Jean-Jacques Cornish

Sudan wants to be next in line to fall into US favour

By Jean-Jacques Cornish
Days after a handshake ended a half century of US enmity with Cuba and weeks after Washington ended 36 years of daggers drawn with Tehran by striking a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear enrichment capacity, Sudan is voicing expectations of being next in line for better treatment by the last remaining superpower.
The country made it onto the U.S. terrorism list for, among other things, sheltering Osama Bin Laden and stayed there because of its harsh suppression of separatism in its western province of Darfur. Sudan’s president Omar al Bashir is still wanted by the International Criminal court to face charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur.
But in 2011 it accepted the secession by South Sudan, earning kudos from Washington and the international community at large.
On Monday, 13 million registered voters head for the polls for presidential, parliamentary and state elections that the Sudanese government is at pains to demonstrate are free and fair.
It is doing this in the face of a boycott by a small but vociferous group of parties who maintain Bashir has stalled on the political dialogue he launched at the start of 2014.
Washington, together in the western troika on Sudan with Norway and Britain have criticised holding the election before the promised national dialogue.
The European Union holds that this timing undermines the legitimacy of the process.
This provoked an angry response from Khartoum that the EU stance amounts to spiritual support for armed rebel movements fighting the government in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces.
The Sudanese government says its constitutionally obliged to hold elections now. It’s statement stipulates that it will return to national dialogue after the poll.
The dialogue was necessitated by violent protests against Bashir in 2013 that left a number of dead.
Nafi Ali Nafi, who as presidential advisor until last year was considered the third most powerful man in Sudan and is now a parliamentary candidate, says the dialogue was bogged down in procedural issues raised by the opposition.
“They were not interested in engaging on substantive matters,” says Nafi. “They were insisting on the government dissolving and becoming a transitional administration.
“In other words they wanted their prize even before the talks proper started.”
Bashir, who came to powering coup 25 years ago and subsequently won two elections , has further complicated matters by going back on an undertaking not to seek another term.
“That was not his decision to make,” insists Nafi. “It is a matter for the ruling National Congress Party to decide.”
While there is a significant body of international opinion dismissing the poll as a sham, Washington is coming around to the view that Bashir is the best of a number of bad options.
US sources say the strongman manages to maintain stability in a dangerous neighbourhood.
By supporting the government in Yemen against mounting rebel attack, Sudan is squarely onside with the U.S.
Above all, though, the fear in Washington and indeed in other Western capitals, is of a repetition of the Libyan nightmare where they pushed for and won the first prize of getting rid of Muammar Gadaffi and ended up with a catastrophic failed state feeding and arming terrorists in the region and beyond.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.