by PETER DÖRRIE
The Sudanese regime isn’t exactly interested in winning the Nobel Peace Prize—that much should be clear to everybody. Especially those who live, literally, under rocks in the Nuba Mountains to escape the Sudanese air force’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians.
But a high-profile leak has provided new and disturbing insights in just how serious the government of Pres. Omar Al Bashir is about continuing the country’s various civil wars.
The leak consisted of the summary minutes from a meeting of military and security officials in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on July 1, 2014. The entire leadership of Sudan’s armed forces was present, including Al Bashir, who the document quotes at length.
Eric Reeves, an analyst focusing on Sudan and South Sudan and a staff member of the Enough advocacy organization, published the document. Since Reeves published the document, unidentified hackers hijacked his Websites and Facebook account.
Reeves is an activist with little sympathy for the government in Khartoum—not an objective observer. He has so far offered no detailed account of how the document ended up in his possession, but said that he believed it to be authentic.
Foreign diplomatic missions in Sudan are undecided on the authenticity of the document, a diplomatic source in Khartoum told War Is Boring on condition of anonymity.
But Reeves cited numerous Sudanese sources who considered the document’s language and content convincing. And while it’s impossible to verify its authenticity without direct access to the original sources, there are major overlaps between the plans laid out in the document and real events.
The alleged meeting detailed the political and military priorities of the Sudanese government for the coming months, according to the document. In addition, the meeting focused on how to deal with the country’s internal conflicts and Sudan’s relationships with neighboring states.
The most striking statements referred to the ongoing conflict in South Kordofan, where Khartoum’s military and its allies are battling rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. This civil war began in 2011, when SPLM-N forces found themselves on the wrong side of the border after South Sudan seceded from Sudan.
The discussion of the conflict with the SPLM-N demonstrates the ruthless brutality of the Sudanese regime, as well as its ideological fundamentalism and a hopeless optimism that borders on the delusional.
According to the document, Gen. Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, the Sudanese minister of defense, claimed to “have instructed the Air Force to bomb any place, whether it is a school, hospital, or a non-governmental humanitarian organization operating in rebel-controlled areas without permission from the government.”
The comment bears a resemblance to the Jan. 22 Sudanese air force bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in South Kordofan. The NGO, one of the few that still supported civilian victims in the war zone, canceled its operations after the attack.
Hussein proceeded to state that the “we are not going to allow any non-governmental humanitarian organizations to come to [the] rescue [of refugees from the South Sudanese Civil War].”
The meeting’s attendees regarded the SPLM-N with obvious disdain—and their consensus was that the rebel group is an extension of the South Sudanese government, according to the document.
While the Sudanese military clearly recognizes that the SPLM-N is its gravest security threat, one general argued that “they are good only at fighting,” and pose no political threat.
“The rebels have no cause,” Al Bashir argued during the alleged meeting. “They are an army that belongs to another state [South Sudan], but is staying in our land illegally.”
The SPLM-N has historically been a part of the greater Sudan People’s Liberation Movement—Khartoum’s main enemy during the civil war that resulted in South Sudan’s independence. But today’s SPLM-N relies on political cadres and fighters native to South Kordofan and Blue Nile—both states in Sudan.
The rebel group, while allegedly receiving support from South Sudan, has an independent political agenda.
But Al Bashir made it clear that “we have no intention […] to offer any concessions” to either the armed or unarmed opposition. “The solution is military victory. […] You are now instructed to crush the armed movements in all three fronts [Nuba Mountains, Darfur and Blue Nile].”
The meeting staked out a timeline of six months to defeat the armed groups, particularly the SPLM-N, in a “Decisive Summer” offensive.
Indeed, organizations such as Small Arms Survey documented an increase in Sudanese military operations since the beginning of the dry season, that correspond closely with the plans for the offensive discussed in the document.
But contrary to the plan, the operation has been everything but decisive. Eight months after the leaked meeting, Sudan’s various conflicts have largely stabilized along the status quo, even though the increased fighting has caused immense suffering.
Aside from the internal situation, the meeting discussed Sudan’s relations with its neighbors. The Sudanese leadership’s analysis of its regional situation was favorable.
Al Bashir praised Khartoum’s support for both the Séléka rebellion in the Central African Republic and Islamist groups in Libya. He described relations with Chad and Ethiopia as “more than good.”
Should relations deteriorate, Al Bashir said, “we keep many cards in our hands that we may play against them.”
Sudanese contacts with both Libya and Iran have also benefited the Khartoum’s military, according to the document. “Two-thirds of [former Libyan dictator Muammar] Gaddafi’s sophisticated armaments are in our hands,” Gen. Yahia Mohamed Kheir allegedly claimed.
Iranian support has enabled the Sudanese military to use this weaponry, including sophisticated rocket artillery, and to come closer to the “aim of achieving self-sufficiency” in the defense sector.
“Our drone planes can go now as far as 1,000 kilometers during spying missions, flying over forests and mountains,” Lt. Gen. Mustafa Osman Obeid Salim, the Sudanese Air Force chief of staff, allegedly boasted in the document.
He further mentioned an air force base in White Nile state, which “is underground and […] where we store weapons we receive from our friends.”
Overall, the leaked document—if authentic—paints a picture of a regime highly confident in its grasp on power, its regional diplomatic prowess and military capabilities. But all of this is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground.
Al Bashir is old and sick, and no one mentioned plans for his succession in the meeting’s minutes. The Sudanese military been unable to defeat any of the country’s insurgencies, and there is no indication that its current offensive will go anywhere.
At the same time, large-scale protests have erupted on numerous occasions in Khartoum in recent years, and the economic situation looks dire. The regime is in no way as invulnerable as it seems to assume in the document.
This is a dangerous combination—an overconfident and highly ideological regime that has proven in the past that it has no qualms to use extreme violence to achieve its goals.
But Al Bashir summarized why this isn’t a problem, least of all for his military’s victims hiding under rocks in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan.
“Our religion teaches us and encourages us to fight and terrorize the enemy,” he said, according to the document. “As well as preparing forces to confront him—our martyrs to Heaven and their dead to Hell. There is no way to stop the jihad.”
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