Sudan: Between the wrath of God and Turabi

Sudan: Between the wrath of God and Turabi
Comment: Hassan Turaibi has been a friend of some of Sudan's most brutal dictators. After setting himself up as an opponent when he fell out favour with President Bashir, Turaibi is looking to return to power.
4 min read
01 Mar, 2015
Turabi had a close relationship with Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir until recently [AFP]

It goes without saying that Hassan Turabi, the leader of Sudan's main opposition group, is a controversial figure.

Whether Sudan's governments have been democratic or authoritarian, Turabi has remained persona non grata.

Turabi has strived his whole life to become a ruler, but he has always ended up in the shadows.

The call of power

After 25 years attempting to board the Sudanese regime's ship, he is back at the start of the journey in opposition. With this, Turabi saw himself as a spokesman of the people.

When Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Libya were rocked by war or instability, Turabi explained the events as being God's wrath.

These sorts of ideas make him unfit for an opposition leader and defender of freedoms and democracy. Turabi has done the same thing before, when he aligned himself with former Sudanese president Jaafar Nimeri and issued a series of Sharia edicts known as the September 1983 laws.

Many of Turabi's Sharia interpretations were implemented at a time in which many in the country were starving to death, and Republican Party leader Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, 76, was sentenced to death on 18 January 1985 on charges of apostasy.

It was later revealed that there were political reasons behind Taha's execution - as he had stood against the president and Turabi implementation of Sharia, arguing that the laws had distorted Islam.

Taha also accused Nimeri of colluding with Turabi to exploit the new laws to intimidate the people and humiliate opposition figures.

At the time, Sudan was suffering the effects of a devastating famine that had swept Africa, and Taha argued that these new Sharia laws, which included amputations and stoning for minor crimes, would have unfairly targeted the poor who were starving.

God's wrath

Turabi's comments about God taking revenge on the Arab people during the revolutionary period was the cleric's way of warning the Sudanese against following in the footsteps of Arab Spring states.

     Many of Turabi's Sharia laws were implemented at a time that many in the country were starving to death.

Turabi went as far as implying that Sudan enjoyed peace and security and that changing this situation with a revolution would ensure God's wrath would hit the entire nation.

There is another side to Turabi, and that is of the man who was imprisoned for five years on charges of orchestrating a coup d'etat.

As soon as he was released, Turabi told Reuters that Sudan would see an economic crisis after the south split away. The division would lead to protests and instability and inflation would skyrocket, while the loss of oil revenues to the south would only worsen the economic woes of the north.

Many politicians and economists shared Turabi's views on the economic situation in Sudan, so Turabi's predictions were not exactly fortune-telling. The 2005 Naivasha peace agreement that paved the way for the secession of the south, also forecasted economic consequences if South Sudan became independent.

Turabi has always remained angry with Nimeri for betraying him. He himself turned against the democratically government of Sadiq al-Mahdi who ran Egypt between 1986 and 1989.

Falling apart

From being a close ally of the leaders of Sudan, Turabi was ousted by his putschist pupils, and went into opposition following the dissolution of parliament in 1999.

Perhaps the greatest paradox lies in his comeback, which is described as an example of God's mercy, and his call for the parties of Sudan to unite.

Speaking about the unity between his party and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), he said that the 1989 coup that brought president Omar al-Bashir to power was part of Sudan's long history, which is based on turmoil and coups.

Throughout his career, Turabi has changed directions and adopted contradictory positions. He moved from opposing the regime of Bashir to praying for the ruler. Turabi said in a speech attended by Bashir that the president remaining in power had reassured him about the future of Sudan.

Turabi's comeback is not welcomed by the regime, which fears his hegemony and impact on politicians who were once his students.

What one should look out for is the role Turabi assumes as the regime attempts to bring him back down to size.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.