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SPLM’s Presidential Candidate Working to End Status Quo in Khartoum

Leading candidates in Sudan's first multiparty presidential election, from left, Yasir Arman, Omar al-Beshir and Sadiq al-Mahdi

Yasir Arman is calling for a “complete paradigm shift” from Sudan’s old politics that he says destabilized the entire Horn of Africa region.

The presidential candidate of the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) is calling for a “complete paradigm shift” from Sudan’s old politics that he says has destabilized the entire Horn of Africa region. For Yasir Arman, that means winning the presidency of the central government in Khartoum, a position now held by President Omar Bashir of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).The SPLA’s stronghold is in southern Sudan, an area many observers also expect the party to win.

Ending years of fighting between the south and the north of the country was the aim of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the national government and the SPLM. Under the terms of the accord, the south will hold a referendum two years from now to decide whether to remain part of Sudan, or to form a separate nation.

In the national elections in April, SPLM candidate Salva Kiir is running for re-election to the presidency of Southern Sudan. Arman is the party’s presidential candidate to head the national government.

Arman says “[Southerners] should be very optimistic, especially the SPLM…we stand a good chance [the national elections].”

“The only way to guarantee their freedom and the only way to guarantee their right is to work to transform the system in Khartoum. That is the sure way of getting freedom. It is only through transforming the seat of power in [the capital].”

“We are looking for the election to be free and fair. The only way to do it is to (embark) on a massive campaign that depends on people in [both] urban and rural areas. We should be calling for transformation and democratization. Democracy will not come by itself (and) it needs us to struggle for it.”

Arman and other opposition parties recently accused President Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of intimidation and plotting to rig the upcoming vote - - charges the NCP denies.

The SPLM candidate was born in 1961 in Jezeera, about 180 kilometers (111.846 miles) from the capital, Khartoum.

The national media reports that Arman can trace his family’s roots in Sudan go back over 150 years, before the Mahdist [Islamic] rebellion against British rule in the 1880’s. His great, great grandparents migrated from Damael state near Shendi to Jezeera and Khartoum.

Arman studied law at the Khartoum branch of Cairo University in 1996. Shortly afterward, he joined the SPLM where he quickly rose through the ranks to become a member of the party’s Political Bureau and National Council.

In December 2009, Arman was arrested with other SPLM partisans after they demanded more democratic reforms from President Hassan Bashir’s government during at a protest march in the capital. He often says that there is need for a “new Sudan” where the citizens have the right and the freedom to choose who their own leaders.

Arman is married to Awuor Deng Kuol. They have two daughters, Shanaa, 18, and Wafaa,13.