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DATE=12/30/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=SPLIT IN SUDAN NUMBER=5-45157 BYLINE=ED WARNER DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir has dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency in a power struggle with his country's spiritual leader, Hasan al-Turabi. It is not clear who will come out on top and what that may mean for Sudan's strict Islamic regime and its prolonged civil war. V-O-A's Ed Warner reports some observations of two veteran Sudan watchers. TEXT: This may be the paramount human rights crisis in the world today, and the world is not paying much attention. That is how Peter Bell describes the sixteen-year war in Sudan that has taken two-million lives and uprooted four-million people. Though the fighting is intermittent, there is no end in sight. From its capital in Khartoum, the Muslim north has imposed a harsh Islamic rule on the country. Southerners, largely Christian and animist, have resisted. The war has led to brutal human rights violations and a brisk slave trade. Mr. Bell is President of CARE U-S-A, an international relief and development organization based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has traveled to Sudan many times in an effort to help its impoverished, war-weary people. Now Sudanese politics are changing, with a dramatic split between the nation's two leaders who have so far worked together to maintain the regime. Could this mean some moderation and even an end to the civil war? Mr. Bell thinks that is possible: /// Bell Act /// My sense is that the changes that have occurred over the last several weeks, if they stick, are likely to produce a more moderate government and one more willing to engage in negotiation with the south, and more willing to engage constructively with the international community as well. /// End Act /// Robert Collins, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says if President Bashir prevails in the power struggle, Sudan will be better off: /// Collins Act /// [Mr.] Bashir is much more practical. He has been doing all the dirty work - fighting the war, coping with the problems of economic development, which has fallen apart. [Mr.] Bashir is in a position now where he wants to maintain his authority, and they have come to a passing of the ways. In other words, he is not going to follow a hard-line, ideological Islamic position, which is represented by [Mr.] Turabi and is failing. /// End Act /// But Professor Collins cautions that President Bashir will lead a military government that would probably continue the war with the South. The United States is concerned about Sudan's links to terrorism and has imposed economic sanctions on the country - except for imports of gum arabic, which is vital for some U-S industries. The United States also bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, thinking it was producing poison gas. Peter Bell says terrorism is a genuine worry: /// Bell Act /// I just do not think that should be the first and overwhelming concern because obviously, if there is progress toward a real peace, that will mean that the extremists on both sides will become less central, more marginal. Ultimately, that will be good for ending terrorism and for ending the blatant human rights violations that we have seen on both sides over recent years. /// End Act /// Mr. Bell says there is pressure within the U-S government to send food aid directly to the southern rebels. He believes it would be a bad mistake for the United States to take sides in the war. It would simply strengthen the extremists in Khartoum. Professor Collins says Sudan, a weak, sprawling country, cannot keep all terrorists out, though it is making some effort to do so: /// Collins act /// I really have very serious doubts that the administration of the Sudan government is sufficient to control those who can flow back and forth across their borders. The Sudan government, fifty years ago and most certainly today, does not administer the countryside much beyond three or four hundred miles outside of Khartoum. /// End Act /// Professor Collins says Sudan cannot be considered a well-organized state on the Western model. So a little patience is in order. He adds that isolating Sudan only makes it harder to understand. He recommends reopening the U-S embassy in Khartoum, especially since other countries have established relations with Sudan and started investing there. (signed) NEB/EW/JP 30-Dec-1999 16:06 PM EDT (30-Dec-1999 2106 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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