April 1, 2007


Ground shifting beneath Sudan's longtime leaders: President Bashir has become weaker, analysts agree, and rumors of a coup are buzzing in the capital. (Edmund Sanders, April 1, 2007, LA Times)

After leading Africa's largest country for nearly 18 years, is Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir ready to step down? [...]

Amid mounting international pressure over the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region and political discontent at home, Bashir and his ruling National Congress Party are facing strong new challenges to their authority, political analysts and opposition leaders say.

"He is much weaker," said prominent Islamist leader Hassan Turabi, a onetime ally of Bashir. Turabi, who spent most of his career either at the top echelon of Sudanese politics or jailed as a "traitor," has witnessed and orchestrated his share of coups and uprisings. He said the time is ripe again.

Turabi is attempting to unify the major opposition parties against Bashir and recently called for massive anti-government protests, saying public frustration with the current regime is at an all-time high. [...]

At the same time, Bashir's tenuous political alliance with former southern rebels in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement is unraveling. SPLM leaders are voicing dissatisfaction with a unity government created under a 2005 north-south peace deal that ended a 21-year civil war between the Muslim government in Khartoum and mostly Christian and animist rebels in the south.

In February, the SPLM moved its headquarters to Khartoum in an attempt to establish itself as a new power broker in the capital. The party is hinting that it may run against the ruling party in the next presidential election, scheduled for early 2009.

Supporters of Bashir, who declined to be interviewed, insisted that he remains strong and popular. They accused opposition leaders of exaggerating the ruling party's problems.

"No one is opposing the president," said one government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But opposition leader Sadiq Mahdi predicted that the ruling party would feel pressured either to accept modest democratic reforms or crack down on opponents.

"There are two roads," she said. "Either they open up to reforms and relieve some of the pressure, which risks losing some power, or they continue to resist, which would mean more fracturing. If that happens, we are talking about a total collapse."

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2007 6:42 AM
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