This detailed critique of Thabo Mbeki’s role in Sudan explains why he is seen as ‘Khartoum’s man’ and no longer a credible mediator between the government and rebels.
A Diplomatically Corrupt Thabo Mkebi Offers His Latest “Roadmap for Sudan”: rejection by the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) was inevitable
Source: Eric Reeves | March 22, 2016 |
Some are critical of the decision by the Sudanese rebel coalition known as the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) to reject a new “roadmap” from the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who tabled his proposal in Addis this past week. Described as reflecting a “maximalist” negotiating view, the SRF rejection has in fact very considerable context and understandable motivation.
First, it is an open secret that the two main elements of the SRF—the Darfuri rebel groups led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, Minni Minawi, and Jibril Ibrahim on the one hand, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-North (SPLA/M-N) of South Kordofan and Blue Nile on the other—are a coalition in name only. The Darfuri rebel groups are fractious, irresponsible, and in the case of Minawi, burdened with a long history of brutality and inconsistency. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is led by Jibril Ibrahim, brother of former JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, but with no real training or background justifying his leadership of the movement. For its part, the SPLA/M-N doesn’t know how to mend the rift or bow out of the SRF without seeming to be contributing to opposition splintering, a chronic Sudanese problem in opposing the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, either militarily or politically.
Second, at this point Mbeki is deeply distrusted by all non-regime parties in opposition. Over the past eight years of relentless failure, Mbeki has supported the regime in far too many instances and is no longer considered an impartial mediator, especially by Darfuris. Moreover, on the present occasion, it was perversely foolish of him to sign his own “roadmap,” especially after the regime had signed it. This just compounds his credibility problem with the rebels groups, who knew that it was his roadmap. Why did he need to sign it himself except to ingratiate himself with the Khartoum regime?
Mbeki simply cannot any longer carry the title of “mediator” with any credibility. We should recall that “AUHIP” refers to the AU High-Level Implementation Panel,” i.e., “implementation” of Mbeki’s disastrous 2009 “Roadmap for Darfur,” which ultimately failed so badly that the absurd “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur” (July 2011) became inevitable. Mbeki has betrayed Darfur, and the vast majority of non-Arab Dafuris deeply distrust and resent him. Moreover, it has been over four years since the African Union, which Mbeki represents, proposed a credible plan for humanitarian relief in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (February 2012). The SPLA/M-N signed immediately; the Khartoum regime has continued to balk at every stage, giving the appearance of readiness, but always changing the conditions. Why on earth would the SPLA/M-N trust either the AU, Mbeki, or for that matter an international community that has done nothing to recognize the still-growing urgency of the need for large-scale cross-border/cross-line humanitarian access?
Mbeki is rightly perceived as a tool of Khartoum (for extraordinary revelations of Khartoum’s perceptions of Mbeki, see Appendix A). He should long ago have been replaced. But the AU has proved time and again that it does not take critical issues in Sudan seriously, and has repeatedly failed to confront Khartoum, even over instances of serial war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Mbeki evidently loves being in a high-profile role that has now extended over eight years, for which he has been handsomely remunerated in various ways (he began “research” for his Darfur “roadmap” in 2008). As it happens, we can learn much, very quickly, about Mbeki’s tenure from the leaked minutes of a September 10, 2014 meeting in Khartoum of the most senior regime officials. In the words of Ibrahim Ghandour, then Deputy Secretary General of the NIF/NCP and currently Khartoum’s Foreign Minister:
“But whatever we do to thank Mbeki will not be sufficient to reward him fully for the things he did for our sake and our behalf.”
Thirdly, we should remember that this regime has never abided by any agreement made with a Sudanese party—not one, not ever. The Darfur Peace Agreement (Abuja, 2006), the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (2006), the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011, Qatar), and the various protocols of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005), not one of which was fully complied with, most conspicuously the Abyei Protocol, but also the protocols on border delineation, power-sharing and wealth-sharing, as well as the “popular consultations” for South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Even the much-touted January 2002 Nuba Mountains ceasefire was immediately violated when Khartoum’s military directed two brigades, a very substantial force, to re-deploy from the Nuba to what was then Western Upper Nile, where fighting in the oil regions was still ferocious. This directly violated the terms of the cease-fire. On this issue, I closely questioned Brigadier-General J.E. Wilhelmsen of Norway, leader of the Joint Monitoring Commission, when I was in Kauda in January 2003. His response was to turn away contemptuously, saying only, “That was before my time here.” This entirely predictable violation was never discussed prominently, certainly not be those who championed the cease-fire.
With this history of non-compliance in mind, and leaving aside the problems created by the poorly led Darfur rebel groups, the SPLA/M-N clearly needs stand-alone agreements on a cease-fire and humanitarian access before it will accept any Mbeki- or AU-sponsored “roadmap.” Neither they nor anyone else seriously believes that the regime’s “National Dialogue” is anything but a charade. Mbeki, predictably, made a terrible mistake in bundling any discussion of the “National Dialogue” with the issues that matter most to the SPLA/M-N. But that he did so was his predictable concession to Khartoum, and doomed “negotiations” from the beginning (Khartoum’s negotiator, Ibrahim Mahmoud, had no authority to go beyond Mbeki’s roadmap, which the regime had undoubtedly seen before the meeting this past week in Addis).
This analysis from Sudan Democracy First Group and is surely right:
Abdelmonim El Jak, Chief Executive of the Sudanese Democracy First Group, explained the content of the roadmap agreement proposed by the AU mediator.
“The roadmap is based on two main components. The first one concerns a cessation of hostilities, a comprehensive ceasefire, and political negotiations on the Two Areas (Blue Nile and South Kordofan) and Darfur, while the second component is related to the National Dialogue process, in particular to the stances of the ruling National Congress Party.” (all bold added)
El Jak stated that it was envisaged that as soon as the warring parties have signed the roadmap, the attention would immediately turn to developing an accord on the cessation of hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas, followed by an agreement on a comprehensive ceasefire, and an agreement on political solutions for Darfur.
[Such may indeed have been “theoretically” envisioned by Mbeki and Khartoum, but good faith negotiations by Khartoum are impossible to imagine, especially as violence in South Kordofan again escalates, including aerial bombardment of civilians—ER]
“Immediately after these accords, the opposition was supposed to reach an agreement with members of the 7 +7 Dialogue Mechanism in Addis Ababa about arrangements for the opposition groups to attend the National Dialogue in Khartoum,” he said. (Radio Dabanga, March 22, 2016)
Without a stand-alone agreement on a cease-fire in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and a firm guarantee of humanitarian access, the SPLA/M-N saw that any agreement that bundled these issues with a politically manipulated “National Dialogue” would be held hostage to Khartoum’s infinitely expansible “stages, in this case the “7 + 7 Dialogue Mechanism.” In short, Khartoum could always use failure of this agreement as justification for abrogating any cease-fire or humanitarian access agreement.
Here also we must remember what the regime itself has repeatedly said about the “National Dialogue” when speaking with (erroneously) presumed total confidentiality: that it is a political ploy, simply an expedient means of giving the appearance of democratic reform (see Appendix B). The military generals who matter, especially First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh and President al-Bashir himself, have nothing but contempt for any real “National Dialogue,” a phrase now so expansive that it has lost all meaning. In an especially revealing remark, al-Bashir declares in a meeting of July 1, 2014 that,
“The National Dialogue is also intended to provide political cover for the present Constitution and the Decisive Summer Campaign [against rebel groups in Sudan].” http://sudanreeves.org/2015/02/18/fluent-idiomatic-rendering-of-received-english-summary-translation-of-minutes-from-july-1-2014-meeting-in-khartoum-18-february-2015/
The SPLA/M-N knows all this: they are intelligently led and know the stakes if “mediators” attempt compel them to accept bad agreement. On the political front, Yasir Arman has got it largely right:
SPLM-N Secretary General Yasir Arman Sunday accused the government of seeking to create two forums for the pre-dialogue process, one outside Sudan with the rebel groups and the second with the political forces inside the country. He further said all the opposition forces participating in the Strategic Consultations Meeting rejected the government proposals and have demanded that the National Dialogue Preparatory Meeting be held in Addis Ababa with the participation of all the opposition forces.
Of course Khartoum won’t agree to this, surrendering in part their absolute control of the “National Dialogue” inside Sudan. Moreover, the regime feels no pressure to open the process in a truly meaningful way. They are running the “National Dialogue,” and they are not about to surrender any control over, most certainly not moving discussions to Addis.
APPENDIX A: Khartoum’s view of the African Union, AU officials, and Thabo Mbeki in particular is startlingly revealed in leaked minutes of a September 10, 2014 meeting of senior regime officials (see “Newly Leaked Minutes: Another high-level meeting of Khartoum regime officials,” September 10, 2014 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ff (English translation as well as a link to original Arabic text)
Indeed, language from the meeting of September 10, 2014 meeting (which included President al-Bashir) is disturbing evidence of diplomatic malfeasance on the part of the African Union’s Thabo Mbeki, Haile Menkerios, and Mohamed Ibn Chambas. Their imbalanced and tendentious mediation between the belligerents in Sudan’s ongoing civil wars, as well as their poisonous relations with South Sudan—particularly over Abyei—are put in a context not previously available from public sources.
Khartoum has obviously been well pleased by the efforts of the three men, as suggested by the comments of various senior officials. Former Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein is typical in noting:
“By the way, Haile Menkerios is cooperating with us fully and likewise are Thabo Mbeki and Mohammed Ibn Chambas who are so keen to serve and protect our interest, even more than us.” (all bold added)
Hussein completed his contribution to this theme in the discussion by declaring:
“When they visited Qatar they were accorded a good reception and treated generously; they [Mbeki, Menkerios, Chambas—ER] are now under our control. These are the ones we use to dismantle the rebellion… [W]e will also use them [again, Mbeki, Menkerios, Chambas—ER] to subjugate the South to our will and implement the agreement the way we want. All of these envoys promised to submit to the African Union and the United Nations positive reports on Sudan records on human rights and freedoms.”
Other members of the regime had strong words of praise as well:
“Let us bless the agreement politically in the media and keep our real position tightly held among ourselves, working to achieve our goal using the agreement itself. Since Mbeki and Mohamed Ibn Chambas are cooperating with us, let us use them to help us achieve the following things…”
“After that I met Mbeki and we agreed on the recommendations he should submit in his report to the AU Peace and Security Council and the report to UN Security Council. That should include a request concerning the lifting of sanctions and support to Sudan in addition, he should reflect a good image of the Government of Sudan. For now we have won the game.”
“But whatever we do to thank Mbeki will not be sufficient to reward him fully for the things he did for our sake and on our behalf.”
“At this stage we must welcome the [Addis Ababa] agreement [September 2014] in order to give Thabo Mbeki and Mohamed Ibn Chambas the ability to be seen as productive and having achieved something. Accordingly, we must participate in the writing of the report that will be submitted by Mbeki to the African Union and the UN Security Council in order to ensure that it reflects the political transformation that is taking place in Sudan.”
This last excerpt represents either extraordinary presumption, or reflects confidence that Mbeki would indeed allow members of the genocidal Khartoum regime to “participate in the writing of the report that will be submitted by Mbeki to the African Union and the UN Security Council in order to ensure that it reflects the political transformation that is taking place in Sudan.” Mbeki’s corruption has become total.
Especially disturbing was a statement made by General Ismat Ahmed Babikir, Under-Secretary for Presidential Affairs. It comes in the context of the political charade that is the September 2014 “Addis Agreement,” and by way of thanking Mbeki and Ibn Chambas for efforts that the regime clearly feels benefited them enormously:
“And I say you must give incentive to Mbeki, his people, and Ibn Chambas from the money of the Islamic Movement that is deposited abroad.”
President al-Bashir also weighed in:
Our consent in signing the [Addis] framework agreement with the Mechanism came after consultation with all the relevant organs and supported with thorough information. Actually, we were in need this agreement. Accordingly, we thank Mbeki, Haile Menkerios, Ibn Chambas, and Qatar for achieving this agreement.
After eight years of representing the African Union diplomatically as a mediator in Sudan’s conflicts (first in Darfur, to no effect), Thabo Mbeki is well known to this regime. And Khartoum is in a position to know whether he would accept “money of the Islamic Movement that is deposited abroad,” even though this is hardly a standard method of payment for what are to be neutral and impartial diplomatic efforts. This is no small matter, since the focus of much these minutes is on Mbeki, the September 2014 agreement in Addis he helped secure, and how that agreement will affect Khartoum’s domestic political and electoral plans.
APPENDIX B: Comments by senior regime officials on the “National Dialogue” (again, comment erroneously presumed to be completely confidential):
In the leaked minutes of August 31, 2014, then Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein—indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity in Darfur—declared: “Our National Dialogueinitiative is just a maneuver to provide us with political cover for a continuation of the war….”
In a meeting of July 1, 2014, President Omar al-Bashir—indicted by the ICC on multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity—weighs in with the claim that, “The National Dialogue is also intended to provide political cover for the present Constitution and the Decisive Summer Campaign [against rebel groups in Sudan”
But Khartoum’s view of the much touted “National Dialogue” are revealed most fully in leaked minutes of September 10, 2014: “Newly Leaked Minutes: Another high-level meeting of Khartoum regime officials” | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ff (English translation as well as a link to original Arabic text):
General Khalafalla, Deputy Director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS):
At the same time we guarantee that the National Dialogue is going on within the country and the elections are taking place. We shall call international NGOs to monitor the elections, and there will be no rigging because we don’t need to do it due to the fact that the voting will be done through the National Identification Number and the majority of those who got it are NCP supporters.
This is an opportunity that will not repeat itself. We will be in a position to dictate our conditions on South Sudan using Mbeki and Haile Menkerios, who can play this role to enable us control our borders. Additionally, we keep the peace-talks forums in Addis and Doha (Qatar) going on separately when we discuss the details of the agreement signed in Addis with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
General Ismat Abdel Rahmin, Minister of Interior:
Let us bless the agreement politically in the media and keep our real position tightly held among ourselves, working to achieve our goal using the agreement itself.
[The regime has been as good as its word in these minutes, refusing to take the extension of the “Addis Agreement” seriously. Sudan Tribune reports (April 4, 2015):
The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on 29 March refused to attend a meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss issues pertaining to the National Dialogue conference and its procedures. Khartoum said the mediation didn’t coordinate with the government on who [would] participate in the meeting; also it said it would be held at the wrong time, arguing they are busy with the election of 13 April.
In a statement released on 1 April, the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) regretted the NCP refusal saying it had previously pledged to attend the consultations. The mediation also said the agenda of the two-day meeting were exclusively dealing with the dialogue process in line with its mandate, refuting claims that it aims to postpone the elections.]—ER
Since Mbeki and Mohamed Ibn Chambas are cooperating with us, let us use them to help us achieve the following things:
[a] Lifting the blockade (sanctions).
[b] Get economic support.
[c] Alleviate the pressures on us.
[d] Dismantle the movements [Sudan Revolutionary Forces]…
Those who want to express their views from the political parties or individuals are allowed to do so through the National Dialogue forums, not though demonstrations. The media must be controlled when it is covering the news of the armed forces [Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Response Forces—ER]. On the other side, any delay of the elections will demoralize our forces, so elections should take place on time and should not be connected to the National Dialogue.
The elections should take place on time, and the National Dialogue can continue for two to three years after the elections. It will make no difference.
General Mustafa Ebeed, Sudan Armed Forces Chief of General Staff:
We prefer the mechanism of “National Dialogue” from within. The Sudan Armed Forces are ready for the elections and the coming dry season military operations. The concessions made by the rebels and their decision to sign the agreement came out of fear from the coming Decisive Summer Campaign military operations. In the past they were not interested in peace negotiations; we understand the motive behind their current position and won’t be bluffed at all. Our plan is to continue with our strategy. If they accept disarming and demobilizing their militias, no problem. But we will not accept partial cease-fire or humanitarian assistance unless they demobilize their forces according to a full agreement.
[In other words, surrender unconditionally and accept the genocidal consequences for the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile—ER]
Let us use Mbeki to help us finish the rebellion for good. We don’t accept anything called a “transitional government” or “constitutional conference.” It is up to the politicians to welcome the Addis Ababa agreement in order to attract the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Forces to the National Dialogue according to our conditions, but only if any National Dialogue taking place is presided over by the president.
General Osman, Director of the Central Security Corporation:
We got the outcome of the opposition meetings with the foreign diplomats and we passed it to the members of the 7+7 team going to Addis Ababa in advance in order to sign the agreement and foil the opposition plan. The opposition conspiracy that was aiming to sabotage the internal National Dialogue and pit the National Congress Party against the international community giving them the impression that the National Congress Party is not serious about the [National Dialogue] and peaceful settlement to the conflict in Sudan… So the decision to release Ibrahim al-Sheikh was designed to coincide with Mbeki’s visit to Khartoum and prior to the submission of his report to the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.
Ibrahim Ghandour, Deputy Secretary General of the National Congress Party (currently Khartoum’s Foreign Minister):
In fact, the concessions made by the rebels puzzled me, because the sons of the two areas (Nuba and Blue Nile) have not changed their positions for long time. After that we decided, with the security organs, to wait and monitor the situation until we got full information about the motive behind their new position.
So we decided to sign since it is not a framework agreement and not binding to us; instead we have used their signature in propaganda that serves our party and to show that the National Congress Party is serious in regards to National Dialogue. That way we will be able to mislead the countries supporting them in order that they don’t influence the European Union’s positions. That is why we declared that the National Congress Party welcomes the Addis Ababa agreement of 2014. We decided to use the agreement for propaganda in the media, to be followed by the decision to release Ibrahim al-Sheikh.
But whatever we do to thank Mbeki will not be sufficient to reward him fully for the things he did for our sake and our behalf.
I say that you must properly cover the movement of the weapons you are transporting to Libya, so that we avoid embarrassment next time. There is a general consensus within the National Consensus Forces that they should maintain their position and not sign the Addis Ababa Agreement, or unite with the Sudan Revolutionary Front and Sadig al-Mahdi. We provide the National Consensus Forces with full freedoms as requested in their statement so that we use them in bargaining with the international community, which is currently supporting preparatory meetings in Addis Ababa for the National Dialogue to take place in Khartoum.
Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir, President:
So in Libya we must work secretly; it is all about the requirement of the situation in this country. We have political detainees and we released Ibrahim al-Sheikh; but the rest are sentenced before courts and their fate is connected to a political agreement with the rebels after we force them to demobilize their forces. This will be done by means of the Decisive Summer Campaign military operations on one hand and continuing the National Dialogue on the other hand. We will go anywhere wearing the hat of “dialogue,” and on this basis the negotiations will continue.
“We will going anywhere wearing the hat of [national] “dialogue”—in others words, it is a highly expedient ploy.
The concluding words in this set of minutes were uttered by President al-Bashir, speaking of the tasks at hand (again, this meeting occurred on 10 September 2014):
“Prevention of any demonstrations in this month of September by means of the arrest of anybody reported to have an intention to participate in demonstrations. Any demonstration to be fired at with live ammunition.”
“Any demonstration to be fired at with live ammunition”—during the popular uprising in September 2013, Khartoum’s security forces were given, as Amnesty International has established, “shoot to kill” orders from the outset. This is what accounted for the hundreds of deaths of unarmed civilians, including innocent bystanders—in Khartoum, Omdurman, Port Sudan, Atbara, Wad Medani, and other cities. No census was permitted at the morgues of these cities, but it is clear from comments by medical personnel in Khartoum that some 200 people died there alone from bullet wounds. This hardly sounds like “political transformation.”
There are yet further comments on the “National Dialogue,” again obviously made with the assumption of confidentiality: “The minutes of the Security and Military Committee meeting held on the premises of the High Academy of Security, 3 June 2014 (Part 1)” | 28 May 2015 | http://sudanreeves.org/2015/05/28/the-minutes-of-the-security-and-military-committee-meeting-held-on-the-premises-of-the-high-academy-of-security-3-june-2014-part-1/
Current Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour:
“Each party was given the chance to meet with the President alone. The aim was to guarantee their loyalty, and ensure that they remain divided and far from one another. That is one of the methodologies adopted in order to protect the National Dialogue and to keep it under control.”
“Political parties that have not had such an opportunity for a very long time were able to discuss issues in detail. Each party was given the chance to meet with the President alone. The aim was to guarantee their loyalty, and ensure that they remain divided and far from one another. That is one of the methodologies adopted in order to protect the National Dialogue and to keep it under control.”
Those interested to participate in the National Dialogue have to dismantle their militias first; the same applies to the Darfurian movements; we will not allow them to participate in the National Dialogue through Doha. Whatever the case we will not accept taking the National Dialogue abroad: it comes from within the country, and those interested must accept this condition. There will be no National Dialogue in a foreign country.
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