If southern Sudan chooses independence in Sunday’s referendum, the country of Sudan will not be the only thing splitting in two. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), currently the ruling party in the south and a primary opposition party in the north, will also be forced to divide.
Yasir Arman is the head of the SPLM’s northern sector. He also initially contested the presidency of Sudan against incumbent Omar al-Bashir in the most recent general election, although he officially withdrew his candidacy days before the election, citing electoral fraud. Arman sat down with VOA’s Alan Boswell to discuss the future of his party as an opposition group in the north.
Boswell: Can you talk about your political plans following the referendum?
Arman: "Following the referendum, the SPLM is going to establish 2 independent political parties in the north and in the south. And in the north we will be in 15 states. Already in the north we have an elected government in Blue Nile and a government that is going to contest elections in April in Southern Kordofan."
"We will continue as a constitutional democratic force on the basis of division of the new Sudan and we will struggle to have a new north that would have strategic relations with the south."
Boswell: What is your plan of action in dialoging with the current rulers, the NCP, and trying to bring about this change?
Arman: “The NCP, they know and they should know, that the north cannot remain the same. The north needs a new constitutional arrangement, a new paradigm shift. It needs to get lessons from what happened with the south and it needs to rearrange itself with relations between the center and the periphery."
“We need a new constitutional arrangement with the participation of civil societies and political parties. The north itself will have a new south, it will not remain without a new south. It will have a political south from the marginalized groups, from women, from rural populations, from Blue Nile, White Nile, North and South Kordofan, and South Darfur.”
“We will advocate the cause of the marginalized peoples in Sudan and in northern Sudan, for that matter.”
- Leader: Omar al-Bashir
- Capital: Khartoum
- Economy: Oil (50% revenue); Agriculture
- Land mass: 1,865,813 square kilometers
- Population: 34.3 to 36.5 million
- Religion: Muslim Majority
- Leader: Salva Kiir
- Capital: Juba
- Economy: Oil (98% of revenue); Agriculture
- Land mass: 640,000 square kilometers
- Population: 7.5 to 9.7 million
- Religion: Mainly Christian and Animist
Boswell: What happens if the current rulers, the NCP, don’t partake in that vision of a new Sudan?
Arman: “It is clear that the north needs a new vision for democracy, social justice, to end the war in Darfur - a new arrangement is needed. If they do not comply with that and if they do not interact with the political forces and allow space and value then this will lead to confrontations between the whole political groups and the NCP.“
“That is not good for the north or for Sudan. North needs a dialogue and democratization.”
Boswell: What is your relationship with the other opposition groups?
Arman: “Our demands are the same. We are looking for a permanent peace and democratizations. We have been working together for many years and we have good relations and we share many ideas.”
“We will be working together to achieve those goals.”
Boswell: How do you see the future of north Sudan and Sudan as a whole?
Arman: “Well, I am optimistic.”
“We need to come together again whether in a union of two independent states or a confederal arrangement. The north depends on the south in some areas, the south depends on the north in some areas. The north should be the link of the south to the Arabs and Middle East, the south should be the link of the north between east and southern Africa.”
“There is a lot in common and a lot of interests between the south and the north.”