Uhuru-Spirit Interview

UHURUSPIRIT INTERVIEW: SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE SPLM YASIR ARMAN ON THE RECENT PROTESTS IN SUDAN

Sudan's SPLM Secretary General Yasir Arman

Date Posted: October 11, 2013

Recently, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people took to the streets after the removal of fuel subsidy by the government of President Omar al-Bashir. Many of the peaceful protesters were brutally killed, while thousands were arrested.


To help us to gain a better appreciation of what is going on in Sudan, UhuruSpirit editor Comrade Hilary Ojukwu spoke with the Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in North Sudan, Yasir Arman. Before the secession of South Sudan, Comrade Arman served as the Deputy Secretary General of the SPLM and was the party’s presidential candidate during the aborted 2010 general elections. He rose to the rank of a General in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

UhuruSpirit: Firstly, we know that the SPLM had split into two when the secession of South Sudan led to the emergence of the Republics of North Sudan and South Sudan. Please, tell us more about that.

Yasir Arman: When the country broke up into the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan, the SPLM also broke into two. Now, one is the ruling party in South Sudan and the other is in the opposition in North Sudan.

Our movement – the SPLM – is today one of the strongest political parties in North Sudan. We operate everywhere and as of now the government has denounced the agreement we had as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. They went into war with the SPLM North. They chose to start the wars in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Nuba Mountains. But the SPLM has liberated a big area and one can travel by car for three days in the area which we now control. We have an army of over 45,000 officers. At the same time, the SPLM operates in three different environments. We have the SPLM/SPLA in the liberated areas which uses the armed struggle; we have the SPLM which operates clandestinely in the areas controlled by the government, with many of our cadres in prison. In the last two years, more than 1500 of our cadres were imprisoned by the government – some of them are still in prison and many are under trial. We also have the SPLM which operates is in exile. So, the SPLM is a strong movement. We also founded the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, a coalition of six opposition political movements – armed and non-armed. We are literally everywhere – inside and outside Sudan. We are a national democratic movement and our discourse is based on the vision of New Sudan for a united, democratic and a secular nation – A Sudan that is for all.

UhuruSpirit: In recent weeks, the international community has been inundated with images of fierce government crackdown after protests erupted as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy. What happened?

Yasir Arman: This is a very important issue and it is a strategic event because this is the widest uprising since Omar al-Bashir came to power in 1989. This is the biggest peaceful protest that is engulfing most of the urban areas and it is in line with the traditions of the Sudanese people when they overthrew the regime of dictator Abbud in October 1964. The Sudanese people also overthrew Dictator Jaffar Niemery by means of uprising, using the same means of struggle in 1985. There is no doubt that the current uprising came at a crucial time. It is really massive and widespread. Most of the people participating are from the generations that were born under the rule of Bashir. There is a new social movement dominated by women and youths who are aspiring for the democratization and transformation of the country. But General Bashir dealt with them with brutality. He killed more than 250 peaceful protesters with live bullets - most of those killed were shot in the head, neck and chest. More than 1000 of the peaceful protesters were wounded while more than 2000, mostly women and young people, were arrested. Among those killed were kids aged between 12 and 15, who left school to join the protests against the regime of General Bashir. Anyway, this is not new to him. As you know, he committed genocide in Darfur, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and even in South Sudan. Now he is completing the circle by targeting those protesting in the urban areas of Sudan. But the protests will continue as long as the objective situation remains the same – there is a war, the economy is bad and the dictatorship is still in place. Currently, there is division within the ruling party – the National Congress. Some prominent leaders in the ruling party recently sent a memorandum to General Bashir protesting the killing of peaceful protesters. This is a new phenomenon and there is also a widespread discontent raging within the ranks of the military and the police. We are sure that Sudan will never be the same after what is happening now.

UhuruSpirit: Are you saying that these protests are sign that the regime of Omar al-Bashir is crumbling?

Yasir Arman: Absolutely, Bashir’s time is over and it is only change that can address the situation in Sudan. If Bashir continues, Sudan will collapse. He is the one responsible for the secession of South Sudan because he refused to grant them equal citizenship in Sudan. Moreover, Bashir is part of political Islam which is not only dividing Sudan, but also dividing Africa. We know that a Sudanese was involved in the Westgate attack in Kenya. We also know that the regime of Bashir has links with the al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. We are not talking about Islam, but about political Islam. Many African Muslim militants who graduated from the African University in Khartoum are the ones leading Boko Haram in Nigeria, some of them are in Mali, some are part of the al-Shabaab in Somalia and there are others that want to divide the Coast of Kenya, the same in Tanzania. Even in South Africa, there are some militants who were indoctrinated before they graduated in Khartoum. Therefore, political Islam and the rule of Bashir threaten the unity of Sudan, while the political Islam advocated by Bashir and his comrades is an impediment to the realization of African unity.

UhuruSpirit: Is the SPLM part of the protests?

Yasir Arman: We are part of the mass movement and many of our leaders and activists have been imprisoned. The SPLM is supporting the protests; we also support the peaceful character of the protests. We sent a declaration calling for the unity of all the opposition factions and other forces for change in Sudan so that we have a unified leadership to effect change in Sudan. Yes, we are fully part of the popular uprising sweeping across Sudan.

UhuruSpirit: The SPLM in South Sudan is currently going through some difficult times as infighting and power struggle seem to be threatening to tear apart the Liberation Movement. President Salva Kiir once dissolved the entire cabinet and openly disagreed with the Secretary General Pagan Amum. Please, throw more light on this matter?

Yasir Arman: As you know, we were in the same leadership before. But as of now we are an independent movement and we have our own leadership. Our policy is to manage our own affairs and to leave the SPLM in South Sudan to manage its own affairs. We prefer that the SPLM in South Sudan speaks for itself.

UhuruSpirit: Thanks a lot for your time.

Yasir Arman: Thank you.



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