Electoral race in Sudan means uneasy times

Omar al Bashir would like to prove to his detractors that after 20 years of government, he still enjoys wide popularity and remains the favoured contestant.

One month before elections in Sudan, political forces are striving to enhance their positions by seeking more alliances, wrote Mohammed Kharroub in a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai. There are three main competing groups, which claim the equal right to rule Sudan. First, the Sudanese president Omar al Bashir is betting on the upcoming elections to reinforce his position, taking advantage of his personal and political weight. He would also like to prove to his detractors that after 20 years of government, he still enjoys wide popularity and remains the favoured contestant.

Darfur groups, especially the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have found themselves unable to expand their alliances with other parties in the South or the North. Meanwhile, northern opposition parties are worried about the growing influence of the ruling party and the state of polarisation. They especially fear Mr al Bashir will break their ranks, benefiting from their divisions and mutual mistrust to ensure an easy win. They are working hard to unite behind one strong leader. Apart from the implications of the electoral race, some opposition figures are antagonistic towards Mr al Bashir, referring to the international arrest warrant against him. Such attitudes may foretell uneasy political times ahead.

The Somali president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed publicly described the situation in Mogadishu as tragic, noted the Saudi newspaper Al Watan in its editorial.

That his desperate appeal received no response from the international community should alert everyone about the chaotic situation in this country. "The international community assumed that the donors who met at the Copenhagen conference had satisfied their commitments towards this war-torn country, while the truth is that most countries washed their hands of the Somali issue." The world should bear in mind that fighting in Mogadishu is still ravaging the country and claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians. Coupled with increasing shortages of the most basic necessities of life, such as food and medicine, the government may find itself obliged to ally with pirates.

A major issue that needs to be addressed is the source of finance and weapons of the warring factions. This requires a full review of all policies in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea, for example, has had a great role in supporting the Mujahideen movement as part of its conflict with Ethiopia. But the sanctions imposed on it are not strictly observed. Somalia needs a more comprehensive solution that involves international joint efforts that would reduce the growing influence of Ethiopia and Eritria.

"It is clear now that the disrespectful treatment of the US by Israel has taken a global dimension," remarked Saad Mehio in an opinion piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej. "Meanwhile, inside the US, the American president Barack Obama is facing more criticism for being somewhat relaxed, an unacceptable quality for an American president."   Complications from this incident might encourage Russia and China, and also potentially powerful countries such as Brazil, India and Turkey, to challenge US leadership.

Under Mr Obama's administration, Russia was the first to flex its muscles when it invaded Georgia and is now restoring its influence in Ukraine. China has refused to co-operate with the US over Iran's nuclear programme. Brazil, for its part, maintains good relations with Iran despite continuous calls by Washington to sever its ties with Tehran. It is this accumulation of facts which has truly prompted the Americans to publicly denounce Israel. Yet this is a desperate move, and perhaps too late. This is unlikely to restore the prestige of the US president and also the position of the US as the leader of the world. Yet, Mr Obama can exert some pressure, as did George HW Bush in 1991, by threatening to deprive Israel of the financial aid it receives from Washington. "The ball is now in Obama's court," he said.

The Dubai police chief, Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan, has called for spies in the Gulf to leave within a week, otherwise they will face prosecution, wrote Mohammed Diyab in a comment article for the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. Lt Gen Khalfan confirmed that Dubai police had information about spies from both western and eastern countries who work for foreign intelligence agencies. This came after the success achieved by the Dubai security authorities in detecting the suspect killers of the Hamas commander Mahmoud Mabhouh.

"Indeed, Dubai did well. The warning is a good step because no one wishes the Gulf to turn into a scene of spies where they would wreak havoc. No one would wish to see this region endure the fate of some places which have failed to monitor what happens at home." Spies look for places where they can move freely, but security in Dubai has been alert to stand against them. The espionage trade has become complicated as it has benefited from the telecommunications revolution. But what is most dangerous is to have western intelligence agencies recruiting overseas. This makes the alert by Dubai police a timely and good decision.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae