Former rebel leader sworn in as Sudanese VP
Rebel chief John Garang’s move to reconcile his renamed Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) with the oppressive Islamic regime headed by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s (see photo in following column) National Congress Party (NCP) has secured him significant gains that will not easily slip from his grasp. Meanwhile, western leaders and investors are relying on their assessment that this leopard has changed his spots. Those remaining cling to the hope that these developments will provide the gravity and momentum to attract the remaining insurgents from the south, east, and west into an orbit of greater stability. Although the new constitution assures that the Muslim-dominated National Congress Party retains a 52 percent hold on the government and parliament, Garang insured that the SPLM secured 28 percent, thereby leaving all remaining groups to carve out a voice from the left over 20 percent. As first vice president, Garang also possesses veto, described by one observer as “a security valve for the implementation of the peace agreement and constitution.” Nonetheless, Bashir’s recipe for peace ensures that even if Garang comes to lead all Christians, animists, and critics alike, the NCP retains the upper hand. But, perhaps just as importantly, Garang solicited from Bashir a guarantee that the revenues from the oil rich south would be split evenly with the north. Finally, Garang even extracted a pledge from Bashir in the peace accord that the south could vote for secession six years hence. All told, the SPLM under Garang’s leadership is firmly ensconced as the number two political power within Sudan. Some observers posit that Garang has positioned himself to one day assume the presidency and thus control of a unified Sudan. Although during his militant career as a rebel leader he drew heavily both arms and dogma from the Marxist regimes of the Soviet Union and Ethiopia , both of which supported him throughout the 1980s, western diplomats point to his studies in economics at Grinnell College in Iowa and Iowa State University (BA and Ph.D. respectively) and military training at the Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, to bolster their hopes and claims that Garang is a (former) rebel leader with whom they can comfortably deal. Although Garang might be able to assuage and rebuild the relationship between Khartoum and neighboring Ethiopia, his role and potential power is less clear vis-?-vis the Darfur conflict. Even if he can establish and confirm a break between Bashir’s support for the Arab Janjaweed militia, that group remains a wild card in the west and is unlikely to terminate raids on non-Muslim tribes any time soon. As such, bloodshed will likely continue in Darfur until government troops actively step in to protect the isolated black African villages or initiate an offensive against the Janjaweed. Neither prospect seems particularly likely when a greater focus on development of oil resources could reap as much as $3.5 billion in aid and oil revenues for both the NCP and SPLM to be split evenly. Western diplomats and investors have an increasingly pertinent role to play as democracy is fostered in Sudan to ensure the remaining conflicts in Darfur and elsewhere are adequately addressed.