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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 13, No. 38, 18 September 2014

In this Issue:


Red Alert

The Sudan Question and political situation

By Alex Mashilo in conversation with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North Chairman Malik Agar and Secretary-General Yasir Arman

'Sudan is often perceived in terms of dichotomies of North-South, Muslim-Christian, Arabs-Africans”; these are oversimplification of the Sudanese question', according to the

Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) in its Position Paper titled 'The Northern Question and the Way Forward for Change'. This week the Editorial Collective of Umsebenzi Online interacted with SPLM-N Chairman Comrade Malik Agar and Secretary General Comrade Yasir Arman who is also Sudan Revolutionary Front Secretary of External Affairs, to look at 'The Question of Sudan'. Through this and other interactions and basic research we will publish theoretical and analytical work on the political developments in the Sudan. We hope to generate public awareness in South Africa within the principles of internationalism and solidarity with the oppressed and unity of the exploited.

The size of the Sudan area makes it a region on its own, and is rich with a variety of natural resources. Notably this includes oil, which contributes enormously in its Gross Domestic Product, on average 12% between 1999 and 2010. Oil production is considered the biggest achievement in the Sudan in recent years, this despite the availability of unexplored massive oil reserves. The Republic of the Sudan - also referred to as 'the North' or 'North Sudan' following the cessation and declaration of independence of South Sudan in 2011 to form the Republic of South Sudan - derives further oil revenues from the passage of South Sudan's oil to export markets. Based on the massive availability of oil in South Sudan there are considerations to build new oil refineries in Kenya. The Sudan oil has become one of the strategic foreign policy considerations in North and East Africa by imperialist states, but by no means exclusively, the United States and its European allies.

The Sudan also has vast reserves of other mineral resources. Some or parts of these are yet to be explored. According to the website of the Embassy of Republic of Sudan in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, from which the information below was obtained, and unless stated otherwise refers to North Sudan only, the Sudan has deposits of gold, silver, iron, zinc, copper, chrome, uranium, gypsum, mica and other metal used in building. As part of the country's utilisation of its mineral resources, there is a project for gold mining in eastern Sudan undertaken by Arab Company, which is a joint venture between North Sudan and France, and the company's production is continuously increasing.

The Sudan is endowed with fertile agricultural lands, potable wealth, minerals and tourist sites; it is also characterised by its vast virgin areas and varied climates which makes the country capable of the production of different cereals and horticultural crops.

It is worth highlighting that North Sudan is Africa's third largest country by land area even after South Sudan's cessation. Alone it has areas that range between 300-400 million Feddans (1 Feddan is circa. 1.038 acres, or 0.42 ha) of arable lands of which only 40 million Feddans are said to be currently cultivated. Lands in the Sudan include desert and semi-desert soils, clay plains, sand dunes, rocks soil and the black southern soils.

The Sudan is massively rich with water resources and hydropower. The major sources are rains from May to October. The Great River Nile crosses the whole country from South to North and has a number of tributaries mainly including the White Nile, the Blue Nile, Bahr Al-Zaraf, Bahr Al-Zaraf, Sobat River, Dindir, Rahad and River Atbara; and massive underground water in all cardinal points, estimated at 9 billion cubic meters. Linked with its water resources, the Sudan area has massive fisheries, with only an estimated 30% in the North utilised.

North Sudan has a land area of more than 40% forest, including Gum Arabic, Timber and various kinds of forest fruits, and has vast natural pastures and animal wealth ranking second in Africa with national herd estimated at about 135 million heads of livestock.

Above we use information from North Sudan's Embassy in Malaysia, to highlight that Malaysia is one of the strategic and support partners of North Sudan's sitting President General Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) government. We have also included the joint venture between North Sudan's Arab Company and France to highlight one of the government's external strategic support partners. However, there are more external strategic partners to al-Bashir's NCP government in terms of economic, political, ideological and even military relations. There are many analyses that point to Iran as the government's external centre with capitalist accumulation as the base and Islamisation as the superstructure.

The Sudan has faced a series of political and military conflicts for many years. This is the direct result of several interacting factors, two of them being capitalist competition for monopoly control and exploitation of its riches and labour by foreign and local private economic interests, and, based on this, the extension of foreign influence and spheres of control into the Sudan by foreign states, past and present imperialist forces.

Struggle for national liberation and freedom, the unfolding political situation

Comrades Malik and Arman are highly experienced in the Sudan People's Liberation Struggle. They represent a core of liberation fighters with institutional memory from lived experience and direct participant observations. They, among others, worked very closely with Comrade John Garang who led the SPLM and the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Garang was killed in a helicopter crash on 30 July 2005 after he became Sudan's Vice President for 21 days from 9 July 2005 following a peace agreement which was later dishonoured by President al-Bashir.

Under Garang's leadership, the SPLM believed in what the SPLM-N represents: the pursuit of the Sudan people struggle for national liberation and freedom within the Sudan as a single whole as opposed to the cessation South Sudan. The SPLM-N believes that the vision is still achievable both within the North and, between it and South Sudan, but this under a different organisational structure and articulation of the state as well as a new relationship between the North and South Sudan.

According to SPLM-N, one of the major challenges facing the vision within the North and between it and South Sudan, but not without the role of external actors, including supporting states, is that al-Bashir is not prepared to sign an agreement unless he believes he or his party is the victor. In addition, he dishonoured the very limited agreements he previously signed. According to the SPLM-N Position Paper:

'As of now, General Bashir signed around 43 peace agreements and dishonoured all of them totally or partially and denied any opportunity to transform the centre'.

Division and immediate consequences

When Sudan was divided into two the SPLM was also affected, accordingly divided between what became two independent formations using the same name in the two separate states, South Sudan and the North, hence SPLM-N to underline the new reality.

The division of Sudan appeared to be the solution to 'The Question of Sudan'. This at least from an emotional point of view, to those who were not familiar with the underlying problems, from a distant view, to the competing imperialists forces, and was celebrated in some quarters. But this has been proven otherwise, so far. There are at least six interrelated dynamics that highlight this failure.

Firstly, disputes and hostilities on this or that aspect continue between South Sudan and North Sudan.

Secondly, within the North, underlying problems that led to the cessation of South Sudan remain.

Thirdly, according to the SPLM-N Position Paper:

'A new political and geographical South has emerged in the North: it is obvious that Sudan will not remain without a new geographical South after the old traditional South is gone.'

Fourthly, as stated in the SPLM-N's Position Paper:

'It is equally obvious that the old South was not simply a geography - it has a human dimension in the first place, it was the long struggle for recognition of diversity, democracy and social justice. This continues in the new South of the Northern Sudan.'

This essentially remains the very old struggle for national liberation and freedom within the Sudan. The SPLM-N and a wide range of other organisations in the North have come together and formed an alliance under the banner of SRF to continue the struggle against the persisting problems that led to the cessation of South Sudan (i.e. the 'old traditional South').

Fifthly, a full-scale war has broken out in the 'new political and geographical South' within the North, from Darfur to Blue Nile. According the SPLM-N's Position Paper, this was caused by the policies and decisions of al-Bashir's governing NCP.

Lastly, within the newly independent South Sudan new factions have emerged and, again, not without external support, breaking out a brand new, internal conflict. And, between government and opposition forces, there is a civil war going on. This started on 15 December 2013.

In the next instalments on 'The Sudan Question' we briefly highlight the history of Arabisation. We look at a phenomenon called 'Political Islam' which among others is driven from, and supported by, the external centre. We thus look at the internal dimension and its relationship to the external dimension of the question. This we link with the Sudan's economic base and prevailing superstructure. We look at identity, language and cultural assimilation, which is used to forge ideological domination and impose false consciousness as an instrument to manufacture consent through both non-violent and violent means.

Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson, and writes in his activist capacity.