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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sudanese Rebels Attack Khartoum

My knee-jerk reaction when I heard that one of the Darfuri rebel groups had attacked the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in an attempt to overthrow the government was, "Good, I hope they kick (Sudanese President) Omar al-Bashir's @$$."

However, once I read a little farther, the facts dampened that initial enthusiasm. Because, sadly, there could be something worse than the Bashir regime in Khartoum.

The rebels who have been (and still are) trying to overthrow Bashir in recent days are part of the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM. The JEM are an Islamist group believed to have ties to Hassan al-Turabi who has been a prominent figure in Sudanese politics since independence in the 1950s. He hasn't been highly publicized in the West but Turabi was directly responsible for the ascendance of al-Qaeda. He was involved in the coup that led to the Bashir regime taking power. (FYI, the political party associated with the regime and Turabi is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which also spawned Hamas.)

Once Bashir was in power, he invited Osama bin Laden to set up camp in Sudan. During that time, Turabi held conferences of international terrorists that allowed bin Laden to create networks with terrorists all over the world. Turabi was responsible for instituting Sharia law in Sudan for a time, even upon the non-Islamist peoples of southern Sudan, with predictably disastrous consequences.

Hassan al-Turabi with Osama bin Laden in Sudan in the 1990s.

Turabi fell out of favor with Bashir and has been under arrest for most of the last ten years. (He has been arrested again in the wake of the JEM's recent coup attempt.) He denies being associated with JEM or being a radical Islamist. However, any government that includes Turabi would be worse than even Bashir.

Bashir has shown that he is not immune to international pressure; Turabi on the other hand...well, he has been described as the greatest politician in Sudan's history, which is partly why he is still alive.

A JEM/Hassan al-Turabi government in Sudan could well be a greater disaster than the Bashir regime. There would be (well deserved) retribution against the perpetrators of the atrocities in Darfur but after that...?

There definitely needs to be change in Khartoum, but any change involving Turabi would not be for the better.


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