to Ethiopia for prosecution the suspects sheltering in the Sudan and wanted in connection with the assassination attempt’ on President Mubarak. Sudan was also asked to desist from engaging in, supporting and facilitating terrorist activities. The resolution further asked Secretary General Boutrus Ghali to report to the Security Council within 60 days whether Sudan had complied with its orders. Insofar as the elders of the Security Council were concerned, Sudan had been already found guilty and sentenced. What remained were simply the modalities and sequence in which the sentence was to be executed.
Murder as policy
There have been scores of assassinations and attempted assassination of government and political leaders all over the world; the attempted assassination of al-Turabi, for example. Many political assassinations were alleged to have been masterminded by the CIA itself. Some murders were even confessed later on and covert killings justified as a necessary tool of policy. An Indian court inquiring into the murder of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has been told of the U.S involvement in the assassination.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has seen massive killings as an overt act of policy and the international community, the US included, has been trying to hush up a large part of the crime, even destroying evidence, again as an act of policy. The Israelis kill Arabs and Palestinians, overtly as well as covertly, as and when their `policy’ demands it. Even while the Security Council remained seized with what is plainly an exercise in trying to frame Sudan in the case of an attempted assassination by some Egyptian nationals in a third country, the Israelis were on one of their periodical killing sprees in Lebanon. They were out to ‘punish’ every man, woman and child, because they have kept fighting against the occupation of South Lebanon. The Security Council did not dare condemn the killers. There was no question of even threatening to punish them if they did not comply. The US has made it known that it would never allow Israel to be censured or strictured by the security Council. If it did, the US will veto the resolution.
But Sudan was different. Here, to recall the words of the Ethiopian foreign ministry official, President Clinton was engaged `in holy anti-Islamic war against the Sudan’. In the past too, European and American policies were influenced by the ignorance and prejudices of their government leaders, but, it seems, the Clinton administration has taken upon itself the duty to wage a total war against ISLAM, against the system of government and against Islam’s moral and social laws, from Tajikistan to Indonesia, and from Bosnia to Zanzibar. Only that the US President does not realise - and his mostly Zionist advisers are unable to tell him what kind of unwinnable war he is trying to commit America to.
The Clinton administration is trying to fight a friendly civilisation which no amount of moral ignorance or military arrogance can ever extinguish. On the contrary such blind enmity towards Islam might even trigger the fall of the Great American Dream in the same way as Brezhnev’s adventure in Afghanistan had hastened the fall of the Soviet Empire.
Islam is not a human super-power. It is the Power of Faith which does not live or die with al-Turabi, al-Bashir and Sudan or any Islamic leader or country.
Courtesy: Impact International, London.
Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996