Sudan: Interviews with Sudanese Communist Party's new leader, Mohammed al-Khatib; student protests continue
June 18, 2012 -- Police fire tear gas at protesters. Sudan's capital has become the scene for growing protests against austerity measures of the government of President Omar al Bashir. The protests were started June 16 by students from the University of Khartoum. The protests gained momentum and attracted more participants. On June 18, Bashir tried to explain in the parliament the need for a reduction of fuel consumption and an increase in food prices. But instead of calming the public uproar, civilians joined the demonstrations, shouting slogans against lifting subsidies on fuel and the increase in food prices. Amid the demonstrators some student activists also called for toppling the regime. Police have intervened by using tear gas. The riot police fired bullets into the air to disperse protesters. Some protesters were fainting and vomiting. Radio Dabanga reported how students of the ruling National Congress Party armed with iron bars accompanied the police and security forces. They assaulted several female students inside the university.
By Jaafar al-Sirr
June 21, 2012 -- Al Akhbar English -- Wearing a bright white robe and a friendly smile, the new secretary general of the Sudanese Communist Party, Mohammed Mukhtar al-Khatib, greeted us in central Khartoum a few days ago. [Al-Khatib became leader following the death of Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud.] He told Al-Akhbar that his party and all the opposition are committed to the downfall of the regime.Yesterday he was arrested.
Jaafar al-Sirr: Your new position could lead to you becoming a political detainee or being under surveillance from intelligence services, as with your predecessor Ibrahim Nugud. How have you prepared yourself for this?
Mohammed al-Khatib: The party is already working in unfriendly international, regional and local conditions. Parasitic capitalism inside the country attempts to block the work of our party. [The Sudan government] has become an agent of foreign colonialism, through its totalitarian practices and hindrance of democracy. It is not only standing in our way, but in the way of all political parties who want to express their opinions.
In such circumstances, losing one’s freedom, being arrested and tortured, or even getting killed are all possible. When I joined the party, I expected to be arrested at any time. As a member of the Sudanese Communist Party, I am constantly under threat of arrest and torture.
As a newcomer to the leadership of the opposition, are you convinced of their ability to mobilise the street? Do you present a new outlook?
Certainly. During the last meeting of the opposition, a [political] paper and constitutional declaration were introduced and approved after wide deliberations. The National Umma Party even suggested a paper to be included in the constitutional declaration.
We took a decision for the opposition to take practical steps to mobilise the masses to remove the regime. There is no hope in reforming a regime that has already signed numerous agreements with the opposition and called them to unite in national action.
But experience has shown that the regime uses such calls to weather the storm. Then it breaks the agreement.
The other issue is how to work independently among the masses to mobilise them to overthrow the regime.
The Communist Party’s ability to lead mass opposition movements has become weak. What can you do for the party to regain the leadership of the opposition?
The Communist Party did not lose its ability to mobilise masses, but it lost some of the platforms it used to function through.
Therefore, the masses, not just the Communist Party, were deprived of popular platforms that used to work for the interests of those segments and intervene politically in a period like this.
But public opinion lost its trust in the opposition’s ability to overthrow the regime. How will you rally the masses?
Recently, even the ruling party witnessed a general internal trend calling for change. This means the powers that be, who control power, believe in change, but within certain limits.
There are others in the regime who believe the regime has failed in its aims. So they want to see it go. They are attempting to do so through media campaigns against influential ruling party figures, hoping to return as saviours, with a new image, and ensure continuity.
One the other hand, some opposition parties believe that overthrowing the government would lead to strife and civil war and turn the country into Somalia. They believe that the solution should be a national [unity] government, and handing over power peacefully.
Another group of opposition parties believe that we tried this regime before and that it cannot be trusted. Therefore, it is imperative to overthrow it and its politics. Participants in the last meeting reached a consensus on overthrowing the regime completely.
What do you think of the South Sudan question? What is the main reason for the crisis?
The problem with the South question is that the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement [set of agreements concluded in January 2005] was bilateral, in an issue that involves several nationalities living in Sudan. All political factions should have been involved in the solution.
We neither gained unity with the South, nor did we gain peace after separation.
Do you think the two countries are heading for war, especially since economic war has already started between them?
Economic warfare can be immoral. The government in the North deprived populations who are not involved in politics from food sources. It closed the borders with the South although there are common tribes living along that strip of land.
These policies aggravated the situation from the commercial and economic side, instead of solving the issue amicably to allow those tribes to live in peace.
If the South suffers from lack of food security, we cannot deny that the North also suffers from a crushing economic crisis and soaring prices.
The government’s policies would have led to this in any case, by neglecting both agricultural and industrial projects. Money from oil was spent unproductively and squandered in an opulent fashion.
Following separation and the loss of the oil wealth [to the South], the economy began to suffer. There was a dearth of money spent on the functioning of the state and agricultural projects collapsed.
The question cannot be solved by military might. Previously, we had welcomed the Addis Ababa negotiations between the two countries [earlier this month], hoping blood will be spared.
But the breakdown of negotiations shows that the issue is becoming more complicated due to the [North] government’s insistence on imposing its agenda.
It should be noted that the war is no longer with the South, but with the New South in the Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, a result of the non-implementation of the Naivasha protocols.
The government also took economic measures to limit the collapse..
The people should not carry the burden of the regime’s mistakes. People today are in a state of abject poverty. Half of the schoolchildren in the capital and other cities do not have breakfast.
This is the situation of students in cities and urban areas. One can only imagine the situation in Sudan’s remote barren areas.
The government does not allow [non-governmental] organisations to provide relief to these areas. This is at a time when the government’s budget is spent in unproductive areas such as defence, in addition to the deterioration of constitutional and sovereign positions.
The crisis in Darfur led the International Criminal Court to call for the arrest of president [Omar Hassan] al-Bashir. How do you evaluate the issue, especially since the country’s international relations suffered considerably due to the case?
The government is going through a crisis situation. The current situation is a result of the regime’s policies in Darfur, since the beginning of the crisis in 2003.
The crisis is due to the accumulation of government policies that ultimately led to the isolation of its president. This was harmful to Sudan since the president was no longer capable of doing his job or conducting normal international relations.
Bashir remains a suspect and should appear before court to explain his position and defend himself.
Otherwise, the international embargo will continue. If he was truly the president of Sudan, he should have resigned and been replaced with a new president who can move freely.
The uprising of Arab masses led to Islamist governments. Is the opposition worried this will be repeated in Sudan?
MK: First, we need to admit that the Arab mobilization we have witnessed is a step forward against totalitarian regimes, secular and otherwise. The region is witnessing a broad process of change. Seeking democracy was the primary gain of the Arab Spring revolutions.
Following that, forces of international capitalism worked through their allies in the region to contain the Arab revolutions to block any serious change that would intersect with its higher interests.
Powers that were already organised reached power, the Islamist currents. I expect that they will take the same path as the Islamic Front which rules Sudan today. They will not seek to solve the people’s problems.
In the end, revolution is a trial that can keep repeating until it achieves its objectives.
[This article is an edited translation from Al Akhbar's Arabic edition.]
New communist party head: ‘The people must overthrow the regime’
Muhammad Mukhtar al-Khatib, the new SCP Secretary-General, June 11. © The Niles | Mohamed Hilaly.
By Mohamed Hilaly, Khartoum
By June 26, 2012 – The Niles -- Muhammad Mukhtar al-Khatib was elected to be the new secretary-general of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) on June 8. Muhammad Mukhtar al-Khatib is a senior member of the party and is also well known for his union activities and his contribution to local agricultural projects, as an influential member of the local farmer’s alliance.
Sudan’s Communist Party (or SCP) was a major force in local politics until the early 1970s when it was repressed by the then government. More recently the party has re-emerged and become more outspoken about its views.
In an interview with The Niles, al-Khatib, spoke about the direction the SCP is going in now and why the only way to solve the country’s crises is to bring about an end to the current regime.
In your opinion, where is the country going – especially after negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa broke down?
Our priority as a party is to stop the current, senseless war. What is going on right now relates to outstanding issues resulting from the non-implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [negotiated between Sudan and South Sudan in January 2005].
This war must be stopped and all outstanding issues should be resolved through dialogue. There should be some solution other than that which might be imposed by external players. Any such solution can never be comprehensive; it will only be temporary.
What are your party’s thoughts on the Darfur crisis?
We think that Darfur crisis should be addressed through a constitutional conference where [Darfurian] leaders are represented because they are an inseparable part of Sudan’s national issues.
Some have called for an end to the current Sudanese regime. What do you think of those calls?
We support those calls, mainly because the current regime came about after a coup, then remained in power through unfair elections. As a result, the government has basically stayed the same, with the same agenda, the one that has created all of the current crises.
What are your thoughts on the current economic crisis and the government’s proposed solutions to it?
What the government has offered is only part of a solution. Sound, holistic solutions lie in real production – things like irrigation projects, farming and industry. But that’s something that the current regime has destroyed. And now we’re verging on famine.
Ending the war is a top priority that would help toward solving this crisis. Meanwhile, we should support agriculture and industry -- and this includes the re-nationalisation of formerly privatised industries -- as well as focus on healthcare, education and other primary services.
In a word, we are dependent on production now. The current regime, which operates as a parasite system, will never take such steps. Haven’t you noticed that, despite the current crisis, the regime is still privatising sugar plants and selling service centres like the eye hospital and Khartoum hospital?
All the states are now complaining that they are not receiving their respective share of the country’s resources and consequently are living in crisis.
So you think the only solution is to somehow end the current regime?
That’s right. However this doesn’t mean we should simply sit and wait for it to leave; the people must struggle for their rights and then gradually overthrow the regime.
As the new secretary general of the SCP how do you see your party’s prospects in Sudan?
The SCP is continuously evolving, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has involved a genuine, wide and open discussion, which has engaged all SCP members and friends.
Building on these discussions, the 5th SCP conference developed the current SCP platform, where the name was maintained but the philosophy and nature has become more open to modern, humanist concepts.
This, I think, opens the way for the party to help solve Sudan’s contentious issues through the Marxist methodology after a sound analysis of local situations, in addition to raising class consciousness. The SCP is also promoting democratic practices internally.
In this way, and if Sudan’s situation improves, the SCP will certainly be able to attract more members.
What about internal conflicts inside the SCP?
Conflict exists in any political entity. It is natural. Conflict is there and it is necessary for party development. However it should be channelled correctly, it should not be destructive.
In a previous interview, you talked about enemies of the SCP – who were you referring to?
The working class has a real interest in development and social change in Sudan. But there are groups who like the status quo, these are the SCP’s enemies.
After the death of former party head, Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud, there were rumours that reports written by former party leader, Abdel Khaliq Mahjub, who was executed after a coup led by other Communists, would be published. The reports apparently go into detail about the events and were delivered to party leaders. Do you think these reports will be published now that you are in charge?
I know nothing about these documents but I think they should be open to all the Sudanese people. Any papers documenting that period of time could be published but this issue has not been discussed within the party. Personally, I think we don’t think we have anything to conceal from the Sudanese people.
Sudanese opposition forces call for overthrow of Bashir's regime
Khartoum — AllAfrica.com -- Sudanese opposition forces slammed the recent austerity measures announced by President Omar Al-Bashir to overcome the severe economic and called to overthrow the regime.
The call comes as students continue to protest against the government for the fourth day in Khartoum chanting "the people want to overthrow the regime" while the riot police use tear gas to break up the demonstration.
In different statements on Wednesday, the Sudanese opposition and rebel groups said regime policies led to the bankruptcy of the country and exacerbated the suffering of Sudanese people during the past years.
In a call to topple the regime, the Sudanese Communist Party said the plans announced by Bashir last Monday are only "administrative measures" that do not bring true and radical solutions to end the economic collapse the country is witnessing.
The Communist Party called on the Sudanese "to take to the streets to overthrow the regime", stressing the government did not leave any other alternative.
The opposition forces say the austerity plan announced by the government did not affect the huge budgets of the army, police, security apparatus, and sovereign sector which acquire 70% of wages and salaries line or 56% of the whole 2012 budget.
The Communist Party said only 30% of the budget is concerned with the drastic measures including the cut of 380 constitutional positions. The opposition party went to explain that the recent salary increase the government decided will be swallowed up by the unprecedented hike in fuel and commodities prices.